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Madmaxneo
02-10-2014, 10:41 PM
I am sort of new to cartography, but I have used Dundjinni and CC2 in the past. I am also familiar with Illustrator. I need to know what (in everyone's opinion) is a good program for "vectoring" an already existing map. Vectoring may not be the correct term but it fits. I am working in Maptools (online gaming table) and I need to re-create some of the maps I am using because of horrible pixelization. So I need to re-create the maps I have. This is what I have tried so far and my reasons for it not working for me:
Gimp: Good program, real steep learning curve, really ahrd to figure out compared to illustrator. I can't get the layers to work properly. Not nearly enough textures.
Maptool: Not good for vectoring. Can do some things really good, except draw freehand and basic shapes that I can manipulate later in my project. Will not let me arrange any of the vectors I do to put other things on top or so I can compare to the parent map.
Illustrator CS6: My favorite and easiest for me to manipulate. One big problem, almost no textures for what I need it for. And I can't seem to find any free textures online.
Inkscape: I've barely worked with this one and my experience leads me to believe this will not work for what I need.

Please note that I have about 6 gigs of stuff I can place on the map from textures to overlays to buildings to ink pens to woolly mammoths to beetles, etc... Unfortunately I can't import the textures into Illustrator and have them work correctly, most of the time they show up as a solid color slightly similar to the base color of the original texture. the textures I have are all in .png format.

I hope someone can help.

Bruce

Gamerprinter
02-11-2014, 12:00 AM
I both use and recommend Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 9, if you prefer working with a vector drawing application, and one powerful enough, using the right techniques to create a variety of mapping styles. Though I have several styles, my photo-realistic style looks like it might have been created in Photoshop. Not that other software might also offer a solution, I do professional map commissions, and rely on Xara for most of my mapping needs. Xara isn't free, but is available with a 30 day free trial. I'd recommend using the tutorials on the Xara site to get you underway, but I have many tutorials on my G+ community.

Here's my affiliate link to Xara Photo & Graphic Designer (http:/http://site.xara.com/affiliate/code.asp?id=859297&prod=PhotoGraphicDesigner&type=text/) (link to a link, sorry).

Here's a link to my G+ community (https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/109383565847958043404).

And welcome to the Cartographers' Guild!

GP

Madmaxneo
02-11-2014, 12:14 AM
Thank you.
My project: I am currently trying to redraw a Map of Belynar from a game called HARP. The map is good for what it was originally intended but I am redrawing it so I can use it in maptools for close in scale of tabletop gaming online using Maptools.
I will have to look at Xara for a temporary quick fix. I am more interested in the free programs but none seem to fit my needs or they have such a steep learning curve that there is no way I can figure this out in time. I have 4 programs that I am working with right now: Inkscape, Gimp, Maptools, and Illustrator CS6. None of them have the textures I need, except for Maptools but it doesn't do vectoring. I have all the textures I need but they are in .png format and whenever I try to convert them into a type illustrator uses, they come out clear. Inkscape seems it might be what I need but there are no where near enough textures in Inkscape to even partially cover my needs, and I have no idea how to import textures into this program. There is an easy way to create basic textures in Illustrator but I need something more dynamic. Gimp, though it is a great program, it is not good for vectoring as it is meant for bitmap editing.

Can Xara use .png textures?

Bruce

EDIT: Your link to a link doesn't work.

Gamerprinter
02-11-2014, 01:36 AM
Yes, importing and creating files to export to PNG, no problem.

I've created several maps for an Iron Crown Enterprises adventure for a HARP game, though I don't play it myself. I used Xara to create those maps. Plus I won the Iron Crown Enterprises first Map Contest back in 2008, I think it was.

Here's a direct link to the software - Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 9 (http://www.xara.com/us/photo-graphic-designer/)

Here's a link to a recent map I posted in the Finished Maps Forum of a castle town created in Xara (http://www.cartographersguild.com/finished-maps/26137-small-castle-town.html).

Madmaxneo
02-11-2014, 02:08 AM
Great Map! One last question about Xara, can it be used to vector other maps (in particular the Belynar one from HARP)? I am real good (compared to teh otehr programs) when comes to vectoring in Illustrator and I hope that Xara is as easy to operate.
If so I will look into it and possibly see if I can scrounge up the money to purchase it when my trial is up.

Bruce

Gamerprinter
02-11-2014, 02:15 AM
I've used Illustrator, and find Xara easier. It isn't as robust as Illustrator, but many of the version of tools in Xara are often more powerful and easier to use. I find Xara very easy to use software, especially if you're already familiar with vector applications. Like I said, download the free trial and check out the video tutorials on the Xara.com website. I do hand-drawn maps scanned and finished in Xara as well.

Gamerprinter
02-11-2014, 03:31 AM
Incidentally, I created the Map of Cyradon for Iron Crown Enterprises as a commission, in addition to a couple other maps of different locales - a ruined structure, a section of woodlands with roots across the path. (I used Xara to create those maps.)

Madmaxneo
02-11-2014, 03:37 AM
Xara is an awesome program! I have already figured out how to do the basic things I need in it, like vectoring and adding my textures. And it is very easy to use. I think the vector points are easier to manipulate in Xara than they are in Illustrator. All the important tools and editing functions I need are right there. It has just about everything I want so far. I hope it has a mesh tool. I don't use it that often but it would help with this program. The basis for Belynar is a long dead volcano, the city is built around and through it. A mesh tool would be great for developing the volcano background. If there isn't a mesh tool, is there a tutorial that might help me redraw the volcano?

Bruce

PS What maps did you draw for ICE when you won that contest?

Gamerprinter
02-11-2014, 03:49 AM
ICE's map contest was to create a temple map. I created the Temple of Sargoseum (http://www.cartographersguild.com/building-structure-mapping/3451-sea-god-temple-i-c-e-contest-entry-wip-3.html) - kind of Greek styled Poseidon-ish temple site.

Unfortunately, there is no mesh tool in Xara, though I wish there was. I've created volcanoes using Xara however, though I don't have a ready tutorial for doing so. I create a roughly circular shape with a more circular hole cut in the center, give an ashy texture fill, then apply flat bevel. Sometimes I add a secondary detailed ridge at the cone's lip of the volcano. It takes a little trial and error to get right.

Also check the talkgraphics.com (http://www.talkgraphics.com/) forums, which is the Xara forums. I have a thread there called: Fantasy Maps created using Xara Xtreme (http://www.talkgraphics.com/showthread.php?43872-Fantasy-maps-created-using-Xara-Xtreme) (Xtreme was the previous version of the current software - its a 4 year long thread.)

Jacktannery
02-11-2014, 04:29 AM
I am more interested in the free programs but none seem to fit my needs or they have such a steep learning curve that there is no way I can figure this out in time.

None of them have the textures I need, except for Maptools but it doesn't do vectoring. I have all the textures I need but they are in .png format and

Gimp, though it is a great program, it is not good for vectoring as it is meant for bitmap editing.

Sounds like Gameprinter has already provided you with excellent advise, but since you specified free programmes I will mentions a few things.

1) Are you sure you need a vector programme? If you are just making combat maps for roll20/VTT use then you really don not need a vector-based programme at all. I use vector-based programme for work where millimetre accuracy is key, but raster-based programmes for VTT maps where lighting and atmosphere is more important to me.

2) GIMP & textures: you really don't need to import your textures into GIMP as textures. Just keep them as .PNGs. Presumably you are talking about a Seamless Texture? I never use these but this is how to in GIMP:
-a) drop the .png seamless texture into an open gimp document by drag and drop (or 'import' if you prefer)
-b) scale the texture bigger or smaller based on your needs. It should look like a small square in the middle of the larger image.
-c) take note of the dimensions of your image (not the texture layer!) in pixels. If you can't remember, go to IMAGE>IMAGE PROPERTIES and take note.
-d) while on the texture layer, go to FILTERS>MAP>TILE and bring up the tile dialogue box. Enter your image dimensions and unclick 'new image', then press enter.
RESULT: your seamless texture now fills the entire image. You can delete the bits you don't want but you should really look up jpfrazier's layer mask tutorial and use that instead.

Although this might seem complicate in time you will see it is very simple and much more powerful than maptools.

Gamerprinter
02-11-2014, 04:37 AM
And you know JT, that I agree that GIMP is a great FREE image editor and used by many cartographers pros and amateurs alike. Madmaxneo mentions his familiarity with Illustrator and preferring to work with vectors. I'd have pointed out Inkscape as a vector program since it too is FREE, but he mentioned it not fitting his needs having some experience with it. With those parameters in mind, Xara is a good solution.

Jacktannery
02-11-2014, 05:18 AM
No problem - I wasn't trying to rain on your parade Gameprinter, I was just pointing out a couple of things to the do OP; if he views seamless textures as an image that image-tools can process, rather than as something that comes with image programmes, that can only be a good thing.

Madmaxneo
02-11-2014, 11:45 AM
Sounds like Gameprinter has already provided you with excellent advise, but since you specified free programmes I will mentions a few things.

1) Are you sure you need a vector programme? If you are just making combat maps for roll20/VTT use then you really don not need a vector-based programme at all. I use vector-based programme for work where millimetre accuracy is key, but raster-based programmes for VTT maps where lighting and atmosphere is more important to me.

2) GIMP & textures: you really don't need to import your textures into GIMP as textures. Just keep them as .PNGs. Presumably you are talking about a Seamless Texture? I never use these but this is how to in GIMP:
-a) drop the .png seamless texture into an open gimp document by drag and drop (or 'import' if you prefer)
-b) scale the texture bigger or smaller based on your needs. It should look like a small square in the middle of the larger image.
-c) take note of the dimensions of your image (not the texture layer!) in pixels. If you can't remember, go to IMAGE>IMAGE PROPERTIES and take note.
-d) while on the texture layer, go to FILTERS>MAP>TILE and bring up the tile dialogue box. Enter your image dimensions and unclick 'new image', then press enter.
RESULT: your seamless texture now fills the entire image. You can delete the bits you don't want but you should really look up jpfrazier's layer mask tutorial and use that instead.

Although this might seem complicate in time you will see it is very simple and much more powerful than maptools.

I think a vector program is my only real choice right now. I have tried manipulating the objects I place in Gimp to match the original image I am trying to re-draw, but it doesn't work well. I also haven't been able to figure out how to manipulate layers in Gimp so that I can create multiple basic shapes or objects and be able to go back and re-manipulate them when I need to.

One thing I need to use vectoring for is setting up a transparent shape, forming it to the shape in the original image, and then filling it with the desired texture. I figured out how to do all that in a matter of minutes in Xara. It took me the better part of a day to figure out how to do a transparency with an image in Gimp, and I still don't have it right as I have been unable to add then manipulate more than one layer in Gimp. Then I have to figure out how to change the shape to fit the original shape on the map.
Right now I have only two days to finish the first part of this project.

Bruce

Gamerprinter
02-11-2014, 12:01 PM
Well, good luck in your cartographic endeavors, Madmaxneo! If you have an questions regarding Xara or tips needed, just ask, I am always hanging around. If you have Xara in the title of any thread, I'll find it.

Jacktannery
02-11-2014, 02:19 PM
Yes good luck Max, and I look forward to seeing your maps.

Madmaxneo
02-11-2014, 03:57 PM
Yes good luck Max, and I look forward to seeing your maps.

Well this first one I am not sure if I will be able to post it. I can't remember if the original map was a free download or part of another product I purchased. I will have to ask ICE about that.

Gamerprinter, I put the word out about your fantasy printing site. I am not sure if ICE is aware of your services but I didn't see them listed on your site. There are quite a few people that want updated versions of the Shadow World poster maps, me included.

I need some Xara Help now.
1. How do I scale the textures so they come out with much better detail in a close up range. I have already set the scale of my original image to 20000 px by 16500 px so I can good close up quality.
2. Is there a way to add an entire library of textures to Xara instead of adding each folder individually?

Bruce

Gamerprinter
02-11-2014, 04:16 PM
Bruce, when you apply the texture fill, 2 lines as a coordinate appear on or near your selected shape. If you click your mouse on either end of the coordinate, you can move towards the center to shrink the image, or pull it out to enlarge it. You can also move the coordinate around to rotate your texture fill. Make sure to select 'bitmap', next to it is a dropdown menu with 'single tile', 'repeating tile' or 'repeating tile inverted', if you're going for image repeat, select either of the last 2 - sometimes its better with either option depending on your image file.

I see that you're setting this up in pixels, which is fine, but usually when I create a map, I do it in inches. When you first open the program, under File/New, I usually select 'US Letter (blank)'. Then under File/Page Options, I select 'Custom' and change the dimensions to something I'd normally print, like Tabloid, 18" x 24", 24" x 36" or 36" x 48" or whatever my final intended size. Since I run a print shop, I think in terms of total dimensions in inches and never worry about pixels. Once I complete a map, then I export the file to JPG, PNG, PDF, or some other format and only then do I decide on pixels per inch. So if this is for use in a VT application, like Roll20 for example, optimal size is 70 inches by 70 inches at 70 ppi. I export to whatever format, pixels and dimensions the intended use for the map.

Madmaxneo
02-11-2014, 04:53 PM
I usually also set it up in inches but didn't this time.
I am having another problem which can probably be fixed in the settings somewhere but I can't seem to find it. Xara is always on top, the only way to see other windows like my browser, is to minimize it. Where is the setting for this?

Gamerprinter
02-11-2014, 05:00 PM
Hmmm, I've never encountered that. I too use multiple applications at once, and have no problem with Xara wanting to stay on top. Not that there isn't an issue, I'm not aware of the problem nor how to fix that. I'd go to the Talkgraphics.com (http://www.talkgraphics.com/forumdisplay.php?16-Xara-graphics-chat) forum and post your question there. I can help you regarding tools and techniques, but this kind of question I'm not so sure.

Madmaxneo
02-11-2014, 05:13 PM
Not a big deal, I actually downloaded the previous version, a common practice for me.
You might have missed this.
1. Repeat question; How do I import/convert my entire library of textures instead of doing it one folder at a time?

Bruce

Gamerprinter
02-11-2014, 05:37 PM
1. Once you select your drawn shape, on the Toolbar to the far right you'll see a dropdown menu that says 'None' or '0.5 pt' this is the setting for line width measured in point size. I think the default is 0.5 pt, but you can change this to whatever you want. At any time you can change the outline point size with your shape selected. I generally set my lines to 'none' though as you draw it shows as a default 0.5 pt line, but once the shape is connected the line goes away. (As an aside, if you hit the Alt key while you are drawing it forces straight lines.)

2. I've never needed to do this, but from my understanding. Load all your image files into a directory you name whatever you want. Then in Xara open the 'Fill Gallery', click on 'Disc Fills'. Browse to the folder on your hard drive. Select and open the folder and click Add. A dialog opens and asks if you want to create an Index. Press Create. If you add images to your folder they do not appear in the folder automatically. You need to: In the Fill Gallery, click Disc Fills... Browse to your fills folder and open the folder. Select the XaraInfo folder and click Update. When asked, click Create New Index. (This is according to instructions provided for someone asking this exact question on the talkgraphics forums - copied verbatim.)

Also if you want to change the color of a line, go to the color bar at the bottom of the page. Any color you right click will become the line color. When I create roads and such, I use a 12 point line drawn to the course I want, then I convert Line to Shape under the Edit menu. Now I can apply a color or a texture to fill the line.

Madmaxneo
02-12-2014, 12:30 PM
Thanks so far Gamerprinter. My next question is more of technique than functions. What is the best way to add age and wear to a map? The city hasn't been inhabited in thousands of years though it has been slightly tended to by the Griffins. I have a few overlays of dirt and similar effects but I am looking for something a bit more dynamic.

Bruce

Gamerprinter
02-12-2014, 12:57 PM
For many of my more grungy maps on parchment styled paper background, I import a background image with dirt, creases, smudges that fills the entire map area. I place that on top of everything else, then select the Transparency Tool. On the toolbar at the top of the page (second row), 2 dropdown boxes appear at the left side. The second dropdown box has 'mix' selected, click the dropdown and select the second option which is 'stained glass'. This allows the image to show everything behind it, filtered through its graphic detail. Black is solid, white is 100% transparent, and other colors and shades are somewhere between.

Sometimes I also use fractal transparency to show the top layer with areas of the layers beneath peaking through.

Sometimes I apply 2 different transparency effects to the same shape or group of shapes. However, the program normally only allows you to apply a single transparency effect. Once you apply one transparency effect, group the shape (even to itself with no other shapes - you can do this once per shape), then apply a second transparency effect.

Here's a past Challenge Map win of one my more grungy maps: (note I don't see this final challenge map in the challenge threads - like the maps are gone...)

61326

Also note, the hand-drawn line work in this map has had the same steps described above applied to it. I import my scanned hand-drawing, apply Transparency/Stained-Glass, with it as the top layer over the rest of the map. The black lines are solid, but the white space between is 100% transparent.

Look within the chambers of the rooms in this map and see the grunge of the background showing through - this is stained glass transparency effect at work.

Gamerprinter
02-12-2014, 04:02 PM
I posted a link to my G+ page earlier, but actually go there and look, I have 20+ rough draft tutorials for basic mapping techniques posted there. The tutorials are intended to be useful techniques for many graphics programs, not just Xara, however, all the tutorials and maps posted were created in Xara. Its worth checking out. I have some of those tutorials posted here in the Tutorials Forum, but all of them exist on my G+ community.

25 Quick & Dirty Map Tutorials Guide G+ Community (https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/109383565847958043404)

Madmaxneo
02-12-2014, 04:05 PM
That is a really cool effect. Is there a technique to creating the desired background image with dirt, creases, and smudges for the transparency?

Bruce

Gamerprinter
02-12-2014, 04:17 PM
I'm sure you could fake it, but, for example, I've created a parchment background that I use over and over on many maps. I took a blank piece of copy paper, folded it into 16 folds, then with my pinched fingers distressed all the folds so it wasn't one clean fold, but with appearance of having been opened and refolded many times. Then I took cigarette ashes and rubbed it all over the paper. Then took a clean, dry rag and wiped it clean of loose ashes. Then I digitally scanned that. In Xara, I created a rectangle and given a sepia tone coloration. Then I applied a fractal cloud effect and used a darker tone of sepia to the other color, so I have a mixed sepia tone rectangle. I place the scanned folded paper image on top and give that a Transparency/Stained-Glass effect and saved that to JPG.

Now everytime I want to create an old world looking map, the above becomes the first layer of such a map.

Madmaxneo
02-13-2014, 06:16 PM
Gamerprinter, That is a pretty complex process but I can see how cool the after effects look. . I am doing ok with the transparency effects I have for now. Except one problem. I am able to pretty much create the effects I need with transparencies but I need to soften the edges so the transparency blends in better with the background. For example I am creating a slight grass transparency over a dirt background. The grass is spotty as the land is pretty much dead. I use the free form tool to draw my shape then I apply a transparency effect, but I can clearly see the edges of the transparency. How do I eliminate the edges?

Bruce

Gamerprinter
02-13-2014, 06:46 PM
With the pen tool (drawing tool) and your shape selected, look to the toolbar at the top of the page, on the far right is a dropdown box with an arrow pointing right next to it - this is the Edge Feathering tool. The dropdown accesses a sliding bar which allows you to define the size of the feather. The arrow next to it, opens a coordinate graph that allows you to adjust the contrast and gradation between the unfeathered and feathered portion of the edge.

I use edge feathering on everything, especially bevels.

Have you found the bevel tool yet? I use the bevel tool extensively in my maps, and you'll find a huge variety of options with bevels in Xara. The bevel tool and other special tools are found on the left side tool bar just above the magnifying glass.

There is even a 3D extrusion tool on the same flyout as the bevel tool. This allows you to create any given shape and create a 3D extrusion of the shape that can be rotated in 3D coordinates. I don't use it a lot, but it does come in handy for unique situations and object creation. If you look at the first map I linked to in this thread, there are a pair of doors, one is open, that sit on the approach road to the castle, just as the road turns back towards the castle entrance. On the hill wall lies these doors. These are 3D extrusions.

Madmaxneo
02-13-2014, 09:31 PM
ok, Thanks. Now I am having another problem... Real poor pixelization when I export it then zoom in, in Maptool (the program I am using it). I was told with photoshop I could correct that so it doesn't get bad pixelization when you zoom in. Is this possible in Xara?
Also, is there a way to reduce file size without more pixelization?

Bruce

Gamerprinter
02-13-2014, 10:24 PM
A couple questions back to you. What resolution are the PNG files you are using? What is the dimensions, resolution and format you are exporting? If you are exporting to JPG, how much color reduction are you saving it at. Also are you exporting in Xara and opening as JPG in Photoshop for additional enhancements or compression? Anytime you save a JPG file more than once, the file will become color lossy. I might recommend exporting to some other format, before anything done in PS, then saving as JPG then, only.

Most textures (image fills) that I use are 300 ppi and fairly large images. Often I am printing my maps at high resolution and large format with great results. I also print smaller versions at letter size on my color laser printer, and depending on the level detail - it prints cleanly, no blurring. I also export the same maps at virtual terrain app scale which is anywhere between 50 ppi and 200 ppi depending on the VT app and connection speeds of other players using the client side of VT apps. I have never had complaints.

Madmaxneo
02-14-2014, 02:06 AM
The dimensions of the file are: 60" wide by 58" high, Resolution export:96 dpi with a bitmap width of 5815 and height of 5647. The format is png. I am using true color + alpha. And this is only a small portion of the overall map. I was going to attempt to do the entire city and use it on Maptool. But I will have to do it in pieces. Even now it isn't turning out that great. One of my players has said that there is a way to do it in Photoshop where you don't loose that much resolution when you zoom in like I need to. But he said I would need photoshop to do that. I'm not sure if Xara can do this or not. Am I asking for to much with the size of this thing?
The final file size of this one is 22.4 MB. The resolution I have it set for in my art board is 5814 pixels x 5646 pixels. I hope that is what you meant by the resolution of what I am using. I did convert to jpeg and get a much smaller file result but the poor quality is still there, and little worse. This is only one small part of the city so it looks as though I will not be able to do the whole thing in one map, I will have to do it in pieces.

Bruce
Bruce

Madmaxneo
02-14-2014, 03:34 AM
Bad edit correction

Gamerprinter
02-14-2014, 03:47 AM
If the texture fills you used were 96 ppi to start with, and if you enlarged the texture to fill the shape, there could potentially be some loss of detail when zooming in. Most of the photo-realistic textures I use in my maps are from cgtextures.com (http://www.cgtextures.com/), most of those textures are fairly high resolution.

That said, I don't think the export filter to PNG with Alpha channel format is any different no matter what software was used to export it. PNG is PNG. If MapTools can accept PSD files, which are Photoshop native format then it might be possible to zoom in with better clarity (I don't know if that is true).

Since you have enough posts, why don't you send me a PM, and I'll give you my email address so you can send me your XAR file. I have Photoshop and I can work with the PNG Alpha channel for you to see if it provides any better results. You could also use a trial of Photoshop if one is available and do it yourself - opening and exporting a file should be an easy task in Photoshop (for that matter you could do this in GIMP).

Again, I don't think there is a difference. I am a graphic designer with my own studio and digital print shop with 30+ years experience in the industry and using graphics software, so aside from cartography, I know what I'm talking about. If however, there is something brand new in the most recent version of Photoshop, perhaps it can do as your player suggests, but I doubt it.

As an aside, I know another long time member at the Guild, who is a devout user of MapTools, and the map files he works with are preferrably 200 ppi. I know that would slow potential uploads to your player's PCs, but he too likes clarity of detailing in zooming in, and his solution is higher resolution to start with.

Madmaxneo
02-18-2014, 01:09 AM
Is it possible with Xara to create vertical lines in a shape? Think of the white house dome, but from a top down view. I am trying to create some domes in my maps that have an effect much like that. I know with the contour tool I can create a dome with horizontal lines, but is there a way to do it with vertical lines?