View Full Version : Hand Drawn Map

09-16-2008, 02:41 AM
Here is a hand drawn map for my upcoming 4th edition campaign. D&D fantasy with various character races meets a sort of Robert Howard / 1930's style fantasy world.

India ink on parchment. The original white parchment (the color background is photoshop'd) is a nice big piece of high quality paper stock. The map itself is approximately 28" tall by 80" wide.

Still working on the edges and then I plan to water color it.


The name of the setting is "Empires of Sky".

09-16-2008, 02:55 AM
Here is a closer detail. As you can see (I hope), there is an enormous amount of detail that gets lost when you back up and show the entire map in a single image.

As far as a prop I am toying around with making a second copy printed on tan vinyl and then glueing this inside some material (fake reptile skin) so I can create my own dragon hide map as a prop for the game table.


09-16-2008, 03:10 AM
Ok. Last one. This is a closer detail of the East edge of the map. Hopefully close enough that you can make out some of the names of places where you'd never even spot them in the full image.


09-16-2008, 03:30 AM
Suggestions for improvement are always helpful and welcome. I believe this is the first hand drawn map I've posted.


Steel General
09-16-2008, 06:44 AM
While admittedly not the biggest fan of hand-drawn maps, I like this.

Looking forward to seeing the finished version.

09-16-2008, 07:55 AM
ooo - I like that! Nice choice of colour for the paper. There's a good consistency over the whole map and I like the perspective on the lettering.

One suggestion, or rather observation is the way you have 'Empires of Dawn' divided by your sword compass. It makes me read it as 'Empires of.....Dawn' Darkening the sea area a touch darker than the land area will help distinguish the two apart. at first glance I thought it was a big desert despite having 'Sea' plastered across it :? - probably just me.

Looking forward to seeing more.


09-16-2008, 08:14 AM
Woah, 80" ! Thats big :)

I write a zoom map browser so you can zoom into areas and get more detail. You seem to be doing the same kind of thing but in real paper map. Are you ever going to scan it all in or just water color the whole thing and leave it as a one off ?

09-16-2008, 09:58 AM
Gorgeous Map - I love the hand-drawn work and the slight 3/4 angle of the map view. However, the Ice Fields, with the rather consistent jagged angle, seems out of place to the rest of the map. Something about that turns me off.

However, this map still deserves REP - so I REPped you!


09-16-2008, 11:35 AM
I agree Gamerprinter. I am struggling with how I should draw the ice fields. In fact I'll probably re-do this (third times the charm right?) and pull all the best elements into a smaller and more cohesive environment. That will allow me to drop out the weaker elements, get rid of blank space..fix the problem with the sword, etc...

However this third time I think I will try to make the lettering more interesting. I need to tighten up the angle and maybe learn to do some more interesting cartographic lettering for the larger bits. (I wish.)

If all else fails I guess I can scan it before I hand letter it and if I hate the hand lettering I can use the scan to do a computer lettering job.

On the scan issue. I have an oversize roller scanner at work. It can accomodate up to 36" wide and since it rolls the paper through can scan anything as long as I like. So I scan the entire map in one shot. Unfortunately this means the original file is like...bigger than the Death Star in file size. So I have to first reduce the file size before even attempting to size it for the web or photoshop it much or anything.

I'm going to start the redesign on this today and hopefully this week will get the revised version posted to show for suggestions.

As far as the sword goes I think I will try my hand at drawing a custom border on a second sheet of paper, scan it, scale it and drop the map in beneath the border. I'll still use the sword but incorporate that into the border...a design feature off a Hyperborea map that I adored.

Thanks for the comments and encouragement.

09-16-2008, 11:39 AM
Oh and yes. When I get a final version I like I'll print a copy on watercolor paper off the huge oversize color printer at work and then play around with watercoloring the entire thing.

That is if I don't change my mind and go with the touchy feely dragon hide idea.

I am a big fan of props for games and I always like the idea of big super enormous maps for the characters to unroll...cover most of the game table with and plot around during a game. Add some lamps in the room and some lighting...a fire in the fireplace and some epic music and it really evokes a cool environment for play. A bit of appropriate ale type beverage in some steins at hand is also a good thing.

09-16-2008, 12:12 PM
I don't know whats wrong with my setup but i can't see the links :(


09-16-2008, 07:40 PM
Hmmm. I can see them fine. I am not a web guru so I have no idea why they are not showing up for you. I'll try poking around with them abit tonight to see if I can get them to show up in a different fashion.

09-16-2008, 08:35 PM

I just discovered that photobucket is blocked by some content filters (including dans guardian the one I just installed at home). Once I added it to the exempt list these (and the image in your intro post) are visible.

-Rob A>

09-16-2008, 11:00 PM
I've done lots of hand-drawn work - because I run my own repro shop/digital graphics studio, I have the kind of tools, like you, in doing large format work.

I've learned from experience, that I don't have to create an entire hand-drawn map on a single sheet of paper. I create the continental coastlines and islands first, place some pretty details, then scan that in. All other geographic content is drawn (at the same scale), but isolated as separate drawings from all other features, then I scan and place them on the map. The final still looks like all work was done on one sheet of paper, but actually involved dozens of sheets creating much smaller areas than all at large format.

My entry for this month's Challenge map, was done this way, though I added some digitally created beveled features with the hand-drawn work. The forests, mountains and hills were drawn separately then composited with the final map. You can even see the stages I went, through my WIP starting on the first page.

Working with a giant piece of paper is lots of work. I prefer the same result, but created much easier as a composite of many drawings.

Of course, if what you're looking for is a hand-drawn artistic masterpiece to display, my method won't work for you. For me, everything becomes digital eventually, so I can distribute the maps or post them in forums like this - or so I can print them in large format color at intended scales.


09-18-2008, 04:00 AM
Thanks GP.

Tons and tons of great advice available here on the forum. I will be sure to try out putting together a map coming up in pieces as you suggest.

As a side note, some tiny voice in me wants to keep at it with the large hand drawn bits. It will force me to practice caligraphy for the lettering and get creative in drawing my own symbols and such.

As you say, in the end I wind up with a big hand drawn map I can add to my collection. There is something, I dunno...quasi mystical for me in sitting down to do one of these big hand drawn pieces on parchment. I know, I know, that sounds crazy and wierd. Somehow doing it myself without a computer being involved beyond scanning the final piece in at the end makes it feel like I'm carving out some little corner of a fantasy setting with my own two hands and that's kind of cool.

Of course I seem to have zero problem dumping the entire hand drawn bit and doing work strictly off the computer for science fiction bits.

I must be getting quirky in my advancing age. Laugh.


09-18-2008, 08:06 PM
Like I said, if a final single piece of hand-drawn work to display in your collection, that is certainly a great way to map. And you're right doing it the old fashioned way, gives one a certain satisfaction in the work.

For me, I create 30 - 40 maps per year, this of course doesn't count dungeon tiles, which I create several hundred a year, as well as creating 250+ map objects per year. I love creating maps, and I also love doing hand-drawn work as a part of my method of creation.

Creating so much work in a single year, makes it impractical for me to do the one sheet map design by hand, for all the maps I create - I need short cuts to make things practical, after all I am in business doing this too.

Go for the one sheet of parchment map, its admirable and highly satisfactory.

Do try a pieced composited map, its worth the effort, because at least in its final format (after you scan in your final map) there really should be no difference in the look - its still your hand-drawn work afterall.


PS: so you're name, is that like "Arthnek and Old Lathe?" JK...

09-19-2008, 07:34 PM
My turn to say nice map! I've added some rep your way as well. As for the ice fields, how about a wavy line with a similar but thinner line on the inside and outside? Basically trying to get that reflecting/refracting effect ice has on ice.

Here's a very rough drawing of what I had in mind...


Actually I was thinking the lines should be closer together. I'm sure you could do better.

joćo paulo
09-20-2008, 09:41 PM
Etruria and Amazonia are real places:)

09-20-2008, 09:56 PM
Your lettering is beautiful...did you do it freehand? I'm really impressed. That's not to take anything away from the map itself which is magnificent. I can't wait to see it coloured.

09-23-2008, 07:19 AM
Thanks Ravells.

I plan to do afew smaller map projects (by smaller I mean 24x36" instead of the huge banner) all the way through coloring before I try to tackle painting the big map.

Probably two more to get afew areas cleaned up. I did post a finished hand painted map at the link below under the Regional Maps heading in case you want to see how it looks.


Thanks for the compliment on the lettering. Yes it is just hand lettering. Next go around I plan to get my act together and use a caligraphy pen to make the lettering more interesting.


09-26-2008, 02:05 AM

I am (admittedly) a huge fan of b&w and ink work, so this map is right up my alley (so to speak) I love the paper stock you chose ... what kind of pen did you use for the ink work? I'm glad to see i'm not the only one who likes to make a large full scale map of enormous proportions and commit solely to hand drawing and inking it.. marvelous work.

I do have some ideas about the ice realm, tho I'm strapped on time I don't know if I'll be able to get anything done to show you some examples.. sorry if I don't get any up before you rework the area.

REH characters is also a nice choice btw.. i'm a huge fan of Howard, being as I live near Cross Plains, his hometown, I visit his house once a year when they have the annual REH festival there. I suggest any fan make the trip at least once... (they host it usually the first or second weekend of June, and for any interested I'll find some emails and/or links to get you the info you need to attend)

10-07-2008, 10:07 PM
what kind of distortions did you use on the mediterrainian map it looks like you used as refereance?

it looks like it's been elongated width wise or trunkated vertically.

I like the scale of the project, It makes it far more impressive. I wish I could get a closer look at your trees and lakes (as this is an area I need to study up on. by shading one side of your mountains you can give a bit more richness and depth to the map and also help to indicate the east and west directions.

Also What comes to me for ice realms might be to study pictires of glaciers, or just make a ragged cliff with a few sharp lightening style cracks in it and watery run offs. Icebergs to the north sort of stuff to differenciate it from rock.

How long did this take you to do By the way?

10-14-2008, 07:56 PM
I recently finished up more on this map. It has been an on and off again experiment for the better part of several months because of its enormous size. I will have to take a photograph of it next to me to show off the scale at some point.

In actual hours I am guessing it took at least ten hours of labor to create just the black and white / inked map. I will probably white ink over some errors here and there and make some changes before I paint the thing. I want to do at least one more watercolor smaller map before I try to paint this.

All together my guess is it will take me fifteen to twenty hours of labor to create the entire color map. After that I want to scan it and print it out on some vinyl and then stitch or glue the printed map into a backing of some sort of fake leather...probably fake reptile skin for a dragon hide map look.

It will be huge, covering the entire surface of the game table. Ultimately I plan to use the final version as a sort of table cloth covering the entire game table...the vinyl wipes clean easily enough and is very durable. Over this will go dungeon tiles and minis and the game will play out.

So both reference and huge feely for setting the mood in my garage slowly being turned into ultimately game room.


Will Phillips
10-15-2008, 08:03 PM
Here is a hand drawn map for my upcoming 4th edition campaign. D&D fantasy with various character races meets a sort of Robert Howard / 1930's style fantasy world.

I'm afraid I have to make my comment short (carpool's about here), but this is a really nice map with a lot of detail. You're going for the pulp style, and I'm really liking it.

This, and you're the guy behind Rocketship Empires? Another really creative concept!

Have some REP!