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Thread: How do you choose what sort of "key" or legend to use on your map? (If any!)

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      Jalyha is offline
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    Question How do you choose what sort of "key" or legend to use on your map? (If any!)

    I'm sorry if this has been asked before, but I've been scrolling through the forums all day (and night) looking for ideas, and I've found *nothing* on the subject. Lots of stuff about fonts, yes... keys, no...

    I see many maps with a little corner-set key like we saw in my grade-school geography books.

    And I see many with labels directly on the map "Misty Mountains" soaring in huge letters across the mountain range...

    And still others have no labels, or lovely little informational sidebars..

    How do you know what style of labeling (not font! placement!) to use on any given map?

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    Guild Journeyer Facebook Connected EricPoehlsen's Avatar
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    In my opinion, it is about the third decision, when making a map.

    - location
    - theme
    - style

    First decision is: What Place do I map? Is it a building floorplan, is it a town, is it a whole planet ... ?

    Second decision: What is the topic of the map? Is it political. topographic, geologic, technical, tactical ... ?

    Third decision: What style will the map have - is it a modern map or a fantasy-historic map ... ?

    So I do not 'know' what style a map should get, I 'decide' ...
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    Hmmm ... I can see what you mean, but I'm not sure if that's quite what I meant...


    You can have several of a certain style of map... and they all have the *information* printed in different ways.


    I'm sort of stuck... I have a map, I've drawn/painted/edited nearly everything... and now I'm worried about labeling it.


    I have several fonts that will suit the map.... I just don't know where to put the information. How do you know if a map will be better with labels in one place or another? Does it even matter? Don't you worry about obscuring the picture if you label on the map?

    What about realistic-ish maps... how does *any* label fit that style?

    I'm just... utterly confused..

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    Guild Journeyer Facebook Connected EricPoehlsen's Avatar
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    Reading it now! Thanks

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      - Max - is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jalyha View Post
    Hmmm ... I can see what you mean, but I'm not sure if that's quite what I meant...


    You can have several of a certain style of map... and they all have the *information* printed in different ways.


    I'm sort of stuck... I have a map, I've drawn/painted/edited nearly everything... and now I'm worried about labeling it.


    I have several fonts that will suit the map.... I just don't know where to put the information. How do you know if a map will be better with labels in one place or another? Does it even matter? Don't you worry about obscuring the picture if you label on the map?

    What about realistic-ish maps... how does *any* label fit that style?

    I'm just... utterly confused..
    A few advices that might help you hopefully (whatever the style of map you're going for):

    - You might think about what's the purpose of your map and what it's intended for. This will help you to know what labels are useful or not.
    - You need to label a mountains range? Don't care too much if the label "obscuring" the mountains, you might want to try playing with the colors and the contrasts to make the labels pop up without ruining your drawing effort.
    - Try to stretch the labels all along the shapes for geographical features and lands using font kerning , use curved paths that makes sense with the shapes to label those elements.
    - Prefer straight labels for locations like city, town and such, for the sake of legibility (unless you don't have room to put them properly liek this on the map).
    - Use some outlining or outer glow (playing with the adjustments) to make your labels readable if it's needed.
    - Think legibility first (that means use some clear and solid font and make sure you can easily read your informations on the map).

    As for the other stuff, I would follow some obvious rules: If you feel the map informations aren't obvious ( complicated icons, high number of icons, specific locations), add a key to explain them. If you need to add some additional informations that can't be depicted on your map, you might want to add some informations box, some bars or cartouches to detail it.

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      lostatsea is offline
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    I am taking a different view on your question than others I think ! A key or legend is generally a side note to explain the information on the map that might not have obvious meanings. Ex. The difference between the city and town and temple symbols. Or in atlas style explain the symbol for waterfall or restroom or camp sights. If your map is tactical it will explain that the color green stands for the Orc occupied areas, blue Human occupied. Etc. Key or legend is usually placed out side the main areas of the map to be easily and clearly read and not interfere with the map itself. I once asked if there was a traditional (specific) placement Ex upper right / lower left corner. Seems that depends mostly on the shape of the map and where it will be out of the way. If you are doing a real world map that might vary by area mapped time period being replicated. etc. So my take is; If you have symbols you need a key. Place where it fits in the best and try to keep it in style with the rest of your map !
    Last edited by lostatsea; 01-28-2014 at 09:59 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by - Max - View Post
    As for the other stuff, I would follow some obvious rules: If you feel the map informations aren't obvious ( complicated icons, high number of icons, specific locations), add a key to explain them. If you need to add some additional informations that can't be depicted on your map, you might want to add some informations box, some bars or cartouches to detail it.
    Quote Originally Posted by lostatsea View Post
    So my take is; If you have symbols you need a key. Place where it fits in the best and try to keep it in style with the rest of your map !

    That's what I was looking for. So the difference, really, is determined by what information you're including?

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    PERFECT! Thank you so much!

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