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Thread: A POTENTIALLY HUGE TIME-SAVER for people doing city mapping

  1. #1
    Guild Novice Felonius's Avatar
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    Apr 2010

    Default A POTENTIALLY HUGE TIME-SAVER for people doing city mapping

    I just discovered this today, and I HAD to share it over here on Cartographer's Guild.

    At work, I've been experimenting with several different drawing / page layout programs, in an attempt to see if our business can move away from Adobe products to something else.

    However, during my experiments, I stumbled across a feature for a program called DrawPlus by Serif (you can download the free trial version here) that ABSOLUTELY BLEW MY MIND, because I KNEW it could be a killer feature for doing city mapping. I'm certain there are ways to do it in Photoshop and Illustrator too, but for the price of "free" with the trial version, which you can use forever, this CANNOT be beat.

    The program is vector-based, but it gives you the option to create "brushes" for your vector lines that apply stylistic effects. One of the options for line brushes is to create what they call "photo brushes," where you can assign a series of images--vector or raster--in a collective row, then have the program place those images in a row along the vector.

    The default example they show is with flowers--not terribly inspiring, right?

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    HOWEVER---When I went to experiment with it, I discovered that you can easily replace the images in the brush, and the order they appear.

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    Notice as well that you can totally control the other elements---the amount of vertical / horizontal jitter, the spacing between elements, and so on.

    So in a crazy "Eureka!" moment, I totally figured that I could use tile graphics of city buildings--from CC3 or other sources--and create a "brush" that runs those buildings in a line. And what you know, IF I WASN'T RIGHT!!

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    (Can you tell I'm just a little bit excited about this???) Anyway, it only took a few minutes of experimenting to create a couple of "brushes" to use, and it looks like you can add a dozen or more elements to each line. When finished, you can use the program's export function to immediately export it to PNG, with the pixel dimensions and DPI specified, all with a transparent background--making it a cinch to import the output file into GIMP or Photoshop afterwards as a layer.

    Now, here's the other AWESOME thing about all this--you don't even have to create different sizes of the building rasters if you want to change the building size slightly. Simply by updating the width of the vector line, DrawPlus automatically updates the relative size of the images in the brush, making it brilliantly easy to make the buildings slightly larger or smaller (obviously to make this work, you need to have some very high-resolution originals to input to the brush, or use vectors).

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    Furthermore, If you get a few buildings too many, either too long or too wide, all you have to do is adjust the nodes of the vector line, or shrink the bounding box, and it simply removes the buildings from the line! And even better than that--if you change the FOLLOW PATH ROTATION setting all the way up to 100%, the line of houses NATURALLY TURNS AND SHIFTS ALONG THE PATH, JUST AS IF IT WERE ON THE STREET!!!!!!! (**mind blown**).

    Anyway, I don't know if any of the rest of you can make use of this, but I know for me it COMPLETELY REDEFINES my ability to quickly draw out city buildings, especially since I already have a lot of artwork collected from CC3 and CD3 (which I don't ever use anymore, TOOOO SLLOOOOOW). Obviously you have to plan ahead for the other things in the map, like setting a consistent pixel size and DPI for the other layers, but for me this is a seriously COOL time saver, and I'm going to make heavy use of it going forward.

    Oh, and since the tool allows for the use of SVG, if you have a bunch of vectorized building art already, all you have to do is add them to the brush.

    If someone else has already reported this, forgive me for being so excited, but the application of this for city mapping is potentially huge, in my opinion.

    Thanks for letting me have a "happy rant!" =)

    Last edited by Felonius; 02-24-2012 at 02:49 AM.

  2. #2


    Both ravells and myself have tried a similar technique. See here. Worked pretty well.

    My experiments stranded when I tried to include automatic shadowing. I needed two brushes, one with the houses, and one with the "height maps", but with excatly the same settings (dispersion, rotation, scaling etc), which proved to be next to impossible to achieve, as in Xara, all brush settings are set using tiny sliders.

    I used the same trick on the trees in this map.


  3. #3
    Administrator Redrobes's Avatar
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    Dec 2007
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    I know that PSP has a similar feature with its Picture Tubes thing. Not sure how much size and jitter you can apply as they come out tho. My ViewingDale app has a path feature where it will do adjustable size and rotational jitter but its only done using the one brush that you have picked up not a series of them in a 'tube'. However, with mine you can go back and pick each one up and move it or adjust it if its placed really badly. Or you can delete a house or two as required. There is also the option to group a set of houses together in a line and then drop them down with the same randomized jitter too but you would get the same sequence of houses each time.
    I still think some automated house position placement based on some intelligent rules is whats required. Preferably with a rip up and replace ability to progress the sensibleness of the layout. I started writing something for that but I got bogged down with it and abandoned it.

  4. #4


    Very cool. I have the full version of DrawPlus x4 so I'm definitely going to have to give this a whirl Thanks.

  5. #5
    Community Leader RobA's Avatar
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    Apr 2007
    Toronto, Canada


    I also demonstrated this technique with gimp a while back (dear lord this was almost 5 years ago.....)

    Of course, with the current unstable gimp 2.7.x and the upcoming 2.8 stable, you don't need to create a special angular GIH brush, as the brush dynamics let you map angle to direction and jitter on size.

    -Rob A>

  6. #6


    Thanks for pointing this out. Illustrator has a combination of tools that work with placing predefined symbols and then changing them in a variety of ways. I think this will work great for the city map I'm drawing in Illustrator.

  7. #7
    Guild Adept Troedel's Avatar
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    Dec 2009


    @Dylanmorgan Could you please elaborate on placing symbols along a path. I just know the blend option wich seems raw to me compared to the things I see above. I just need a starting point as there does not seem to be anything similar in AI. Digging into draw Plus now. CD3 is to slow for having fun, my opinion, I need something else do do cities the "lazy" way...

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