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Thread: Hand drawn maps to scale

  1. #1

    Default Hand drawn maps to scale


    I'm an artist, I remember once drawing a map of my state in grammar school. I enjoyed the experience and would like to do some map making by hand now. I'd like the maps to be accurate and scaled correctly. I just don't know how to go about it. I dont want to copy another map, how do I get the info needed to do this? Is there a class I could take (NJ/NJ) in person or online?

    Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

    -Mr Limpett

  2. #2
    Administrator Redrobes's Avatar
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    Dec 2007
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    I think you would need to read up some history about map making and using the tools like a theodolite etc. Now its easier to use a GPS and drive around and store the path traces for the roads and landmarks and put together a map that way. I think the OpenStreetMap site has a lot of info about this and you can use their map data as a starting point too if you dont want to start from scratch. But its kinda money / resource heavy to make state sized maps accurately all by yourself without using other peoples sources, images or data.

  3. #3


    I'm just looking for basic how-to info right now. I don't need to get the data myself, just info on how to actually draw a scaled map on paper.

  4. #4
    Community Leader Guild Sponsor Korash's Avatar
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    Nov 2008
    Montreal, Canada


    Well, Architects, Engineers and other technical drawing type people use what they call scales. (I hope that search is still available for you) They come in all sorts of different scales so you will need to figure out which one you want to start with. You can find them, or at least the more common ones, at most office supply stores.

    Now one of the things you need to understand about scales is that they are usually in the form of a ratio: 1 unit of measurement on the image will equal the stated multiple of that unit. EX. 1:1/4 means 1 inch/foot on the image equals a 1/4 inch/3 inches on the actual object (ie. the image is an enlargement). The same for larger scales like 1:10 000 only working the other way...1 inch on the map equals 10 000 inches on the ground. My suggestion would be to look over a few topographical maps to get an idea of what scale covers what sort of ground.

    Now those physical scales I mentioned....As you can see in the linked images, they are graduated in the scale stated on each side, with multiple scales per unit. Make sure you are reading the right one when you measure. Once you figure out the scale that you want your map to be in, it just becomes a matter of measuring out the distances you have with proper scale and marking it on the map. The accuracy of the map will depend on the measurements you have and direction readings you have.

    I hope that helps

    Yeah, I forgot something...Those physical scales come in imperial and metric measurement. Also you also want to make sure that the scale you are using is actually for reduction or enlargement. One of the OTHER things that I forgot to mention, is that if the scale is 1/4...that will usually mean that 1/4 inch equals 1 foot, 1/8 means 1/8 of an inch equals 1 foot......and by that I mean the measured distance on the image will equal that many feet on the ground...using the Architectural scales.......If you are not used to using them I very STRONGLY suggest that you talk to the office supply people and hope that you get someone you knows what they are talking about. I have several, but find that it is hard to describe with out showing the difference.....sorry...muddying the waters here....
    Last edited by Korash; 12-01-2012 at 01:31 PM.
    Art Critic = Someone with the Eye of an Artist, Words of a Bard, and the Talent of a Rock.

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  5. #5
    Software Dev/Rep Guild Sponsor waldronate's Avatar
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    Mar 2007
    The High Desert


    There are many ways to draw a scaled map on paper. All of them involve "copying another map" in some way or other unless you actually go out and collect the data yourself as Redrobes suggested. Even if you start from a list of lat/lon coordinates, somebody already had to make that map.

    The most important part of mapmaking is knowing why you're making the map. If you want to show local shopping areas then you'll have quite a different map than one showing historically significant activities in the area. Similarly, a modern atlas map of an area will look quite different than a historical exploration map of the area, even though the will try to show the same sorts of things (well, the road networks will likely be a little different, but you get the idea).

    Once you know why you want to draw the map (its purpose), you'll be able to decide what media to use, what to include, and what to exclude. The map's purpose will also suggest what type of decoration and annotations the map needs. An antique-style map will likely have a lot of decoration; a modern mapping style will tend to be much simpler.

    Once you know what you want to include, then you'll need to choose the visual layout of the map. Is it tall and thin, short and wide, or square? What projection is appropriate? Should it be full-color, a few colors, or black and white? Is it drawn in ink, electronic, paint, or blood?

    Now that you know why you're doing the map, how you're doing the map, and what it's going to look like, then it's just a matter of doing it. If you have an example map in the desired projection, a pantograph, photocopier, or projector will allow you to resize the image and place it in the desired place on the page. Then you can trace it in preparation for the final artwork. If you don't have an example map, there are any number of products such as QuantumGIS or Generic Mapping Tools that can take existing world data and let you pick out just the parts you want and project it how you want before producing your cartoon for drawing.

    Once you have your sketch, fill in the rest of the details that you decided on and then you'll have your map.

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