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Thread: Map Symbols

  1. #1

    Question Map Symbols

    Hello everyone! I have a question concerning the symbols on map. You see, I'm making a world map in Photoshop (atlas style), and I am wondering what to use as map symbols (for city sizes and such). So I settled for the standard ones (image below), but I have no idea how to make these, or how to start making these.

    Should I use the brush tool, or perhaps the custom shape tool (and can someone tell me the difference between those two?), or something entirely else? Thanks.

    P.S. Please don't say: "Why don't you just copy the icons?", because they are kind of low-res and I really want to learn this myself.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by Daendyr19; 02-18-2013 at 03:15 PM.

  2. #2
    Guild Adept Facebook Connected aquarits's Avatar
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    Nov 2012
    São Bernardo do Campo - SP - Brasil


    I had the same problem with my map, the solution was use the icons like 50x50 px as min size and resize my map for a big size.

  3. #3
    Guild Member ManOfSteel's Avatar
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    Mar 2012
    San Francisco, CA


    You should be able to make all the city symbols in the left column with simple Photoshop brushes. Check to see what brushes you have already and if you need other ones (like stars or squares) do a search for free Photoshop brushes. You should be able to find some.
    Also remember that you can make a brush in Photoshop. So for instance you could make nearly any customs shape and turn it into a brush.
    Another possibility is to search through free font sites and check out their symbol or "dingbat" fonts which are mainly symbols.
    Finally, instead of a brush, think about using a symbol on a separate layer as a master, duplicate it, and move it to where you want it. Then you can make the master layer invisible.

  4. #4


    The trails and rails can also be made with Photoshop brushes, even without making new ones. The essential control you need for those is called "spacing," and you can find it in the brushes palette in the Brush Tip Shape panel. You can also get a brush to rotate according to the direction of your stroke by setting the Angle Jitter control drop-down to direction. That can be found in the Shape Dynamics panel.

    You probably already have some dingbat fonts with appropriate symbols installed. If you're in Windows, you can explore them using the Character Map: Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Character Map. Even normal fonts sometimes have useful symbols. Like so: ۞ ۩ Those are both from Arial.

    Now, the difference between the brush tool and the custom shape tool: Brushes are like actual brushes—you can make a continuous stroke with a variety of different dynamics applied to it. Or you can just drop a single "copy," essentially dabbing with the brush. A shape, on the other hand, is a vector object—it can be dragged out to any size without losing sharpness, and stretched or squashed freely. A brush can also have translucent portions, but a shape cannot. In both cases, they inherit the foreground color, so when they are made, you use only black and white, and shades of gray for translucent portions of a brush.
    Bryan Ray, visual effects artist

  5. #5
    Guild Journeyer Facebook Connected EricPoehlsen's Avatar
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    Mar 2011
    Regensburg, Germany


    Most standard map symbols are included as characters in the system fonts. You can use them either as text entity or as base for creating brushes from them

  6. #6


    Thanks for the info everyone! I'll try different things, and see what suits my map the best. Also, I have Adobe Illustrator, would that help me with making these symbols (I only need the left column symbols)?

  7. #7


    If you want to make the symbols into Custom Shapes, then Illustrator will probably make things easier, although I don't know the workflow for importing the shapes into PS. And the hexagon and star will be easier there than in Photoshop. If you just want brushes, though, the rest of the symbols can be fairly easily made with rectangular and circular selections which you stroke and/or fill. Once you have the symbol constructed, crop the image down, flatten it, and go to edit > define brush preset. I'd suggest you make your brush quite a bit larger than you'd ever actually use it so you don't lose any quality if you decide to make really big city icons for some reason, or you work at a much higher resolution some day down the road.
    Bryan Ray, visual effects artist

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