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  1. #1

    Question How to create a Dashed Border?

    Hi All,
    My first posting on here so be gentle!

    I found the guild a few days ago and Im overwhelmed by the quantity of information on here. Its quite amazing.

    Despite all that Ive searched and browsed but I cant find the answer to my question - its likely on here somewhere but I cant find it.

    I am making a world political map for a website and I am looking to recreate the dashed border/neatline found on old maps, for example this one:-

    Can anyone tell me how to create this effect in photoshop ( Im still using the original photoshop CS )?

    Thanks in advance


  2. #2
    Guild Artisan töff's Avatar
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    Nov 2007
    Fresno, California USA


    Well, I hope I don't come off as an absolute ogre here, but I think this is the sort of basic technique that all Photoshoppers rely upon on a regular basis, and you would benefit greatly from experimenting on your own to create this imagery, rather than following a tutorial. Teach a man to fish is one thing, but point him toward a river is another.

    There are probably easily a dozen ways to achieve this particular effect. I think you ought to be able to come up with at least two at the newbie level.

    Edit: Furthermore, throwing oneself into the river is how all the amazing guys here come up with their original awesome advanced techniques to share with others. You must never be afraid to hurl yourself into the water, head first! It's not as if you'll break your neck on a rock. Okay, I've ridden that metaphor into the ground now.
    Last edited by töff; 09-20-2009 at 06:37 PM.

  3. #3


    You want to find a method that draws the border once with an interrupted stroke. Look at the structure of your brush and see if you can reduce the frequency of the dots until you break up the line.

    Make sure you keep the borders on a separate layer. Keeps everything clear and allows you to have a version with and without borders.

    In photoshop you likely want a dotted brush and then trace a work path with that brush.

    In Illustrator its much the same.


    Oh and what töff said is true. Try not to think of it as a problem but as a puzzle to solve.

    Dollhouse Syndrome = The temptation to turn a map into a picture, obscuring the goal of the image with the appeal of cute, or simply available, parts. Maps have clarity through simplification.

    --- Sigurd

  4. #4
    Community Leader Facebook Connected Ascension's Avatar
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    Jun 2008
    St. Charles, Missouri, United States


    You can do the dotted border by setting the spacing on your pencil tip (not brush) to 150% or more. For a dashed line you need a few steps:

    1. Make a path with the pen tool.
    2. Pick any pencil tip that you want but set the spacing to 1%.
    3. Stroke the path.
    4. Click on the eraser tool and at the top set it to pencil mode.
    5. Use a hard square pencil tip that is exactly double the size of the pencil tip you used to make the line.
    6. Click on the brush editor and set the spacing to 300% or more and set the angle jitter control to direction.
    7. Stroke the path with this modified eraser and delete the path when done (if you want).

    The two most important things here are the spacing and the direction control on the eraser...otherwise the results will be unpredictable. If you were to make your own brush tip in a rectangular shape it won't work either (it doesn't bend around curves, I've tried, so that's why I use a hard round pencil tip to draw the line and a square to erase holes out of it). By the way, I use CS as well so I know this works.
    If the radiance of a thousand suns was to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One...I am become Death, the Shatterer of worlds.
    -J. Robert Oppenheimer (father of the atom bomb) alluding to The Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 11, Verse 32)

    My Maps ~ My Brushes ~ My Tutorials ~ My Challenge Maps

  5. #5
    Professional Artist Facebook Connected Coyotemax's Avatar
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    Jul 2009


    For the type of border you provided an example for, I made mine (works with any version of PS that i know of) by setting up an inner and outer border with a space between, then overlaying a grid on another layer, and using the select too to cut the grid out so it only showed between the borders. flatten those, then paintbucket alternating sections. I found you end up with more predictable control on the size for this sort of grid (plus i find it's easier if you want to do something like red/black alternating) instead of calculating out the size of the brush and spacing percentages, but I hate math

    (toff is right though, it's worth really getting to know the basics until they are second nature to you, it will serve you well in the longrun)

    My finished maps
    "...sometimes the most efficient way to make something look drawn by hand is to simply draw it by hand..."

  6. #6


    I like to make a box of known dimensions with the Marquee tool, Fill it, give it a stroke, then alt-shift-drag it to one side to make a copy. I fill the copy with the second color, merge the two layers, then alt-shift-drag and merge again. That makes four boxes with alternating colors and a stroke.

    You can set the Marquee tool to a fixed size by changing the Style from Normal to Fixed Size. The stroke should go to the inside of the object, and each box should be wider than you actually need it to be so that when you overlap them to make the strokes all the same width, the boxes are the correct length. This is important because the neatline serves as an additional scale and must therefore be as accurate as the main scale cartouche.
    Bryan Ray, visual effects artist

  7. #7


    Not sure if Ive just been mildly flamed?

    "...basic technique that all Photoshoppers rely upon on..."

    If you are a designer then I would possibly agree so - but not all photoshop users are designers, including myself.

    I am an IT guy trying to make a commercial "go" of my photographic hobby - the map is to be a "clickable" way to obtain photographs of a particular country. Whilst I am quite happy manipulating photographs in PS and, more likely, in Lightroom you wont be too surprised that Ive never had the occasion to draw a dotted line in a photograph, its just a technique I think a photographer is unlikely to use.

    For what its worth, having been working in IT for the better part of 30 years I absolutely hate those who come asking without having done their own legwork first.
    So my question was not asked lightly, Id been experimenting and hunting around for a week or so before I came across the forum.

    Various techniques for dashed/dotted lines/borders are well documented on the web - such as brush spacings ,colouring+shrinking+deleting layers and also using patterns. None of which gave me the result I am seeking since the border is NOT a simple dashed border. If you look closely at the example it is more than a dashed line since the white segments have a red border.

    Being a manipulator of existing images rather than a designer of new images my way of thinking didnt lend itself to resolving the problem - but Coyotemax seems to have pointed me in the direction I was looking for, without feeding me any metaphorical fish!

    I need to go experiment a little now.

    Many thanks to all that took the time to reply.


  8. #8
    Guild Expert Ramah's Avatar
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    Mar 2009
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    I have to admit, I struggled with a similar border that I placed around my own map. It took me far longer to do than it should but I guess much of that was due to changing the size etc.

    What I did was calculated from the size of the image how many alternating boxes I would need and then used the fixed size marquee tool to create a grid by stroking the inside with a 1 pixel pencil tip and then moving the marquee. After that I filled the boxes with the paint bucket and cropped out all the lines I didn't need.
    Royal: I'm very sorry for your loss, your mother was a terribly attractive woman.

    My Cartographer's Guild maps: Finished Maps

    More maps viewable at my DeviantArt page: Ramah-Palmer DeviantArt

  9. #9


    Hi Ramah,

    Thanks for that outline, something else for me to try out.

    ... and greetings from the otherside of the M1, Im over near Matlock

  10. #10
    Guild Artisan töff's Avatar
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    Nov 2007
    Fresno, California USA


    I did not mean my post as a flame in any way, shape, or form. You don't have to be a designer to use Photoshop ... notice I said Photoshopper, which you are. Sorry if I offended. I meant it as encouragement to build your basic skills -- square marquees, grids, xy transforms, strokes, paths -- which will serve you well and daily in more advanced Photoshop challenges.

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