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Thread: Mapping a real-world location...

  1. #1
    Guild Member ExMachina's Avatar
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    Sep 2009
    White Post, VA

    Question Mapping a real-world location...

    I'm not sure how to go about this, so I'm asking the experts for their opinion. How would one go about mapping an actual location? In this case, let's say the Mediterranean Sea at some point during the Roman Republic.

    Google Earth and other satellite images will allow one to see the shape of everything, however the problem comes when creating the actual coastline as difference clouds + threshold = randomness. I suppose since my goal is to make the map look like it dates from Roman times, accuracy is not paramount, however getting the general shape is important. Not to mention that everything is in the proper place in relative to other parts of the map, i.e. the Italian Peninsula can't look incredibly long while Greece looks squat, if you get my point.

    Any thoughts? I don't think I've encountered any real-world maps on here yet.

  2. #2


    I would download Wilbur (it's free) and then dowload the DEM data for the maps you need from the USGS site. You can use Wilbur to render accurate coastines and mountains for you, export the render into photoshop (or whatever) and then work on it that way.

    Waldronate would be probably better placed advise.

  3. #3
    Community Leader Facebook Connected Ascension's Avatar
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    Jun 2008
    St. Charles, Missouri, United States


    The way that I do maps based on existing coastlines is to render some clouds, like usual, put the existing coastline image on top of that and turn down the opacity to 20% or so and apply a red color overlay. Then on a layer between these two I fill a layer with 50% gray and set the blend to hard mix...resulting in the black and white cowspots. On a layer below this I'll do the airbrushing of white and black and push everything into shape. If you don't have hard mix then you'll have to use threshold and undo until you get it right.
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  4. #4
    Software Dev/Rep Guild Sponsor waldronate's Avatar
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    Mar 2007
    The High Desert


    There are many vector coastline datasets out there suitable for importing into your favorite drawing package. If you're into vector data sets. Another option is to find an online atlas picture that represents what you're after, do a screen grab of it, put it into a background layer, and draw your work on top of it. has a basic map of the area that would make a good starting point (and it's even in SVG to simplify the appropriation). Maybe would work because you're after Republic rather than Empire, but the principle is the same.

    Style is always a tough one. A good starting point for might be as it has a number of good examples (everyone loves the Tabula Peutingeriana).

    Now add hard work and stir...

  5. #5
    Guild Member Jeff_Wilson63's Avatar
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    Sep 2009
    Fort Collins, Colorado, USA


    Quote Originally Posted by ravells View Post
    I would download Wilbur (it's free) and then dowload the DEM data for the maps you need from the USGS site.
    What program do you suggest using to get the DEM data into a format Wilbur can read?
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  6. #6
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    Nov 2009


    Wilbur natively supports USGS DEM files.

    Whenever I create real world maps, I usually start with DEM data from either GTOPO-30 or ETOPO1. I usually have no problem openining them in Wilbur.

  7. #7


    The first thing to consider when making an old map in a period style is how maps at that time were made. Most Roman maps were not big on geographic accuracy, instead being based off of road networks. All that mattered was which city was connected to which other city, and the distances between 'em. This makes for a very weird looking map, and not the easiest to figure out.

    In cases like this, it might be best to use some artistic license for the sake of understandability. It is possible for a geographically-accurate map to be present in a Roman setting; a nautical navigation map, for example. If you take this route, the best source for coastline shape &c. is definitely Ptolemy, who made a rather famous map of the world in the second century.

    You shouldn't copy the style you'll see on versions of his map, though; the earliest copies of the map we have come from the late Middle Ages, and as such have a Mediaeval style.

    So your best bet is to base the coastline, rivers, place names, and all that off of Ptolemy's map, but use the style of Roman road maps. Don't copy the style of the first one you see, though - there are quite a few Mediaeval and Renaissance copies of Roman road maps out there.

    Hope this helps.
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