A Tutorial For Inkscape Maps

Someone recently asked how I did my maps

Just follow these easy steps:
  1. Get rid of any significant other, or other distractions, for atleast 24 hours, permanantly is preferable but Murder is outlawed in 34 states soo...
  2. Decide the theme, time frame and printing date for your map, think what colours would suit, and think about what is actually going in the map, Its a lot harder in Inkscape to map on the fly as it were, have an idea, and go for it
  3. Find a map to trace, there are gazillions out there, the Heritage History Website is my favourite source but look around (Google Maps is good if you have a specific area in mind). A good map will be clear and easy to read, try and think how easy it'll be to differentiate between different things on the map
  4. Download and Install Inkscape, its easy to use and FREE
  5. Load your image into inkscape, I would recommend creating a new layer (Layer -> new Layer) and then moving the picture from the 'Root' layer into your new one
    (Layer -> Move Selection to layer Below), select the new picture layer and lock it (padlock button next to the drop down list of layers)
  6. Create another new layer, you don't need to lock this one, you'll be using it
  7. First I would recommend tracing the coastline, select the pencil icon from the toolkit and then zoom in ... lots, On the Heritage History maps I work at about 800 - 1000 % magnification, esp for the coasts (cntrl & scroll up or +), find your coast and start drawing a line, when you lift your mouse (to move the screen (hold in scroll button) etc), select your line your working on (the arrowhead at the top of the toolbox) and a seethrough box should be at either end of your line (your goal is to get round to the other end of the coastline and meet up the two ends of the line) use the pencil tool on the box (when you hover over it the box should turn red to continue the line)
  8. Now your grey and old, and very bored and wondering why you got into cartography in the first place you should have a coastline, check how your coast line looks by giving it a fill colour (select your line and then click on a colour on the bottom colour chart, remove the colour by clicking on the box with a red X in it at the far left of the chart)
    Now create a new layer
  9. Hide the coast layer (the eye next to the padlock) and select your new layer, if your fancy map that your copying has town names this is your time to shine. Use the text tool (the A tool on the left) to copy any town names, country names and region names that you want. (Every time you start a new name it'll default back to the original settings, change this by going Text -> Text and Font, and then choose what settings you want to default to and then select set as default), You can use Dots to denote where a town is by using the pencil tool and cntrl and left clicking on where you want your dots. If dots aren't your thing, then find something that you want to use, preferably in SVG format (a lot of the symbols and flags on WIKI are SVG, choose something like that, chess pieces are a good plan)
  10. Now you've finished with the names its time to start doing some borders: Lock and Hide your text layer and create a layer below (I find doing names first helps me build more of an accurate map as I have better references)
  11. Creating borders is a bit different, you'll inevitably overlap borders, go outside your coast etc, now there are methods to counter these Ill go through these here:
    1. Gone into the sea? Open your coastal layer and select the coast you've overlapped. Copy your coast and then return to your borders layer, and then paste the coastline in place by using cntrl-alt-v, then select it and the errent polity, and go (path -> Intersection) and marvel as your polity takes the shape of the coast where it overlaps
    2. To fix overlapping borders move (using page up and down) the polities so the correct border is on top and showing, then copy the polity with the correct border and select both the errent and correct ones and use (path -> difference) to fix the lower one, and then use cntrl-alt-v to paste the other one in place
  12. So you have a semi working map now, with entities, keys and a cool looking coastline, but you want some of the fancy effects I have? Well here are a few nifty tricks for you...
  13. If you want the little darker borders around the main part of the polity? Well copy the section and paste in place (cntrl-alt-v) then use cntrl+( [shift 9] to inset the shape, do this again a couple of times to get the right thickness, (I use 3). Select the larger shape (the original one) and go Extensions->Colour->Darken and it'll make the colour darker (I do it again to get a better contrast). Now select the inner shape (the smaller one) and remove the border by going Object -> Fill and Stroke. This will open a dialogue (usually on the right), select the Stroke Paint tab then press the X button on the top row of buttons. (Occasionally the inset will create a weird shape, this is usually fixed by undoing (cntrl-z) and then outsetting (cntrl-) [shift-0]) and then insetting again (cntrl-() until its got the right thickness.
  14. If you want the coast to have the fancy wavy effect you get on some of the old maps then select your coastline and copy and paste in place, then outset (cntrl-)) once or twice to get the wave size you want, then repeat from the new outer coastline (make sure you make the new waves have no fill)
  15. Now you have an awesome MOF winning map great!, but Internets doesn't really do SVG, and nor does Windows very well. So go to File->Export Bitmap for exporting, make sure you choose drawing (theres a 'page' that you get at the start, which most likely wont contain your picture) and then choose the settings.

Some Tips for you:
  • Make sure everything creates a closed shape when drawing coasts or polities, Inkscape no likey open shapey
  • If your theme is old timey, try to keep all the colours as neutral as possible, but thats my taste
  • Finding your borders boring, then add Fractal fun with Extensions -> Modify Path -> Fractalise, play with the effect till you find something that suits you
  • Turn the smoothing slider of the pencil right down (about 20 suits me) or all your lines will be unnaturally smooth
  • For straight lines or curves (e.g. Lat long curves) get to grips with the Pen tool for more accuracy
  • Save often, cntrl-S is your friend here, Inkscape is OpenSource, and not perfect, they do a good job but it does crash quite often (I find about once per half hour of work, more if I'm doing something complicated or intensive)
  • Do some post work in GIMP, Paint.Net, or lucky you Photoshop
  • HAVE FUN!

Any questions don't hesitate to ask :)
 
This is very comprehensive, probably the best answer anyones given to those who pester about advanced mapmaking. I think you need to bring in an explanation of the Fill and Stroke dialog window though.

A very quick method to get no overlapping country filling colour blocks is to use the Fill Bounded Areas tool after drawing the border paths.

Perosnally I tend to skip the manual coastline tracing by preprocessing the base image in GIMP with colorize and the levels tools till its low information enough for the trace bitmap inkscape window to handle it for me ;).
 
Hmm, I guess you and I use Inkscape in rather different ways - I wouldn't touch the pencil tool with a ten foot barge pole! And I've honestly never used layers (which can make things confusing at times, I'll admit).

I'd advise making a full, comprehensive tutorial with images to show what you're talking about - without images it can be hard to know what you're talking about.
 
This is very comprehensive, probably the best answer anyones given to those who pester about advanced mapmaking. I think you need to bring in an explanation of the Fill and Stroke dialog window though.

A very quick method to get no overlapping country filling colour blocks is to use the Fill Bounded Areas tool after drawing the border paths.

Perosnally I tend to skip the manual coastline tracing by preprocessing the base image in GIMP with colorize and the levels tools till its low information enough for the trace bitmap inkscape window to handle it for me ;).
I find the trace Bitmap is iffy at best, better to just start building a portfolio of base maps

So Fill and Stroke, your Right it needs more info:
To open up the control panel go Object -> Fill and Stroke.

If you don't know what they are Fill is the colour the shape is made of, whereas Stroke is the line going around the edge.

First thing you'll open up with is the fill page, with a set of 9 Buttons.

The first one is no fill, does exactly what it says on the tin
Then theres the block fill, which just put one colour into the shape. Click on it when you have a shape selected you'll get several choices for a colour chooser. The first one lets you choose Red Green Blue and Alpha (how opaque the colour is basically). The next tab The hue, saturation and Lightness.
Then there's the CMYK, (cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (basically how black it is), Then theres a colour wheel and a CMS (not sure what that is, I just use the RGB)

To use the RGB chooser, just select the values you want from each of the Colours, and as you change the different colours the sliders update to show you what changing each of them will do to the colour.

There is also a Hexadecimal colour pointer at the bottom which allows you to enter hex values in the form of rrggbbaa in hex (base 16 numbers)

That's just for the block fill. Next to that button there is a gradient chooser for linear (eg Left to right), or radial (inside to out). To create your own gradient click duplicate, then click edit and another box will appear. Here you edit each stop using the colour choosers. A stop is where the colour changes in a gradient to. Click add stop to add one, and then you can use the offset (on anything but the first and last stop) to change where it appears on the gradient line at the top.

Then there is the pattern fill button next. Here you can select a pattern from a list of default, or follow the instructions to create your own. To edit how the pattern appears you use the node tool (the arrow 2nd from top with the line of nodes) Select the object with the pattern and some nodes should appear (the nodes of the actual shape and then at the top corner of the 'page' an X a Circle and a Square). Use the node tool to orbit the circle to change the orientation of the pattern and move the square closer and further away from the X to change the size.

Then there is the swatch and null fill buttons which I have no idea what they do (Not needed anything other then the above) and the other two change the way that the shape is filled (again not used)

The next tab does the same to the stroke as the fill does.

Then there is the stroke style tab. The first input allows you to change the width of any stroke. Then the join style lets you choose between square edged, round edged and chamfered edged.

The Miter limit, changes how far out the square edged corners can go (you'll notice that the sharper the corner the further out a square corner points)

Then the cap changes how the ends of a line would be displayed. The Dashes allows you to change whether a line has dashes or not, and you can add markers at the beginning, middle and ends of a line (the middle being every time there is a node that inst the start or end)

There are blur and opacity sliders for the colour (which affects the whole shape, not just the fill)
 
Top