Tutorial: Sattelite Map Making by MNPundit

Tutorial: Satellite Map Making by MNPundit

Note: It would be great if someone found it useful enough to sticky this.


by MNPundit

Not all of us can be famous map makers like say, Diamond. For those that want to forge in that direction best of luck and I'll be right there with you. Currently I've done a number of different styles both for myself in my own The Raptor of Spain, and a few other TLs. Generally I use a variety of methods but the one I call "Satellite Map Making" is one everyone can use fairly easily and I thought I'd share it here. The benefits of Satellite Map Making are that you can get an accurate picture of today's landmasses, show appropriate terrain and vegetation and place things like cities and roads more accurately. I've found it's a great way to pack a lot of information into a map and display it with significant accuracy. Maybe the biggest benefit is that all it takes is time. You can do it all with free programs.

Step 1: Tools

There are number of tools we need. First and foremost we will need a graphics editing program. I currently use CS2, but not everyone can obtain this program legally or otherwise. A free option is GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) which is located at http://www.gimp.org/ for Windows XP. If you don't have windows, the most important thing is to find a graphics editor with the ability to do layers as a lot of this depends on layers and layer effects.

The next program you will need is a virtual globe. These are programs like Google Earth. I actually don't use Google Earth, I use NASA World Wind, (WW) a free government program that can be downloaded at http://worldwind.arc.nasa.gov/java. While older versions of World Wind were specifically for windows, the Java version is multi-platform.

Now while you can make the map using just what is provided in World Wind, I also download a number of World Wind Add-Ons to give the image that little extra. That's optional. The Add-Ons I use are:

  1. Natural Earth located at http://worldwindcentral.com/wiki/Add-on:Natural_Earth
  2. Topographical Earth located at http://worldwindcentral.com/wiki/Add-on:Topographical_Earth
  3. Demis World Map located at http://worldwindcentral.com/wiki/Add-on:Demis_WorldMap
Download and install the programs of your choice.

Step 2: Setting Up the Base Map

Now that we have these programs up and running it's time to get to creating the basemap. When I tried this in GIMP I had a hard time getting the layers to work right but I did it. A layer tutorial in GIMP can be found at http://www.tankedup-imaging.com/gimp/layers.html for GIMP 2.6.

Anyhow, first open your graphics editor then open up your virtual globe. On WW play around a bit so you get a feel for the program then center the screen on the landmass you want to map. In this case we'll be doing an upcoming map for RoS, Cyprus, which will soon became a Vassal State of the Christian Umayyads of Toledo.

1. Take a Screenshot of Cyprus and then toggle to your graphics editor.
2. Create a new image and paste it onto the blank space. Usually this will open at the resolution of your screen but if not, just adjust it so it matches. Mine is 1280 x 1024.
3. Check to make sure it's how you want it. My WW defaults to selecting the landsat which makes it unusable. If that happens click once to remove it.

--Illustration 1-- --Illustration 2--

4. Once you have pasted the image into your graphics editor, go back to WW and select a new view under the layer manager (Illustration 3 and 4 ) and take a new screen shot. If you are using photoshop it will automatically great a new layer. If you are using GIMP select Layer from the Menu Bar, then New Layer as in Illustration 5. Once the new layer has been created, simply paste your screenshot onto it and repeat the process until you have 3 layers..

-Illustration 3 - - - - - - - - - - Illustration 4-

----Illustration 5----

Now the Natural Earth might look a little bad. It's not created for the level of zoom I am using in WW. If you pull it back some it will start to look good pretty quickly. Natural Earth is also optional. The Demis layer won't actually be used in the final product--it helps you see where the roads and cities are. I generally don't bother to rename the layers, but I will this time to make it easier to follow. I renamed them the Satellite Layer the Natural Earth Layer and the Demis Layer (illustration 6).

Step 3. Creating the Base Map

Now that you have all the layers in place, it's time to set up the base map. I have set the Natural Earth Layer to Soft Light. Set the Satellite Layer to Darken Only or Darken if using Photoshop (illustration 6). The Demis Layer remains Normal.

--- Illustration 6 ---

Now, there are a number of techniques and styles you can use from this point out including duplicating the layers and changing their modes, opacity and fill attribute (photoshop only for the fill). In this particular tutorial I am going to include another layer that is a harder more advanced method. This is optional but can provide good results.

Step 4. Rezising outside layers (OPTIONAL STEP)

On Wikipedia there are a number of very nice topographical maps for a lot of countries. Search for Geography of Cyprus in the wiki search box and find the topographical map, select it and save it to your computer.

---Illustration 7---

Now, create a new layer as before and paste it in. Obviously you see what's going on. It's too big! Now before we begin, this is a LOT easier in photoshop. In GIMP, when you resize the layer you can't see what is below it, or at least, I haven't figured out how yet. In photoshop once yet set the opacity to 50% you can just adjust the layer to fit the size you've already chosen for your map. As I said before, this is optional and you may want to consider skipping this if you are using GIMP. In GIMP if you want to try it, select the Scale Tool from the Toolbox. In Photoshop just hit CTRL-T, grab a little box and start resizing.

Anyhow, I dragged this layer to the bottom, making it my "base" layer and left the mode as normal.

Step 5: Making Borders

Now how to make your borders? If you know exactly what you want already, that's great but even if you do this can help you. Do a search on Wiki Commons for "Administrative Divisions of X" where X is whatever country you are trying to map. In this case, Cyprus. I get a handy map listing major areas and municipalities.

--- Illustration 8 ---

I add this in a new layer and title it Overlays. There's no reason to call it this, but over the months this is what I've traditionally called it. Different countries have different divisions, in making maps of Spain for instance I use a comarca map and arrondissements for France. Anyhow the reason for using OTL administrative divisions is that they evolved naturally based on political, geographic boundaries. In a lot of places they make sense based on landform. Anyhow set the Overlays layer to Multiply and adjust the opacity to what ever is easiest to see.

Now Create a new layer above Overlays and title it Internal Borders. Then draw your internal country divisions on this layer and use the Overlays layer as a guide. You can just trace the divisions exactly, but take into account the changes in your own TL regarding the politics. Geography is mostly going to stay the same but not always and don't be afraid to deviate from the lines, they are handy suggestions only.

Use this in concert with the Demis Layer which can show you where roads and cities are to determine a good placement. Remember, sometimes divisions don't make any sense geographically because humans have weird politics. You can also set the opacity of the Demis and Overlay layers so you can see. You might need to change them on the fly as you can see in Illustration 9. Work with whatever is comfortable to you--this is an an art not a science. To make national borders, simply create a new layer National Borders and draw these in in the same manner. Create one more layer and title it Roads. Then draw your roads in either tracing the modern roads, or wherever you want your roads to go. In Raptor of Spain the Alt-Spaniards know how to build Roman Style Roads and are rich enough to do so, so I often overlay maps of Roman Roads onto my maps and trace those. Since my Alt-Spaniards are also wealthy enough to build some new roads as well, they don't always follow the Roman routes. Sometimes I use modern roads to determine where the best routes are, but beware, sometimes modern roads are built in spots pre-modern peoples couldn't build roads. Check the terrain if you want to be accurate!

----Illustration 9----

For the record, my borders are perfect black (0,0,0) for National Borders and pure white (255, 255, 255) for Internals, while for roads I use pure red (255, 0, 0)

This ends the First Half of the Tutorial. I'm going to post the second half right away too so be patient.
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by MNPundit

Step 6: Cities and Labels

This is a pretty simple step. Create a new layer and name it Cities. I just make white dots for the cities. I use a Brush in a circle with a size of 5 pixels. I find the place where the city is by using the Demis layer or wherever I want if it's a city existing only in the ALT. Then I carefully tap the mouse 5 times to create a good looking dot. Repeat the process for the other cities. As for names you have to decide for yourself what you are going to use. The easiest but not always most accurate way to find the name is to use Wikipedia. It will usually tell you when the city was founded and the etymology so you can chose an appropriate name.

For example in the final image of Cyprus I use "Amicosta" for Famagusta. Wiki tells me it was often called Ammokhostos and that this name is what formed the basis of the western name of Famagusta. To change it up a little I try to make them sounds that appear in whatever language I am using in this case the Alt-Spanish and think about how it would relate with the modern westernized name of 'usta.' Hence, Ammokhostos-> Ammokhosta(s)->Ammocosta->Amicosta. Now the city itself was minor until the crusades so in Raptor of Spain it serves a similar purpose as a major port for the Ecumenical Reconquista armies who had their main base in Syria. Cyprus becomes essentially a Free-State between the Makanids (influencing Amathus) and the Byzantines (influencing Kyrenia) so that Amicosta is a port that remains in the hands of the native Spaniard descended dynasty and remains important. Amathus for its part, was never destroyed (as it was by Richard the Lionheart in OTL) and so there is no need to build up Limassol as a new port.

So you see that is the process I use to determine city names and province names. It's not perfect but it does all right.

To label cities I use the font Parchment MF with a text color of 255, 245, 175 for cities. For Provinces or Countries I use a text color of pure white 255, 255, 255. You can use whatever you want but I think this works best. I usually use size 30 for cities and size 48 for provinces. Just choose what works best.

Step 7: Layer Styles

This is where we start to run into some trouble with GIMP functionality. GIMP does not come pre-installed with all the nifty layer style options that Photoshop does. However there is only ONE layer style I use in these types of maps and that is the Outer Glow. If you want to include Outer Glow, you can do that yourself because I know there are scripts you can add to GIMP that allow it. [ED: See my update! in post #9 to add Outer Glow to GIMP!]I use Outer Glow on the layers Internal Borders, National Borders, Roads and the names of Cities and Provinces. Rather than just describe the settings I use for each, I'll show you in screen shots.

  • 10 Roads
  • 11 Internal Borders
  • 12 National Borders
  • 13 City Names
  • 14 Province Names
- - - Illustration 10 - - - - - Illustration 11 - - - - - Illustration 12 - - -

- - - Illustration 13 - - - - Illustration 14 - - -

Step 8: Arrangements

The final thing to do is make sure your layers are in the right order. I usually put the names of cities or provinces on top followed by National Borders, followed by Internal Borders followed by Cities followed by Roads. Illustration 15 is a shot of my layers manager in photoshop. You can do the same in GIMP.

-- Illustration -- 15

Now you'll see that I included a Rivers layer. I usually don't, but if I can put the rivers in easily I will. Cyprus was easy. Maps of the Maghreb are not (many rivers were seasonal). For Cyprus the river Mode is set to Multiply and the fill to 50%. You can achieve the same effect by setting only the opacity to 50%. Also make sure that the Demis Layer and the Overlay layer are hidden. Just click on them and make sure there is no "eye" icon next to them and they will be hidden. You don't need to get rid of them, when you save it, they won't come out in the final product if they are hidden.

Now save the image as whatever you want, I usually use JPG since my images are too big for AH.com's requirements as a PNG, but Cyprus is small enough to fit as a PNG. I also use off-site hosting sometimes as you can see in this tutorial. Anyhow, below is the final image of Cyprus that will be used in the Raptor of Spain. I still have a bit more work to do on it. I added the topography layer but I still have to remove a few of the degree lines, dots and city names to make it quite perfect.

That ends the tutorial! I hope you have good luck in your own mapping and you can always post questions here that I can try and answer. I don't really have much to say though about installing Outer Glow scripts in GIMP [ED: I do now! Post #9] and there's lots of documentation online for that. Now if you don't care about pretty maps that's fine. But I think this is a good balance between information and topography without looking too horrible.

Other Examples of Satellite Map Making:

Spain and the Maghreb



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I guess no one needed help mapping. :(
In the contrary. If I look at most maps in the maps section, nearly 90% of our fellow forum members would do themselves a favor to use your tutorial. It's possible to increase the quality of a map in relatively few time.

Your maps stand out from the majority, continue your work!
Excellent tutorial! Bravo!

I found another tutorial that might be useful in conjunction with this.

It's 'How to print giant Google maps', but the really useful part is the instructions on how to enlarge the display window for Google maps so that you can screenshot a much larger area and still keep the high resolution detail. It requires editing HTML but is really straight forward.
How to print giant Google maps tutorial.
Would this work with Paint.net?
Hmm, that's a good question. It might, in fact it might work better than it would on GIMP. I'll try it out.

ED: A quick test tells me that while creating the layer stuff is easier in Paint.net than GIMP, unlike GIMP where certain scripts can be found to do outer glow, you have to approximate it with half-opacity layers in Paint.net.

This is the most major way my map making is lacking! Many thanks for the sage guidance!
In the contrary. If I look at most maps in the maps section, nearly 90% of our fellow forum members would do themselves a favor to use your tutorial. It's possible to increase the quality of a map in relatively few time.

Your maps stand out from the majority, continue your work!
Ah, thank you both.

Excellent tutorial! Bravo!

I found another tutorial that might be useful in conjunction with this.

It's 'How to print giant Google maps', but the really useful part is the instructions on how to enlarge the display window for Google maps so that you can screenshot a much larger area and still keep the high resolution detail. It requires editing HTML but is really straight forward.
How to print giant Google maps tutorial.
I actually really like the "terrain" maps in google, but the problem is that you can't just make them blank. They have borders and labels all over them. But I personally find them useful for Overlays in some ways instead of Demis, and they are a definite alternative.
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Update! Outer Glow!

Update: I have done a little more work after Alex Richards asked me about Paint.net and have discovered the way to make Outerglow work in GIMP.

1. This technique works for Windows and Linux.
2. You'll need GIMP 2.4 or later.
3. go to http://users.telenet.be/ev1/gimplayereffects_en.html and download the file there. It is a script that will give you layer effects.

NOTE: I cannot vouch for the safety of this script. It has caused me no harm, but use it at your own risk.

4. Unzip the file. The name of the script is layer-effects_24.scm
5. Drag and drop the file into the scripts folder in GIMP. Here is where it is located on my computer.

6. Open up GIMP. You will find th layer effects under Script-Fu in the menu bar. Enjoy!


Ah, I have a solution for the outerglow situation.

1. Draw the line
2. Copy and paste into two blank layers
3. On bottom layer use the gaussian blur- effects/blurs/gaussian blur- to extend and fade the lower line, while maintaining the sharp upper line
4. Adjust as required.

(Note, the image shown is on top of a google earth image of the clouds layer when time of day layer is at night. It is meant to be a representation of the 'sheet of lightning' most ISOTs seem to include if seen from above.

ISOT, WB.jpg
Wow, thanks MNP for this tutorial and I am currently trying to do this in practice and I will post the result in the Map Thread.

Also I call 'sticky' for this one.
I'm sorry, but how do I install the add-ons? Simply installing them to the directory where I put WorldWind doesn't seem to do anything, and the add-ons really don't have installation instructions...help?
This looks really useful, but unfortunately, I can't see the images that are with the tutorial, which makes it so much harder to tell if I'm doing it right. Does anyone know why I can't see the images??:confused:
I'm using Google Chrome, but have tried viewing the page in all the major browsers and I believe that I have the latest version of JavaScript enabled.
Just found this really old thread by accident while working on the WFC archive. It's going in the Resources section, that's for sure. :cool: