Zagan's Map Tutorial

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Zăgan's Map Tutorial

Why do you want to post a tutorial?
I like maps.
I draw maps since 1977.
I created and posted a lot of maps in my TLs, here on AH.
Many people praise my map skills.
I am frequently asked questions about map-making.
I decided to write this tutorial a long time ago but I have been procrastinating since then.

Why are not your maps in the Maps Threads?
I was being lazy...
The Maps Thread is updated so often that in a few days my maps will get buried behind several pages of new maps.
My maps may represent important spoilers for my TLs.
There are simply too many of them, but I may create a personal Map Thread.

Ok. You say that you are good at it, but I would like to judge it myself. Can I see some Maps first?
Sure, just check this TL: "Io Mihailŭ, Împĕratul Românilor" - A Michael the Brave Romania Wank
It is full of maps.

But I am in no mood to browse your TL!
Ok, ok, I link one fine example right here:


Ok, let's get that tutorial going, shan't we?
Fine, right in the next post. Stay with me...
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0. Prerequisites

To create a high quality digital map, you need:

0.0. A reason to create that specific digital map.
It is really needed?
Isn't there already something like that on the Internet?
Can I do it, or should I ask someone else for help?
Wouldn't it be better / easier to just draw the map by hand on a sheet of paper and scan it?

0.1. A computer, the more powerful, the better.
The CPU should have as many cores as possible, because graphic editing is a CPU-intensive operation.
The GPU should be decent as well and the graphic card should be able to produce high resolutions and color depths (32 bits per pixel at the least).

0.2. A monitor capable of displaying lots of pixels, the more, the better.
Let's say, 1920x1200 or something like that.

0.3. A decent Internet connection.
You may need to search for other free maps online.

0.4. A powerful Image Editor.
If you have lots of money to spend and plenty of free time to learn how to use it, there is always the father of them all, the mighty Photoshop. You do not really need that. I have never used it.
If you use Linux, may I suggest the versatile and free source Gimp? It can also be used with a Mac. Though it does have a build for Windows as well, I would not recommend it, because of my preference for
For Windows, I do warmly recommend a free, safe and very intuitive little program called I use it all the time and it had never let me down.
Never, under any circumstances, use a so called Image Editor which does not support layers. Like the abominable Windows Paint / Paintbrush. I can recognize at once a map created without using layers. It looks amateurish with all those left-over pixels of different colors near the labels and borders. And, of course, it is very difficult to modify later and still look at least acceptable.
More about the Image Editor in the next post.

0.5. Google Earth Pro.
It is free now and highly recommended (well, mandatory for Google Earth overlayed maps like the example from the original post).
Do not use Google Earth Standard, because it does not have the ability to export high resolution maps.
Even if you do not need a high resolution map, it is better to work on a high resolution map and reduce the resolution of the exported png or jpeg before posting. This way the maps gets smoother and nicer in appearance.

0.6. Access to various repositories of historical maps.
Just in case you want to use some existing old border somewhere. Well, the map projection might be incompatible but usually, for small areas, it can give you a working approximation. Or, if you fancy some high-school to college grade math, you can attempt to convert the projection.

0.7. Access to the Universal Color Scheme or other similar Color Pallete.
We all like to the the UK pink, don't we?
If you don't already have it, you may download it from the coresponding wiki page. Or simply use this direct link. Whatever.

0.8. A good Unicode Font and a decent Font Mapper.
For the map labels, you know. For most usual Latin based characters, the default Windows Fonts and the Windows Character Map may suffice.

0.9. Plenty of free time.
Let's say, at first, about one to three hours for a nice map.

The first part of the work (the Base Map) in the next post.
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1. The Base Map

If you are not creating a map of a fictional planet invented by you, you will almost surely need some kind of a Base Map.

1.0. Where to get the Base Map from?
You may scan a map from your favourite hardback atlas, you may download a free one from the Internet (from Wikipedia Commons, Natural Earth Data, the Alternate History Wiki, our Map Threads or any other respectable online Map Repository), you may reuse an own map or you can generate the exact Base Map of your choice in Google Maps, Google Earth Pro or other free Map Generator software.

If I have a good map, I use it. If not, I generate one.
For map generation, I only use Google Earth Pro, because Google Maps has the great disadvantage of the Mercator Projection and its horrendous area distorsion.

1.1. If you do not already have it, download and install Google Earth Pro now.
It is free and easy to use.
Make sure to allow it to automatically download and install the necessary updates because you may forget to manually update it from time to time.
Take some time to get used to it. Maximize the window though (duh).

1.2. Navigate to the desired area by dragging the map / globe with your mouse and zooming in and out with the mouse wheel.
Remember to press R frequently to Restore Tilt and Compass to make sure the map is viewed from directly overhead (not sidewise) and has North to the top.

1.3. Refine your map area.
Zoom in and out until satisfied.
Adjust the Aspect Ratio of the map rectangle by resizing the Sidebar from the left.
Remember to press R frequently.

1.4. Select the elements you want displayed in your map: Borders, Labels, etc. It is usually preferable to have as little as possible of these. Usually, I select only: International Borders, Coastlines, 1st Level Admin Borders and Populated Places (optional).

1.5. Prepare the map for exporting. Select File / Save / Save Image (CTRL+ALT+S).
Notice the small Toolbar at the top of your map.
Click Map Options and deselect all Elements.
Set Scaling to 1% to get rid of that annoying Google Earth watermark.
Select the Styling of your choice. I prefer the normal one (the first variant).
Click Resolution and select Maximum (4800 pixels) if you have a powerful computer or Current if not.

1.6. Export the map as a JPEG file.
Click Save Image on the Toolbar, select a folder and a filename for your base map and save it on your hard disk.
Since it is a JPEG, its quality decreases sharply with each subsequent alteration / saving. So, no editing will be ever done on that file, except pasting its contents into a layer of your multilayered graphic file (more later).


Part Two, about preparing your multilayered graphic file and basic work with (or other similar Image Editor, because the concepts they use are really similar) in the next post.
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2. The Multilayered Graphic File

Let's understand the concept first.

2.0. The Concept

Leave the computer away. Suppose you have a base map made of paper (on a page of a real atlas).
What do you do? Do you start drawing directly on it, ruining the atlas permanently?
Of course not! You take a semitransparent sheet of paper, put it over your base map and draw on it, while seeing the base map underneath, through the semitransparent sheet of paper.
See, these are layers (the base map on the atlas page is a layer and the semitransparent sheet is another layer).

If you want to further separate your elements, you could use more than one semitransparent sheet: one for the borders and coastlines, one for the labels, one for coloring, one for war maneuvres and so on.
It is important to have all these on different layers. What happens if you want to select an area (for colouring for example) and it contains some text on the same layer? It certainly gets in your way. With the labels on a different layer you are never bothered by them while always being able to see them!

2.1. The File

Real Image Editors (not Windows Paint though) organize their image file in layers stacked on top of each other. The transparent or semitransparent parts of the upper layers let you see through parts of the lower layers.

You can give these layers meaningful names, change their order (which one is on top or at the bottom, etc), set their relative opacity, toggle their visibility, merge or duplicate them.

All the work is done on the layered file which remains saved on your computer for future use.
For online usage you have to export it as a normal single layered graphic file like a PNG for plain maps (without the Google Earth overlay) or a JPEG for overlayed maps (containing the Google Earth overlay).

2.2. Using

If you already have an Image Editor capable of using layers and you know how to use it (at least a little), you may skip this section and use your favourite Image Editor instead of (my choice). Most of the concepts, commands and actions will be identical or similar.

If you decide to use, you have to download it from here. It is completely free and safe, with no adware, spyware, etc.
The setup is simple and you will be ready to go in a few minutes.
The interface is quite simple and intuitive. If you have trouble using it, you may get help on their forum. Or ask me. I am a computer geek and a little image processing geek as well.

If you have never used a decent Image Editor before, allow yourself several hours to get used with the software and the concepts it employs.

2.3. Creating your layered file.

I will use in my tutorial as the Image Editor. If you use another Image Editor, the process may be a little different.

Open A new layered graphic file is automatically created and shown on the screen. It is filled with white uniformly and contains only one layer called Background.
Do not worry about its size in pixels for now. If displays inches or centimeters instead of pixels, you should select the measurement in pixels from the Statusbar.

Save the file as file (*.pdn) in the same folder where you saved your base map earlier. Give it a meaningful name.
Remember to save often (CTRL+S). Especially if your computer is old, slow or buggy.

Notice the Layers window in the lower-left corner of the main window.
Click the Add New Layer button (the first one) to create another layer. Repeat the action until you have five layers (Background and another four).
To change the active layer (the one you draw on) click on it.
To open the Layer Properties window (name, opacity), double-click it.

Rename the layers to something meaningful, from bottom up, for example: Background, BaseMap, Colors, Borders, Labels.

Set the opacities of the BaseMap and Colors layers to something less than fully opaque (255 = fully opaque, 0 = fully transparent / invisible). I usually use 128 to 192 for the base map and 128 to 64 for the colors, with their sum equalling 256 (for example BaseMap - opacity 160, Colors - opacity 96).
You may later play with these values until the map looks right (at the end, when the map is almost ready).

Save the file again.

2.4. Importing the Base Map

Open the Base Map you have saved earlier. can keep several files opened at the same time.
You can see their thumbnails in the upper part of the window, to the right of the Menu and Toolbars.
You may switch between the open files by clicking on the thumbnails.

With the base map file active (visible), select all the image (CTRL+A) and copy it to the Clipboard (CTRL+C).
Close the base map file and leave it away. It will be no longer necessary (at least not before you decide to create another map using it.

In your layered file (the one you work on), select the BaseMap layer.
Paste the copied base map into the layer (CTRL+V).
As the base map is larger (has more pixels) than your file, you are asked what to do. Choose wisely to Expand Canvas in order to accomodate the larger image.

2.5. Cropping

Do you need all the map? Or are there unnecessary areas on some of the edges?
If everything looks fine, you may skip this step.

Click the Rectangle Select tool in the upper-left Tools window and select the desired part of the map.
Make sure that your selection contains everything you need in your map and crop it by pressing the Crop to Selection button from the Toolbar (the one next to the easily recognoscible Paste button). Or press CTRL+SHIFT+X.
Save again.


In Part Three, we will really start to do some image editing. Next post.
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3. Borders and Coastlines

Since now we have mainly prepared to draw. Now, we will actually start drawing.

While it is possible (and sometimes desirable) to have the coastlines and the borders on different layers, this would make selection of areas for colouring way more difficult and thus outside of the scope of this tutorial.

3.0. The Paintbrush Tool

Choose a colour for the coastlines. I prefer blue or black. Whatever it is use, try to use it consistently on your map.

Attention: Make sure to select the Borders layer before actually drawing anything! Do not draw by mistake on another layer, defeating the purpose of having layers in the same place.

Select the Paintbrush tool from the Tools window.
Select a Brush Width from the Toolbar. This depends on the size of the map, of either or not it will be resized prior to uploading and on personal preference.
Use the Zoom slider on the Statusbar to zoom the map to the approximative size desired to be viewed by your readers.
Experiment a little with different Brush Widths until satisfied with the results. Values between 2 and 5 should be fine in most circumstances.
Undo the experimental lines (CTRL+Z) or select and delete them (DEL).

Set the Zoom level to at least 200% before starting to draw the actual contours.

This way, only part of the map will be visible at any time. To view (and edit) a different part of the map, pan it to the desired location using the scrollbars.
From time to time you might need to view the whole map. Zoom out, check if everything looks fine and then Zoom back in.

Don't forget to Save often.

3.1. Coastlines

Draw the coastlines, following the see-through base map coastlines on the layer underneath.
For small islands, a single point should suffice.
If your hand is not steady and you make a mistake, you can correct it with the Undo command (CTRL+Z) or use the Erasor tool from the Tools window. You may increase the Brush Width while using the Erasor. Just do not forget to reset the Brush Width to the initial setting before starting to draw again.

Make sure to have continous coastlines and borders, i.e. leave no gaps!
If you do leave some gaps, you will be unable to properly select the areas (countries) for colouring or other purposes later. However, you would be able to fill in the small gaps at any later time (when discovered).

Choose a colour for the borders. It may be the same colour used for the coastlines or a different one. I prefer black or red.

3.2. Borders

Draw the borders where you like to have them.
You shall follow the OTL borders from the Google Earth base map where appropriate (as you have done with the coastlines), follow another base map on a different layer (very advanced technique, outside the scope of this tutorial), approximate the location of a known historical border (using guides like rivers or mountain ranges) or simply use your imagination.

Make sure to extend the borders all the way to the coastlines, leaving no gaps there. If the colours of the coastlines and borders are different, make sure to stop the border exactly at the coastline, not before (to leave a gap) and not after (to make it visually unapealing).

If you want to have some subnational administrative divisions, you may draw them as well.
You may use the same colour as the borders or use a different one (I prefer a medium grey).
You may also try to draw them thinner, with a width of 2 for example. Just don't forget to switch back to the colour and width used for the borders or coastlines if you want to make some corrections there.

When you are finished, zoom out to have a look at the entire map and see if you had not forgotten anything. Save.

Depending on the complexity of the map (especially the coastlines) and on your skills, this whole operation may take anywhere from half an hour to several hours.
It is by far the most tedious and time-consuming part of map making, but it pay off the next time you need a similar map. Instead of redrawing everything, you will reuse all the coastlines and most borders, only editing the borders that have been changed in your TL.

In the next post, we will do some colouring!
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4. Colours

What would be a political map without colours?
Colours make a political map much easier to use and countries instantly recognizable (if you use the Universal Colour Scheme or something similar).

My maps usually employ lighter versions of the UCS colours for two reasons: in order to make the labels (and army movement arrows, if any) more visible and to allow the base map underneath to see-through the Colors layer.

Technically, the colours are not lighter. We use the same colours as in the UCS, but using them on a semi-transparent layer blends them with the white background (and the base map if shown) and thus makes them appear lighter in the single-layered exported file.

If you really want to make the colours appear identical to the UCS colours in the exported file and are willing to sacrifice the Google Earth layer, you can do so. Just before exporting the single-layered file for postine online, make the BaseMap layer invisible and the Colors layer fully opaque.
Note that some labels (and army movement arrows) may become invisible or harder to see.

4.0. The UCS file

When colouring, you should have your UCS file opened in as well (or another already UCS coloured map) to be able to quickly and easily pick the right colours from it.

To pick the desired colour, switch to the UCS file, choose the Color Picker tool and simply click on your colour of choice. Then, of course, switch back to your map file and use the newly selected colour.

4.1. Selecting regions

Always go to the Borders layer before selecting!

Choose the Magic Wand tool.
Set the Tolerance to 50 (in the Toolbar).

Click inside the region to select it. If the region is not contiguous (islands, exclaves, colonies), click inside all of them, while keeping the CTRL key pressed.

When satisfied with the result, go to the Colors layer.

Always make sure to be in the correct layer when doing any operation.

4.2. Filling with colour

Make sure you have the right colour selected. If not, pick it from the UCS file now.

Go to the Colors layer!

Choose the Paint Bucket tool. Click inside the selection to fill it with colour. If the selection consists of several non-contiguous areas, click in all of them.

If you want some areas to have stripes or dots of another colour, pick a secondary colour using your right mouse button.
In the Toolbar, select the desired Fill mode from the drop-down and click inside the desired selected area.
Remember to set the Fill mode back to Solid Color when done.

4.3. Repeat the operations

To colour the other countries, territories, the ocean, etc, simply repeat the steps 4.0. to 4.2. as needed.

If you made a mistake, you should select the area with the wrong colour (in the Borders layer), clear it by pressing DEL (in the Colors layer), select it again (in the Borders layer) and fill it with the correct colour (in the Colors layer).

Save often.

When you get some experience, this whole operation should be ready in a few minutes, even on a relatively complex map.

In the next part we will add some labels and optionally other fancy stuff.
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5. Labels and Miscellania

All labels must be placed on the Labels layer. Never place a label anywhere else!

5.0. Get going

If you want to use some fancy font, install it first.

Make sure to use a Unicode Font, because many labels make use of accented or even non-latin characters.

Keep Character Map (or other Unicode Character Selector) open. You may need some characters (letters) not available on your keyboard.

Decide what Font you want to use and use it consistently on your your labels.
Use the same Font Parameters (Size, Bold, Italic, etc) for all the labels of the same kind (major countries, minor countries, subnational entities, colonies, bodies of water, legend, etc). Bold is usually preferred.
Usually you should use the largest Font Size that still fits the longest Label nicely inside its container area.

Decide what Font Color you want to use. Black is usually preferred, except on a very dark background, when White is usually used instead for the greatest possible contrast.
You may use different colours for different kinds of labels. For example, all bodies of water may be labeled Dark Blue. If you take this approach you must remember to change to the appropriate colour for each label you write.

5.1. Writing labels

Go to the Labels layer!

Choose the Text tool.
Select the Color, Font, Font Size and Font Style (Bold, Italic, etc) from the Toolbar.

Click at the approximative spot where you want to write the label.
You will always be able to easily move it around later.

Write the label.
If you need a special character, search for it in Character Map, copy it to the Windows Clipboard, come back to and paste it into your label.

If your label has more than one line, you can click Center Align for a more pleasant look.

When you finished writing your label, you may easily move it around by dragging it from the nub on its lower-right side.
If you wish to move the label later, you have to select it using the Rectangle Select tool and then move it around with the Move Selected Pixels tool (not Move Selection).

To write another label, simply click elsewhere in the Labels layer.

5.2. Legend

Where a label would not fit, a single digit would do.
Remember to add a legend later, either inside the map (on an unused area such as empty Ocean) or below the map, written into the AH Post containing the map.

5.3. War Maneuvres

Some maps should contain arrows indicating the movement of armies.

You should use the UCS colours for the different armies involved.
Since the arrows will be located on their own fully opaque layer (War), they will be visible even over their home country, since the actual colour will be more vivid (not blended with the white background).

Go to the War layer.
If you have not created it yet, do it now.

Choose the Line / Curve tool.
Select a reasonable Brush Width (tipically wider than the one used for the borders).
At the Style buttons in the Toolbar, select Arrow for the End Cap of the Line / Curve.

Click at the initial location of the military maneuver and drag towards its final location.

After you release the mouse you will notice four nubs located on the newly drawn line.
You may use those nubs to alter the shape of the line into a curve (Spline or Bezier of your choice from the toolbar, for the math aficionados).

To write another arrow, repeat the previous steps.
Do not forget to change the colour if necessary.

5.4. Other elements

If the need arises to add other elements to your map, just create additional layers and draw on them.

While working, save often. Have I told you that before?

Now your map is finished.
In the next part, we shall see some last steps necessary to get it on the Internet.
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6. Exporting the File

The PDN files with layers and all are quite nice and confy but completely unusable on the Internet.

6.0. File types

Most browsers display only PNG, JPEG, GIF and a few other seldom used formats.

PNG (Portable Network Graphics) is best for maps without base map overlays and should be your first option.

JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) is best for maps including overlays such as the Google Earth base map and might be an option if the resulting PNG is too large, even after optimization.

GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) is an old and obsolete format, completely superseded by PNG, with the notable exception of the animated GIFs. Thus, the only possible use for this format is for animated maps. More about the creation of animated maps later.

6.1. Last touches

Make sure that your map is actually ready and contains no errors.
If you spot any errors, correct them now.
Save the layered file (PDN) one last time.

Decide if you want a PNG, a JPEG or both. Let's say we want them both: a PNG for the plain map and a JPEG for the overlayed map.

6.2. Resize

If your map is very large, resize it to a web-friendly size, let's say not wider than 2000 pixels, preferably not wider than 1600 pixels.

If the map is already normal sized you shall skip this step.

Click Image / Resize (CTRL+R). (NOT Image / Resize Canvas!)
The Resize window opens up.
Make sure to have By Absolute Value and Maintain Aspect Ratio options checked!
Write the desired width in the Width textbox and click OK.

Zoom to actual size (100%).
Check if the map looks fine. If not, Undo (CTRL+Z) the Resize operation and resize it again to a more appropriate value.

Save the resized map under a different name.
Click File / Save As (CTRL+SHIFT+S) and write the new name.
If your original file was named MyMap, choose MyMap Resized or something like that.

6.3. Export as JPEG (the overlayed map)

Make sure to have the BaseMap layer visible.

Click File / Save As (CTRL+SHIFT+S).
Choose JPEG from the Save as Type dropdown and click Save.

The Save Configuration window opens up.
It shows you a preview of the resulting JPEG. Make sure that everything looks fine.
Above the preview, you have a JPEG file size estimate and on the left, a Quality slider.
Adjust the Quality to have the JPEG look nice and have less than 500 KB (the forum limit for attachments).
A value between 80 and 99 should be good in most circumstances. If you cannot get it to be under 500 KB, it usually means that your map is too large (you forgot to resize it).

Click OK. Click File / Close (CTRL+W). Done.

6.4. Export as PNG (the plain map)

Reopen the resized PDN file.
Make sure to have the BaseMap layer hidden (uncheck its checkbox).

Click File / Save As (CTRL+SHIFT+S).
Choose PNG from the Save as Type dropdown and click Save.

The Save Configuration window opens up.
It shows you a preview of the resulting PNG. Make sure that everything looks fine.
Select the Bit Depth of 24 bit.

Click OK. Click File / Close (CTRL+W). Almost Done (you should optimize the PNG).

6.5. Optimize the PNG (optional but recommended)

The fact is that most Image Editors, including do not attempt to create PNG files optimized for the Internet (i.e. as small as possible, maintaining the existing 100% quality).

Most PNG optimizers can shrink PNGs by 10% to 50% without losing any quality.
This makes the web pages load faster and may shrink a 700 KB map to fit into the maximum of 500 KB set by our forum.

There are many PNG optimizers.
Most of them are Console Applications (i.e. command-line).
If you find it difficult to use the CMD Console, you may try an online PNG Optimizer or skip this step.

Personally I use OptiPNG. You can download it from its homepage.
It is very small, completely free and safe.

The downloaded ZIP file contains several files. The only one you need is optipng.exe. Extract it in the folder containing your PNG.

Because it is a Console Application, you have to run it from a CMD Console.
Click the Start Menu, then Run. Write CMD and click OK.
The Console window opens up.

Navigate to the folder containing the PNG file, by using commands like cd "folder name" to go to a subfolder and cd .. to go to the parent folder.
Once in the correct folder, issue the command: optipng "map file name.png" and your PNG gets optimized in a few seconds. Among other useless (for you) informations, optipng also tells you the new reduced PNG size and the size reduction in percent.

NOTE: If you are Windows savvy, you shall try to add a Windows Explorer Context Menu (right-click) to PNG files for OptiPNG. This can be done by a special utility or by directly editing the Windows Registry.
I will not tell you how to do this, because something can go wrong and I do not want to bear that responsability.
However, if you get it done, then the task of optimizing further PNG files is as simple as: right-click the PNG file in Windows Explorer (or in My Computer) and click the menu OptiPNG. That's all!

We are almost ready. A few extras in the next post (the last part of this tutorial).
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7. Final Considerations

And then you are free for your recess...
(I used to be a Professor)

7.0. Get them online!

Upload the maps to the appropriate posts of your TL, using the Upload a File button.
Insert the maps in the appropriate locations in the text of your posts by using the Full Image button.
Make sure to add a legend if necessary and not already included in the map.

Have fun! And get many happy faithful readers / commenters!

7.1. Important! Get the URL of your attachements.

Go to your posts containing your maps.
Click Edit.
Middle-button-click the names of the attachments to open the maps in other tabs of your Internet browser.

Select and Copy the URLs from the Address Bar of your Internet Browser.

Paste and Save those URLs somewhere safe!

You will need them if you want to show the same maps in other posts without uploading (attaching) them again!
No need to put the same file on the server multiple times and have Ian pay more money for the used space!

You do not actually need to edit anything in your posts. This was just a method to get the URLs of your attachements. Just click the Back button of your Browser or close the Tab.

7.2. Show the same map in other posts

Do not attach the same map again!

Just click Insert Image button and paste the URL of the attachment (map) you saved earlier.

Or, write [IMG]the_saved_URL[/IMG] inside your post.

That's all. Let's help Ian save some server space.

7.3. Results

The Overlayed Map (JPEG) is already linked into the first post.

The Plain Map (PNG) is below:


You decide which version do you like better.

The Layered File (PDN) cannot be shown or attached on this forum, except as a ZIP archive.
And that is not a workable solution either, because it is way bigger than the 500 KB limit.

However, I could make it just small enough to fit in by clearing the BaseMap layer. Though no longer complete, I suppose that the file should still be of value to some, so I post it here as well as an attachement.
You can find it as the end of this post.

If you want the complete PDN map file, just send me a Personal Message (Conversation as the New Board calls them) with your e-mail address and I will e-mail it to you.

7.4. Animated Maps

I will not talk much about animated maps. Only the basics.

An animated map is best presented as an Animated GIF.

An Animated GIF contains several GIFs, called frames (individual maps) which are shown to the user in sequence with a short delay between them, optionally looping at the end.

Quick Cookbook:
Create several maps (the frames) of the same region and having the same width and height.
Go to this free site: and follow the instructions there to quickly, easily and effortlessly create your animated map.

7.5. Flags with Coats of Arms

Working with layered files is very handy when designing flags containing coats of arms.

The base flag (non-defaced) shall be on one layer and the coat of arms on another layer.
This way, you will be able to independently modify either the base flag or the coat of arms and the result will look seemless.

The same is also valid for all kinds of other graphics.

The End.

I hope that I have been helpful, at least to some of you.

Did I forget anything? Any mistakes? Questions?
Feel free to comment!

If any of you makes a map following this tutorial, I would like to get that map posted or linked here.

Thank you.


  • Google Europe 1640 (for upload).zip
    477.3 KB · Views: 290
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I use GIMP for Mac to make my maps. Also, for free base maps, once source I tend to use is Natural Earth:

Download the "raster" data for editing maps with GIMP or other graphics-oriented programs. There's also "vector" data for a whole bunch of other things, but you need a vector graphics editor/GIS software to open/render it....


Nicely done. :cool: I'll disagree that GIMP for Windows is useless for maps. I've made a few maps in it and they're not bad at all.
I am sorry, I did not say that the GIMP for Windows was useless. I just said that "I would not recommend it". The reason being that in Windows I can use, which I prefer due to its more user-friendly interface and smoother learn curve.

I use GIMP for Mac to make my maps.
I missed that. I added it into my post.

for free base maps, once source I tend to use is Natural Earth:

Download the "raster" data for editing maps with GIMP or other graphics-oriented programs. There's also "vector" data for a whole bunch of other things, but you need a vector graphics editor/GIS software to open/render it....
That's interesting. I added this one as well.
Vector editing (SVG) is outside the scope of this tutorial which only deals with raster images.

Thank you.
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The reason being that in Windows I can use, which I prefer due to its more user-friendly interface and smoother learn curve.

Funnily enough, I don't use much, because I consider its control scheme and tools a hassle to work with. :D I suppose these things can be very subjective from individual to individual. :)


Funnily enough, I don't use much, because I consider its control scheme and tools a hassle to work with. :D I suppose these things can be very subjective from individual to individual. :)

This is very much correct.
I hope that I did not annoy you or anyone else with my shameless promotion (for which I did not get any money, I promise; I just like the program).


Zagan: is it possible to include rivers in the map? So to draw them like the coastlines?

And how would you make the dots of citiy names?

Of course. And it is very simple and quick.

1. Make a new layer called Rivers.
2. Draw the rivers on the Rivers layer only. (the same way as with the coastlines)
This way, when you are selecting regions for colouring, the rivers are not taken into consideration and do not complicate the matters at all.

3. For cities, you may create a new layer or place them on the Labels layer as well.
4. Draw a little circle on the chosen layer (Labels or Cities if you created a new one).
How to draw the circle?
4.1. Choose the Shapes tool.
4.2. From the toolbar, Shape Type, choose Ellipse.
4.3. Select whatever Color and Brush Width you prefer for your circle.
4.4. To have the two axes of the ellipse equal (i.e. draw a circle), keep SHIFT pressed while drawing the ellipse (circle).
5. Using the Text tool, write the name of the city (see the part of the tutorial about labels).
6. To draw another circle, simply Copy the already drawn one and Paste it to the desired new location.
How to Copy and Paste stuff?
6.1. Choose the Select Rectangle tool.
6.2. Select a small rectangle around your circle.
6.3. Copy it (CTRL+C).
6.4. Paste it (CTRL+V). It will appear in the same location as the old one.
6.5. Drag it wherever you want. Done.
6.6. Repeat.

That's all folks!

I'm here for any other questions you may have.


1. Resize it, while maintaining aspectratio. For example try a width of 800.
2. Save it as jpeg
3. Upload it somewhere else (ex. imgur) and link or insert it here.

The attachment size limit on this site is 500 kb.

Give it a try and come back afterwards.


My first attempt (in my current TL).

Very nice. I am really glad that at least someone actually used my tutorial.

You should add a link to the TL containing the map.
It may be in your signature, but many members (including myself) have signatures disabled in order to remove clutter.

And I did not know that Sarmatia extended all the way to the Caucasus. Interesting.