US Park Maps

Taking some of what I've been learning with my France map and doing a short series of US National Parks. Going to just focus on 4 - Rocky Mountain, Zion, Yellowstone, and Yosemite. I've got an itch to do something less mountain based though, so I might have a whack at the Everglades when these are done.

These can actually be quite a faff to create.

Initially I looked at using actual DEMs (digital elevation models), stitching them together, and the cutting the models into horizontal slices to create these. However, the easily available DEMs of national parks tend to be quite detailed and therefore, very high poly. Additionally I had to stitch together about 12 - 14 of them for the Rocky Mountain park, resulting in a model that was over 9 million polys. I tried using a poly reduction however if I did that with the whole map it ticked away for hours before I gave up.

I then tried loading the DEMs in strips, doing a poly reduction, then stitching the new, lower-poly model together. Quite tedious, but it worked! I then made my horizontal slices, turned them into paths. However the paths were quite messy. It took me almost 3 days to tidy them up and then group them according to their vertical placement. Then, finally, it was ready to extrude!!   And it looked crap. Well, not crap, but the large number of slices meant the result was quite detailed and it felt too busy. I almost gave up then, having poured so much time into it. I hadn't really sat down and done any preliminary sketching, and that quite often leads to dead ends for me. 

In a last-ditch attempt at saving the idea, I switched back to illustrator. I was lucky that while looking for topo maps of RMNP, I had come across an elevation map split into big sections. I was able to use that as a guide to create more simplified elevation guides. For two of the maps I wasn't able to find anything like that, so I ended up using low poly models of the parks that someone else had created, applied vertical gradient, rendered out the resulting elevation map, then used that to make the linework in Illustrator. And then of course brought it all back into c4d. Round and round and round we go...

A nice cabin in the woods

Definitely dream of a little cabin way out in the middle of nowhere. It's not that I don't like people, I just love the peace and quite of a dense forest. So if anyone's got a beautiful cabin in the woods they need taking off their hands, get in touch!

Here's a bit of 3d meets 2d with Sketch & Toon.


A short clip from a personal project I'm working on. Still need to perfect the walking of the crane, but really enjoyed figuring out what I've got so far, as well as creating the clouds and grass.

California Map

Managed to finish off another US state map - this time California. California is a really awkward shape for creating a design of; I feel like there's a lot of empty space eithe rside of it. But my only options to fix that would have been to crop it or to squish it, which didn't appeal.

Next up will be Colorado, the final stop on my upcoming USA trip. I think that might be the last one of these maps I do for awhile.

New Maps - Part 5


I ended up shifting the text all the way into the middle of the state, as opposed to the far left side. 

Additionally I did some final colour tweaks and then brought everything into photoshop where I applied a soft bit of texture.


You can see a few detailed images here and if you're interested, you can buy prints or various other items featuring the map here.

New Maps - Part 2

Going to try and update throughout the process of creating this next map. Here's where I'm at so far...

Initial planning - some R&D about the states including major cities, industry, flora and fauna, mountain ranges, attractions, and so on.

Initial planning - some R&D about the states including major cities, industry, flora and fauna, mountain ranges, attractions, and so on.

A rough layout of the state with borders. 

A rough layout of the state with borders. 

Sometimes gradients just don't work very nicely in Illustrator and you end up with the banding you can see in this image. I'll have to play with the colours and layering to get rid of this for the final version.

Like my previous maps, I've kept the lines very straight, using 45 degree angles for bends. I would normally have simplified the edges more, but as Oregon has a mostly rectangular shape doing so would leave it looking pretty bland.

Portland building sketches

Portland building sketches

Cities of Oregon: Portland, Eugene, and Salem

Cities of Oregon: Portland, Eugene, and Salem

When selecting the buildings I like to use Google Maps street view (where I can. It's a bit harder in Europe). It allows me to wander around the town and act a bit like a tourist. This method also helps force me to break the building shapes down, as street view often has you looking from an angle, not straight on.

Once I've found a good selection, I will start sketching simplified versions of them, usually making them more square, dropping some details and exaggerating others. I don't consider the colours or layouts final until I put them on the map along with all the other objects and see how they interact.



My next step is to lay out the mountain ranges and start making the other assets that will be dotted around the map - animals, unique plants, attractions, etc.