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...

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 4

Getting a bit closer to being to finishing this map of Oregon. 

In my last post about this, I'd just laid down the coloured segments on the landscape, the rivers, and the mountain ranges.

At this stage, I'd added in some stripes and dots on a few of the squares and adjust the colours of the mountains to blend into the squares they are sitting on. I've also started to bring in some of the assets I created to work out how they will fill the state. 

Here I've added in the trees and bushes. This can be quite a tedious task, as I'm having to adjust the colours of these assets to make sure they're readable against the square they're on and I try and get a nice balance regarding which type of tree or shrub is used. 

I heartily recommend getting anal about your layer stack. When there's this many objects in an image, it makes finding a specific tree or hill much easier.


So now I just need to figure out how I want to title the map, maybe tweak the colours a little more, and then add a little texture in Photoshop!

October Update

This month I’ve been keeping my head down and churning out a lot of work. The biggest bulk of it has been in conjunction with a friend’s startup, Vicious Circles, which is an excellent source of cycling themed art. It's been really nice to have a simple constraint in terms of theme, but otherwise plenty of freedom to create. Additionally my colleague has a great eye for graphic design and a lot of experience so he's been an excellent source of feedback.

We are hoping to expand the prints to other sports such as running and triathlons, and naturally I’m making the case for climbing themed art. (:

Of course any of the current work would be an lovely gift for that major cycling fan in your life. *wink wink*

And I've been continuing with learning better Photoshop painting skills. It's been a bit "fits and spurts" with all the vector work I've been doing, but I can feel myself improving and what I am learning is seeping into my other work. Currently its a bit of a battle between adding more shading details or keeping things flat. Eventually I'll find the right balance...


For the upcoming month my plans are pushing self promotion more, which I'm rubbish at and hopefully finding time to do more of the climbing art I have planned but keeps getting put on the back burner. And, as always, working to become a better artist in general.

My most recent piece, a map of the UK with the 2014 Tour of Britain route. Poor Scotland got left out of the race this year, but it's too pretty a place to leave off the map. 

My most recent piece, a map of the UK with the 2014 Tour of Britain route. Poor Scotland got left out of the race this year, but it's too pretty a place to leave off the map.