Illustrated Map Making

Illustrated map making #the100dayproject Charleston

I’m over a third of the way through my #the100dayproject – illustrated map making. If you are thinking about making a map, here are some of the things I’ve learned:

  • Decide ahead of time the theme or point of view of the map. For example, is it a map of food destinations, tourist spots, local spots, or a personal map?
  • Research the area to make sure you know what the important places are.
  • Write a list of the places that will be illustrated.
  • How many elements are necessary? I’m still trying to determine how many elements make a good map – make it full but not too cluttered?
  • Decide on the style, color palette, etc. I paint in watercolor and often add details in ink. The elements should all be in a similar style.
  • Develop a process. I hand paint the background and all the elements separately and put them together in Photoshop. Text is added on the computer. I create the illustrations at about 3-4” and reduce them. Painting them at this small size allows me to skip details that will be lost when reducing, but also fit some details – that if I worked at 1” I wouldn’t be able to paint or see!
  • Create a schedule. Currently I’m creating one map element per day. Deadlines are my own, but if a map was a commission, it would be helpful to have a schedule. X number of elements created in X number of days plus the time to put it all together on the computer. Allowing buffer time for client input is always a good idea.
  • Composition. Often liberties have to be taken to fit the map. The map doesn’t have to be exact proportions.
  • Create a library of common elements. As I create more maps, I create elements that can be reused – trees, lifeguard chair, beach umbrella. I’m organizing my files to make it easy to find stuff.

So far I’ve worked on maps of:

  • Fire Island, NY – completed
  • Point Lookout, NY – elements completed, all in Photoshop, finalizing needs to be done
  • Nashville, TN – access if more elements need to be created
  • Charleston, SC – currently illustrating the map elements and creating a list

Other map ideas:

  • Long Beach, NY (my hometown)
  • Long Island, NY. Long Island is a large area, trying to think of what the focus of the map would be
  • Maps inspired by trips we’ve taken – Maine or Acadia National Park, National Parks in Utah

How much I’ll accomplish by day 100, I don’t know. I do know that I’ve wanted to create maps for years, but never got past trying for 15 minutes. #the100dayproject gives me the motivation to keep going, work through the process, learn, explore. Starting was easy. Continuing isn’t, but I’m determined to see it through. That can be said for not just the bigger project but finalizing each map. Pushing myself produces results.

My Fire Island map is available for download in my Etsy shop. Click here to visit my Etsy shop where I sell digital clipart, invitations, prints, painting tutorials, and even personalized family trees!
Illustrated Fire Island map | Day 25 #the100dayproject

Beginner Watercolor Painting Instructional PDF "What you need to know to get started with Watercolor" Beginner Printable Introduction

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Travel and Illustrated Map Making in Nashville

Illustrated Map Making in Nashville Cowboy boots
It’s a fun twist to my illustrated map making project to be able to explore a new city – Nashville 🎸 – with map making in mind. These worn boots were inspired by the County Museum Hall of Fame and Museum. The costumes are unbelievable! So far it’s easier to paint while traveling then I thought it would be. The Koi travel watercolor set and small Canson watercolor pad are working out great. The colors in the Koi travel set are unbelievably rich and saturated and the pages in the Canson pad are nice and thick. I set them up on the desk at the hotel. I’m not one for painting in public.
Illustrated Map Making in Nashville
As a kid I saw The Grand Ole Opry on tv. Minnie Pearl, with the price tag hanging off her hat, is my most vivid memory. I never thought I’d actually visit the Grand Ole Opry. I’m thinking of becoming a country music fan.
Illustrated Map Making in Nashville Grand Ole Opry
In progress – Nashville’s Union Station, a former railroad terminal now hotel. It’s clock tower stood out to me as we rode around downtown, especially when it glowed at night. It’s hard to capture all the detail in a 4” illustration that will be reduced to 1”. I guess that’s one of the challenges in map making. Another challenge is picking out which sites to illustrate. It seems so subjective. Whether you’re a tourist or local in a place, the sites that are important to you may not be the same spots that stand out to others. I’m almost a quarter of the way through #the100dayproject! You can see snippets of my Nashville trip in my Instagram stories @eileenmckenna – saved under “Nashville.”
Illustrated Map Making in Nashville Union Station

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