Tutorial: How to do a quick campaign map. Part II: Hexfields

Part II of my tutorial on how to do a quick campaign map, will explain how to add hexfields.

In part 1 of the this tutorial we did the background for our actual map with gimp. In this second part we will focus on adding the real map. I decided to use a hexagonal structure, not just because of its beauty, but also because it is a well established system for campaign maps and works great.

Last time we produced our background file with gimp, the format was 800x600 and gimp usually saves it as a xcf file. The result should like something like this

Where I marked the different layers in this project with a red 'circle'. Now it is time to save our project in a file format that Inkscape can handle. To this end, save the file as a png-file (File -> Save As).

Two dialogues will follow, just proceed. The only thing that you could change is the compression level on the second dialogue. (The higher the compression the smaller the file is, but also the lesser the quality is. For this tutorial I used a compression of 4 or so, for the original map from my block it was 0 or 1. Normally file size does not matter in this days but for the internet smaller files are more convenient, anyway we can change the final file size later.)
The next step will be to import our mapbackground in Inkscape and to start building our actual map.

Importing the map
Start inkscape, and create a new file in the same size as our background was, here 800x600 px. Inkscape usually comes with a template called 'desktop 800x600' which is perfect for us. You will notice that Inkscape is much more intuitive to use than gimp.

Now at this point I should say a word of caution. Every time we import something into Inkscape, it will make use of the original file and thus relies on it, so it is the best way to store the background png-file in the same folder as your inskcape file. In the end after you have exported the finished map file, this file can be put anywhere and is independent of everything else.

Now import the background file (map.png) (File->Import : map.png), the imported file will be placed somewhere. First of all we activate the layer panel by hitting Shift+Ctrl+L or Layers->Layers. And maybe rename the layer by double clicking on its current name. This layer panel will be of great importance for the rest of our tutorial, so always keep an eye on it.

Its time to align the imported file, you can do this by dragging it with the mouse which is way to complicated and inaccurate, instead you can just select it and change its 'x'- and 'y'-coordinate to 0 (zero). (The image file is a two dimensional plane with a Cartesian coordinate system assigned to it, where the origin is placed in the upper left corner, the positive x-axis points to the right and the negative y-axis points down). Take a look at the picture above how to do it.

Adding the hexfields
Now add a new layer by clicking on the '+'-icon in the layer panel. And name that new layer e.g. hexfields. 

In this new layer we now add our first hexfield, for this choose the 'create stars and polygons' tool from the toolbox at the left. In the (change-)panel above, choose the 'regular polygons' and change the number of corners to '6'. 
Now drag a hexagon somewhere, try it maybe several times until you are pleased with the result. Holding the CTRL-key to snap the angle,  makes it much easier for you to align it correctly.

Now we have a single hexagon in some colour. We will change colour and the thickness of the border by first activating the 'Fill and Stroke'-panel (Shift+CTRL+F, Object -> Fill and Stroke).
Now you can change the colour of the filling by choosing a colour in the 'wheel'-tab. I chose some white and reduced the alphavalue a little bit. Click on the 'Stroke style'-tab and change the width to a value you like.

Basically we are done now, all we have to do is to build up our complete hexmap from this one hexfield. To this end, turn on the 'snapping' by clicking the %-key or View->Snap. Select the hexfield and duplicate it with CRTL+D or Edit->Duplicate. 
Now the duplicate lies directly above the original hexfield, select it and drag it with the mouse to a place you want it to be. Make sure that the borders match, like in the picture below, this need a little bit of practice and patience. 

In principle we need to do this now until our map is finished but we can save us some time by constructing first a block of 2, 3 or 4 hexfields and duplicate this block. So duplicate some more hexfields and arrange them like the one before until you think it is enough. Now select all this fields and duplicate them, and do the same with this block now, and so on. For this tutorial I just used the first two hexfields, duplicated them and aligned them under the first two, took the resulting four fields, duplicated them, aligned them and so on. Until it looked something like this

At this point I recognised that the fields are not transparent enough, so select all fields, choose the 'fill and stroke'-panel and change the alphavalue or even the colour a little bit. I changed the opacity, the alphavalue of the strokecolour and finally adjusted the size of the complete hexmap by selecting all of the hexfields and simply drag them to the right size.

That's it. Our hexmap is finished. 

Now if you would like to mark several hexfields according to there owner during the campaign, you could do this by change the colour of individual fields. For this just select the field you would like to change, go to the 'fill and stroke'-panel and change the colour of the field similarly to how we did it for the other fields before. Of course you don't have to change each field individually, you can just select all the fields you want to change and change the colour in the 'fill and stroke'-panel, inscape will then apply this change to all the selected fields. 

As a last step we could add numbers to our hexfields. This is a very easy but tedious task:
Add a new layer and call it e.g. 'hex field numbers'. (You can lock the underlying layers by clicking on the small locks in the layer panel) In this new layer add a text object with the 'create and edit text objects'-tool from the toolbox and type in a number, like '1'. Select it and edit it by clicking on the 'T'-icon or Text->'Text and Font' (Shift+CTRL+T). In the dialogue change the size and font as you please and hit 'apply'.

You can move this number to the desired place on the map and repeat this procedure for all your fields. Thats it! 

To export the file in a file format that is more useful for the internet, use the export tool, FILE->EXPORT BITMAP, select DRAWING and choose a resolution, e.g. 60 or 90 dpi. Now enter a filename like 'map.png' and click export! The higher the resolution the better the quality and the bigger the file will be.

This was part II of my tutorial on how to create a campaign map. Save the file as a SVG file. 

In the next week in part III , I will show how to add a legend and icons to our map.

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Tutorial: How to do a quick campaign map. Part I: Background

Hi there,

here is the first part of my tutorial on how to make campaign maps with the computer.

Dome time ago I did a map for our 40k campaign.
I decided to do it with vector graphics because then it would be possible to rescale the map at any time. Secondly, I decided to work as much as possible with layers to ensure that certain elements on the map can be (re)moved/added or changed easily, this was very important since the map is going to be updated every campaign round.

Today I decided to give a very quick tutorial on how to do such a map. This tutorial will of course not cover all the details but it should introduce the main steps. It is divided into several articles.

Before I start, I would really like to emphasis, that I have absolutely no experience with graphics, graphic software or design. People having this skills, will probably notice this directly. This tutorial is only supposed to show how I did it some time ago.

First of all, what you need:
  • vector graphic software. I used the open source software INKSCAPE, advantage here is, it is for free, powerful and platform independent, meaning it runs under Linux, Windows, Mac OS,...
  • 'normal' graphic software. This will only be used for manipulating the background. I used GIMP, which is also an free open source software.
  • some pattern or background pictures. For example: the space background and the planet in my map. But also for the icons (which are not included in the tutorial)
Let us begin with the only non-vector- graphic part, the bitmap part:


I am sure that this part could also be done with inkscape with some more knowledge then I have, but I wanted to use certain effects that I could only do with gimp. The idea is, to have a background (e.g. space) cover this with a transparent colour filter/layer, add the actual map background (e.g. the planet) and put a grid on it.
So what we need is a background picture and some map background.

Ok, not being able to completely reproduce the original map in this tutorial, lets start over again.

Start Gimp and create a new file (File -> New). Let us for this example choose a map in the format of 800x600 px, by choosing 800x600 in the template box. At this point I may warn you, that at the beginning Gimp is very strange to use, but since we are only working a little bit with it , we should survive it.

For this specific example I did choose a space picture as background. So now open your background file (File -> Open), usually your background picture is not of the same size as your map is going to be, thus we have to rescale it. For this choose the Scale Layer command (Layer -> Scale Layer) and add manually the size of the map (in pixel).In our example 800 x 600.
Make sure you deactivate the little chain symbol right to the selected size or otherwise the program will force you to scale the image in a certain ratio.

Now copy the hole image (Select -> Copy). Select your previously created new mapfile and paste the background as a new layer (Select -> Paste As -> New Layer)
(Of course you can just rescale your background image and then work in that file directly, this is absolutely fine)

Now if you activate the layer panel or dialog by hitting CTRL+L (Windows -> Dockable Dialogs -> Layers) you will see the new layer.

You can now give it a new name like backgruund or what ever. Now the idea of this layers is, that we will construct everything else on top of this 'space' or background layer (as I will call it now). You can delete the original white background layer by selecting it and clicking on the trash-can.

Now let us add some layer that will act as an 'colour filter', in the original map this would be the red part, pulling the focus away from the space background to the objects in the foreground.
To this end, choose a base colour you would prefer, e.g. green. Do this by clicking on the Foreground/Background colour selecting icon in the left toolbox (the black and white box connect with an arrow)

and select the preferred colour

Add a new layer (shift+crtl+N or Layer -> New Layer) and choose foreground or background for layer filling type, depending on which of the both colours you changed in the previous step.

Now don't panic, your whole screen should look green, but this is only because the new layer is placed over the background layer and since it is not transparent yet, nothing is shining through.

Now select the new layer in the layer dialog by clicking on it and change its opacity to the preferred value.

You will see the background shining through. If you have managed to get a successful result (sometimes changing the layer colour to something more bright helps) we will continue with the frame for our actual map.

For this we need again some exterior files, you can choose an actual map, some picture or in my case a picture of some planet. There are even very good tutorials on the internet on how to do them on your own like this. But we will restrict ourselves on taking an existing picture. For this you can simply google "planet" and take one of the first pictures you like. For this tutorial I took the finished planet picture from the above tutorial.

Now open this file and as done with the background, copy the picture and paste it into your map as a new layer.  Now this picture comes with a lot of black around the planet but we will not worry about this fact during this tutorial. You could avoid it for example by pasting only a selected area from that planet picture into your map.

Your map should like like this.

Now scale down the new layer (lets call it planet layer) to a size you like. Do this by simply selecting the Scaling Tool from your toolbox and drag the planet layer to the desired size.

and maybe move it a little bit around

Ok, the two last steps for this part of the tutorial is putting a grind on the planet layer as well as some shadow.

First the grid, to make it look more like a real space map. Select the planet layer, and click on Filters -> Render -> Pattern -> Grid. What follows is trying out what looks best, you can always go back with the Undo button an redo it. First you have to select a colour for your grid, lets take e.g. a bright grey. You can do this by clicking on the colour buttons on the bottom of the dialog. Notice that there are 3 (actually 2 independent) so in general all your grid lines do not have to have same colour! Next you can play around with the settings like width, spacing and offset for the horizontal line , vertical line and the intersection. This is basically a matter of taste. I would also suggest to change the alpha value ( the transparency of your grid lines when selecting the color) of the colour when selecting it.

When you found the settings you like most, your map could look like this

(notice, I had to reduce the alpha even more)

So we are nearly finished, last steps are just cosmetics. E.g. we can add a drop shadow by selecting Filter -> Light & Shadow -> Drop Shadow, but this is just a matter of taste. If you do so you will notice that Gimp will automatically create a new layer for the shadow, below the planet layer. For this example I also added a gradient flare (Filters -> Light & Shadow -> Gradient Flare: Classic) and lens flare  (Filters -> Light & Shadow -> Lens Flare) but again this is of course not mandatory.

Just play around with the different filters and test some of them, things like supernova can look pretty cool too. Also adding a frame by hand could look very cool but for the purpose of this tutorial this should be enough.

So we have finished our background and so far not used any vector graphics, these will enter in the second part of the tutorial. Hopefully this weekend.

As always do not hesitate to ask me for further details!

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