Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Adjusting Map Colors

How would a new map-color scheme look?

First, my feeling is that everything for regions that are well documented are fine: the main problem is for hexes for which I have no elevation information. Take the Svalbard map I posted just recently; there are only four hexes there with known elevations; the rest of the hexes are a mix between "glaciers" and "rocky tundra."  This creates a mix of two map forms, between "elevation" and "terrain" that makes for a mess.

So, to begin, I think I need to incorporate an elevation guess that will serve the map's use, even if that elevation is basically inaccurate.  Not that it really matters anyway, I've just said in the last post that I've removed an entire sacred river from the India map, so what the hell?

The elevation of an unknown hex can be guessed according to what we know of the general terrain.  Are the known hexes the valleys?  Or are they the high places, which applies to a lot of desert regions, where the flat bottom land is hot and higher elevations are cooler.  It helps if we know the country, both geographically and geologically.  Svalbard is much like Greenland; mountainous and glaciated.  So we can set the surrounding hexes as all generally higher than the highest elevation hex we know about, 1804 feet.  So let's say the rest of Svalbard is above 2000 feet.  I have an elevation hex color for this: it is a tan brown, but not the same as shown in the map above.  So let's make every hex that isn't known that color.

Okay, but what about glaciers?  We'd like to keep that information, as it adds to our general knowledge of the terrain.  For that, I'm adding another layer to the map, a glacial overlay, so that it makes Svalbard now look like this:

On the whole, a grittier, more detailed experience.  Because we don't have to make the whole hex the color of the glacier, now the glacier covers the inland or bleeds right to the coast, depicting in places a line of coast where the tundra color shows.  The glacier on Nordaustlandet can be a little larger than the hexes, since we can bleed it outwards however we want.

Because I have made these maps myself, and on a publisher program, I can adjust it as I need.  People ask me all the time if I shouldn't just use google earth as my map; but I can't change the features and images on google earth, like I can on my own maps.  The map above only took me about 45 minutes work, most of that taken up with experimenting, as I'd never made any of my maps like this before.

Consider this earlier version of the Jotunheim map, the large sea area of land east of Svalbard, consisting of Franz Josef Land (the Dandemoth Islands) and northern Novaya Zemyla:

Again, I have almost no information for this, so most of the hexes are depicted as white and therefore uninteresting.  Arguably, they're utterly empty and I know they're mostly glaciated and barren tundra, but still it would be nicer if the map looked more like this:

Definitely an improvement, yes?  We get a much better sense of the landscape of the top of Biyetia on the right of the map (depicted as 500 ft.-1000 ft. in elevation) though of course I have no real numbers for that part of the world.  Jotunheim (Novaya Zemlya) really jumps out.  I've taken a little time to give the Dandemoth islands names, though I did this a couple of years ago without telling anyone.  The islands have a "political" name as well, Humutya.  But I'm not explaining that, at least not until there's no chance of running it.

I'm also emboldening the labels, so they're easier to read and making subtle color changes elsewhere, with the borders of the hexes for example and the color of the sea and topographic names.

But what about a part of the world with more land than sea?  Going east along the same latitude, the next map I've made and posted in the past is the lands surrounding the Kara Sea, which I've posted on the blog before.  Here's what it looked like:

Because we're swinging around the arctic pole, the previous map of Jotunheim is turned 60 degrees, so that it swings to the left and up.  The reader can see the top of Biyetia in the middle left.

This map certainly has its appeal, though again it lacks a lot of information.  It has more, however, than the previous two, so I was able to give it more feeling.  I changed the color of the white hexes to darker hexes to create the Byranga Mountains, so that gives the land some shape.

Not much, though.  It is still mostly white, and we don't have any sense at all of the swamp lands that are encompassed by all that empty white hex-space.  As such, I've chosen to tackle the problem of what the elevation of those unknown hexes is based on the existing mountains, the presence of many rivers, what hexes we do have information for and the coast, too.  To this, I've added the same icy overlay that I created for Svalbard, and one thing more: an overlay for muskeg swamp, for areas of undrained flatland, as this is what most of the North Siberian Lowland is (see the bottom right of the map).  All this work (a couple hours) produces this effect:

I was astounded at how well this came out.  The terrain pops right out and grabs the imagination; the overlay truly enhances the effect and giving guessed elevations to hexes certainly increases the potential for what passage through this country would be like.  That's always what I'm going for.

I will have to explore this more to get a better sense for what the color scheme for Tibet will have to be; I can see that lightening the color scheme for the high country is necessary . . . but I'll need to consider what I want to do with that before diving in.

Oh, let me add that the google drive has been updated with the maps above, for those who have paid their $20 on my Patreon account.


  1. The use of colored overlays for more granularity makes the maps look great. Can't wait to see what you do about the color scheme changes.

  2. You're looking at most of them. The high country above 10000 ft. will be a mix of more muted tones with these sorts of overlays.


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