How to Create a Cartoon Map of a Town

Cartoon maps of a town are a helpful tool. For tourists, it gives a more pleasing and intimate view of the town than a normal map can give them. Creating one of these maps is a long and laborious process that will likely take days or weeks to complete. As you follow these steps, you must be patient. I promise, that the end result is well worth it.

Begin by logging onto Google Earth and looking at aerial photos of the town you are trying to draw. Get close overhead images of the town. Save the image by selecting "Edit" on the menu and then "Copy Picture." Open up Photoshop and paste the image into the program. Do this as many times as you need to cover the entire area you want to map. Save the files in such a way that you will know which file you need to go to at any given time (for example: "Grid 1-1.jpg," "Grid 2-1.jpg" or "42nd Street.jpg").

Travel around the town in question and photograph any major buildings and landmarks in town, such as a statue in a park, a church, school or town hall. Take as many pictures as you need, especially on the southern-facing sides of these buildings. Download the photos onto your computer and label them according to what they are. (such as "42nd Street Church-Southside.jpg").

Look at a drawn map of the town. Make a note of all major streets and highways that pass through the metropolis. Take a piece of paper (the size of the paper will depend on the size of your scanner tray), label the top of it "North" and begin sketching out the major roads and the major landmarks in the town where they are oriented starting with the northernmost points and working south through the town. Draw this as if looking down on the town at a 45-degree angle. Use both the drawn map and the photos from Google Earth to help. Also, look at the areas around the major landmarks and make a note of what the area surrounding them are zoned for (such as park, residential or commercial). Chances are, you won't be able to fit the entire map on to a single piece of paper. Sketch on several pieces of paper for now, making sure that what you are drawing will line up with what is on the paper next to it. Keep in mind that for this section, this is just for sketches, it doesn't need to be perfect yet.

Scan your sketches into the computer at no less than 200 dpi. If you have multiple scans, open them all in Photoshop and paste them into a new file and line them up to complete your map. Create a new layer in Photoshop by selecting "Layer" then "New" then "Layer." Now, starting with the northernmost landmarks, open up the files of the photos you took earlier in Photoshop. Take your drawing tablet and begin on the sketch you made of the landmark earlier, drawing out the landmark (use the photos as a reference). Remember to orient the building correctly--even if it isn't the front side of the building, the southern side is what should be facing your map reader. Repeat this step for each of the landmarks in town, starting with the north and working your way south. Don't worry about scale; being a cartoon map scale isn't as important as a regular one.

Once all the landmarks are drawn, label them. I suggest typing the name near each of the landmarks, making sure to use a legible font. Create another new layer in Photoshop. Now draw in all the major roads. Do not worry about every single road in the town, as most side streets do not need to be included. But all major roads and any secondary roads will need to be (two-or-more-lane roads running through town and the streets that intersect them should be included). Any road that runs through the entire town from one end to the other should be included as well as any street it intersects.

Label all roads now, making sure that longer roads are labelled in several places. Label these in the same manner you labelled the landmarks. Create another new layer in Photoshop. Now, draw in generic buildings to represent the commercial, residential, industrial and recreation areas of the town.

Go to the "Layers" tab in Photoshop and delete the original scanned-in sketch layers. Go to the background and colour in your map. Make the colouring of landmarks as accurate as possible and use bright green and bright blue for grass and water areas. If you wish, in this step, you can also add small people, vehicles and animals to your map. Also, since the map should still be looking down at a 45-degree angle, at the top you might want to include the sky and some clouds.

Save the image twice. The first time, save it as a PDF file so that, if needed, you can go back and make changes. The second time, save it as a JPEG file.

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