Mapping Tutorial: Symbols (Illustrator CS and above)

Home of Thorf's myriad Secret Projects.

Moderators: Seer of Yhog, Thorf

Mapping Tutorial: Symbols (Illustrator CS and above)

Postby Thorf » Tue May 12, 2009 8:24 am

Introduction

Symbols are an essential part of all hex mapping systems; they are the basic tiles that make up the map. There are various ways of dealing with symbols, and how they are used depends largely on the features of the program in question: does it use raster or vector art (or both)? Is there an easy way to snap the tiles to a hex grid? Is it possible to update the symbols without redrawing the whole map? And so on.

My mapping system has seen two major revisions so far. The first version was started in Illustrator 8 back in 1999 but abandoned due to slow editing speeds. I resurrected it in 2005 and revised it to use the Patterns feature. This yielded some good results, but also numerous problems. The second major revision was made possible by the new Symbol feature in Illustrator CS, which solved most of these problems. (Illustrator 10 may also have had the Symbol feature, but CS was the first version I used that included it.) It also changed the way my mapping system works quite radically.

This tutorial covers the use of Symbols in CS versions of Illustrator. I will write a separate tutorial at a later date to cover the previous system.

Basic Concepts

The concept of Symbols is quite simple: if there is a piece of art that you want to place multiple times in your artwork, you can define it as a Symbol. The definition is held in the Symbols palette, and you can place as many copies (aka instances) of it as you like; all the copies remain linked to the Symbol definition.

Consequently, should you want to change any of your art, it's a simple matter of making the changes and then replacing the Symbol definition in the Symbols palette with your new design. All the linked copies will automatically update. This makes Symbols excellent for hex mapping, because you can revise your hex art whenever you like, and it will only take a few clicks to update each map with the new art for each hex.

Symbols can hold both vector and raster art. My Symbols are all vector-based, which means they stay perfectly sharp no matter how far you zoom in, and you can generate a raster image at whatever resolution you like.

One other thing to keep in mind is that Symbols reduce the file size of your maps, because the file only needs to keep one definition of the art for each Symbol on your map.

Using Hex Symbols

There is one major problem with using Symbols for hexes: all Symbols are rectangular, regardless of the shape of their contents. This means that it is not easy to slot them into place in the grid. (Note: CS4 revised the Smart Guides feature so that it's often quite easy to fit hexes to the grid, but it's also easy to get the alignment slightly wrong, so the advice that follows is still very relevant.)

The solution is to start with a pre-constructed grid comprising of hexes (simple hex shapes with a thin stroke set to 75% Multiply Transparency on the Hex Grid layer) and Symbols (instances of the "Blank" Symbol, which contains an unstroked/unfilled transparent hex, on the Map layer). The grid is already in perfect alignment, and need only be copied and pasted (or trimmed) to the desired size. Aligning a copy of the grid involves copying and pasting both layers (making sure the Paste Remembers Layers option in the Layers panel options is ticked), making sure you have both layers of your copy selected, and then using Smart Guides to line up the anchors of the hexes so that they snap together perfectly.

Once your grid is in place, you won't be doing any more placing of hexes; from now on, you will instead select an existing hex Symbol and use the Replace function to replace the Symbol with whatever symbol you want. In Illustrator CS, CS2 and CS3, this involves selecting the hex Symbol(s) on your map that you want to change; clicking on the new hex art in the Symbols panel; and finally clicking on the "Replace Symbol" button in the middle of the bottom line of buttons in the Symbols panel. In CS4, this button has vanished, but there's now a new Replace Symbol button on the context-sensitive Control Panel (under the menu bar - the one that changes depending on what you have selected).

That's basically it. You can continue selecting and replacing symbols until your map is complete.

Advanced Usage

Coming Soon.

(This section will cover how to replace symbol definitions; how to select all of one symbol type; how to edit symbols; how to rename symbols and so on.)

Notes

This post is a work in progress. I hope to add some illustrations, but for now I'm out of time.

Please let me know what you think! If some parts are hard to understand, let me know and I'll have another stab at explaining. Would it be easier if I included numbered lists of instructions to follow - perhaps in addition to the current text, as a summary for reference?
User avatar
Thorf
Cartomancer
 
Posts: 2226
Joined: Fri May 23, 2008 2:41 am
Location: Akita, Japan

Re: Mapping Tutorial: Symbols (Illustrator CS and above)

Postby enpeze » Sat Jul 25, 2009 8:52 pm

Thorf wrote:Please let me know what you think! If some parts are hard to understand, let me know and I'll have another stab at explaining. Would it be easier if I included numbered lists of instructions to follow - perhaps in addition to the current text, as a summary for reference?



No its really easy. Your .ai files with all the layers a premade artwork are a great ressource and your explanation is also very good. (for ICS3-4 users I assume, users of older versions will maybe encounter some difficulties) I for my part do just in this moment the first maps for my campaign with your system.
Last edited by Thorf on Sat Apr 23, 2011 4:43 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Clipped long quote for smoother viewing.
enpeze
Goblin
 
Posts: 5
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2009 11:12 pm

Re: Mapping Tutorial: Symbols (Illustrator CS and above)

Postby Cthulhudrew » Wed Dec 16, 2009 5:43 am

Question for Thorf (or anyone else) about borders in Thorf's Mapping System:

Do you use symbols for the borders? IE, pre-made red hexes that you can fit in place (6 with one line per side, 5 with 2 lines per side, etc.) or do you just draw them in by hand, presumably using the line tool?
Moderator of the Mystara and Greyhawk forums. My moderator voice is gray-green.
Image
User avatar
Cthulhudrew
Green Dragon
 
Posts: 3832
Joined: Tue May 27, 2008 2:13 pm
Location: Long Beach, CA

Re: Mapping Tutorial: Symbols (Illustrator CS and above)

Postby Bonetti » Wed Dec 16, 2009 7:16 am

I can't speak with authority for Thorf's maps, but I draw my borders on a separate layer and I believe his illustration of his layers shows he does, too.
Darokin expansion (maps, notes, merchant houses)
NaNoWriMo: Winner 2013-2016; Camp NaNoWriMo: 2014-2017
Image
User avatar
Bonetti
Fire Giant
 
Posts: 1152
Joined: Wed May 20, 2009 3:03 am
Location: Garden Grove, California

Re: Mapping Tutorial: Symbols (Illustrator CS and above)

Postby Thorf » Wed Dec 16, 2009 1:31 pm

Cthulhudrew wrote:Question for Thorf (or anyone else) about borders in Thorf's Mapping System:

Do you use symbols for the borders? IE, pre-made red hexes that you can fit in place (6 with one line per side, 5 with 2 lines per side, etc.) or do you just draw them in by hand, presumably using the line tool?


I use the Pen tool, manually clicking each link of the border until it's finished. The best way to do this is to lock and/or hide layers you don't need, and unlock the Hex Grid and Borders layers. Select the Borders layer and create the first point. If you make a mistake, a quick CTRL Z will undo, or you can hold CTRL to get the direct selection (white) cursor and drag the spot back into place. Obviously you need smart guides turned on for the whole border-drawing thing to work with precision.

At times I've copied and pasted sections to speed up the process, but I find that since each border is pretty unique in shape it's often counter-productive to try to copy and paste sections. I generally only do it if there's a long straight part.

If you do copy and paste, you will still want to combine the individual lines into a single line so that all the corners look right. You do this by leaving gaps between each pasted section, then going back later with the Pen tool and joining them up. You could probably get away with just making it a combined path, too, but I prefer the more flexible solution of having everything in one line.

Edit: I should also add that drawing in borders is one of my least favourite parts of mapmaking. ;)
User avatar
Thorf
Cartomancer
 
Posts: 2226
Joined: Fri May 23, 2008 2:41 am
Location: Akita, Japan

Re: Mapping Tutorial: Symbols (Illustrator CS and above)

Postby Trident » Sat Sep 25, 2010 7:11 pm

I am planning some 1or 2 mi. hex maps of Parts of Karameikos that are unmapped yet, as far as I know.

Are Thorfinn's map symbols available as illustrator (xxx.ai) documents?

If so, where?

Thanks,
Trident
Trident
User avatar
Trident
Goblin
 
Posts: 5
Joined: Tue Apr 14, 2009 5:23 am

Re: Mapping Tutorial: Symbols (Illustrator CS and above)

Postby Dave L » Sat Sep 25, 2010 10:13 pm

Trident wrote:I am planning some 1or 2 mi. hex maps of Parts of Karameikos that are unmapped yet, as far as I know.

Are Thorfinn's map symbols available as illustrator (xxx.ai) documents?

If so, where?

Thanks,
Trident

If you go here and read the 3rd paragraph you'll see a link to a file called mappingcs2.zip. I think that has what you're looking for, but as I don't have Illustrator I haven't been able to open it. :(
User avatar
Dave L
Storm Giant
 
Posts: 1589
Joined: Wed Nov 26, 2008 11:58 pm
Location: Plymouth, England

Re: Mapping Tutorial: Symbols (Illustrator CS and above)

Postby Trident » Sun Sep 26, 2010 3:42 pm

Thanks. I found the link and downloaded mappingcs2 folder.

I have Illustrator CS, version11.0.0, but the files opened either as blank documents, or as a text box with the message "This adobe Illustrator file was saved without PDF content...."

What am I doing wrong?

Thanks,
Trident
Trident
User avatar
Trident
Goblin
 
Posts: 5
Joined: Tue Apr 14, 2009 5:23 am

Re: Mapping Tutorial: Symbols (Illustrator CS and above)

Postby Cthulhudrew » Sun Sep 26, 2010 9:07 pm

Did you move the symbols and brushes files into the appropriate folders in your Photoshop program folder? It took me a long time to figure out that that's what I needed to do in order to get them to actually work properly.
Moderator of the Mystara and Greyhawk forums. My moderator voice is gray-green.
Image
User avatar
Cthulhudrew
Green Dragon
 
Posts: 3832
Joined: Tue May 27, 2008 2:13 pm
Location: Long Beach, CA

Re: Mapping Tutorial: Symbols (Illustrator CS and above)

Postby Trident » Sun Sep 26, 2010 10:06 pm

I moved the files from folder in the mappingcs2 folder to the corresponding folders in the Illustrator application folder.

The only item that transferred was the brush. That works great.

When I open one of the new Swatch, Graphic Style, or Symbol libraries, I get an alert saying: "The file <filename>.ai was generated by a newer version of Illustrator. Would you like to import this file? Some data loss may occur." I click Import and the palette that opens is empty.

The templates open with "This adobe Illustrator file was saved without PDF content...." plastered on them.


Perhaps the files need to be saved by an older version of Illustrator?

Thanks,
Trident
User avatar
Trident
Goblin
 
Posts: 5
Joined: Tue Apr 14, 2009 5:23 am

Re: Mapping Tutorial: Symbols (Illustrator CS and above)

Postby Thorf » Sat Apr 23, 2011 4:48 am

The symbol files may well not be compatible with older versions of Illustrator. I guess I should consider a way to get round that - perhaps by providing an Illustrator-editable PDF file with all the hex art as simple art rather than symbols? You'd have to drag each hex into the symbol palette manually to make them into symbols, but it should be backwards-compatible. I wonder if the PDF would open in an older version of Illustrator, though...
User avatar
Thorf
Cartomancer
 
Posts: 2226
Joined: Fri May 23, 2008 2:41 am
Location: Akita, Japan

Re: Mapping Tutorial: Symbols (Illustrator CS and above)

Postby Laokong » Thu Feb 06, 2014 12:23 am

Has anyone tried using Thorf's mapping procedures & files with Inkscape or any other vector-based shareware?
If so, how should I proceed to use the files he shared?
Thanks!
User avatar
Laokong
Gnoll
 
Posts: 104
Joined: Thu Nov 21, 2013 5:30 am
Location: Montreal, Solar System #3, Milky Way, Prime Plane


Return to Thorf's Projects

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest