I’ve been working hard over the last few weeks illustrating a New Zealand map illustration, which I can finally show you!
Since my previous commission for Londonist Drinks, where I produced a map showcasing the Gentleman’s Clubs in London, I’ve wanted to illustrate another map. I love producing maps and feel it’s one of my strongest assets in my illustration portfolio.
Within this blog post you will discover the final New Zealand map illustration, composition and colour developments, my working process, with bonus tips along the way to help you with your own map creations.
Why I Created This New Zealand Map Illustration
My first and previous trip to New Zealand was when I went traveling with my younger brother for a year. We travelled to South East Asia, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Australia, Bali, India and New Zealand. It was an unbelievable experience and my sketchbook also loved it too! I especially loved traveling around New Zealand, and as a result, I thought creating a map of this great country was very appropriate.
Here’s was a couple of photos from our incredible New Zealand experience!
We managed to travel to both North and South Island, with my personal favourite being the South Island (as it features Milford Sound – one of the most incredible landscapes on Earth!). The South Island hosts the brilliant Queenstown, Lake Tekapo to Fox Glacier, whilst the North hosts Rotura to Hobbiton (so it hosts a pretty good lineup).
This map illustration was also a good excuse to remind myself of my great traveling experience there. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to all of these places on this map, using my travel knowledge as much as possible.
Developing The Map: Composition & Colour Sketches
To start this map illustration I created a moodboard / reference gallery that I can refer to. It helped that I knew the country pretty well, but this was a good beginning to see how I was going to structure the artwork.
Like most of my illustrated maps, I draw in my sketchbook to figure out the composition. Composition is crucial within art and illustration. A great composition attracts the eye, and keeps viewers on your illustrations for longer. It’s a pinnacle part of the process which shouldn’t be overlooked.
This is a crucial part of the process as I can experiment and make sure it looks visually appealing.
Once the composition is sorted, I then think about colour. Similar to the compositional sketches, I experiment with what works until I’m happy with how it’s looking.
I then move onto producing the final illustration (the fun part!).
Pro tip: If you’re thinking about creating your own map illustration, always draw thumbnails to see how the map will look before committing to the final illustration. This could be in your sketchbook, layout paper or notepad – anything physical to document your ideas. These drawings should be quick with the attention on your composition.
Experimenting With A Different Approach
I took a completely different approach for this New Zealand map illustration, in contrast to my previous process for illustrating maps like my map of Berlin.
I previous working process was to paint the map illustration in one go. This meant painting the background and then painting all the elements on top of this. I would then scan the piece into Adobe Photoshop and edit until I was happy. This overall process has its advantages and disadvantages.
I decided to try a new way of working with this map illustration, painting each element and background separately. I then scanned them in and arranging them together. I found this process was:
– I spent more time and effort on each element
– Saved a lot of time painting the background
– Saved paint
I will commit to this process again as it saves time and ensures high quality. One major benefit of this approach is the time saved painting the background. As you can see above, I only had to paint a couple of blue and green sections, and scan this into Adobe Photoshop and mask the area for the two islands.
The main disadvantage with this approach is that I have to isolate each element digitally, in contrast to painting the map in one go. However this ensures I make each element as high quality as possible.
Overall though it saved a lot of time in the painting process, so I highly recommend this technique. If you like learning different painting techniques, this article by Modern Met can help you discover unique acrylic painting tricks and tips.
Pro tip: Experiment with different working methods to see where you can save time, create better work and improve your art. If you can save precious time, commit to it!
A More Detailed Look At The Illustrated Map
This illustrated map of New Zealand had one challenge:
– Representing all the places of interest over the two small islands
How do I show every place equally and not just pile each one on top of each other?
From my sketches I constructed a composition that allows each place to represent itself, using circles which are not literally on the islands. As you can see from my primary compositional sketches, I moved the composition slightly in the final illustration. I try and avoid this in most cases (as that’s the point in sketching in the first place), but I felt more attention was needed to represent each element equally.
Above shows a few detail shots from my illustrated map of New Zealand. From the layers you can see I turn each element (for example the rugby player) into a smart object, and work on the background and each element individually.
I used acrylic for this illustrated map, building my painting layers until I am happy with how it looks. As you can see, my paintings are heavily digitally edited. In Photoshop I remove mistakes and neaten up my paint marks, mainly using the ‘Clone Stamp Tool’ to achieve this.
After the editing part is finished in Adobe Photoshop, I use Adobe InDesign to structure the typography. I use grids and a baseline grid to create a typographic harmony throughout the illustration. I highly recommend the baseline grid to anyone who uses typography in Adobe InDesign, as it ensures there’s a rhythm to your typographic layout.
Adobe InDesign (or an equivalent publishing software) is geared towards typography, publishing and graphic design, and is so much better than it’s counterparts in these areas.
And then that’s it, all finished and ready to show the world!
Pro tip: How can you communicate a piece of illustration without being literal? Try different compositions, experiment and try something new.
What Do You Think Of My New Zealand Map Illustration?
It’s taken a while to produce this illustrated map, as I wanted to make sure the map was to a high standard and not just rush something out to show (even though this was very tempting).
I’m very pleased with the final outcome, and satisfied that I tried a new working process that I can feed into my work.
I’ll love to know what you think of this map, you can leave me a comment below or on my social media links below.
If you unfamiliar with myself and my work, I’m a freelance illustrator and designer from Hampshire. I specialise in publishing, advertising and editorial illustration. I’ve worked for clients such as Clerkenwell Post, Mary Christie Magazine to the UKScouts amongst many. If you would like to hire myself for your creative project, do get in contact.
Thanks guys and see you on the next blog post!
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