September 6th, 2009

Avatar Me KAC

Featured Map: Cyberpunk City Satellite View

Rezolution City Map - Click for full image.

Rezolution City Map - Click for full image.

This map was created for Aberrant Games, for their Rezolution line. It was an emergency job, as the contracted artist had let them down in some manner. They needed a city sector map for a post apocalyptic, cyberpunk style world. I was given an existing piece and asked to copy the style. I don’t have re-posting rights for the sample, but I am allowed to feature the resulting map I created.

This is an example of a collaboration of Illustrator and Photoshop elements. 90% of the detail is provided by Illustrator. Most of this detail is implied. The aim was to create something that looked like a satellite image. To this end, there is no perspective to speak of, just a straight top-down view.

The buildings are actually simple shapes, with hairline outlines. The shapes all have a tiny drop shadow effect applied to them to give them the illusion of sitting on a surface. Illustrator allows you to apply a Style to an object, much like you would define and apply a style to text in a word processor. So I was started with objects based on this style. If they looked less than convincing, I could redefine the style and all the buildings would update to match. This made edits very quick and uniform. I always try to plan a project for efficiency. (You might notice a lot of repeated shapes.)

The resulting image however did not look convincing. It needed the sort of detail that makes a satellite image look real. As I sated earlier, this was a rush project, so I couldn’t really take the time to add the necessary fiddly bits to lend authenticity. Nowadays, I have several techniques using defined image patterns, but I hadn’t hit on that idea yet. Besides, part of the assignment specs required that some of the buildings be distinct and well-defined. Too much detail would tend to get them lost and make their unclear. To that end I decided to keep the buildings fairly smooth, and make the background chaotic and detailed instead.

I took some real satellite images from various sources and mixed and matched. There are real-world cities, as well as some badlands topology. I reduced them to a grayscale of similar value to the building pieces and used that as a backdrop for the whole project.

Finally, the project required the whole illustration to look like a computer display. I created a frame with a 3-D effect and devised a lettering style. Once again, in the interests of efficiency, the labels are styles. All I had to do was type the name and the round-cornered rectangular background creates itself. If I didn’t like the results (and I didn’t, for the first several attempts), I redefined the style and all the labels updated.

I liked the finished piece. It gives the illusion of exquisite thoroughness with very little actual technical detail.

This map is copyright Aberrant Games. Reproduced with permission.

For more maps and commissioned art, go to

Originally published at Out Of My Mind. You can comment here or there.