After a successful stint making the cover for the last edition of the UHSK student mag ‘Argus’ (which featured former Dutch queen Beatrix blowing up her own palace in reference to a ‘fresh start’ with our new king Willem-Alexander) I have returned for this edition with another ambitious photoshop job: a fantastical map of South America. The original brief called for editing an antique map of the continent to remove all the names and replace them with names referencing the articles of the magazine, in the hopes of creating a “treasure map effect”.
Having an actual antique map of the area on my wall, I know the look well. However, to go about it, I decided to try something new. Usually when removing features from an image like this, the first idea might well be to turn to Photoshop’s Clone Brush to paint over the names, but I wanted to try another approach. A while back I bought some old music scores specifically to get at the empty overleafs so I could scan them and have some nice antique paper textures in my library. In order to turn my vertically oriented map of South America into a horizontal image to use as a wrap-around cover I had to fill in a large section to the map showing the Pacific Area. To do this I filled the entire canvas with my empty paper as a topmost layer and then masked out the parts of this empty image over the names and other features, so that only the parts of the map that I wanted to keep showed through. In short, I did the opposite of what I’d usually do: instead of covering the names with copied pieces of the map to hide them, I covered the entire map with a new sheet of paper and then cut that open in such a way to show just the geographic features of the original map.
The next step was extrapolating the grid and scale of the original to cover the new section of the map, and finally scaling the whole image to fit within the margins of the printer. It was at this point that I remembered a map that gave me a completely different idea. In 2007 Vlad Studios designed a map of the world that showed an inversion of the continents and oceans of the world, turning the continents into large inland seas and the oceans into large land masses, with underwater features like the Mid-Atlantic Ridge turning into huge mountain chains. This seems familiar to me as I quite often accidentally transpose land and water in my mind when looking at an unfamiliar map with odd coloring, something I’m sure I’m not the only one to do. The idea of actually making such a map had intrigued me since I’d come across the Vlads Studios map, and I decided that this cover provided a perfect opportunity to create one as it would make for a sufficiently intriguing twist to the familiar map of South America to turn it into a fantasy land.
Because the original inverted world map is rather stylized and lacking in detail I decided I wanted to try to create a realistic map, the better to get an idea of what such an inversion of land and water would look like. While I usually do my illustration work in Illustrator, I decided that for this map Photoshop was more appropriate, as I’d have to deal with photo-real elements. I started out by tracing the South American continent on my map with the pen tool, creating a path I could then easily turn into a smooth selection and use to form a stroked edge to the continent. In order to create a consistent hatching to my coastlines and new rivers I filled the entire canvas with a horizontal hatching, from which I could later cut only those pieces I needed. The path selection of the continent was the first thing to go into my new empty canvas. I first cut out a nice, smooth South American shaped piece from the hatching. Then, reselecting the same path I could modify that chunk of hatching. Contracting the selection a few millimeters and feathering it slightly gave me a selection of the inside of the continent that was slightly smaller and gradually ran into the border. Then hit delete, and you end up with a ring of hatching smoothly following the stroked path: the Great South American Ocean was on the map.
Then I could start moving my now nameless mountains from my earlier effort of clearing the names from the map to their new positions in the empty lands surrounding my new ocean, using Google Maps to make sure they conformed to the underwater features of the real world. Once the main, known features were in, the next step was making the map look realistic by putting in the second most obvious features: the rivers.
This I did by grafting rivers from the original map into new locations. I also fleshed them out by simply cutting out sections of one river and combining them with sections of another. Finally I also drew in a few new, big rivers from scratch. This I did by drawing a path with the pen tool and then outlining the stroke with a slightly feathered brush. I then filled these wide rivers with the same width of hatching as the South American ocean, creating a consistent look over the whole map.
The most difficult process by far turned out to be naming my new lands; some names suggested themselves naturally, of course, but I had also put in hundreds of rivers. I soon ran out of names of family- and committee-members, and even an online poll amongst my writer Facebook friends couldn’t come up with enough names to name every feature of the map. However, there are enough names not to make this too glaringly obvious. It helped that I could also take inspiration for names from the different articles in this edition, as that was the original idea!
Another minor problem with these covers is that nobody could tell me the bleed margins used by the printer, forcing me to take a guess as to how much to add around the sides to be cut off. It turned out reasonably well this time — certainly much better than last time, when part of the logo was cut off! It would however take some time before I could lay my hands of a few copies of my own, having to wait out the summer holidays.