Now that fictional cartography takes up a good deal of my time, I want to push the experience a bit further by making some tutorials on mapmaking. This one is about drawing a roadmap and making it look good in a vector program. Don’t hesitate to tell me what you think of it! 🙂
The article was proofread by Ifrix; many thanks to him!
1. Open Inkscape
Keep note that it will all work about the same in Illustrator.
2. Draw the road
Use the pencil tool (⌨ F6) to draw a path. Make it smooth enough: adjust the smoothing to prevent angles from appearing in your path (I suggest at least 50 at 100% zoom). Use a standard colour for your type of road (take inspiration from a Google Images search if needed) and pick its thickness (here I chose 6mm).
💡If you need to fix what you drew, use the node tool (F2), select all the nodes of the object (Ctrl+A or manual selection) and click on “Make selected nodes smooth”, or simplify the path (🖱️ Path → Simplify or ⌨ Selection → Ctrl+L) as many times as necessary.
3. Create the road’s outline
Now duplicate the path (with 🖱️ Right click → Duplicate or ⌨ Selection → Ctrl+D); this will copy-paste it on the spot.
Select this new path and give it a thickness only slightly exceeding that of the first path using the fill and stroke tool (⌨ Shift+Ctrl+F); here I used 7mm.
Then give it a dark grey as its stroke colour.
Finally, put the path in the background (with 🖱️ Selection → Lower selection to bottom or ⌨ Selection → End).
⚠️ Careful if you manipulate either one of the two objects: it looks like the road has a “fill” colour and a “stroke” colour, but in reality both objects are paths (the thicker one being in the background, it’s visible though behind), so their colour is a stroke colour in both cases!
4. Add road marking (optional)
To add a neat realistic effect, you can duplicate the path once more (it doesn’t matter which one here), put it in the foreground (with 🖱️ Selection → Raise selection to top or ⌨ Selection → Origin), make it very narrow (here 0.5mm) and use a dotted motif to create a pretty road marking.
5. Create the intersections
By reusing this technique and with a few colour and thickness variations, you can create all types of roads, but one important thing is left to learn about: managing intersections.
You will run into this issue quite often; to fix it, I have the normal reflex for anyone with the least bit of experience: I randomly put paths behind others, swearing a lot in the process, until it actually works. 👍 You will end up with this.
It’s actually quite an easy fix: the background of the white road must be behind the background of the yellow road but the outline of the white road must be in front of the outline of the yellow road. Top-down, that gives us: yellow road outline → white road outline → white road background → yellow road background.
Simple but confusing. You can find your way (!) by playing around with the foregrounds and backgrounds, but don’t hesitate to use different layers for a more important network – you will always be better off taking precautions.
This is where this tutorial ends (I’ll just leave you a trick below as a conclusion); ask for more if need be, as there are so many more aspects I could talk about!
Tip: combine paths
Don’t hesitate to draw your whole network in temporary colours, without any outlines, so that you can make things easier for yourself. It will always be time to colour them and add their outlines later.
If you choose this option, you will then be able to combine the paths once your network is finished.
To do so, select all the paths of the same type, then use 🖱️ Path → Combine (or ⌨ Selection → Ctrl+K). This will transform your paths into their own unique object.
From there on, apply step 3 of this tutorial; you will thus create the outline of all the roads at once, and the intersections will automatically look pretty.
⚠️ Beware, the objects that you combine must share the same design, as combining them will apply the same style to all of them anyway. I highly suggest you separate your road types in different layers; that way you will be able to draw, then select all the paths in each layer and combine them without any trouble.
In page one, you can find the article in French! Thanks for reading, I really hope it helped; leave a comment if not, so we can work out your issue together. ^^ If you enjoy this kind of content, take a peak at my Tipeee or my uTip; that will always be appreciated!
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