Need a spiffy map for you game and are strapped for cash? Want to make it large and visible, but don’t have a plotter at home…or the dough to have your local printshop take care of it for you? Provided you’ve the source art—or access to a community willing to share—here’s a low-cost way for you to manufacture maps, maps, maps to your hearts content!
If you’re like me—good looking, famous, and happily married to a spouse with lots of art and scrapbooking supplies (note, only one of those is true)—then you’ve probably everything you need on hand already. It’s a quick project that you can bang out in about 30 minutes or so.
The Map Is Coming
A few months ago I mentioned  that I was running a “Game of Thrones” RPG and when dealing with a land as vibrant and detailed as Westros, you really need something to point to. Hence, the need for a map. But not just any map. A big, colorful one that leaps out at you.
Fortunately, I found one and I shall dazzle you with it now.
Awesome, right? I mean how can you not want to print this out on your wall?
Sadly, at only 96 dpi, slightly larger than screen (72 dpi) resolution, blowing up to poster size isn’t really an option. However, using the family inkjet printer I’m pleased to say you can still make some damn impressive posters of your own. (Note: Please make sure you have ownership or permission to print for personal use.)
You’ll need some basic items for this project, most of which you probably already have:
- Source image, preferably higher than 72 dpi (300 or 600)
- Cutting board/mat
- Hobby knife
- Inkjet paper, heavier than 20 lb but not cardstock (110 lb)
- Paper glue (acid free)
- Poster board
- Straight edge
- Matte sealant
The hardest part is scaling your print job to the size of the final product. If your printer is like most and won’t do 8.5×11 borderless then some cutting will be involved.
In this particular example I used legal paper, using the longest dimension (14”) as the width of my poster. Westeros is “taller” than it is “wider,” so I didn’t see the need to go larger than 14” across. In a more complex map we might have to print out our map in a traditional grid form, say 2×3 (six sheets). Mine ended up being 1×4.
If you have it laying around, high-quality photo paper is a good choice as well. Tends to be a thicker weight and shows the colors better. However, much more expensive.
Use the free image manipulation program of your choice to print your map in the aforementioned sections and lay them out on your poster board.
If your printer can’t do borderless you’ll need the hobby knife and straightedge to trim the whitespace. Unless you happened to print with laser-like efficiency your pages will overlap. Do a dry run (literally) and find how your pieces line up with each other. Lay it all out as desired then flip over on the vertical axis. Now we glue!
Depending on the type of glue you picked and the weight of your paper use your best judgement. Too much on thin paper can cause bubbles and curls. Not enough causes obvious problems. Be liberal on the edges. Make sure to use a paper-friendly glue; not just any old stuff you have laying around.
The roller, as you expect, evens out the paper onto the poster board surface. Use a damp cloth after each page to wipe down the roller (it’ll pick up glue) and then dry it off again. Line up your overlaps/seams and gently shift into place before rolling; once you’ve rolled your likely not moving the piece without tearing it off completely and reprinting.
Repeat for your grid until finished. Let sit and dry.
The last step is to take your matte sealant—similar to the kind sold in model hobby stores—to seal the paper. This will help stiffen the surface, protect the paper (and ink), and give the map a more even appearance. Don’t overdo it!
Because this project is so quick (and cheap!) feel free to use thumbtacks on your map, write on it, or whatever strikes your fancy. I suppose if you went with a heavy gloss sealant you could even try dry wipe markers. (Worth testing out!)
Any map making tips of your own to share? Tell us below!