How To - Inkscape

Several topics concerned with making and using maps as a GM

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How To - Inkscape

Postby Pharaoh of nerds » 04 Aug 2012, 23:38

Inkscape is a free, open-source SVG editor for Windows, Mac or Linux. I use it to make all my Diplomacy maps, as I feel it is ideally suited to the task. You can download it at http://inkscape.org/download/

Image

Terminology:
My understanding of the Scalable Vector Graphic file type (or at least how Inkscape treats it) is that instead of creating/saving an image as a collection of pixels or different colors, which of course can only be enlarged so far, SVGs are saved as a series of lines with shapes and properties, thus allowing them to be Scaled indefinitely without losing resolution. A basic understanding of the following terminology (some part of the SVG file type, some from Inkscape) is required to navigate some functions of inkscape, and will be assumed in my tutorial:
[definitions stolen and slightly edited from The Inkscape Wiki]
Object: an independent editable thing on the canvas. May be a path, a shape, a text object, a group, etc.
Path: object, with nodes, but without handles. For example a line created using the Freehand tool.
Node: point of a path that you can manipulate with. If you use Node tool, then it is displayed as gray or blue (if selected) rectangle on a path.
Stroke: a visible outline of a shape or path. Not the same as path; a path may or may not have a stroke. If the stroke is present, it can be converted to path by Convert Stroke to Path command.
Fill: is an optional attribute for objects and their strokes. It can be a color, a pattern, a gradient or even unset (no defined, allowing clones of the object to receive their own fill). For our purposes, it will pretty much always be a solid color or non-existent.
Text: readable symbols that stand for ideas. Can be modified and bent for many effects.
Layer: one vertical slice of an entire image. Imagine multiple pieces of transparent glass stacked on top of one another. One can draw on one, draw on another, and move them around separately without affecting each other.



1) Basic Setup
I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that the map you’re making is not completely abstract, and thus you’ll want to use a pre-existing map of the area and/or time period so you can trace county borders and stuff. Thus, the first thing I always do is find such a map and paste it into the document. (NOTE: the keyboard shortcuts such as for copy and paste use Control, even on macs.) Once you have the map, you’ll want to select it, go to “Edit Document Properties,” and select “Resize page to drawing or selection” (under “Resize page to content”).
Then, since you don’t want to be constantly accidentally selecting and moving it, I recommend making it a separate layer from the one you’ll be working on, and keeping that layer locked. The little lock icon to the left of the Layer Control will lock the current layer. Layer ---> Add Layer (or Control+Shift+N) will open a screen to add a new layer. Make sure you select “Above Current.” I also recommend labeling this layer for ease of navigation, something like “Territories.”

2) Drawing Territories
You’re probably going to want to use the Pencil tool to draw your territories. To avoid having the line look really ragged, I use the “smoothing” function in the Tool Properties Bar. this simplifies the nodes on the path so it looks smooth. I usually set this to 22, you may want to experiment a bit to find a good level of smoothing for you.
Once you’ve set the smoothing, just select the tool, click on the canvas, and draw. Hold down the left mouse button while you draw to draw freehand. A green line should trace the movement of the mouse, with a square at the endpoint. At any point you can let go of the mouse button, and the green line will turn black (assuming you have that as the stroke color) and another endpoint box will appear. You can then click either endpoint box to start drawing again as before. To draw straight lines, click once, move the mouse (a red line should appear) and then click again. You should trace the outline of the territory so that you return to the start and combine the endpoints.
Next, choose the color of the territory. There are 3 basic ways to do this:
1) The first and simplest is to select a color from the bar at the bottom. From left to right, first are greys, then assorted useful colors (I usually use these for major powers), then a series of brightness scales for different colors.
2) To get more exact control over the color, click the bar of color (or the word “None”) to open up the Fill and Stroke editor. You’ll probably want to select the blue square to the right of the x to make the fill a solid color. Then you can edit the color in a variety of ways: RGB, HSL, CMYK, or Wheel. I usually use RGB, but that’s just me. For neutral territories, I typically use either plain white or R 255, G 217, B 141.
3) If you already have a territory of the same color you want this to be, you can use the “Pick colors from image” tool to do exactly what the name suggests. Just select the territory, select the tool, and click the color you want.
Once you have selected the color you want, I recommend taking a look at the stroke thickness and adjusting it to be more aesthetically appealing. The default thickness is 1 pixel, but sometimes that doesn’t work look good if the map is either too big or too small. With the territory selected, go back to the Fill and Stroke editor (click the color box to the right of either “Fill” or “Stroke” in the bottom-left) and go to the Stroke Style tab. There you can adjust the width of the stroke, along with a number of other properties I won’t get into and I recommend not touching most of the time (sometimes they can be useful, such as to create dashed or dotted lines if you want that effect, but I don’t generally use them when making maps).
Congratulations! You now have one territory. Repeat this process (it’s not nearly as complicated as I make it seem, once you get the hang of it) to make all of your territories.

3) Editing territory shapes
If you want to edit the shape of a part of a territory without re-drawing the whole thing, there are a number of ways to do that. One way is to use the “Edit path by nodes” tool to move nodes around, which of course changes the shape of the path. The nodes are represented by grey boxes (red when selected or under the mouse), and you can move them around or select them and move their handles around (the circles that control the curve of the path between nodes). Also, you can use the same tool to click and drag the segments to curve them. I often find the following functions in the tool properties bar for this tool useful:
Image
Adding nodes is useful for increasing or decreasing the complexity of the path. There’s also a function to delete nodes, but I find the backspace/delete button to be much more convenient for this purpose.

Joining Nodes is a way of smoothing out specific parts of a path by joining clusters of nodes together as one.

Deleting a segment between two non-endpoint nodes will do exactly what it sounds like, and turn the two nodes into endpoints. This allows you to re-draw the path between those two specific points without redrawing the whole territory.

4) Labeling Territories
You may choose to label your territories as you are drawing them, or draw them all and then label them. It doesn’t really matter.
Labeling territory names is simple. Use the text tool and type, editing the font type and size in the Tool Properties Bar. If you don’t want to have to change the font and size every time, you have to set them both BEFORE writing any text. That makes them the preference for that document and the next time you make a text object it will default to that. I recommend using a smaller font size for labeling coasts.
Making Supply Centers is also fairly simple, assuming you want plain black circles for them. Use the “Create Circles, Ellipses, and Arcs” tool (F5) to make a roughly circular shape, set its fill to black, and then scale it to the size you want. If what you make has a slice out of it, press right-most button (excluding the fill and stroke displays) on the Tool Properties Bar and that should fix it.
If you want to make WebDiplomacy style SCs, make two circles, a small black one and a larger white one (create the large one first so the small one goes on top of it). Select them both, open up Align and Distribute Objects, and click the “center on horizontal axis” and “center on vertical axis” buttons.
Image
Fiddle around with the stroke thicknesses of both until you’re happy, then group them together (Object--->Group or Control+G) so they’re treated as one object.
Once you have your SCs, you can Duplicate (Edit--->Duplicate or Control+D) them every time you need a new one.

5) Assorted Useful Functions
Hold Ctrl while dragging scale arrows to scale objects while keeping their aspect ratio constant
Ctrl+D - Duplicate objects
Ctrl+G - Group objects (useful for island groups or territories split by water)
Put Text on Path - to curve text to fit territory names in weird-shaped territories
1) Create straight line where you want the text to be (make sure it’s long enough to accommodate all the text!)
2) Write text
3) Select Text and Line
4) Text ---> Put on Path
5) Curve the line (use the Node tool to click and drag the middle of the segment or adjust the node handles) to curve the text
GM Evil vs Evil vs Evil vs 'MURIKA
Creator + Britain 1930s World
Creator 1700, 1933, 1914 World
Japan in Zeus
Britain in 1900: Stars and Stripes
Messinia in Pericles
Franci in Imperium
Evil England in Root Z
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Re: How To - Inkscape

Postby Bob.Durf » 12 Nov 2012, 19:34

I use Paint.Net currently, but I like your tutorial and will give Inkscape a try.
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Utterly crucial Mod's note

Postby Pedros » 24 Dec 2012, 19:47

It turns out that Inkscape doesn't offer a "Save as GIF" option.

Since GIF files are almost compulsory because of the limits on attachment size, and Pharaoh reports that he can't find an alternative way to save as GIF, this raises serious doubts about the value of Inkscape for use here.
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Re: How To - Inkscape

Postby Pharaoh of nerds » 24 Dec 2012, 19:50

I agree. I probably won't be using Inkscape for future maps. I have a mac, so GIMP will have to do.
GM Evil vs Evil vs Evil vs 'MURIKA
Creator + Britain 1930s World
Creator 1700, 1933, 1914 World
Japan in Zeus
Britain in 1900: Stars and Stripes
Messinia in Pericles
Franci in Imperium
Evil England in Root Z
Yellow in City-States and Zombies
User avatar
Pharaoh of nerds
 
Posts: 676
Joined: 23 May 2010, 20:34
Location: Sector 001
Class: Ambassador
Standard rating: (1000)
All-game rating: (972)
Timezone: GMT-5


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