In the course of writing my sandbox mini-setting of Dunlyle, I sketched several outdoor maps (about 5 miles to the inch) using different media and paper. I tried pencil, pen, crayon (surprisingly effective, actually) and used plain paper, graph paper, and hexgrid. I can now, of course, sketch out a Dunlyle map in my sleep. But something was missing.
Over at the Cartographer's Guild I saw what was missing, other than artistic talent. My maps just weren't cool. Lacking in both patience and ability to use the computer drawing programs like Hexographer, I decided to go old school and abandon the grid (for now) ... which is where the Unmanliness crept in.
For you see, today I discovered the joy of scrapbooking materials.
My wife had been a scrapbooker for years and had all of the fancy papers, paper-cutters, stamps, stickers, and all of the paraphrenalia that goes along with this most Girly of hobbies. What I found out, though, while perusing my local art supply store, was that scrapbooking has everything we gamers need for extremely cool maps -- while at the same time providing a built-in storage and protection system.
First, there's the paper. Scrapbooking paper is wonderful. I picked up a bunch of parchment-style cardstock paper that happened to be on sale. So you have this durable, weighty bit of parchment-looking paper just waiting for your fantasy world or dungeon to explode upon it.
The size of scrapbooking paper (12" square) is also handy, providing roughly 50% more surface area upon which to sketch compared to 8 1/2" x 11" or A4 paper. I find this to be a more naturally pleasing drawing surface; the shape of the paper is no longer an influence on my creative muse.
Here's Dunlyle on scrapbook parchment cardstock, after a few hours of my amateur artistic and calligraphic labors:
But wait, you say! What about the hexgrid or square grid?
No problem, my budding Marco Polo. Just run that bad boy through the printer, before or after you've freehanded the map. Personally, I will be putting the grid on afterwords, if at all -- I don't want the presence of the grid to guide my pencil.
The scrapbooking accessories are also spot-on. Want to dress up your maps with symbols you will use repeatedly? Get a stamp and just ink that bad boy. How about a cool border for your crypt, using skulls or black lace? You can make it as kitschy or campy as you want. Throw a Scooby-Doo sticker on there if it floats your boat. Or, if you're an artiste like Zak, you could throw some web images on there and cut and paste yourself to an impressionistic dungeon masterpiece.
And then there is the scrapbook itself, a perfect place to store, transport, and admire your beautiful map. It is bound so that the scrapbook paper doesn't have to be holepunched ... the holes are in the sheet protectors. And those sheet protectors? You can write on them with a wet-erase pen and never mark up your precious maps!
It gets even better when you realize that you could do entire dungeons on facing-page scrapbook pages ... map on one side, key on the other.