Friday, April 13, 2012

Amateur Gridless Mapping Tip #1: On Rulers and Stencils

As I continue in my journeys in "gridless" mapping (i.e., without graph paper), I have found that using a ruler and stencils is invaluable for buildings and dungeon floorplans.  Simply put, straight lines and even curves are generally more pleasing to the eye than the alternative, unless you are drawing a cave complex.  So, for those of you who want to learn from a fellow amateur's mistakes, I offer the following.

A good ruler or stencil is:
  • in the correct shape (!)
  • has a smooth edge with no flashing or nicks (plastic edges occasionally have a bit of flashing from the molding process -- they can be carefully cut off with a knife)
  • easy to align with preexisting drawings
  • easy to keep flush with the writing surface, to prevent slippage
Of these, the latter is surprisingly important, particularly if you are drawing lines longer than an inch or so.  If you do not have a heavy ruler or stencil, it is vital that you are able to hold the stencil securely against the paper, or your pen may slip under the edge and ruin your line.  I have had several otherwise very good drawings marred by such slips while inking.  If your edge is lightweight (as many plastic stencils are), take the time to reposition your non-drawing hand to hold the edge down securely while in mid-line.

In my experience, the size of the ruler or stencil is not a major factor, though because I often draw in a spiral-bound drawing pad, smaller edges tend to work better.  Larger edges are heavier and therefore better for prevention of slippage.

Of course, if you use a drafting table and t-bar, many of these issues (at least those pertaining to straight lines) go by the wayside.

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