Drawing Laurania

I was recently asked how I drew the map of Laurania that has been featured on several of my previous blog entries. I tried to explain the process, but I decided that a simple ‘how to’ explanation with suitable images would make it much easier to understand. So here goes …

The computer programs I used

I am a great believer in the KISS Principle (Keep It Simple Stupid), and applied it to the choice of computer programs I used to create my map of Laurania. The programs I used are widely available … and cheap! I used the following programs to create my map:

  • Serif PhotoPlus 6.0
  • Microsoft Paint

Neither of these require much training to use, are fairly uncomplicated, and usually simple to use.

Step 1: Finding an outline map

The first thing I did was to trawl through the Internet to find a suitable basic map upon which to base my map. Albania fitted the bill, and so I downloaded a black and white map of that country into MS Paint.

I ‘cropped’ the image to remove some of the detail I did not need, saved it as a bitmap image, and opened the image in Serif PhotoPlus. I then used the ‘Image’ and ‘Image Size’ tools (having unticked the ‘Maintain aspect ratio’ option) to make the map wider whilst keeping the height the same. I then enlarged the image using the ‘Image’ and ‘Image Size’ tools (this time making sure that the ‘Maintain aspect ratio’ option was ticked).

I then ‘exported’ the new image, making sure that I saved it as a new bitmap image with a different name. I did this so that if anything went wrong I could go back to my original version.

Step 2: Creating the basic outline

I then opened the new image in MS Paint, and used the ‘Select’, ‘Cut’, and ‘Eraser’ tools to remove some of the unwanted detail (e.g. the names of bordering countries, sea areas etc.).

I then saved the image (again using another different name) as a Monochrome Bitmap. This had the effect of removing all the grey areas on the map and reducing it to a very basic outline.

Once this was done I re-saved the image, this time as a 24-bit Bitmap. I did this so that I could use colour during the next step of the process.

Step 3: Creating the map of Laurania

I then used MS Paint to draw over the existing boundary lines on the map in red. I then drew over the outline of the sea and lakes, and filled them with blue. I followed this by drawing grey circles over the existing towns and cities, and added several new ones as well. Finally I removed and place names that were still on the map using the smallest setting on the ‘Eraser’ tool.

I then saved the image … yet again … using another new name! I know that this sounds very anally retentive but I knew that if I made a mistake at any stage in this process I could always go back a stage and start again, and would only lose part rather than all my work to date.

I then drew in the contours, using a different but appropriate colour for each contour line. I then used the ‘Fill With Color’ tool to fill in the areas between each contour line. I also drew in the national boundaries in red, and filled in the non-Lauranian land in grey.

At this stage the map looks almost complete, but there is still some way to go yet.

The next stage was to use MS Paint to draw in the rivers and railways …

… followed by the roads. This takes more time than one would expect, and again I saved the image at each stage of the process.

Finally I added the place names.

This has to be done carefully. Each place name was created using the ‘Text’ tool in MS Paint. It was then cut around using the ‘Select’ tool, and placed in the appropriate position. The important thing that I had to remember was to create the text against a white background and to ensure that the ‘Draw Opaque’ setting under the ‘Image’ tools was not ticked.

In conclusion

This method for creating maps may sound a lot more complicated than it actually is. If you are going to try this process, I would suggest that you start with something small … and practice the techniques.

It did take quite a lot of time to create the final map, but the end result was worth it. I wanted to make something that looked like it had come from an atlas, and I think that I managed to achieve what I set out to do.

I’ve been on holiday … again!

As you might have guessed, I have been on another cruise (the second in six weeks!) and have been out of touch for most of that time. I will be making a long blog entry about where I have been, what I have seen, what I have bought, and what I have read sometime very soon. In the meantime I am trying to catch up with my emails and blogs that I follow … as well as preparing to go back to work on Tuesday!

I think I am going to be very busy for the next few days!

The ‘Nostalgia’ Project – my decision … sort of!

Having spent some time thinking about what to do next about my ‘Nostalgia’ project.

Firstly I have decided to continue with the ‘Nostalgia’ project, but over a longer timescale. I will continue to collect the necessary models and figures, and may even make some prototype vehicles and ships. I will not, however, start serious work on the project for at least several months.

Secondly I have decided to finish the back-history of Laurania that I started some time ago. This also includes a guide to the Latinate language of Laurania. I will also draw up an outline of the Lauranian armed forces during the 1930s for future reference, as they may well make a good enemy – or ally – for the Opelanders at some time in the future.

All I have to do now is stick to my decisions!

The ‘Nostalgia’ Project – my wife speaks!

I was word-processing some ideas about this project when my wife looked over my shoulder and asked me why I was creating yet another imagi-nation when I had not finished using the all the stuff I had done on Laurania. She further added that she had assumed that all the pre-painted 1:300th model buildings I had been buying recently had been for that project and not a new one.

Now I have to admit that she is right. I have not yet exploited the potential of Laurania anywhere near as much as I should or could, and the model buildings are very suitable for it. In fact, they are – with the exception of the ones bought in Copenhagen – all from Adriatic region, which is roughly where Laurania is situated.

My wife’s interjection has left me in somewhat of a quandary. Do I persist with creating a back-history and wargames army for Opeland or do I complete the already extensive back-history of Laurania – and finish off their nascent armed forces – before embarking on a ‘new’ project?

Time to do some serious thinking, I suspect.

The ‘Nostalgia’ Project – my most recent thoughts

I am now firmly convinced that my Opelandic Army will be a quasi-Swedish force, with Finnish and German influences. My plan is to create an army that is organised into brigades along the following lines:

Armoured Brigades:

  • An Armoured Battalion
  • Two Motorised Infantry Battalions
  • A Motorised Artillery Battalion
  • A Motorised Assault Engineer Company
  • A Motorised Reconnaissance Battalion
  • A Self-propelled Anti-tank Gun Company
  • A Self-propelled or Motorised Anti-aircraft Company
  • A Brigade HQ Company

Infantry Brigades:

  • Three Infantry Battalions
  • An Artillery Battalion
  • An Assault Engineer Company
  • A Motorised or Bicycle Reconnaissance Battalion
  • An Anti-tank Gun Company
  • An Anti-aircraft Company
  • A Brigade HQ Company

I also intend that the Opelandic Army will be supported by an Air Force equipped with Fighters, Fighter-Bombers/Ground Attack Aircraft, Bombers, Reconnaissance Aircraft, and Transport Aircraft, and a Navy that has at least two (or possibly three) frontline Coastal Defence Battleships, Destroyers, and Torpedo Boats.

This may well be a bit over ambitious, but I won’t find out if it is until I start!

Swedish inspiration for the ‘Nostalgia’ Project

When I visited Sweden last year I managed to prevail upon my wife to go to the Swedish Army Museum in Stockholm. One of the things that I bought at the museum’s shop was a short booklet entitled SVENSKA ARMENS PANSAR – DEN SVENSKA STRIDSVAGNSMATERIELENS HISTORIA. This is an illustrated guide to the armoured vehicles used by the Swedish Army since 1920.

This is one of the books that I have been looking at for inspiration for my ‘Nostalgia’ project, and I am slowly coming to the conclusion that the Swedish Army will make an excellent basis for the army of my vaguely Northern European/Baltic States/Eastern European imagi-nation, Opeland.

The reasoning behind this is that the equipment used by the Swedes looks similar to, but not the same as, that used by Germany in the late 1930s and early 1940s. For example, the Stridsvagn m/37 looks similar to the PzKpfw I

… and the Stridsvagn m/38 is about the same size as a PzKpfw II but is armed with a 37mm gun.

The Stridsvagn m/42 has a 75mm gun, and is about the same size as the later model PzKpfw III.

The Swedes even used the chassis of the Stridsvagn m/42 as the basis of a self-propelled gun, just like the Germans used the chassis of the PzKpfw III as a basis for the StuG III.

If I do use the Swedish Army of the late 1930s and early 1940s as the basis on my Opelandic Army, I will need to acquire quite a few ROCO PzKpfw IIIs and/or StuG IIIs as well as some other bits and pieces.

What the eye can see at different distances

I have just been re-reading A PRIMER FOR HORSE, FIELD & MOUNTAIN ARTILLERY by Captain T. H. Lloyd, RA. It was published in 1878, and was intended:

‘to facilitate the Instruction of N.C. Officers and Gunners of Horse, Field and Mountain Batteries in accordance with the Instructions contained in regimental Orders, Horse Guards, War Office, 1st August, 1876.’

The author stated in the Preface that:

‘I have tried to use the simplest language, such, in fact, that it can be understood by a man of the least education.’

Of particular interest was the section that deals with ranges and elevations, where it states the following:

‘To good eyesight in clear weather men and horses appear as follows:
At 2000 yards, single men and horses like dots.
At 1880 yards, detached files of cavalry, clear.
At 1300 yards, detached files of infantry, clear.
At 1200 yards, bodies of cavalry and infantry distinct.
At 1000 yards, single men like a narrow oval.
At 850 yards, heads and movements of limbs of detached men clear.
At 500 yards, heads of men in the ranks, as round balls.
At 300 yards, figure of a man distinct.
At 80 yards, eyes like dots on the face.’

The primer also contains diagrams that show how gun limbers, artillery ammunition wagons, the axletree boxes on guns, and artillery mules should be loaded. Of particular interest was the fact that each Field, Horse and Mountain gun – regardless of calibre – carried four case shot and appropriate cartridges in its axletree boxes. One assumes that this was for self-defence of the gun and crew in the event of an ambush at close range.