Art Question: Map Labels

I have been working on a map. It looks something like this:

Map Detail

The map consists of India ink laid down on top of a set of watercolor washes. (Well, technically, washes from some Derwent Signature Watercolor pencils – thanks to Robin for those!) This is actually my first excursion into something like this. I like the way the India ink sits on top of the paper, while the watercolor soaks in.

But now I have a dilemma: I’m trying to decide how, or even if, to label the map with place names. I have already digitized the map (eh, roughly…what I really need is a large-format scanner!) and have been playing around with labeling schemes on the computer. The easiest and clearest thing to do in digital form is to (at least partially) desaturate the map such that the colors are duller and the ink is perhaps 60% gray and then scrawl my labels over it. However, the physical map has fairly bright colors and the ink is, of course, nearly always black, which means that a sweeping label over those mountains or forests will not come out well. I think more experienced cartographers of fantastical lands than I would have done the labeling and the cartography simultaneously, so they could shape the trees and mountains around the words if necessary. But no, I had to go ahead and ink in all the forests and mountain ranges first.

Here is what I am wondering: if I get some, say, red ink and use my pen to write a sprawling label over one of those forests, will the ink sit on top of the black-inked trees and be generally legible? Clearly, doing that with black ink would result in an unreadable jumble, but would red cut across the existing features with enough contrast? Should I just stick with doing it all by computer? Or does anyone out there have a better idea?

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4 Responses to Art Question: Map Labels

  1. jm says:

    Can you use a transparent overlay?

  2. Joseph says:

    I’ve thought about that…I’m not sure how well it would come out if I put ink down on a transparency sheet (if I can find one the right size – the map isn’t on letter paper! But that’s probably an option.

  3. Joseph says:

    That was a good idea. I just went to an art shop and played with tracing paper overlays; ended up coming away with some sheets of vellum that I think will work very well! I also have some bits of craft paper that I could use to cut up small labels if I want to try that, which might be interesting.

  4. Joseph says:

    Hmm. I have dashed off a tracing paper overlay with labels, but I think it loses most of the detail of the map. I would also have to re-trace all the major geographical features, avoiding the text…and at that point, I might as well re-do the whole thing…

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