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Subject: My ASL Map Project rss

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Jeff Coyle
United States
Leesburg
Virginia
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For the past few years, I have been noticing, with envy, guys at tournaments playing on enlarged geomorphic maps. The larger maps just seemed to make handling stacks of counters much easier. I have a decent set of tweezers I use when dealing with heavy concentrations of units in a small area, but I still manage to knock over stacks on a regular basis.

I have suggested to the MMP guys that they could make a fair bit of change by offering enlarged versions of the geomorphic maps themselves, but I could never get them interested in the project. I figured if I really wanted them, I would have to do it myself.

After a many-month project, I recently completed converting all the official geomorphic maps and overlays. I brought them with me to ASLOK, and I was very pleased with how much it easier to was to move stacks around. I wanted to go ahead and document the steps I took, in case someone else was interested in doing the same.








Scanning
In general, I try to digitize as much as I can and produce as little paper as possible. That’s why I have a dedicated flat-bed scanner (Canon 8400F) and no printer hooked up directly to my desktop. I just find it easier to find things by searching on my PC, and they are much easier to backup.

Most of the guys that do map enlargements utilize color copiers to copy the original, enlarge it and print it in one step. The quality of these color copies vary a lot, due to differences in the quality of the originals, paper, ink, and copier equipment (including the last time it was maintained and calibrated), but in general, I have been unimpressed with the results I have seen. The maps are functional, but usually suffer from poor color, lack of resolution and look grainy. I felt if I could separate the image capture and printing functions, I could gain more control of end result by cleaning up the scanned images.

When I started the process, MMP had reprinted about 1/3 of the geomorphic maps in the SK style. I liked the SK maps more than the earlier maps, as they tended to be more consistent in the colors for the common terrain features, and the middle fold of the SK map was considerably smaller than the mounted maps. So I scanned the SK maps I owned and used the old maps for the rest.

My scanner can only handle legal size, so I couldn’t scan the whole map at once, but that is OK, as I planned on printing the maps in halves anyway. I selected a resolution of 400 DPI on my scans, because that would come close to my needed end result of 300 PPI after I enlarged the images (300 PPI is the resolution most professional color print shops request for the files submitted to them).

Image Clean-up
Now came the hard part. I knew I would need to spend quite a bit of time in Photoshop, but I had little idea how much time. The image files I received from the scans I made were far from what I wanted in terms of quality. In general I saw a lot of grain in the images and a lot of inconsistency in the colors, even within the same image.



To remove the grain (it almost makes the image look like a woven fabric) and a lot of color blotches, I used the seemingly contradictory Photoshop filters Smart Blur, followed by Smart Sharpen. I can’t remember how I stumbled on the Smart Blur command, but it makes a HUGE difference in the quality of the image. The “Smart” part of the process avoids smudging, for the most part, the hard edges you want to keep, while smoothing out the grain you don’t want. For the most part, I used a Settings of Radius = 3 and Threshold = 25, but I did adjust the values as necessary. After I ran the Smart Blur, I applied the Smart Sharpen filter. This made the edges much sharper, but did not add any noticeable grain back to the image.

The next step of the clean-up involved removing marks and blemishes from the image. Some of these problems were introduced by the scanning process, but there were a lot of marls in the original artwork. I wanted to eliminate as much as possible before they became more noticeable when I enlarged the maps. The Spot Healing Brush and Clone Stamp tools were very effective in quickly removing these problems.
I was hoping that this, along with the final image enlargement, would be the only Photoshop tasks I needed to do, but after I saw the significant color and brightness differences between different sections of the same map, I felt I needed to do some additional cleanup on the level 0 open ground terrain and grain. Some of these differences were caused by the scanning process, but I noticed there was some color differences in the originals (even the SK maps).

I tried some different techniques to correct the problem, but I finally resorted to creating separate layers for level 0 open ground and grain sections of the map by using the color selection and magic wand tools. I created color swatches using color samples from the map I thought the respective colors looked best, and used the fill command to change the color of the overlying layers. After that I often had to manually clean up the layers afterwards to make sure the other terrain was not being covered by the layer.

The next step was to add a small board number/letter to the bottom half maps so that players could identify what number the map was, even if the top half map was not used.

After saving all these changes in the original sized maps, I created a copy to enlarge the maps. I tried a couple of different sizes, but felt that a 30% enlargement was the best compromise between usability and affordability. A 30% enlargement meant that I could still have a map fit lengthwise on your typical banquet table (2 ½ feet wide). More importantly, I could print the maps halves on a relatively standard paper size (ledger size for the US, A3 for international). If the map halves can’t fit on a standard size, the cost of printing (and laminating) would go up considerably.

To do the enlargement in Photoshop, I would go into the Image Size function, uncheck the Resample Image checkbox, and then multiply the width by 1.3. The system would automatically change the height so the proportions remained the same and the resolution on the image would go from 400 PPI to around 307. Next I would recheck the Resample Image checkbox, and manually change the resolution to 300 PPI. Now I had my image file ready to be printed.

Printing
As I mentioned before, there is a LOT of variation with the quality of the finished product based on which printer and paper you select. Mark Humphries and I spent a few weekend days taking some sample map files to different printers in the Manila area. In the end, the best printer we found was the first printer I went to, about 3 blocks from where I worked. They were in the central business district, so they didn’t have a lot of experience with graphics-intensive work, but Mark and I really liked the paper they used and the color of the images they produced. The prints were very sharp and the terrain seemed to pop out at us. Ironically, they turned out to be the cheapest. They gave us a good deal (about $1.80 per sheet) because of the volume we were asking for.

Just about the time we were to submit all the maps (and overlays) to the printer, MMP finally said they were serious about printing the long delayed map bundle. We decided to only submit the images scanned from the SK maps we already had (plus overlays) and wait for the map bundle for the rest. It also meant all the effort I had put into scanning and correcting the original style maps was wasted. Oh well.

Finally, one Monday, Mark and I met at my office and rode down to the printer with a thumb drive. The nice lady at the print shop remembered us (it was probably hard to forget to two tall Americanos with the funny maps with hexagons printed on them), and ran some sample for us to make sure the printer was in good shape. We made sure to remind her that the images were to be printed at 300 PPI and that no scaling of the image should be done to make the image fit.

We came back a couple of days later and picked up our prints. They really looked great. Even Mark’s wife Tonette was impressed.
I had to leave the Philippines soon after that. I picked up the map pack at WO 2011 and began the process of scanning all the new SK-style maps. Scanning the new maps scanning was easier because they had not been folded and laid in the scanner easier. I went through the whole cleanup process again in the next few months, and then had samples printed with a few local printers, but I could not find the same quality of work as we found in the Philippines. So I sent the new batch of files to Mark and he had them printed at the same shop.

Cutting and Laminating
Once I had the images printed, I need to trim the margins to make sure the artwork was flush with the edge of the paper. I didn’t trust my scissor skills to do it freehand and my attempts to use a razor and straight edge were not successful. I went to Staples and found a 15 inch rotary paper cutter for about $50. After a few practice sessions, I was able to do a pretty solid job cutting the excess away. I could have cut the map halves so that each would have a full row Q, but decided to keep only a small overlap, with each half getting roughly 60% of row Q. As for the overlays, I decided to laminate them first before cutting them out.

Mark and I discussed whether to laminate the sheets or not. He decided not to laminate his maps, relying on the use of poster frames to protect them; I wanted the extra protection of the lamination. A lot of my decision was based on the fact that I did not want to rely on getting damaged maps reprinted from a printer half the world away. My wife had bought a pouch laminator that could handle the ledger/A3 documents, and I felt it did a good job generating enough heat to prevent the lamination from getting fogged up. I scanned the internet of a place that sold ledger (or menu) sized 3 mil lamination pouches. I chose the 3 mil over the 5 mil pouches to keep the weight of the finished map bundle down and keep them less rigid. Before laminating them, I wrote my name and board number on the back of each board.

After lamination the boards, I used the rotary cutter again to trim off the excess laminate. I kept a very small (1/8 inch or less) amount of laminate past the edge of the cardstock. I didn’t want, and don’t think I needed, more than that to keep the laminate from peeling off the map. These aren’t restaurant menus; the maps aren’t handled that frequently. As for the final step, cutting out the larger overlays (especially laminated ones) is just as laborious as cutting out the normal sized ones. The overlays were cut primarily with scissors, saving the deep corners for a xacto knife.
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Miikka Sohlman
Finland
Lahti
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I live in the city of Gulf, on the shores of Lake Water. This fun fact has nothing to do with this badge you're pointing at.
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You couldn't have posted your experiences at a better time. I'm just about to start my own embark on this project. I've bought a scanner and I'm anticipating a LOT of work with photoshop. I'm familiar with smart blur and smart sharpen ("unsharp mask" filter is also good). The grainy look is called Moiré patterns. Here's some tips how to get rid of it (I'm not talking just to you since you already know this stuff, I'm informing others who might wonder why their scans look bad):
http://www.scantips.com/basics06.html (more in next pages)

I'm wondering how the heck do I harmonize the colors between maps, or even in the same map since on some maps the green is greener on the other half.. (and I'm talking about the map bundle which should have exact same colors but they don't). So thanks for your experiences.

My strategy will be scanning with some ridiculous high resolution like 1200x1200 (or even 2400x2400 if I could figure out how to keep it "running out of memory"...), do the touch ups and finally both reduce the resolution to 300x300 and enlarge the physical size to something between 140 - 150% (haven't decided yet)

So much work ahead, I'll probably do 5 or 10 maps at a time, starting from most popular ones, before printing them..
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Geo
Greece
Athens
Marousi
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When i want to enlarge a map i go to my local photocopy center. They scan the map with 30% enlargement and print it directly. They can also laminate extra large maps (sizes above A3 which my laminator can't handle) but it is not exactly cheap...

Another option if you want to enlarge only a few maps is to use Hexdraw which has specific tools for designing ASL maps and recreate your maps. It will take some time but then you are not limited to a specific size (the program uses vectors so even if you enlarge the map a lot you will not lose any detail).

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Jeff Coyle
United States
Leesburg
Virginia
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Good luck on your project Miikka! It is a LOT of effort, but I am very happy with the results.

I would experiment with different scan resolutions. I found that higher resolution scans don't really provide better quality images.

If you want to talk through strategies on getting a consistent color, just drop me a line. I can even provide you a sample file if that would help.
 
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Mack McGraw
United States
Louisiana
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Any body know how to add hexes to a map?
 
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R. Beef
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canonierhistory wrote:
Any body know how to add hexes to a map?


Talk to a witch - maybe Dion Warwick?

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Pierce Ostrander
United States
Savannah
Georgia
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Hi Guys,

I have scanned and enlarged the maps too. My set is on 1/8th-inch thick epson enhanced-matte posterboard (clearcoated) for the ultimate playing surface. I printed them at home and it still cost me big, big bucks.

My "tweak" on this was to re-print the Deluxe Maps (and overlays) in a smaller hex size, I think the deluxe hexes are just too big. As of today you are talking about 84 maps to get the whole system (assuming you want to do the SK too).

After much agonizing I went with 150%. They are an absolute joy to play on.

Here is an image of a half-map before cutting:



Here is an image of the maps being clearcoated:
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Pierce Ostrander
United States
Savannah
Georgia
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Next Spring my wife and I will be returning to the Nomadic life which means that once again I need to sell off most of my game collection. There are a few games I will not part with - one of which is ASL.

However, Since my extra-large maps are on 1/8" thick card stock I cannot justify keeping them. Instead, I will reluctantly return to playing on the smaller maps.

Is anyone interested in a complete set of 150% maps?

Best Regards,

Foob

Update: maps are gone. Sold in March 2012.
 
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Dave Terhune
United States
Colorado Springs
Colorado
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This overtext is a blatant example of frivolous spending.
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fubar awol wrote:
Is anyone interested in a complete set of 150% maps?

Probably. What kind of price range are we talking?
 
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United States
Norwood
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The Wife and the nomadic life? Or, ASL on larger maps?

You're making the wrong choice buddy - roll for morale and come to your senses....

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Pierce Ostrander
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Savannah
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UPDATE: Here are some more thoughts on "ASL mapboardology". At some point, I'm going to do a post and integrate everything I know about it.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/1276631/advanced-squad-le...
 
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