Tower Ruins by a Stream

An idyllic forest stream with a ruined tower and partially-submerged bridge.

The most-refined and polished version of this map. Created in Procreate on my iPad Pro.

Somewhere in the forest, not so deep that it won’t be found nor so close to the edge that it gets a lot of traffic, you may come across this burbling stream. On a small rise to the north lie the ruins of an old tower, its stone walls crumbling under the weight of time. It’s been left alone long enough that the forest has begun to reclaim the land it occupies. To the southeast, near where the slope of the hill is more gentle, there’s a section of stream that has begun to overflow its banks a bit, carving a wider channel. In this wider, deeper area, a sturdy bridge of hardier construction than the tower endures. Why is it so much better off than the structure to its north? What might be lurking in or under the tower’s foundations? That pool around the bridge may be deeper than it seems at first glance…

This map began as one of my MT-10 exercises posted on Instagram.

I felt like stretching a bit, and figuring out maybe how to do some of this on my iPad Pro. There was recently an update to Linea Sketch, so I started there. But I quickly ran into what I felt were limitations around canvas size/resolution and the number of layers. I like how it implements the paper texture, and the colored-pencil look is initially what I had in mind, but I hated how I had to keep merging down layers to add a new one. I didn’t have a lot of flexibility in doing things non-destructively. I also like that Linea Sketch has a grid by default, built right in, but that could use some more configurable options.1

A map of a ruined tower by a stream rendered in a faux colored-pencil style.
Although I like the textured-paper and colored-pencil aesthetic that Linea Sketch gave me, I wasn't really happy with its flexibility.

Procreate, however, feels really high-end. I can work at a much-higher resolution and the only limit to the number of layers is memory as a function of the resolution I choose (the higher the resolution/canvas size, the fewer layers).2 Beyond the canvas size, Procreate feels a lot closer to the Photoshop toolset I’m familiar with. Tons of brushes built-in, familiar layer blending modes, masking, layer groups… It’s definitely pro. One of the downsides, which Linea Sketch shares, is that brush sizes aren’t specific pixel sizes. So where I’m used to setting a 6px brush, for example, in Photoshop, I haven’t quite figured out what that would be in Procreate. Everything seems to be in percentages. (Linea is limited to just small, medium, and large.)

While Procreate operates at a higher level of fidelity than Linea, the price of that large toolbox is…fiddly-ness. Just like in Photoshop, all the dials and switches and sliders mean it’s easy to get lost in the options. Also it’s easy to lose track of what you were adjusting and forget how to get back to what you had before. In addition to learning how to draw, I need to learn how to use the tools. Fortunately, the makers of Procreate [literally wrote the book on that][procreate-book]. There’s also a pretty active forum populated by professional artists. I’ll probably be digging into that more in the future.

Another bonus of Procreate: by default, they record your work for playback and export. They also track time spent and strokes made in the course of making your art, for the metadata nerd inside all of us.3 They make it easy to share fancy-looking process videos:

After trying out both apps, I think I’m going to stick with Procreate for my map-making. It has a more familiar-looking toolset, close enough toe the Photoshop I know, and it’s going to have a much-higher high end in case I want to print anything or produce for larger formats. I look forward to learning how to use it better.

Do you have an opinion on either Procreate or Linea Sketch? Or on how I’ve used either of them? Drop me a line or hit me up on Twitter.

  1. Procreate doesn’t currently offer any grids at all, except with a custom brush. 

  2. Linea is limited to 5 layers and the resolution of the iPad screen. Procreate can go up to 4K (4096px × 1714px) or so, depending on the shape of your canvas. This map was made at 3600px × 2700px, at 300dpi, with a maxium of 51 layers. I used 23. Numbers! 

  3. Procreate says this map took 3626 strokes and ~7h 3m to complete. Yikes. 

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