When I am on the go I do my adventure map building on the iPad in a graphics application titled: Clip Studio Paint. The app is also available on the Desktop and the great benefit of the app is that there is little to no difference between the Desktop version and the iPad version. So the steps below will work the same if you are on the Desktop or if you are working on an iPad.
Step #1: Setup the Map Canvas
The first thing you are going to need to do is setup the map canvas you plan to create your adventure map on. When you do this your going to need to take into consideration how large your map is going to be.
Because we are using map tiles from Studio WyldFurr, we need to think about the number of 5ft grid squares in height and width the map will be, for example a 50ft square map is 10 grid squares in width and height.
Studio WyldFurr’s Map Tiles are all 180 pixels square, thus we need to multiple the number of grid squares by 180 to get the number of pixels in width or height our map canvas needs to be. Thus a map that is going to be 10 grid squares in width and height, is going to be 1800 pixels in height and width.
Now that we know how many pixels in width and height we want our map to be, we can start to setup the map canvas. We do this by clicking on File and then on New… to open the New Canvas options panel.
Then we begin by selecting illustration in the Use of Work options at the top of the panel. Doing so will configure the rest of the panel with the options we want to set. There is an option titled Unit, make sure this is set to PX for pixels.
Set the height and width sections to the pixel sizes you have worked out for your map, in the example I provided above we want to set both of these to 1800 for a ten grid map canvas.
Resolution should be set to 72 dpi, while the Basic Expression Color should be set to Color.
Now that you have all of that configured, you can click on the OK button at the top of the panel to create your map canvas.
Step #2: Setup the Canvas
Having created a blank canvas you need to setup a grid so that the map tiles will snap into place as you place them on the canvas. We do this by clicking on View and then Grid/Ruler Settings… to display the Grid and Ruler settings Control Panel. In this panel we have two options to set, I often set the Origin of Grid/Ruler option to Center, this generates the grid from the center of the map. You could leave it at Top Left as that works fine too.
The next option set is the Settings of Grid options, here we want to set the Gap (D) option to 180 pixels, and the Number of Divisions to 1.
Once those settings are good, click on the OK button to close that panel.
You will notice that the map canvas does not look any different even though we made those grid settings, that is because we need to set the app to show the grid on the canvas. We do this by clicking on View and then on Grid. Clicking on View > Grid turns the grid on or off.
Step #3: Setup Layer Folders
To make map building easy, I recommend setting up a number of folders in the Layers Pallet. This will help you organize the map tiles as you place them on the canvas. The folders I create when building a map are: Ground, Floor, Walls, and Features. The older the folders take in the layers menu is also important, you want Ground on the bottom, Floor on top of it, and then Walls, with Features at the top. You need to do this because layers are rendered from the top down. So if the Ground folder was above the Walls folder, the walls artwork would be obscured by the Ground folder artwork.
Now that you have the folders ready, you can begin to place map tiles onto the canvas.
Step #4: Placing Map Tiles on the Canvas
To place a map tile upon the canvas you need to click on File / Import / Image…
Doing so will open up the file browser window, navigate to where you have saved your map tiles and select on the image you wish to import and click OK. The image will appear on the canvas, select it in the Layers pallet and drag-n-drop it into the right folder, eg: Put Wall tiles into the Walls folder, a floor tile into the Floor folder. Then move the tile into the place you want it on the canvas.
Repeat this process for each map tile you want to add to the canvas.
This method is the only downside to building adventure maps with Clip Studio Paint. On the desktop version of the App, you can not just drag-n-drop images from outside the App and drop them onto the map canvas. But this is how you have to access map tiles via DropBox on the iPad.
Build up your adventure map by placing each map tile block until you have the map how you want it to look. Then perhaps add in art assets such as furniture or other props.
Step #5: Save a Working Copy
Now that you have constructed your map, it is time to save a working copy of your canvas. You need to save a working copy so that you can come back later and make adjustments to the map (or if your not finished, continue working on the map).
To save a working copy of the canvas, click on File, and then click on Save As… from the drop down menu. This will open the Save As Menu panel which will prompt you to name your file, and to select where you want to save it. The type of file you will be saving is a Clip Studio Format file, which has the file extension of .clip on the end of the file name.
Once saved, you can re-open the file any time you like (on Desktop or iPad) and all of the folders, layers will be intact ready for you to edit.
Step #6: Save a JPG Copy for the Virtual Tabletop
When you have completed working on your map to the point that you are ready to let your players explore it, you will want to save a compressed JPG image of the map that you can use in a virtual tabletop app such as Fantasy Grounds, Astral, Roll20, or D20Pro, etc.
To save a JPG copy of the canvas, click on File and then click on Export (Single Layer) from the drop down menu. This will open the Export (Single Layer) panel which will prompt you for a file name and a location where you want to save the file. Name the file whatever you want, but it will need .jpg as the file extension.
When you click OK the JPEG Export Options panel will appear. In the JPEG Settings section, keep the Quality setting between 60 to 70. This represents the quality of the image, but also the amount of image file compression employed. The higher the quality setting, the less image compression, the larger the file size. The lower the quality, the main pixelated the image will become, the higher the image compression, the smaller the file size.
Down in the Output Size options, select Specify Output Size. Make certain the width and height matches the width and height in pixels of your map canvas.
Once your happy with the settings, click the OK button to save out a JPG image of your map.
…and that is how it is done…