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How to draw isometric dungeon plans

There are some classic isometric dungeon maps out there, particularly those of castle ravenloft - the original David Sutherland maps inspired the styles of all maps of that castle that have come since. It's also a style beloved of computer games, most notably the Diablo series.

Creating an isometric map is actually pretty easy:
1. First draw out your floor plan as if it were top down. Place lines for all the elements on the ground - walls, doors, outlines of pit traps. I draw these lines on a separate layer from the grid as it keeps everything organised.
2. Make it isometric! Rotate the map 45 degrees. Then you shrink the map vertically by 57.7%.
3. The great thing about isometric maps are the vertical details you can throw in there. Find every corner, and draw a vertical line to show wall edges. Focus on the edges that don't obscure details further away. Here I've added the most detail where the detail doesn't overlap the actual floorplan. Fill in the blank space with sketched stone texture, add in illustrated doors, throw in some lines to show the rough stone in natural stone tunnels and give the viewer an idea of just how deep the spiked pit trap is. Again, I add these details on a separate layer to make it easy to erase mistakes without rubbing out the floor lines.

Remember that the primary goal of the map is to show the floorplan and allow for easy use for a GM. The extra detail that an isometric map provides can really sell the setting of a map, but it's also easy to obscure important features.

This originally appeared on G+ here: [link]
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AtomicMaps's avatar

Thanks for the tutorial. Very helpful!

ShadowBane22's avatar
May I ask what program you used to create this map? I'm using Krita to draw the 2 dimensional picture, but I don't believe it has the capability to vertically shrink the image by 57.7%
ShadowBane22's avatar
My apologies, I was able to figure it out.
MattRIllustration's avatar
dcofjapan's avatar
so as long as people are vertical and to scale they are fine?
Hi, thanks for this interesting tuto ; 
As you mention the 57,7% ratio it may be worth to mention why and maybe suggest to use a 50% if done with a computer at low resolution ...
More info here…
Great instructional drawing!
Senecal's avatar
Talatsu's avatar
Beautiful, very very useful.
Lubidius's avatar
Absolutely beautiful write-up. I will be using this method. Very nicely done.
torstan's avatar
Thanks! I'm glad it's useful.
jingobingonfinky's avatar
Ok, this requires some software and probably reading at least a tutorial or two if you have no experience but -

draw the line map out in 2d as per usual. Either directly in a traditional piece of art software or on paper then scanned. Load up your choice of 3d package. Create a single plane. Apply the texture of your 2d map to the plane. Adjust your viewpoint to how you like, isometric or not. Render ! If you know what you are doing this is the work of a bare couple of minutes to instantly transform a flat line map into the basis for an isometric - or any other kind of perspective map !
torstan's avatar
That's a cute tip for instantly turning your line art into a base :) Thanks!
Kurocyn's avatar
This is actually very useful.

My work often deals with Isometrics (generating, reading, etc), and more often than not, finding the proper 'graph' paper is difficult. Simply using regular graph paper, rotating, and shrinking is perfect.

Thank you. :+fav:

torstan's avatar
You're welcome - it hadn't occurred to me either for quite a while. You can also find pretty much any type of graph paper over here if you need it: [link] or [link]
MindoftheMasons's avatar
I don't know why Step 2 has never occurred to me haha. I have seen plenty of maps out there that are like Step 3. Thanks for the little tip there. Will have to play around with that when I go to make some dungeon maps :)
torstan's avatar
I'm glad you found it useful! I landed on that after I had to do a lot of maps in fairly short order and needed a quicker way to convert the floorplans to isometric.
MindoftheMasons's avatar
What is awesome about making maps like this from an artist perspective is that you see the same aerial view. having just the simple graphic like the example provided adds so much detail and attraction to the simplest little dungeon.

Definitely an eye opener seeing the transition and reading your few tips here. Also look forward to your Cartography posts ;)
torstan's avatar
Thanks! I'm glad you're enjoying them. I'm trying to keep the tips semi-regular. Make sure to let me know if there's something you'd specifically like to see covered.
MindoftheMasons's avatar
Yeah, keep them coming :D I am pretty savvy with Photoshop so it's cool seeing or reading tips I haven't tried before.

I think what I tend to focus on when I see new maps is the depth of cliffs/terrain. Just get a kick out of them for inspiration when making my maps. Anyways, Good job as usual and I look forward in seeing more work from ya ;)
torstan's avatar
Good call on that, I'll see if I can put something together for impressions of depth.

The tips go up directly on fb and G+ (the easiest place to find them) and here. It's really a matter of picking your poison for keeping up with them.
MindoftheMasons's avatar
Yeah I followed your link on this post to G+. Now following ;)
Chanimur's avatar
Yeah, really! I would've never thought to shrink it down like that to force the perspective. Genius!
Zephirice's avatar
awesome ! thanks for sharing !
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