Stamen's watercolour maps are things of great beauty - now there's a print version

17 April 2012

My favourite thing about the internet is how it facilitates communities coming together around any number of specialist and obscure interests, so that whatever floats your boat you can easily find and connect with like-minded obsessives.

The mapping community (my new favourite community) was a flutter with excitement a couple of weeks back when superb San Francisco studio Stamen released the second part of their city tracking project, particularly with regards to the eye-meltingly gorgeous watercolour style.

There’s a wealth of informative documentation of the work over on Stamen’s blog, from detailed techy stuff (if you’re a member of the coding community) to fascinating insights into how the aesthetics came together.


Stamen: Washington DC

In one post, Geraldine Sarmiento explains the painstaking process of developing the colour palette, which she started by hand.

She says: “I went through many rounds of painting and testing, experimenting with other types of brushes as I went along, as well as painting on smooth to rough varieties of paper. For the final product, a variety of brushes and papers were used depending on the desired result. For example, the rougher papers added that extra texture needed for ground areas. It was fun to mix it all up to convey a variety of terrain.

“The process of going back and forth from painting to the computer became a continuous cycle. Midway through as I became more and more familiar with the outcome of how the actual texture would appear on the screen when tiled, my painting process became more specific to achieve the desired texture, color, darkness, stroke, range of value that I wanted for each feature on the map.”

The results are staggering with the skill and patience of the Stamen team shining through in the final designs. And just when we thought it couldn’t get much better, over on the Newspaper Club blog we learn that Stamen have produced an absolutely beautiful newspaper for the Where 2.0 conference featuring their handiwork in all its glory. Lovely, lovely work.


Stamen: New York City


Stamen: Los Angeles


The newspaper (picture via The Newspaper Club)

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About the Author

Rob Alderson

Rob joined It’s Nice That as Online Editor in July 2011 before becoming Editor-in-Chief and working across all editorial projects including, Printed Pages, Here and Nicer Tuesdays. Rob left It’s Nice That in June 2015.

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