An expanding marketplace of mobile photography apps brings the smartphone and tablet into the world of art photography tools. But can these apps also help you make a visual statement with your map images?
One popular app is Tangled FX, available for iOS devices. Created by Orange Qube (http://www.orangeqube.com), Tangled FX features nine effects ranging from sharpening and smudging to hue and gamma control. Using TangledFX helps smooth details and generalize the forms of a complex terrain.
While Tangled FX is famous for transforming detail into wispy tangles, the controls for the effects are versatile enough to smooth rough detail and generalize features in a terrain image.
With the power of iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad, it’s easy to style a cartographic image from the convenience of a couch or coffeehouse. I use Tangled FX on an iPad mini 4. Below, I’ll show two versions of Martinique created with Tangled FX.
Tangling a Scanned Map
For the first version, I opened a scan of an 1851 French nautical chart of Martinique in the Pixelmator app (http://www.pixelmator.com). I adjusted image levels and erased the labels and lines surrounding the island. Then, using the Adjust Color controls, I changed the original sepia tint to a yellow-green and saved the image as a JPEG file.
In Tangled FX, I opened the JPEG and began editing the controls. First, I moved the Smudge slider to the right to generalize the terrain details into simpler and more sinuous features. Boosting the color and gamma, I gave the greens greater vibrancy. The result is a highly stylized image of Martinique’s terrain.
Tangling a Terrain Image
For the second version, I started by downloadeing elevation data to a Mac mini and applying terrain manipulation and colorization tools in Natural Scene Designer (https://www.naturalgfx.com). I saved the resulting terrain render as a JPEG file.
Opening the JPEG file in Tangled FX on my iPad, I used a preset formula to begin styling the terrain. (When you create a pleasing visual effect, save your customized settings as a new preset that you can then apply to other images.) For this version of Martinique, I aimed for more terrain detail than displayed in the first version.
Comparing the Tangled FX terrain with the original image from Natural Scene Designer, the Tangled FX image has a smoother, more plastic appearance. Sinewed forms remain but are minimized.
Several other popular apps offer unique editing capabilities for images. Paper by FiftyThree (https://www.fiftythree.com/paper) provides a canvas and several tools that mimic traditional media, such as a watercolor brush, ink pen, and pencil. FiftyThree also produces a pressure-sensitive stylus called the Pencil. While the Pencil works with the creation tools, it also changes your finger into a smoothing tool.
While the Paper app can import an existing image, at present the imported image remains uneditable. Using the imported image as a guide, draw or paint on top of it with the brush and other tools. When done, simply delete the underlying imported image to display your artistic handiwork.
Enjoy styling terrain and other cartographic images on your smartphone or tablet. And share your results with us!