Imagine if you searched Google Maps for a map of Boston and after a millisecond or two, you came face-to-face with a live watercolor map.
That’s what the developers at Stamen (http://maps.stamen.com/watercolor) have done, but not with Google. Instead, they threw their paint palettes in with OpenStreetMap. You can read about their technical feat here.
Turning hard-edged map imagery into watercolor takes a lot of patience and layering of special effects. Some of the time is spent experimenting with effects, which may involve filters and textures. And more time is consumed getting layer order and transparency just right. When the end result produces a gasp, “Wow!,” then experimentation is over (for the time being) and the results sent around for comments and accolades.
At the other end of the continuum, David Steele (https://twitter.com/Steeluloid) hand-paints custom watercolor maps. Rather than painting by algorithm, Steele employs paint, brushes, and water. His work can be seen at his website. Steele’s work appears in venues ranging from tourism guides to wedding invitations.
In a world where the idea of map is a ubiquitous Google map, it’s refreshing to see the work of Stamen and Steele.