A Map of Arrakis (Dune)

For my next project I wanted something more complicated. As the new Dune film is out, and I’m a total Dune fan, I thought a map of Arrakis would be pretty cool.

The Map

Unlike Mars, there’s no geo data for Arrakis as (a) it doesn’t exist, and (b) no one’s done it yet :D. But, there is a polar projection map! I found this Reddit thread where someone has taken a bitmap scan from somewhere and drawn a vector version. Here’s the original bitmap.

At the bottom left, there’s the original author’s name, Dorothy de Fontaine. Interestingly, it is spelt incorrectly, which implies this bitmap may have been reprocessed, or else an error in the original publication. I’d wondered if this came from The Dune Encyclopedia, but I consulted my copy, and there was no map:

I did do some quick research into Dorothy de Fontaine: it seems she was a cartographer in New Canaan, Connecticut. I wasn’t able to find much else besides a death notice, but I bet she would have been interesting to speak to.

Anyway, I have vector map data, lets investigate it!

Problems with the vector map

Hmm, the main problem is it has been clearly machine converted from a bitmap. Instead of solid (or dashed lines), you end up with the following transformation:

As you can see the dashed lines in the Illustrator file aren’t actually lines! they’re separate rectangular blocks, useless for my purposes. I spent a few hours trying to make Inkscape stitch them together again with absolutely no luck: I ended up just redrawing most of it myself one evening. My technique is to draw quickly it using the freehand tool, use the simplify tool, then adjust each line segment with the node tool to make it match as closely as I can.

Once I had sorted that out, I wanted a better font than in the Illustrator file:

I tried running it through FontSquirrel again, with no luck… which is kinda obvious in retrospect since its clearly handwritten.

So, this time, I used identifont: rather than uploading an image, it asks you questions about the font to find one that is close. Eventually, I found that Lexon Gothic was pretty close: not identical, but close enough to keep me happy.

There were a couple of spelling mistakes in the Illustrator file, as well as a few cases of misapplied symbology (eg, I doubt you’d have a Pyon village outside the Shield Wall: hmm, did I mention I was a Dune fan? 😀 ).

At this point I did a die cutter test with a cheap ballpoint pen:

Interpreting the Map

Next task was to interpret the map: there’s clearly different elevations involved. In the end, I found four distinct layers:

  • The Desert.
  • The Safety of Rock.
  • The Desert within the Shield wall.
  • There are a couple of depressions within the main Desert as well.

Choosing the Colours

I split my new vector file up into layers so I could the colours of layers easily and started playing around (and checking what card I had available). I eventually ended up with a selection of reds and blacks as follows:

Preparing to Cut

This is much more complicated than anything I’d tried before! I have four separate layers of card, all different colours, with designs cut into them, and also designs drawn on them in silver pen. I reorganised my Inkscape file layers and split things up so I could easily draw/cut the cards:

The layers starting with D are Drawing layers, those starting with C are Cutting layers. I use multiple Drawing layers at once; maintaining the separation between different things being drawn (even if on the same physical layer) really helps editing!

There is some duplication between layers, especially for text. Text commonly appears across multiple physical layers, so it needs drawn on all of them: parts of the same string from different layers will show through the cuts.

Drawing/Cutting Process

  1. I put the silver pen tool into the die cutter along with the card for layer 1 on the cutting mat.
  2. I display all layers starting with D1 and draw them with silver pen.
  3. I hide them and display the C1 layer.
  4. Then I remember to swap the pen for the cutting tool (grrr!)
  5. I cut the card.
  6. Carefully remove it from the cutting mat and stick the card for layer 2 onto it.
  7. Repeat the process for layers 2,3 and 4 (there’s no cutting step for layer 4).

Once I’d finished (with a few accidents with the cutting tool), I had these physical layers:

Final Result

Putting it all together gives the final result:

I’m extremely happy with it! In fact, its really strongly reminding me of the colour scheme on ancient Grecian vases:

That is a total accident on my part, but its quite relevant given the Greek myths inspiring Dune.

Oh, here’s a pic of the vector design in Inkscape:

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