Creating handdrawn maps recently became the biggest passion of mine. Recently - because for a while I wasn’t thinking that anyone would be interested in buying such maps or commissioning them. But then I started seeing maps on book covers, wedding invitations (what a great idea!), posters, «contact us» pages… And I realized - people need maps! And I want to create them. Looks like a perfect match!

This map of London that I want to show you today was created for an amazing company called Great Little Places and it will be sold as a poster on their website.


The first step in map creation is called gather references - list all buildings, objects, small things that should be present and could be present on the map. In this case client was kind enough to provide such list, which helped a lot.


Second step - thumbnail sketch. It’s really small and most of the times messy. Usually I don’t show this step to the client, as it may lead to the wrong impression of the future work.

Thumbnail of London map

On this stage I’m trying to figure out where on the map I have «crowded» areas (and which tourist attractions I should choose, as everything won’t fit) and where I have empty spaces. It happens all the time with maps.


As my style include evenly spread objects, I always try to find some symbols of the city/place that can occupy some space on the map and create the right atmosphere. In this case I decided to use red telephone booth, black cab, double decker bus, tea, crown. 

When I’m satisfied with the placing, I move to the clean sketch. As I don’t want to mess up proportions, I start from drawing «guidelines» for the future objects.

As I’m drawing all objects by hand (I love to preserve all this «handdrawn» texture), I need pretty big sketch - A2 size usually works. Using the thumbnail sketch and guidelines as a base I start drawing refined version of all objects. On this stage I’m using google (thank God we have Google Images!) and coffee a lot :)


The goal is to simplify all buildings/objects so they will look pretty and evenly detailed, yet will stay recognizable. At this point I’m adding lettering - in this case I’ve decided to use different styles for each tourist attraction.

After light-pencil stage comes refined pencil sketch. I know that later I’ll use this sketch to create inked version, so I need this pencil sketch to be nice and contrast. I prefer to work in analog mode as long as I can, I believe that this way illustrations feel much more «handmade» and unique.

This is the first version of the sketch that I showed the client:

Together with client we decided to remove Olympic park due to copyright issues, I found a nice replacement - V&A Museum of Childhood.

Client liked the whole concept and asked only to make some minor changes: remove «the» from «cutty sark», add word«station» to Battersea Power station.


I made those changes and I moved to the inking stage. As I said before, I’m trying to use analog as much as I can, therefore I inked all map with the help of my favorite pen - Pigma Micron.

Client asked to replace French house with Horniman Museum. Usually I try to maintain a healthy balance between buildings and objects and as museum’s building wasn’t that recognizable I decided to use another symbol - a big and cute walrus.

Client approved this version and I moved to the final stage - digitizing and coloring the artwork. As I had some objects that depended on a specific color (double decker should be red, black cab should be somewhat grey), I decided to use dark grey and red as my basic colors.


Here is the first colored version:

And three variations that I’ve made after client asked to play with color a bit more:

Client chose the original version. Here is the final artwork:

And some closeups:

It was so much fun creating this map for GreatLittleArtists! :)


By the way: if you need a map for your site, event, product, wedding, etc - I’m available for commissions!