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.

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!