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Easy Isometric Maps for Maptool or how to move tokens in your notebooks

Note: before reading this article, you should make sure that you have added the isometric movement capacity to your Maptool framework. If not, you'll find all about it HERE.

1- How to add isometric blank maps to your Maptool campaign
The easiest kind of isometric maps are empty maps with blank isometric grid where you can draw with Maptool drawing tools.
- save the following files found HERE to your hard drive:
- Open Maptool > Map > New Map. Click the Background button, choose Texture, locate the files you saved just above and choose one of them.

- Choose the drawing tools and draw on the isometric background (if you like to draw directly your maps within Maptool, I can not stress enough how useful a cheap drawing tablet can be).

If you use those backgrounds, it shall not only help you to draw maps with the drawing tools, but it shall also help you lining isometric maps that you can convert from  usual squared maps. And you'll have the capacity to expand them when your players leave the map placed on the background.

2- How to transform any squared map into an isometric one in five easy steps
This part has already been explained in a previous blog post, but I thought it was interesting to repeat it here.

Step 1 - open the squared map in Photoshop or GIMP (free image manipulation program, download HERE).

Step 2 - count the number of squares of the map in width and height, add them, divide by two, take note of the result (the multiplier that we shall use to resize later)

Step 3 - rotate 45° or -45° (Photoshop: Image>Image Rotation>Arbitrary (45°); GIMP: Rotate Tool (45° or -45°)>Rotate; Image> Fit Canvas to Layer)

Step 4 - resize (Height= multiplier*100 pixels; Width= multiplier*200 pixels)
It is not true isometric, but they are the proportions used in Jagged Maptool version. You could, of course use other dimensions as long as the proportion (width=2X height) is kept, but 100 and 200 work quite well without bloating the file size.
(Photoshop: Image>Image Size  ; GIMP: Image> Scale Image  )

Step 5 - (Photoshop Save as png; GIMP Export in png)

3- Playing on your notebook sketches
The system explained above shall work with any kind of squared map, the maps that you'll find in scenarios, for exemple.

But I find the result particularly striking with sketched maps. Yes, the same map that you draw for yourself, to prepare your game session.

Here is an example made from a crude sketch I did draw on my Moleskine notepad. The map was sketched with the idea of every 5mm square representing a square of the battlemap. The sketch was scanned at 300 dpis. Then it was rotated and resized using the process explained above.
The result, here under, doesn't look very artistic, but it would work for gaming:

if you want to download the map at full size, click HERE


There is a real pleasure in playing games on your own sketches and doodles. It really makes your ideas come alive in a way no other setup does. You could almost think that you are playing inside your notebook, which is almost the case, after all. That's the way I am mostly playing now.

What is absolutely fascinating is that playing with a VTT this way, doesn't add work or prep time, because you play directly within the sketches made within your notes or within the maps included in the scenario if it is a commercial one.
Coupled with the use of my almost universal framework for Maptool, it has cut my prep time to the time needed to normally prepare a scenario with no time added for the VTT part.
I am quite happy with that.

For my own gaming this year, I intend to use mostly sketched maps with isometric figures. I probably won't post the maps in the blog, because, as you can see here above, it is really easy to make your own with free tools. But I'll certainly post the figures, if there is any interest.