DIY: How to Draw a Treasure Map

Updated: 12 Jan 2021

How to draw an antique pirate map

In this guide, I will demonstrate how I draw maps (including with colors), and my technique for transforming a paper sheet to look like an antique scroll or an old treasure map.

It is best to use quality paper for pencil drawing but regular paper, such as printer paper, will do fine too.

How to Create an Antique Looking Paper

Step 1: Burning the Paper's Edges

This step is optional.

Using fire is dangerous and produces smoke. It should be done outdoor and under a grownup supervision.

Burning the edges of a paper Burning the edges of the paper
Paper with burnt edges & antique look Paper with burnt edges

Step 2: Coloring the Paper Sheet

For an old and faded look, immerse the paper for several minutes in water with concentrated tea or coffee.

After receiving the desired shade, remove the paper from the dark liquid and let it dry on paper towels.

To speed up the drying process, it is possible to dry the paper outside or to use a hair dryer.

Dipping paper in dark liquid for antique look Dipping paper in tea
Drying the antique looking paper Drying on paper towels

Note:

It takes time to prepare an old looking paper and wait for it to dry. Therefore, it is advisable to prepare several paper sheets in advance.

Tip:

Crumpling the paper sheet before putting it in water will create wrinkles and an antique, ragged look to it.

How to Draw an Antique Treasure Map

Drawing an antique treasure map or a pirate scroll in 2 steps:

A ruler can be used.

Pencil drawing an antique pirate map Step 1: Pencil drawing
Pen drawing an antique treasure map Step 2: Technical pen drawing

Start by drawing with a pencil. When you reach the desired outcome, go over it with a pen and gently erase the pencil marks.

Supply for drawing:

For pencil drawing, visit my pencil drawing supply review.

A regular pen can be used, though drawing pens for artists (fine liners) are much better. These are my recommended technical pens.

Objects to Add for a Treasure Map

It is helpful to use reference photos or search the web for concept art to add to the pirate map.

Objects that can be added to a treasure map:

Legend: Understanding signs such as trails, trees, mountains, treasure, buildings, etc.

Map readability: Compass rose, scale bar, longitude, latitude and even altitude lines.

Marine symbols: Ship, anchor, steering wheel, marine navigation devices and so on.

Drawing of a treasure map on antique paper Antique looking treasure map

How to Draw a World Map

Once you create an antique looking paper, the possibilities are endless.

It does not have to be an old pirate or treasure map.

Another option is to create a world map.

Pencil drawing of a world map

The steps for creating a world map are the same.

Start by drawing with a pencil. Do it lightly so it is easy to erase.

Note: Sometimes it is convenient to draw with a mechanical pencil.

When you are satisfied with the result, draw with a technical pen.

Last step is painting with markers.

Painting a world map with markers

Here is my review for artist-grade markers.

As mentioned above, the options are vast. You can draw a city, maze, fantasy land or anything that comes to mind.

Homemade antique world map drawing World Map

How to Draw Maps with Colors

When drawing something from imagination, it is always good to look for some concept art and reference images.

For painting islands, I examined some photos of real islands. I noticed that in some cases, the edges of an island are darker.

Here are some tests with different colors (markers), to see what I like most:

Testing marker colors for drawing islands

When choosing colors, I pay attention to 4 attributes: hue, brightness value, saturation and temperature.

Color temperature is how cool or warm each color is.

In my guide on how to draw accurately from observation, I explain about color attributes.

Painting islands with markers

For the ocean, pay attention to transitions in brightness values.

Where the water is shallow, the color is lighter.

Painting the water around the island

Make it a habit to first test the colors you want to use.

Here I have done some tests in color transitions, and in drawing trees:

Testing transitions in water color

Maps are not limited to a view directly from above.

Sometimes, a view with an angle can add depth and be more interesting.

Two islands drawing with markers

To learn more about depth, visit my guide for drawing depth. It has 15 methods with examples for you to explore.

Tip:

For a smooth transition in brightness values (when using two markers or more), try both from light to dark, and from dark to light.

Different marker brands will produce different results.

Transitions in brightness values with markers

The amount of details to put in a map is either a personal preference, or a project requirement.

In the next example, I was asked to draw a cover for a music album. It is full of details (as requested).

Island drawing for music album cover

Drawing with fewer details is ok too. We can always add details if we want to.

Treasure map drawing with markers

Summary

When drawing maps, let your imagination take over.

Planning, drawing some sketches first, and testing colors are the key to success.

Once you tested and sketched your map, you can go for the final drawing with confidence.

Where to go next?

For drawing your own concept art or product design, learn how to draw from imagination.

If you like drawing nature, visit my guides on how to draw flowers with a pen and how to draw any tree with a pen (in a realistic style).

If you want to learn to draw and paint online, here are my favorite YouTube painting channels.