Data + Design Project

Stamen’s New Web App Draws Watercolor Maps

Monday 03.26.2012 , Posted by
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Some people just see the world in a more colorful way… and this new web app from Stamen proves it. Working much like any other web based mapping system, users simply type in what town or city they want to see and swish… the page is populated with a beautifully rendered watercolor-like map. Towns appear awash in colorful blues, greens and reds that neatly bleed into their neighbors in gradient pools. Lines appear sometimes wide and sometimes narrow in the organic, rounded style of the wet art form.

Reminiscent of hand-drawn maps, the fascinating images are actually an applied raster effect with area washes and organic edges over a paper texture. The effect can be applied to any map, but in this case they are using data from Open Street Map.

So is the map useful? Not really, but that’s hardly the point. The app makes little use of geographic data beyond the layout of streets and land masses. What it does show, however, is one way future app creators can quickly modify their product to highly different appearances. Take for example the two other versions of the app from Stamen: one that is traditionally terrain based and another named Toner, which includes extensive labeling and endearingly appears as if it were created using the original Mac. The three maps are instantly accessible on Stamen’s site here.

Oh… and in case you were wondering, the project was inspired by the successful Kickstarter campaign, Bicycle Portraits.

The effects apply to the maps so quickly, a live view of them side-by-side is viewable on their site.

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Benjamin Starr

Written by Benjamin Starr



Known in some circles as the most amazing man in the universe, he once saved an entire family of muskrats from a sinking, fire engulfed steamboat while recovering from two broken arms relating to a botched no-chute wingsuit landing in North Korea. When not impressing people with his humbling humility, he can be found freelance writing, finding shiny objects on the internet, enjoying the company of much-appreciated friends and living out his nomadic nature. He is Managing Editor of Visual News. Follow his movements on Twitter:

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