How to Make a Giant Antique-Looking Map

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At my daughter's hobbit-themed birthday party, I knew I wanted to use some of Tolkien's original art from The Hobbit.  I've always loved the fact that Tolkien did his own illustrations, and wanted to pull that into the party design.

I used a map of the Wilderland as a backdrop for the dessert table.

And a map of the Shire instead of a tablecloth.

How much do you think I spent on these large-scale pieces of party decor?  Guess!

$2.50.  That's right.  That's the kind of budget I like!  And I had materials left over!

Start with a roll of banner paper from the craft store.  That's where my entire $2.50 budget went for this craft.  I cut a five foot long section of paper, and taped it down to my kitchen island.  You could easily do this on the floor if you don't have a big table or counter to use.  I did the map of the Shire on the floor.

Next, I pulled out my watercolors.  You could use watered down, inexpensive acrylic paint for this, too.  I happened to already have watercolors, though.  I used three different colors in browns and golds, because I was going for an aged parchment kind of look.

No fancy equipment here--I used a scrunched up paper towel to apply the paint.  Make sure it's nice and watery, so the colors blend really well together, and you don't end up with distinct lines and sections.  Between the water and the extremely thin, cheap paper I used, I got a really awesome parchment-like texture to the paper when it dried.

Once the paper was completely dry, I got out my black sharpie and a gold marker and started drawing, using the illustrated map in the book as a reference.  The look of the map taken as a whole is kind of intimidating, but break it down, and it's completely doable.  I drew the rivers in place first, then filled in around them.  

Look closely at each element of the drawing.  These are not complicated illustrations.  Some waves for water (sloppy ones at that!).  Squiggly lines for rivers.  Scribbles for grasslands.  Lots of blobs for the trees in Mirkwood forest.  I promise, these are not hard things to draw.  You just need to break them down into their elements, and then repeat.  A lot.

This did take me a couple hours to draw.  It is not a particularly fast craft.  I'm much more interested in investing time than actual money in my parties and props, so this doesn't bother me at all.  I'm a DIY-er.  I have fun doing the projects and I get to save tons of money.  Yay!

Plus, Drew asked if he could have the maps to decorate his cubicle at Halloween.  His company always does a decorating contest and invites all the employees' kids over to trick-or-treat one afternoon, and I think Drew is gunning to win this year.  I'll have to get around to making him that Gandalf costume!  (Side bonus:  he's been an 18th century French highwayman ala Brotherhood of the Wolf for about 10 years in a row now.  Time for a new costume, even though that one is pretty awesome.)

Nicole Wills, creator of Tikkido

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