Understanding the Effects Units


Whenever you add a new effect to a map in Campaign Cartographer, you are presented with a small choice about which effect units to use. In these article, I’d like to talk a little bit about these choices, what they really mean, and which setting to pick in each situation.

In general, the effects units affect how you specify effect sizes, such as the width of an edge fade, the length of a shadow and so on. It does not affect the strength of the effect (although changing the size of an effect, such as a glow, will indirectly make it feel stronger as well).

The three available settings are

  • Percent of View Width
    This setting makes all effect sizes depend on your current view. This means that effects will actually change as you zoom in and out of the map.
  • Map Units
    This setting means that all effect sizes are absolute, and expressed in the same units as your map is in. For example, a (non-metric) dungeon map is expressed in feet, so this options means that the sizes of the effects is expressed in feet as well.
  • Percent of Drawing Extents Width
    With this setting, the size of the effects depends on the size of your actual map. For example, if you set the length of a shadow effect to 1, and your map is 400 map units, than shadows will be 4 units long (1% of 400 is 4). As above, what a unit means is based upon your map type, for example feet in a dungeon or city map.

So, let us look into what the different settings are most appropriate for, along with some examples.

Grab the example map if you wish to check out my settings in detail.

Map Units

Map units are generally straight forward, you get exactly what you type. If you add a shadow to your map and set length to 10, the shadow will be exactly 10 map units long (which is equal to 10 feet in most dungeon/city maps, or 10 meters if you are using a metric template).

Of course, for this to work properly, it requires that you are understanding what map units are in the first place, and your map is scaled properly. A thorough discussions of map units, map scale and how it applies to your map as a whole is a bit beyond the scope of this article, but I recommend you check out my article Scale Matters for a more in-dept explanation of this. The important thing to remember here though is that scale is not an arbitrary thing in CC3+, and that map units represents real-world units. If you make a dungeon map in a size of 400 by 300 units, that dungeon map is 400 feet by 300 feet, and when you later tell your corridor tool to make corridors that are 10 wide, those corridors will be 10 feet wide. If you arbitrary decide that the corridor you just drew is 20 feet wide instead because you “wanted a bigger dungeon”, then all measurements will be wrong, including the effect sizing. So get map scale correct from the beginning, and everything is so much simpler for you.

Assuming your map is correctly scaled, this option is the most straight-forward, as you get exactly what you ask for, and it is easy to figure out the size you want.

In the example image at the top, you can see this setting being used for the leftmost text and column shadow. The text glow is set to 0.5 units, and the shadow is set to 10 units. Since these values are straight up map units, it means that the glow on the text is 0.5 feet and the shadow is 10 feet long. No blur on either to better see the edges of the effect. The difference to the other two examples are intentional, as I could easily have produced an example that looked identical for all three.

Percent of Drawing Extents Width

When using this setting, the value you specify is a percentage of the map with. For example, for the example drawing for this article, the map is 150 map units wide, so when the effect size for the is set to 10, that means that the effective length of the shadow is 15 map units (10% of 150 is 15).

The calculation is simple enough, but the main question here is why would you ever pick this setting over the map units one? It seems to just complicate things, right? The main use for this setting is in templates and effects presets. When you make a new map from a template using the new map wizard, you can set exactly what size you want for that map. For example it could be a small regional map 20 by 20 miles, or it could be a world map 20000 by 10000 miles, both of which can be made from the same template. But, different map sizes requires different sizing of the effects. For example, it is common to have a white outline on the text to make it visible. If the template just contains the effect preset with a fixed value, say 1 map unit, it will probably be way to large for the 20×20 map, while the outline would be so small as to be invisible on the huge continental map. On the other hand, if it was set to 1% of the map width instead, then it would show up as 0.2 units on the small map, and 200 units on the world map, ensuring proper visibility no matter the map size, without you having to tweak the effects after starting the map just to make them work at all.

So, the main use for using this setting is when you are making a template. In addition, if you plan to save it as a preset from the effects dialog, having the effect sizes in Percent of Drawing Extents Width ensures that the effects will automatically be correctly sized when you apply this preset to another map later, even if the map is of a completely different size.

There is one more scenario where this setting makes sense though, and that is if you re-scale your map. If you find that you need to change the scale of your map, perhaps scaling it by a factor of 2 to make everything larger, if you use this setting, the effects will automatically be resized too (simply because they will be calculated form the new larger map width now), while if you had been using Map Units for the effect setting, you would also need to go in and resize each effect to match the now bigger map.

In general, I recommend always sticking to this setting because of these advantages. Yes, you are not going to resize every map, or save every set of effects as presets or templates, but if this setting is uses throughout, you can always do so without the need any any additional actions to prepare it.

In the example image at the top, you can see this setting being used for the middle text and column shadow. The text glow is set to 0.5 units, and the shadow is set to 10 units. Since the map is 150 map units wide and these values are percentages, then this results in a text glow of 0.75 feet and a shadow of length 15 feet.

Percent of View Width

This is perhaps the most unique of the settings, since this relates to the current view. That means that as you zoom in and out, or just resize the CC3+ window, the size of effects will change. The main use for this effect is when you intend to use the map in CC3+ itself (or the free viewer).

My favorite use of this setting is with the outline of text. For the outline to be visible on a large map when you are zoomed all the way out, it needs to be pretty large, but as you zoom in, you don’t need it to be that large. With this setting, it will follow the display window size, meaning that the on-screen size will stay the same, but it will be smaller in relation to the other entities as you zoom in, instead of getting bigger when you zoom as it would using one of the other settings.

The image below shows all the three texts at different zoom levels. Notice how the glow around the “Map Size” text stays the same size (in relation to the text), while the glow around “View Size” seems to shrink in relation to the text as we zoom in. Of course, if you look at the sizes in an absolute context, the “Map Size” one grows as we zoom in, while the “View Size” stays the same.

As stated above, the main reason for using this setting is when viewing the map in CC3+. When you export to a file or print the map, the view size will be the entire map so the setting will behave the same as the Percent of Drawing Extents Width, so keep this in mind.

In the example image at the top, you can see this setting being used for the right text and column shadow. The text glow is set to 0.5 units, and the shadow is set to 10 units. Since the actual size depends on the zoom level, we can’t calculate an absolute size, but from the images above you can see how it varies compared to the Map size option as the zoom changes.

2 Responses to “Understanding the Effects Units”

  1. This is very helpful. Is there a way to set the pop up default to map units?

  2. Unfortunately not. This is hardcoded for each effect.

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