The Screen

One rather standard feature of most CC3+ maps that I see many people are somewhat confused over or fail to use properly is the screen. For example, I get a lot of atlas submissions that have things sticking out on the outside of the screen. Thus, I thought I would dedicate a small article to talk a little bit about this feature.

The screen is that white polygon that can be found right outside the map border on most maps. But why is it there? What is the intended functionality of it? And how to best manipulate it? And how to avoid it being part of our output when we export our map to an image? I’ll talk about all these things here, to hopefully give you a bit more insight into this feature.

Note that this article is about the screen entity found on most maps, and not the Screen Border sheet effect.

What is the purpose of the screen?

To understand the need of the screen, we need to understand one important property of a CC3+ drawing, and that is that a drawing has nearly infinite size (Not truly infinite, because the size is limited due to the way computers represent numbers, but it is large enough that no map will ever be even remotely near those limits). When you make a new map and sets the map size from the new map wizard, what you really set is the size of the map border, the size of your “working area”, but if you try, you’ll find that you can easily place things like symbols way outside the map border if you want. Some tools are coded in such a way so they can automatically “stop” at the map border, preventing you from drawing outside it, but that’s just a property of the tool, not a restriction on the map area.

Now, one of the issues with an unlimited map size happens when you try to place something large close to the map border. For example, if you place a mountain at the border so only half will extend into your map, well, then the other half is going to stick out outside of your map, as shown in the illustration to the right. While not critical, this doesn’t look very pretty either, and it can also take away the focus from an otherwise pretty map border. In a regular image editor, the image would just end at that edge, and if you pasted something at the edge like that, the “excess” would simply be lost, but not so with CC3+’s unlimited canvas size. So, the whole point of the screen is to cover up the parts sticking out outside the map border. Most templates already come with a screen in place, so for most maps, you don’t even need to think about it at all. You can test this yourself by starting a new CC3 Mike Schley Overland map, and place a mountain close to the border. As always, you may see it extend over the border until you issue a redraw (or change zoom/scroll) but at that point the parts sticking out will be hidden by the screen.

What is the screen?

The screen itself is just a simple polygon. It is usually solid white, because the background of the drawing area (the area you see outside your actual mapping area) is normally white. The screen is placed on a sheet called SCREEN all by itself, and that sheet is arranged near the bottom of the sheet order, so it will cover up almost everything. The only thing typically below it in the sheet order is the MAP BORDER sheet which contains your graphical map border. This allow a more fancy map border to extend out over the screen, and not be covered up by it, while the screen will cover up everything else that may extend outside the border.

What if the screen is too small?

Sometimes the existing screen may not be big enough. You can see this in the image to the right. Here, you can clearly see that there is a screen right outside the map border, covering up parts of the mountain symbols, but it is simply not big enough, and the mountain symbols actually sticks out from the right edge of the screen, looking quite bad. This also often happens if you have effects with a large size, causing parts of the effect to extend outside the screen, also not looking very pretty. What you need to do in these cases is simply enlarging the screen to fix it. The easiest way to to this is to use the stretch command to move the outer edge of the screen without touching the inner edge.

Before going through the command, let me show you a diagram of how the screen polygon looks. The below image is a regular map, but I’ve added an outline to the screen to see a bit better how it is constructed.

As you can see, the screen is a white polygon wrapped around our map. You may wonder about the extra diagonal line down in the bottom left corner, that is just where the polygons starts and ends. Because the polygon can’t cover the map itself, it is actually a long thin polygon that “wraps” around the outside edge of the map. Note that this is the most common way the screen polygon is drawn, but through the lifetime of CC3+ there have been some variations.

To expand the size of our polygon, we need to move the outer nodes and not the inner ones. We also need to keep in mind that there are actually two nodes down there in the lower right corner where the two “ends” of the polygon meet. Fortunately, using the Stretch command, this is rather easy, because it is able to move selected nodes of a polygon.

  1. To make the screen easier to see, let us change the background color. Do this by selecting View-Window Color from the View menu. The command line will ask for a new color, right click in side the drawing area to bring up the color picker, and choose a light gray. Now it is easy to see the edges of the screen polygon.
  2. Enable Ortho (Button in lower right corner of the CC3+ interface.). Ortho ensures that we can only move our nodes in a straight horizontal or vertical direction, to avoid skewing our screen
  3. Start the Stretch command from Edit -> Reshape menu.
  4. The command will ask you to select entities, so select the screen entity and right click -> Do It. (If you have a screen that is built from multiple polygons, make sure to select them all)
  5. The command will now ask you to define the window the nodes you wish to move are in. This basically means “drawing” a box around those nodes. So if you need to expand the screen to the right like in my example images, draw the window so it covers the two rightmost corners (top and bottom) of the screen, but make sure no other nodes are inside that area. Note that it is only additional nodes (corners) you need to avoid, so draw it at a comfortable size so you are sure you get the two corners you want.
  6. The command line now asks for the Move from point.  This is just to specify a size, so the actual point clicked is of less important, but to most easily see visually what you are doing, I prefer to place this point at one of the corners I wish to move (no need to be terribly precise).
  7. Now it is time to place the destination (To) point, this specifies where the nodes are moved to. Just use the crosshair cursor as a guide to make sure it is large enough. Note that since we turned on ortho, you can now only move your crosshairs straight up/down or left/right from the starting point. Just move it far enough that you see everything will be covered up, this should be easy to see thanks to the crosshair cursor, then click to finish the command.
  8. If you wish to extend any of the other directions, just repeat step 3-7 for each cardinal direction. Remember, you can only do one direction (up, down, left, right) at a time using this method.
  9. When done, remember to turn off ortho and change the view window color back to white (color #15)

As you can see, this simple procedure helps you cover up those pesky artifacts outside the map. Use it to hide both entities and the result of sheet effects, like glows and shadows. If you prefer, there is also a quick video that shows the process.

Another way to edit the screen is to use Node Edit to move the nodes around, but generally, stretch gives a better result, and is easier to use where the two ends of the polygon meet, since stretch will do all the nodes there at once.

What if there isn’t a screen?

Most templates comes with a screen, but some are missing it, or perhaps you have an older map where you deleted it previously or something like that. In any case, adding a screen is pretty easy. The screen itself is drawn using the standard Polygon , with the color set to a solid white (and remember to set line width to 0). If you don’t have a SCREEN sheet, just create a new sheet called SCREEN, and move it near the bottom of the list, just right above the MAP BORDER sheet (If you don’t have a map border sheet, or a sheet fulfilling the same functionality, then you’d probably want screen all the way at the bottom). Make sure the SCREEN sheet is the active sheet. You should also create a SCREEN layer and set that active (Hint: DON’T place it on the MAP BORDER layer)

Then just draw the screen by placing the nodes as I have numbered them on the image below (Note that a couple of positions have two nodes, this is intentional). Note that it is easiest to work with Snap on for this, but if your map is an odd size that doesn’t fit the snap grid, the Endpoint modifier is a good way to precisely hit those inner corners which are quite important to get precise.

When exporting an image there is a large white border around it

When you export images you may have experienced that there is a large white border around the actual map. As you have read this far, you’ve probably understood that this is the screen. Fortunately, it is real simple to export your map without this being part of the final image.

If your map has a proper map border (almost every template is set up with one, but you may have deleted it at some point), all you have to do when exporting is in the save as dialog, after you have picked the file type as one of the images (png, jpg or bmp), hit the options button, and make sure “Restrict image to map border” and “Crop image to aspect ratio” are both checked. When exporting the image with these options on, it will export without the screen, as it will only export the elements within the map border.

Note that if the options dialog doesn’t look like that when you click the options button, it is probably because you hit options BEFORE you picked an image type in the save as field. The options are context sensitive to the type of file you picked in the save as dialog.

If the above procedure didn’t work, which could be due to you not having an actual map border, or maybe you find that your fancy graphical map border is being cut off, the other option is to export using a rectangular section. If you look at the file types in the save as dialog, you have the standard BMP Image File, JPEG Image File, PNG Image File, but you also have Rectangular Section BMP, Rectangular Section PNG and Rectangular Section JPEG. These rectangular section image types differs from the regular image exports in one aspect, after clicking save, CC3+ will ask you for two (opposite) corners of your our export. You can use this to define an exact window of what you want to export. You can either just eyeball it and place the corners wherever looks goods for you if precision isn’t an issue, but if you wish to be perfectly precise, you can use modifiers like endpoint when placing the corners, or if things match up with the snap grid, simply turn on Snap using the button in the lower right corner.

Using a rectangular section export like this allow you to export exactly the part of the map you want. To get the exact part you picked, it is very important that the “Crop image to export ratio” option we looked at earlier is checked, otherwise your selection will be expanded to fit within the ratio determined by the pixel size option of your export instead, which is probably not what you want. (With “Crop image to export ratio” checked, the pixel dimensions are treated as maximums and not absolutes).


So, that’s it about the screen and the working of it.



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