The Technical Map Border

There are many things that sets CC3+ apart from other graphics and mapping programs. One of these differences is the size of the mapping area. In most programs, when you start a new file, you specify a size, and you get a canvas exactly that size. If you try putting something halfway outside the edge, like a symbol or equivalent, the spillover is simply lost. In CC3+ however, this is completely different.

CC3+ doesn’t operate with a fixed sized canvas, for most practical considerations it is infinite. There’s nothing preventing you from placing a symbol entirely outside the map area if you so wish, simply because your map only occupies a small spot on that almost infinite canvas. But if the drawing area is of infinite space, how do we determine the actual size of the map? And why do our drawing tools seem to only draw within the map area?

To understand this, we need to look at the map border. When we talk about map borders in CC3+, there are actually two different things we may be talking about. We might be talking about that nice decorative frame around your map. This is known as the decorative map border, and it is just that, decorative. Some map styles have a very elaborate decorative map border, while others have a much more spartan one, sometimes even just a simple line. It doesn’t have any functionality, it is just there to give your map a visual frame. Then we have the technical map border. This is what actually defines your map’s size on the canvas, and all tools that have a restrict to map border option, like drawing tools and bitmap exports work with this one. Usually, it will overlap in location with the decorative map border, but it is the technical map border that provides the functionality.

Let us start by having a look at that technical map border. Pull up just about any map, zoom out so you see the entire map, and then hide all the layers, except the MAP BORDER layer. You see that bright green rectangle (It doesn’t have to be green, but it usually is)? That rectangle is the technical map border. It’s normally not an actual rectangle, but instead 4 straight lines, defining the left edge, right edge, top edge and bottom edge of the mapping area. Go ahead, use a command like List (from the info menu) on them, or change their properties or anything else. You’ll notice that these are just plain lines, the same kind of lines you can draw with the line tool in CC3+.

And that’s all there is to it really. CC3+ uses these 4 lines to determine the edges of your mapping area. Drawing tools that are configured to stop at the map border stops when it hits one of these lines, and if you export your map to an image file and check the restrict to map border option, these lines determine that area.

The important thing with these lines is the layer they occupy. The sheet doesn’t matter, but they must be on the MAP BORDER layer. What CC3+ does is that it looks for entities on this layer to determine where the edges of the map are. This layer is also normally frozen (that F in the layer dialog), which prevents you from accidentally interacting with the map border when you work on your map.

If these lines are not on this layer, you’ll find that CC3+ itself works fine, but all functions that restrict to the map border will not work, and tools that bases their sizing om fractions of the map border, like roads and rivers in the Mike Schley overland style won’t have their width set properly.

Another important point here is to not have any other entities on this layer, as this makes CC3+ unable to properly find your map edges. You can try this yourself. Try starting a new overland map, the draw a small polygon, like a box, in the middle of the map, on the MAP BORDER LAYER. Now try the landmass drawing tool. Notice how it now stops in the middle of the map where the polygon is? That is because CC3+ included that polygon in the technical map border since it was on the MAP BORDER layer.

And this brings us to an important lesson. If the tools behave weirdly in this manner, either stop where they shouldn’t, or don’t stop at the edge at all, the problem is with your technical map border. So simply do as we did now, hide all layers except MAP BORDER and see what is on it. It should only have those 4 lines. If there is anything else, delete it or move it to another layer. If you are missing one or more of those four lines, use the line tool do draw in the missing ones. If the lines are wrongly placed, like inside your mapping area or too far outside, either move them (they don’t need to meet at the corner), or erase them and draw new ones. One common reason for them to be in the wrong location is if you have been manually trying to change the size of your mapping area (Which is completely fine, as long as you don’t forget about the technical map border. If you use the Resize Drawing Area command however, the technical map border should be taken care of automatically.

Now, some people may immediately start thinking about making an angled border, or maybe even a nice circle or oval. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work. CC3+ only try to determine the extents (left, right, top, bottom), so if you draw a circle on this layer, the tools won’t follow the shape of the circle, instead they will be limited to the square that is dined by the leftmost point, rightmost point, top and bottom of the circle. Angled lines work the same way. You can shape the visual area of your map by creating a round decorative map border, and hide what’s outside it by using a round screen, but you can’t have CC3+ treat the technical map border as anything but a rectangle.

When it comes to sheet, it doesn’t matter what sheet the map border is on, but it is usually placed as the bottom entity on the BACKGROUND sheet, since this means it is hidden by the map background. We really have no need to actually see the technical map border most of the time. (In contrast, the decorative map border is usually placed on a sheet late in the drawing order so it shows on top of everything else.)

It is important to note that while the technical map border do interact with many drawing tools to help them stay inside the mapping area, there is no problem drawing outside it. Either turn off the restrict to map border setting in the tool, or use a tool that doesn’t interact with the map border in the first place. For example, the basic tools in the righthand toolbars doesn’t care, they can draw outside and inside the border. You can also place text and symbols outside the map border very easily. In some cases, you may find this helpful, for example if your map is part of some kind of form or similar.

Because CC3+ works this way, it can sometimes be problematic if you want to place a symbol so only half of it is inside the map. In most other software, as I mentioned in the intro to this article, the part extending outside the mapping area is simply lost because the there doesn’t exist anything outside the drawing area, but not so in CC3+, here you will just see the other half of the symbol right there outside the map. To avoid this being a visual blemish, CC3+ uses something called a screen. This is a white polygon placed right outside the map border, and on a sheet at the very end of the drawing order (usually the SCREEN sheet). This polygon is normally impossible to see since it is white, and it covers up entities extending beyond the border. So if you actually try to put something right outside the map border and it seems to just disappear, this is the cause. And if you place something that sticks far out, you may also see it actually sticks out beyond the screen, making it appear to be cut off by a very wide white line. I have an entire article about the screen.


To end with a small comment about the size of the canvas. Earlier, I used the term almost infinite. Obviously, anyone who understands the term infinite knows that there is no way the canvas can actually be infinite. But for all practical map-making purposes, it is. My use of infinite here is more that CC3+ doesn’t set a fixed size for the canvas, the size is basically just limited by the size of the numbers the computer can handle.


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