The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
I've been wanting to create something from the Lord of the Rings universe for quite a long time, but (until now) I never really decided what I wanted to make. Lord of the Rings props are more about swords, rings (duh...), armor, etc., but there are also quite a few paper props - maps, to be precise, and I LOVE old maps. This is my take on replicating Thrór's map displaying the Lonely Mountain of Erebor. Thrór gave this map to his son Thráin, who tried to enter Erebor himself, but was captured. Finally, through Gandalf, the map got to Thorin, Thrór's grandson, who managed to enter and recover Erebor with the help of the Company, including Bilbo Baggins. Anyway, that's enough lore for the introduction, let's take a look at the final replica!
What really excited me about this project were the invisible runes. I've been thinking about various solutions to this problem, but I've settled with UV reactive paint. The map looks just like in the movie, you cannot see any runes in daylight - but - if you want to, you can easily shine on it with a small UV flashlight and the runes will appear. I used expensive high-quality handmade paper, which gives the map an extra level of detail and texture.
The first step was (just like in any other project) research. I found some images online and drew the whole map digitally. After that, I put it through the AAE Map Maker project, which converts simple black and white designs into something that looks like it was written in ink. It also generates ultra HD parchment texture, and everything is fully adjustable.
Thanks to this tool, the designing process is quite fast and gives amazing results. After that, I started working on test prints with different types of paper. The first one is your average white paper:
The paper is way too thin for this type of project, and the texture is also not what I wanted. I decided to get a heavier paper, but kept the white base color (because it's extremely hard to find the specific color that I wanted):
The white paper just wasn't good enough, I needed some texture and authenticity, so I've decided to get a handmade paper from a renowned company in my country. It's quite expensive, but very much worth the money. The paper is handmade and has a nice texture.
Anyway, being the perfectionist I am, it still wasn't satisfied with the final look. I decided to experiment a bit and ordered a different type of paper from the company. It turns out it was a good idea, because I finally found the paper I was looking for. Once I established the final look, I started experimenting with UV reactive paint to draw the runes on the map. The plan worked perfectly!
That's basically the whole process. As you can see, with props like this, it takes a lot of test prints to get the map just right, but I always thought it's a small price for the final result.
I've noticed a pattern when creating paper replicas - finding the right paper is always a problem... always... but it's very much worth it. Since I always order more paper than I actually need (just to be safe), I was left with a few unused sheets of the expensive handmade paper, so I did the obvious thing - I created as much replicas as I could, perfecting the craft in the process.
If you're interested in a more detailed look at the piece, feel free to watch the demo video on my youtube channel, here it is: