Mosaic tiles and peeling paint: three special world maps

Does it happen to everyone or only to map-o-philes like me? You see a ship hull with rust stains or an old wall with peeling paint and you think, hey, that looks like a map. Oceans, continents, mountain ranges, archipelagos, with a little imagination, you can discover a complete fantasy world on such a weathered surface. Okay, most people will pass by without noticing but for those who want to see it, there is a lot to enjoy.

Peeling world map

I decided to turn it around and created an image on which peeling paint patterns really shape the continents of our planet Earth. It looks like this:

Old wall with remains of peeling green paint that together form the continents of the Earth.


This map has been rendered in 3ds Max; so it is a 3D model, but the relief is limited to a few subtly curving edges and corresponding shadowed areas.

For inspiration I looked at photos of a ship in the port of Rotterdam that could use some maintenance. But if you see shards of wallpaper on a weathered wall, that’s allright too.

This green map has a blue counterpart, on which the oceans are like paint still sticking to the wall, while the continents are exfoliated:

Old wall with peeling blueish green paint in which the continents of the Earth can be recognized.


My next world map project is of a very different order. This virtual mosaic is made of 31,250 virtual tiles placed in a 250 × 125 grid.

World map with 31.250 little mosaic tiles, computer-generated but indistinguishable from reality through application of shine and relief

First I made an image in Photoshop on which I simplified the world map into a file of 250 by 125 pixels in 36 colors. In 3ds Max I projected that image on a mosaic with those same  dimensions of 250 by 125 (tiles in this case). Also, this map is a 3d model, but here too, the relief is limited: some shadow and glow effects and purposefully arranged irregularities.

Zoom in

The whole is rendered in the unprecedented resolution of 16,000 x 8000 pixels. This allows you to zoom in on the details quite far without the image getting pixelated. Here, for example, we see North and Central America with a piece of South America, parts of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and the Arctic region.

Part of a world map made of little colored mosaic tiles, with North and Central America and parts of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans

One tile

And we can get even closer to the mosaic. This is the area around the Mediterranean Sea, including North Africa and  large parts of Europe. The Netherlands, country where the map was made, is as large as just one tile. One can even debate about which tile it is.. The United Kingdom is, of course, a little bigger, but still only 15 tiles.

Section of a world map made of little colored mosaic tiles, with the Mediterranean and parts of Europe and Africa.


When I put this mosaic on Facebook, there was some confusion about the concept virtual. What exactly are virtual tiles? I would say: tiles that are not real but seem very lifelike by careful application of shadows, glare and irregularities.

Okay, if you apply them as wallpaper in your workspace, it becomes a bit confusing …

World map of colored mosaic tiles in a grid, applied as wallpaper in a room with chairs and a desk.

Frans Blok

My work explores the border regions of photography, painting and computer visuals. With my company 3Develop I do work in commission but I use the same techniques, skills and software to make free work. I am originally an architect and I live in Rotterdam; for that reason the architecture of that city is a major (but not the only) source of inspiration. But also travel to countries like Iceland and Britain, or walks in the Netherlands, provide much material. Seeing and showing quality and beauty, that is what my work is about.

You may also like...

2 Responses

  1. 29. August 2017

    […] to an abstract modern painting is obvious. But you could also look at it as a map, just like the Peeling Paint World Maps I made a while ago. This idea inspired me to make the rusty Rotterdam Water Map shown below. […]

  2. 5. November 2020

    […] hulls are starting to resemble maps, due to the aging processes. I already made a few world maps and a map of Rotterdam based on that idea. But sometimes reality is more beautiful than you can […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Spam-controle: *