Celestial Maps

Have you ever wonder how the night sky looked like the day you where born? Where were the planets or in which phase the Moon was*?
Recently I started making personalized celestial maps using metallic watercolors on black cotton paper. These are beautiful artworks that can be a great birthday present or a lovely gift for your spouse on your wedding anniversary. Because they are customized for each client, every map is unique and made to last for a very long time. I have received a lot of questions about the process and how they look when finished, so I wrote this article.

Your celestial map will be based on a simulated map obtained using the software Stellarium. To start, I will need a date, a time and a location. When I input those values, the program will show a view of the sky as if you where there. It works as a planetarium, and because it is free to use, anyone can install it on their computer or phone.
For example, if I put my birth date, this is what the screen will show me:

I will use a map like the one above as a reference for the painting. Since you can input almost any date in the past or in the future, I can make you a celestial map of any important date you want, not just for birth dates.

The next step will be to paint the stars, planets, the Sun, the Moon and any other object that the client might find interesting. The constellations can be shown as stick figures or just the stars. A client asked me to paint a pair of scales over Libra, to highlight this constellation.

The first layer will consist of dots and sticks using white ink to contrast with the black paper. The ink will stay in place even when I wet the whole piece of paper in the next step. For the second layer I use metallic watercolors to give the shimmering effect. Most stars will be painted in silver, but for certain stars I will use a bit of color, for example red for Betelgeuse, orange for Aldebaran or blue for Vega. Then I will paint the Milky Way and the details for the planets. In the picture below you can see how I painted the planets and a crescent Moon for a map I did for a friend:

Above and below the map I can write the name of the person, the date, time and location, or just the special event you want to remember. For example, for a birth date, I can write the city and the country. For another even, let's say, you want a celestial map for the day you propose. If you want to keep it more private, I can write the coordinates of the location as latitude and longitud. Some clients would prefer to add astronomical information instead like the phase of the Moon or the distances to the planets, etc.

As a last step, I add a layer of luminescent ink to give a special effect to your map. The ink is almost transparent so you won't notice it during the day. This ink will only go on the brightest stars, just enough to make it glow in the dark. The effect is very subtle and it doesn't last all night, but if is certainly a fun and beautiful way to see your map when you turn the lights off! After all, we don't see stick figures and labels in the sky when we look up to the stars, right?

What can be shown on the map?
A simple map would include the constellations, the Milky Way, the mayor planets, the Sun and the Moon. Daytime events can be shown too. The software can "remove" the atmosphere and show you the sky as if you where looking at it from space, with a black background. Other objects can be added upon request like dwarf planets and asteroids. Deep sky objects like galaxies, nebulae or star clusters are also an option, but too many of them might clutter the map. Comets are not shown by default and if you know there was one in the date you are requesting we can try to find the position and add it.

What art supplies do you use?
As for now, I am using a 9x12 inches 100% cotton Stonehenge black watercolor paper (140lb). The metallic watercolors are from Nyl acuarelas and are hand crafted watercolor sets made with bee honey in Tamaulipas. The luminescent ink is Jacques Herbin and it is made in France.

As every map is made based on the individual needs of the client, the price will be different for everyone.The starting price for a simple map, -unframed- and not considering shipping costs, would be $100 USD. This is my most affordable commissioned artwork available, and among the lowest price range in my whole website! I am doing this as a special offer because I really want to inspire more people to look up to the stars and feel a personal connection with them. 

Are you ready to order yours?
Fill one of the forms below (in your preferred language), and I will go back to you as soon as possible.

In English           En Español


What to expect after that:

we will discuss the information you want to be included on the map, payment options and a deadline. I will start showing you the map generated with the software and I will walk you trough the different objects that are visible (and why some other objects might not be visible at that time). I will send you a draft and once you approve it, I will start painting. Once the map is ready it can be sent unframed right away or I can frame it for you and ship it to your home (at an extra cost). Every map is unique and because they are hand painted, it may take up to 3 weeks from the moment you request the map to have it finished. Depending on framing and shipping options, you would have to add a couple of weeks.

Special thanks to my friend Lola for taking this amazing pictures of her map. If you are interested in her services, you can find her at Lola Torres Photography


I don't give refunds on this work. It is very time consuming and because the maps are personalized, once they are finished, I cannot sell them to anyone else. Art materials are expensive and sometimes difficult to get. Only if the map arrives damaged I might consider offering you a new one. I am confident you will LOVE your map, and it will last you for many years if you take care of it properly :-)

Note*In astrology, you can get a natal chart where an astrologer can explain to you the meaning of the position of the Sun and the stars the day you where born. For example, if the Moon was in certain sign or two planets where at odds against each other. Celestial maps are NOT natal charts or personal horoscopes, what I do is show you the position of the stars and planets, but I cannot read your fortune or tell your personality from it.