Introduction: Ultimate Steampunk Pirate Treasure Map

About: I'm a mechanical engineer in the Eindhoven region. In my spare time I like to make random stuff, both usefull and especially useless.

Ahoy Mateys,

You've always wanted to be a pirate? You do if you have celebrated Talk-like-a-pirate-day for the last several years, you took a parrot as a pet as soon as your first salary after college arrived or whatever bad reason you can come up with. Somewhere deep inside everybody wants to be a pirate, driven by the winds and sea, free as a bird and in love with two letters of the alphabet (Yes, you RRR in love with the CCC).

You're in love with steampunk? Yes, but of course. A little copper or a little brass goes a long way. A gear here, a gear there, a gear everywhere. Without a little steampunk in your live you would still drive on fossil fuels instead of the good ol' environmental friendly vaporized water. Just make sure to use a petrol engine to turn your water into steam, because a diesel engine quickly brings you in the dieselpunk era.

No matter how much a pirate or steampunk you are, it's always a good thing to hide ye' treasure. The problem arises when you are in need of your treasure, you've probably can't remember where you put it. That's where this Instructable comes in. In a couple of steps I will teach you how to make a proper Steampunk Treasure Map using materials you've probably got laying around.

Step 1: Gather Loot

Aight, before we start on the treasure map we need to do two things. First, hoist the sails and hide your treasure, otherwise you will make a normal map, not a treasure map. Seconds, gather the loot you need for the build.


  • A piece of scrap fabric the size of your map to be, natural material like cotton, linnen, etc.
  • Coffee or tea(bags), a dark ale, as long as it is possible to stain your cloth with it.
  • Black fineliner or other fine marker

Optional loot:

  • Carbon paper or another means to transfer drawings.
  • Printer and computer.
  • Add a cartographer to the crew for a more accurate map. If you're more into scrubbing the deck, you can even make the cartographer draw the map for you.
  • Colored marker or similar, to add accents to the map. For example: blue seas, a green sea dragon, brown ships hull, etc.
  • Natural stains, like beetroot and grass, to add accents to the map. For example, green grasslands, red lava on a volcano.
  • A jar of glow worms and a UV resin recipe, or a UV marker

Step 2: Dye Fabric

Now you've gathered your loot and you treasure is hidden you arrrr ready to start working on your treasure map. The sea is salty wet, the cook can't cook and so the first mate is hangry, a paper map wouldn't last a day out in the wild. That's why you've probably ripped the shirt of one of your fellow crews back. At this point you have two options, option 1: make your colleagues have a bath and wash their cloths, the piece of cloth is already more smelly and dirty than you want for your map. Go find another piece and go for option 2: start dying.

I died my fabric using tea bags. Therefore I dipped the bags is hot water and dipped the cloth with the wet bags. This way most of the color of the tea is transferred to the cloth instead off to the water, creating the most intens color. Repeat this step for a darker color, or if you have a fancy feeling create a color gradient in the cloth.

Other methods:

  • Brew a pot of tea or coffee, or use tea/coffee that hasn't been drunk (reheat if necessary). Put your cloth in the drink and remove it after a while. Repeat this step for a darker color. Stronger tea/coffee make a darker cloth.
  • Rub you cloth with (black) sand, this should also create a darker cloth, but probably a little bit less even.


  • My cloth didn't take water well, so I wetted it before dipping it with tea so the tea soaked in a little easier.

Step 3: Draw Map

Now you finally have a reasonably smelly and colored piece of cloth it's time to draw your map. Here below I've summed some things you can add to your map. I somewhat use this list as a step by step guide for myself, but during the process there will definitely be overlap when deciding what you want to draw where.

Remember this is just a summation of my imagination while writing this Instructable, so a lot of other options are there to fill your map. Furthermore I've added a couple of images for your inspiration, some forest options, some village options, etc. From most options a drawing can be found in the images. I've included both new drawings I did especially for this Instructable and drawings from my big treasure chest I restored a couple of years ago.

  1. Compass rose
  2. Landmass
    • Island(s) (I've used the Province of North Brabant, the Netherlands, as my islands.)
    • Mainland
    • Floating islands
  3. Treasure X
  4. Road to treasure
    • From our youth homes, via college city to ...
  5. Sea creatures / animals / etc.
    • Moby Dick
    • Dragon
    • Kraken
  6. Villages / cities / settlements / etc.
    • From village to capital
    • Factions
    • Coat of Arms
  7. Landmarks
    • Vulcanos
    • Canyon
    • City nickname
  8. Landscape
    • Mountains
    • Forest
    • Rivers
    • Inland waters
    • Waistland
  9. Others
    • (Air)Ships
    • Vehicles


  • Make sure your drawing is waterproof if your using a watered down paint in the next step. Otherwise your ink will run through the fibers and you'll probably ruin your map. I was just able to save mine.
  • Don't add real names (etc.) to your map. A treasure map is some sort of puzzle. It shouldn't be logical from the first sight where the treasure is. It should however be possible to find the treasure when you start searching, so make sure there are some recognition points
  • Draw your design by hand. Computer drawn images tend to be too clean to fit the style of a pirate map.
  • Keep all your drawing in the same style. So if you decide to go for top view forests, also use top view for other landscape items, if you draw a 3D city/house, make similar thing also 3D, etc.
  • Start by drawing on paper and transfer your design using carbon paper or something similar. I've used it for the outline of my island and many of the creatures and other things.

Step 4: Optionally: Paint Map

Alright mate, you can be finished. But, if you're like me, a modern day pirate, you like a little more contrast to your map. So let's start painting. Originally I would have used acrylic paints diluted with water because I want to keep the feeling of the stained cloth. By diluting the water, you're able to add a splash of color while keeping the feeling of the cloth. Too bad my fine liners didn't turn out to be waterproof, so eventually I went with sharpies. For my map I decided to only color the seas and forests.

Step 5: Optionally: Be Poetic

I decided I wanted a poem on the map with a 'clue' on what exactly is the treasure where the map points to. First I wanted to add the poem using UV resin after seeing this Instructable. For the UV resin you need to get yourself a jar of glow worms. Buy them at the black market or like me, catch them in the 'Unearthened cave of Violent Worms'. The worms are used to make a special UV resin which can be used as secret ink. My parrot and captain, Captain Squawkbeard (he actually is called Kapitein Krassebaard, a Dutch name, but I translated it for you, please don't let him know I did that), has a recipe somewhere. Unfortunately he's on his captain's retreat, so no UV resin for me. (If the glow worms don't work out for you as well, sell the worms on the black market, use some of those pieces of eight you've made to buy yourself and the rest of the crew a UV pen.) In the end I used the same fine liner as before.

Here is the poem, can you guess what my map points at?

'In the heart of Northern Brabant my most beloved treasure awaits.

Something of more value than in any other chest or bundle of crates.

The heart of my dearest remains there for me to return from the sea.

A rough journey ahead, but together we’ll be happy to the highest degree.'

    Step 6: Find Treasure

    By now you arrrr probably wondering why Squawkbeard made me in charge of the treasure map. My normal job on the ship is the airships mechanic. That's right, airship. Many technical drawings are made by me, how the ship works, how to maintain, etc. So I was familiar with drawing important things and make them recognizable. In the images I've added one of my drawings of the ship.

    Now go and make your own treasure map. Don't forget to send it to us so we can come, plunder and take your loot. (Or just post an 'I Made It', that would be very much appreciated.)

    Trash to Treasure

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    Trash to Treasure