View Full Version : Broken Isle - First Map

07-20-2010, 10:46 PM
Ok, so I thought I'd start with the ever popular Regional Tutorial from RobA. I found some interesting shapes chipped out of the garage floor sealant at work so I took pictures with my cell phone. You can see the original in the attachment below. I then popped it open in Paint Shop Pro 7, rotated it, and dropped the color down to two colors. You can see the result below as well. I rather like the result, especially in the south, but I'm wondering if the north edge is a little too straight. Then again, we do have the Arabian peninsula...

Incidentally, I have more examples from the garage floor at work. I've both taken pictures and made rubbings of them using 11x17 paper and a #2 pencil. Both techniques have their strengths. Making rubbings seems to be a bit more faithful to the original while photos provide unexpected results once they've been manipulated in a graphics program with the fuzzy select tool.

I'll post updates and progress here as I go along...

07-20-2010, 10:54 PM
I'm glad I'm not the only one who bases map outlines on everyday stuff! That's a trippy base map - kind of looks like a mutated horse galloping along...

Bill Hooks
07-21-2010, 02:18 AM
I like the shape, although I'd like it better if that Cornwall-esque finger visible in the original photo hadn't broken up in the computer version. Looking at a lot of squiggly, wiggly, random-noise-based maps can make you forget that our real-life landmasses often have relatively long straight lines on the macro level.

07-21-2010, 02:26 AM
The original shape and position looked better to me. The added islands (as if the island is shredded on both sides) look unnatural to me. It's just an opinion. I like the idea of using an everyday life object as a source.

07-21-2010, 08:38 AM
Thank you for the feedback, I really appreciate it.

The original conversion of picture to land mass shape was conducted in Paint Shop Pro 7 by the process of simply dropping the image to two bit color. Because of the relative color values in the original image the process resulted in the shredding of the southern end and the addition of the islands on the northern border. I was a little surprised at the result and didn't care for it to much, though it did grow on me some over time. I tried using the fuzzy select tool in PSP7 but found it didn't work to well, even with the shift key held down and the image converted to grey scale. Later, I opened the original image in Gimp and used the fuzzy select there with the setting of Add to Selection. The results were much more positive. I've posted that image below for your perusal.

So, should I change the title of the thread to (Un)Broken Isle? :)

07-26-2010, 11:44 PM
Ok, folks, I've been puttering along through RobA's tutorial. I've managed to get to the point where mountains are the next step. So far the process is a bit of a blur but I'm definitely learning through it. I've had to puzzle my way through a couple of points (the grass layer bump map really had me stumped) but I'm enjoying the experience. I'm thinking of perhaps detouring to RobA's alternate means of generating mountains that he links to in post 11. The current stage of the map is visible below. Any C+C is welcome.

07-27-2010, 03:42 AM
If I hadn't had seen the source for the map I would have thought that the right hand landmass is a sort of Britain flipped horizontally and a very small Ireland next to it. It's cool how random shapes can suggest these things.

07-27-2010, 09:34 AM
Looks good so far.

07-27-2010, 01:14 PM
Thanks, Ravells, Hohum. I lucked out with these shapes. Who knew that a chipped garage floor could provide so many hours of fun? I'm enjoying the process and it's a testament to RobA's capability that a novice such as myself can generate a map that looks pretty decent the first time out. One issue that's bugging me some is the dirt layer. I'd prefer to see a more even distribution with more mottled color akin to the manner of the grass layer. I may go back and try repeating the grass layer steps only with colors for dirt. From there I could apply a gentle blur and/or drop opacity to blend the two layers together for something I'm more comfortable with.

07-27-2010, 01:31 PM
Don't forget that the tutorials are not cast in stone and the best way to get to your own style and to learn the software is to just experiment and play with it a lot. That's how most of us learned this game. It's not like experimenting is going to cost us money in materials!

07-29-2010, 08:34 PM
I took your advice, ravells, and played around a bit. I first tried duplicating the grass layers procedure to see what kind of effect I'd achieve. In the end it was a wash. While I managed to create a really nice mottled dirt color map I couldn't find a way to blend the dirt and grass layers to give me a mottled effect. I stepped through all the layer blending options, overlay, dodge, burn, difference, multiply, etc. So, I went back to RobA's original dirt layers procedure and played around with the settings. I tried applying a color gradient to the dirt color layer. Well, all I accomplished there was making the overall layer quite dark and not blending well at all. In the end, I found myself playing with the color levels for the dirt layer mask and was able to produce something more akin to what I wanted. While the difference is subtle it is noticeable. The result is shown below. The key here is to save your work and then save a copy. Play around with the settings on the copy and go from there.

07-30-2010, 10:58 AM
I was looking at the base texture of the map and noticed that the grass layer has a texture that runs pretty much North-East to South-West. When I lay my mountains in how distracting and, ultimately, incorrect will it be to have the mountains running against that grain? I suppose I could work out some sort of stagger of the ridges in a direction that generally supports the underlying texture...

07-31-2010, 10:25 AM
I don't think it'll be too distracting. I would agree with the alternate mountains though, those alternate mountains of his look great with the rest of the tut.

08-06-2010, 09:59 PM
Ok, so I continued on with a slight detour. I jumped from RobA's original Artistic Regional RPG Map tutorial to his Simple Mountains in Gimp tutorial. I've been playing with it for around the last four hours. I have to admit, I was feeling rather depressed with the results. The first image below is a screen shot of what I saw in Gimp. It didn't look much like Rob's tutorial. Ok, well, I learned some things. Let's export the file to a jpg and upload it to get some feed back of where I went off the reservation. Imagine my surprise when I saw the second image below. That's a screen shot of the same area as the first image just exported as a jpg. So, why am I not seeing the same image in Gimp as I'm working on it? That difference could have me futzing about with the map for hours and not making any obvious headway.


Clearly, I have more work to do, I need to smooth out the gradient better for one and a couple of peaks there blew out. I'm also not happy with the color. Any suggestions of how to modify the color map for the mountains so they look a bit more realistic, i.e. brown more to the peaks and green more to the slopes? Right now it's just picking up the color map under the area I selected. Any other suggestions would be gratefully received.

08-06-2010, 10:50 PM
geez, why can everyone do mountains better than I...lol As far as color check out Ascension's tutorials atlas style and/or making a continent in photoshop. He uses a nice looking gradient that may look good with this map. IMO, mountains should have a little white at the top followed my some brown in the middle followed by green at the bottom. I do like the stroke you used for the outline of the land as it looks sort of like waves coming in. I would def add some character to the ocean layer with at least a render cloud or difference cloud. Check out Saderan – a tutorial for a nice ocean look. Overall though, it seems like a great start.

08-07-2010, 08:41 AM
I'd suggest getting out a brush tip, turning down the opacity way low, then hand-paint the color in (on a new layer so that if you don't like it you can delete it). I say this because I haven't done RobA's tut and I don't use Gimp. Paint some dark green around the base of the mountains, not on the mountains but on the plains, as this green will be the start of the forests. Then around the edge of the mountains paint in some brown, then splash a lil white for the peaks. Doing things by hand will give you more control but it takes longer.

08-07-2010, 05:06 PM
I have no idea what the deal with the color difference is, but it almost looks like you have some kind of mask or the wrong color gray for your overlay. I have also encountered less than satisfactory results (ie why can't I get it to look like RobA's) and tried both these methods. You may want to fill with more 50% grey or mask and then blur the mask to get out the noticeable edge to the mountains. I think you are going about it the right way.

08-08-2010, 02:10 AM
Ok, I went back and re-did the whole mountains sequence. It did go faster this time since I'm familiar with the steps. I did find a spot where I goofed up before which would have had a slight effect on the process. In step 3 I neglected to turn off the selection so that caused some funky results previously. This time when I selected my areas for mountains I focused more on the 'splotches' of dirt color and used the feathered option of about 10px to grab a touch of green around the base of the mountains. The thought was that this would help lay in the color map a little better. Now, this process does neglect the whole concept of using the alternate style mountains tutorial as a means to place mountains wherever you want since I'm constraining myself to a randomly generated dirt layer. ::shrugs:: I'm taking this as a creative journey rather than I-have-a-specific-destination-in-mind.

So, the results are below. I'm still at a loss to explain the difference between what is visible in Gimp (image one) while working and what shows up when exported to a jpg (image two) but in any event the results look better than I had managed previously.


I'll probably leave things the way they are now and move onto the next step which I believe is forests. I'm not yet sure if I'll stick with Rob's tutorial on forests or if I'll try arsheeshA's variation.

08-08-2010, 02:20 AM
I'm not sure what settings you are using but when you create a .jpg it defaults to like 85 % quality of the image unless you changed that. I haven't had a lot of problems with what I see in Gimp verses what comes out of the .jpg save. That said, I haven't mastered a single tutorial. I've tried a few but I guess I am just one of those people who doesn't mind pounding out my own path. I would like to go back and walk through one of those tutorials again just to see what I can understand now that I have used Gimp for a while. I think I could follow the steps this time.

Maybe RobA our resident Gimp Master will come by and shed some light on what is going on with your .jpg - it's looking pretty good though I have to say.

08-08-2010, 08:23 AM
I still can't say what is going on, but the mountains do look good. Interesting idea to use the dirt layer to guide you for mountain placement. Sort of like Ascension's tutorial in that respect.

08-08-2010, 02:52 PM
I cranked the jpg save quality up to 100% but didn't modify any other settings. It almost seems as if there is a layer in the mountains stack that is darkening everything except the mountains themselves. The catch is that all but the final two layers of this stack have their visibility turned off. The second layer's visibility is optional as it only affects the snow cap for the mountains. When it's visibility was shut off the work space in Gimp didn't look any different. ::shrugs:: I get the feeling that it's a combination of the base layer colors themselves and the blend mode of each layer that is affecting the visibility of the rest of the map I'm just not savvy enough with this to pinpoint the issue. It is my first tutorial and foray into this arena, after all. I did drop a question into RobA's thread on his Simple Mountains in Gimp tutorial asking if he'd look over here and offer his opinion/expertise on the issue. If he has the time I'd be grateful for the pointers.

As for sticking with one tutorial all the way through, well, I can't say that I have. So far, I've used RobA's original Using GIMP to Create an Artistic Regional RPG Map tutorial, his Simple Mountains in Gimp tutorial, I'm looking very strongly at arsheeshA's Making Photo-realistic Trees in GIMP tutorial, and I've pulled ideas from several other tutorials and essays. The idea to use the dirt layer as the guide for the mountains location came from my experience with how the land colors mapped onto the mountains the first time I tried building them along with how torstan built his mountains in Making mountains in Gimp using an overlay layer tutorial. I'm thinking I'll lay rivers in next before forests so I've read up on them in a couple of different essays here, re: placement and flow. I don't want a ticket from the River Police :) I'm not sure I'll pull Inkscape in at this point to taper the rivers, maybe I can do something in Gimp with using different size brushes. Beyond that, I haven't gotten much further. Oh, no, I did read a discussion on placement of roads and the level of technology of a given culture to produce roads of various qualities.

I'm not to worried with this approach as, ultimately, I'm having fun. This engages both my creative and analytical sides. I cook the same way and most times the results are palatable. I'm focusing on the journey here not a specific destination, letting the map grow organically. Would I like to understand why there's a visual difference in Gimp's work space and the jpg output? Definitely, but I'm not letting it hold me back.

08-09-2010, 11:43 AM

I'm not sure where that dark image (I assume that is what you refer to when you say they are different) is coming from. Can you upload the xcf file somewhere?

It looks like you might have "show Layer Mask" turned on in the stack some where? Also, what version of Gimp are you using?

-Rob A>

08-09-2010, 12:20 PM
Rob, thanks for taking the time to look. I really appreciate the help.

Can you upload the xcf file somewhere?The file is around 135MB at this point. I think I have someplace I could upload it to but as it's a private file storage site I'd have to PM you the link if that's ok?

It looks like you might have "show Layer Mask" turned on in the stack some where?Hmm... I don't recall that so if I did it was inadvertent.

Also, what version of Gimp are you using?I just downloaded and installed it recently, I know it's 2.6 but not which increment beyond that. I can verify that later tonight.

08-09-2010, 09:21 PM
Rob, I've verified the version of Gimp, it's 2.6.8. Also, you should have a PM with the link to the xcf file. I ran through my layers and I didn't see anything that indicated Show Layer Mask, though a couple indicated Edit Layer Mask. I could be missing something somewhere I'm just not sure where else to look other than the context menu for each layer.

08-09-2010, 10:50 PM
I sent a pm back. You had visibility turn on for one of the saved selections (channels).

Hope that helps!

-Rob A>

08-10-2010, 12:09 AM
Hope that helps!

It certainly did. Switching off the visibility of that channel changed the whole work area so it now looks like the jpg export. I'm really grateful for the help, Rob. I was beginning to think I'd be doing a great deal of exports to check the color maps as I went.

08-12-2010, 01:28 PM
I decided to add in rivers last night which turned out to be an interesting experience. The wispy sea foam around the edge of the land is actually a layer with a displaced layer mask and gaussian blur. See here (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?1142-Award-Winner-Using-GIMP-to-Create-an-Artistic-Regional-RPG-Map&p=9413&viewfull=1#post9413) for details. It works well, but when I began to draw in the rivers on the Grass layer's land mask I found that they turned out white rather than blue. It took me a while to figure out what had happened. I systematically turned off the visibility of each layer and finally found blue rivers when I turned off the Seashore layer. So, I created a new layer, slipped it between the Seashore and Grass layers, loaded the land mask channel and bucket-filled it blue. Seems to have worked and didn't cause any issues with what I already had. I didn't really want to lose the sea foam as I think it's a nice stroke to add dimension to the land.

Once I turned all the layers back on I found that some of the dirt textures covered rivers, most noticeably at the rivers mouths. So, I dropped back to the grass layer and turned the visibility of the layer mask on then using the fuzzy select wand I selected the sea which had the effect of selecting the rivers too. This is when I noticed that the selection of the rivers wasn't quite as complete as I'd hoped. I had painted the rivers in using a 3px black brush and the option of 'fade stroke'. I tripped over the fade stroke option and realized that it gave me a bit of a taper on the river without much hassle. Well, I'd now found the hassle. :) I saved the selection to a channel and hoping for the best, I moved forward.

I turned off the grass layer land mask visibility and jumped to the dirt layer. I loaded the rivers channel and using the eraser tool cleaned up the river mouths and bed as far as the selection would go. This seemed to work. I then thought, "You know, RobA mentions adding a bevel to the rivers for a little added dimension. Let's try that." It took me a little while to figure out the process, I added a layer filled with 50% grey above the Grass layer and ended up using the Rivers selection channel as the bump map using the inverted option. I'm pretty sure I did anyways, details are a little fuzzy by this point as it was going on midnight. Once Gimp applied the changes I found most of each river nicely beveled. Right up to the point where it starts to fade. So, the rivers look a little off.


I'm going to go back through next and see if I can use the fuzzy select to add the ends of the rivers to the rest of the waters selection. If I can, great, if not, well, back to the digital drawing board. I'll probably try RobA's Tapering Rivers in Gimp script. After that, forests!

09-01-2010, 07:41 PM
Hey, folks, life happened and I had to focus in other directions, but I'm back for the nonce. I went back and completely re-worked the rivers. I found three different scripts (Fractilize Path, Smooth Path, Taper Path - threads rated and repped) to help with that and found I ended up with much better looking results than trying to draw them in with a mouse. The results are below. I've actually spent more time working on just the rivers than I have on the rest of the map alone. ::shrugs:: Hey, it's all fun, right? Next stop, forests!


09-13-2010, 10:22 AM
Just a brief note, folks: this map is on hold while I work on a private commission for a sci-fi RPG.

06-12-2011, 10:24 PM
Looking back at that last post, it's been awhile. That sci-fi map fell through, 'nuff said.

Over the last couple three months I've been working with Arsheesh's tutorial: Making Photo-realistic Trees in GIMP: A Mini-Tut (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?10009-Making-Photo-realistic-Trees-in-GIMP-A-Mini-Tut). I ran into a problem that I finally figured out was an issue of scale. See, Arsheesh's tutorial teaches with a canvas size of about 1000px. My map is more than double that size at 2400px x 3200 px. The forests I was generating were far to smoothed out. I figured out that the issue had to do with Gimp's Render > Cloud filter. The filter seems to produce the same render irrespective of canvas size. For smaller, regional maps this is fine as the light/dark areas of the render provide more variation in forest canopy in the area selected for a forest. For larger maps, say continent size, your perspective is more zoomed out but the cloud render remains unchanged. When the area for a forest is selected there is actually less variation in the forest canopy resulting in a flatter looking forest. This ends up visually unappealing, kinda like a Christmas cookie with green sprinkles glued to the surface of your map. So, I started looking for alternatives.

I found a good alternative in the Felimage Noise filter. I spent hours experimenting with various settings and finally found something that worked pretty well. Using the Sparse Turbulence algorithm with a 15x15 scale and 5 octaves I was able to produce -


While I'm sure I have more to learn, I'm pretty happy with the results. I've already added another forest in the north between all the mountains. I have plans for two more - one in the eastern central area and the last in the south just north of the river. Once I have all the forests generated I'll upload a new version of the map.

It must be said, Arsheesh was very helpful in answering my questions and offering additional advice and alternatives. The problems I ran into were decidedly not a failure on the part of his tutorial they were specific to me and my map. I'm grateful to Arsheesh for all the help and encouragement he offered. If I could rep him a again, I would :)

06-13-2011, 11:34 PM
Ok, I've managed to lay in all the forested areas so here's the progress thus far -


I'm not completely happy with how the central eastern forest ended up but as it was a little bit of an experiment with generating the outline of the forested area I'm not too worried. I think next on the agenda is to figure out where the villages/towns/cities are located and then lay in some farmland textures.

07-03-2011, 12:10 AM
Ok, I decided to experiment with laying in the farmland areas tonight. I've used the textures provided by Bambua found over here (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?10558-Farm-tile). I wasn't quite sure how to lay these in so I experimented with a couple different techniques. In the end, I found that simply using the clone tool with both the vine and galaxy brushes seemed to work best.


07-03-2011, 12:18 AM
Hey those turned out pretty good ProfGremlin. I tried applying some farmland textures to one of my maps once using the clone tool method, and it didn't turn out nearly so well.


07-05-2011, 08:29 AM
Ok, I decided to experiment with laying in the farmland areas tonight. I've used the textures provided by Bambua found over here (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?10558-Farm-tile). I wasn't quite sure how to lay these in so I experimented with a couple different techniques. In the end, I found that simply using the clone tool with both the vine and galaxy brushes seemed to work best.


Use a layer mask instead of the clone tool. It makes it much easier to correct any funky shapes brought out by brushes. You might even consider using two layers with two different types of farmland and using the layer masks to have one dominant in one area and flip for different area(or even blend the two... not sure how that would look...but hey.. experiment)

07-06-2011, 11:22 PM
Thanks for the encouragement, Arsheesh, JFrazierJr. I found mixing up the clone tool styles gave better results than simply sticking with one stamp. By overlaying the stamps they mitigated some of the repeat pattern.

Use a layer mask instead of the clone tool.

This is what I started out to do but for some odd reason I couldn't replicate the feat. Odd, I know, since I used it several dozen times for the forests. Thanks to your statement, JFrazierJr, a light went off in the closet of my mind and I realized what I had been missing. I've laid in a layer of the farmland pattern (it tiles beautifully) and then applied a layer mask. From there a Gaussian blur helped to merge it into the landscape. I think the results are a lot better.


07-06-2011, 11:40 PM
Yup, that looks even better than the last post. Like you mentioned, the Gaussian blur really helps the fields to blend in with the rest of the terrain.


09-21-2012, 10:36 PM
Wow, it's certainly been awhile since I've worked on this map. Life just kinda happens, y'know? Well, I found some space to work on it today and the progress looks decent. I've laid in all the cities, ports, keeps and trading posts as well as the major trade routes connecting them overland. At this point I'm not sure how much more labeling I want to do. Probably just the major features. At any rate, here's today's progress. C&C is welcome.