View Full Version : [Award Winner] Hand drawn hills - a quick tutorial.

07-29-2010, 08:51 AM
Hey guys, I am in the process of adding some hills to the map I am currently working on and I thought I'd share my process with you in case anyone finds it useful. I use Photoshop but there is no program specific steps here. It obviously would be as useful for Gimp users or whatever. I use a tablet and although I guess it would be hard to do with a mouse accurately, not impossible. I wouldn't like to try it though. Been there, not going back. :)
There are other tutorials out there for this kind of thing and they maybe go into greater detail but this is how I do it.

First off, I select a small round brush with a dark brown colour. I had hardness set to 100% and the brush at 3 px. I set the opacity to around 65%. I also have shape dynamics and other dynamics on and set to pen pressure.
I keep the same brush for all stages of this, all I do is change size and opacity.

So for starters, on a new layer I call "Outlines" I just roughly draw in some hill outlines where they need to be. Try and vary the shapes and sizes to make them more interesting. Draw smaller, flatter outlines at the outside of your range and try not to make the hills around the edge too much in line.

Next I increase the brush size a little, I used 5px and lowered the opacity to around 30%. I then roughly shade inside each outline on another new layer called "Shading". You should know which side the light is coming from so start at the opposite side, where it is most shadowed and along the bottom of the hill. Don't make it perfectly straight at the bottom, allow it to bow out below where the outlines end to give the illusion of shape. Allow some darker spots in amongst the shading so the hills don't seem too uniform. You can be a lot more careful with your shading etc. but I like to keep it rough to help with the hand-drawn feel.

Next I increase the brush size again (I used 8px) and lowered the opacity down to about 20-25%. On a third layer ("Hollows") I quickly colour in between the hills in a very rough fashion. Where the hills are darkest on the shading layer I darken the colouring on the hollows layer, thus tying the hills together. I let the shading wander out past the edges of the hills in places so the whole range looks a little more integrated into the map and not just placed there. I call this layer hollows because this is the layer where you can suggest dips and hollows between the hills rather than just them all rising out of a completely flat plain. If you can picture how you think the land will be between the hills then simply darken any part that slopes away from your light source to imply shadows. Not done much of that here, just basic shading to connect the hills.

After that stage I often start another layer which I call "contours" and then dropping the brush back down to 2-3 pixels and raising the opacity somewhat I will draw lines where I imagine slope is going. This can also help suggest whatever shadowing you added in the hollows layer. I've decided to drop the contour stage on this map though as I want a slightly different look to normal but you can see the contouring I use on my Aronbor map or the brushes that Vhailor made from that map.
So here is how those first three layers look against the map.

They look ok but don't really fit in with the rest of the colour scheme I've gone with. So I set all three layers to "Soft Light". Now they're the right colour but compared to the darker mountains I have elsewhere on the map they looked a little washed out. So I copied both the shading and hollows layer and reduced the opacity on these two copies down to 50%. Now they look good. This is why I always keep the layers separate, so I can adjust each layer individually.
So here is the final range as it looks on the map.

I hope this is useful to somebody.

07-29-2010, 10:51 AM
Hey that looks great. I hadn't though of splitting things up into quite so many layers but after reading your technique here I think it's the way to go. I will definitely try this myself. If I can I will give you some rep for the helpful information.

Thank you.

07-29-2010, 04:47 PM
This is great, man. I always wondered my my hand-drawn style looks so simple...it's that third layer - I do mine with outlines and shading layers but never thought about that third (hollows) layer.

Steel General
07-29-2010, 05:01 PM
Neat stuff...

07-29-2010, 07:12 PM
Here's a quick screenie of the current map I'm doing of Egracien (this is the player's version). You can see my normal style mtns on the left and this style on the right and bottom. Looks tons better; thank you so much, bro. I'm working with a larger, 21-pixel airbrush tip at 10% opacity to keep things more painterly and then go back with a 13-pixel eraser tip at 50% opacity on the highlight areas. Diff brushes but the technique is the same.

07-29-2010, 07:47 PM
And this is why, Ramah, you're such a brilliant fantasy cartographer. Even your tutorial is a work of art!

I'll be using this!

07-29-2010, 08:35 PM
That's fantastic, Ramah! Definitely incorporating this into my next hand-drawn.

07-30-2010, 05:46 AM
Thanks all. I'm glad that people are finding something useful in this.

This is great, man. I always wondered my my hand-drawn style looks so simple...it's that third layer - I do mine with outlines and shading layers but never thought about that third (hollows) layer.

Yeah, without the layer to join the hills together they can look ok but they look like individual hills rather than a range. When I was first struggling with how to do the hills on Vaniya I went through several attempts trying to get them to look right. They either looked too spaced apart or if I moved them all closer together so that there was no space then they just looked too busy and clustered. It was the shading between the hills that allowed me to go in the middle of those two extremes.

Your map looks great by the way. I love it when you go for a hand drawn style and look forward to you posting the finished product if you can.

08-02-2010, 03:16 PM
Great stuff Ramah! thanks for posting this. cheers!