View Full Version : January 2011 Entry: Deep in the Wood

01-09-2011, 10:22 AM
My entry this month serves two ulterior motives. One, it is a map of a part of the campaign world for my old friend, Dan. Some of the names of places therefore are not mine, but cherished nonetheless.

The second is an honest effort to learn all that I can from my original inspiration on these boards, Ramah's Vaniya. This piece cleaves as closely as I can manage to the style of that original work. Where it deviates, as it does in a numbers of areas, it is generally in ways in which Ramah has been advancing his craft.

Besides some superb hill and mountain brushes designed by Ramah and executed by vhailor27, and some pretty town markers that I have colorized, I have also used Ramah's excellent "Tree Thing" application which creates shaded trees as you see in this map. One need simply provide a template that instructs the program where to place the trees.

Praamador is a small place, a fraction of the size of most of the states in the US. Yet in spite of it's relatively small size, I wanted to give it a feeling of scale appropriate to a sometimes wild place that one must cross on foot (either yours or a horses). Whether I have accomplished that with this map is open to debate. The journey, which will be documented on this map, will track a party of adventurers from Tradefree to Avilton, the two cities of Praamador. The wood in question is the Wyrlyr'n Forest, wherein the adventurers endeavor to "shave a few days" from the journey. Of course much hilarity and bloodshed ensues.

I have been engrossed in this map for a few days now, never quite getting to the point where I wanted to post it. Now it is nearly finished after about twenty hours of work. To-do's are forest names, cliffs, additional weathering (it is startling just how deep the backdrop of Vaniya is), and perhaps replacing some of the brushes that I used for the project. I can't realistically hope to equal them, but if I can do a presentable job, I will have given something back.

Thanks to RobA for his corner flourishes. I really wish you'd create that tutorial you've been threatening RobA. I love flourishes.

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01-09-2011, 10:34 AM
The trees seem kinda bright, maybe a darker shade there, but that's up to you. The black lines that go through the flourishes might be changed to white so that they can blend with the flourish or change the flourish to black, up to you. These are just technical things and in no way mean to detract from a nice looking map that does come pretty close to your goal. So...nice job, so far. :)

01-09-2011, 10:50 AM
The only thing that jumps out at me are the town icons. The colorization looks great, but since they're colorized they seem to really pop out of the map and float. Maybe some deeper shadowing for them would ground them a bit. All in all though, a great map and a goal I can identify with; Ramah's Vaniya/Aronbor maps are a couple of those I go back to over and over again for inspiration.

01-09-2011, 11:39 AM
Thanks for the feedback. Your suggestions have been incorporated and I've added some forest names. If you see a problem with the changes, let me know.

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01-09-2011, 12:19 PM
It looks great. One thing you have down in your maps is this 'Smoky' quality. I don't know what else to call it but if you just zoom in and go down around your map legend there is a smoky feel to it. It's like the steam coming up from my morning coffee. I hope I can capture that someday because I love it.

01-09-2011, 12:30 PM
Something I learned from Jezelf through studying Ramah's work... select your item, whether it be a line or some text or a landmass; stroke it with a dark color on the outside, inverse selection, then put a gaussian blur on it. Depending upon the color and size of the stroke and the size of the blur radius, you can come up with some really nice effects. This is a technique I didn't know before trying to reverse-engineer Ramah's shorelines. It's a lot like an outer glow, but more flexible, and you can use the selection mask to point it in one direction or the other, or no mask for both directions.

Oh and the background is really, really complex. It has so many textures embedded into it you can't see some of them anymore. One texture that is almost gone is some Latin monk scribblings in white. That along with the east-west fiber texture that I finally settled on to approximate Ramah's hint of brushed metal look gives the background a hint of shimmer. Look at Vaniya around the legend and you'll see a similar effect.

01-09-2011, 01:11 PM
Looking really good so far Immolate, I've been thinking of trying something in this style in the near future also :) One thing that jumps out at me is that the City icons are a lot brighter and more distinct than everything else. Maybe they just need a slightly lower opacity, or a nice colour or texture overlay, or maybe even just a very slight blur.

01-09-2011, 02:13 PM
I love the changes to the cities. The colors match better now, and they seem to be a part of the map instead of floating on top of it. Looks fantastic.

01-09-2011, 02:29 PM
Oops, I hadn't actually looked at your first upload Immolate - sorry! The cities are leaps and bounds better now that in your first upload. After looking at it bit more, I think it might just be the purple colour that's throwing me off, it looks quite vivid and might just need to be desaturated a little bit.

01-09-2011, 02:52 PM
It's a poser Moutarde, no doubt. I am trying to see this through the cartographer's eye and within the them of the challenge. These settled places are points of light, so they should be more "lively" than the rest of the map. If I tone them down much more, the settlements become grim and uninviting. I want travelers to look at that map and feel comfort that they are nearing a town. I'm going to keep looking at them with squinty eyes so I'm not sure if they will tone down more or not.

Added names to the roads and an Elven town nestled in the Black Oak Forest.

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01-09-2011, 02:55 PM
Ah, of course, that makes perfect sense :)

01-09-2011, 03:05 PM
Looks Great !! I love the names :)

01-11-2011, 05:30 AM
Dang, this is a great looking map. You have done a fine job indeed.

01-11-2011, 07:54 AM
A minor update including a compass rose wherein I learned a few things by imitating the style used by Ramah in Vaniya but didn't quite get it right. Good enough though. Also added some grunge before being called away to a work emergency that chewed up the rest of the night.

Next steps are to incorporate the story into the map.

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Map Vandal
01-11-2011, 11:11 AM
This is an amazing map. The only comment I have is that I find the forest names a bit hard to read.

01-11-2011, 11:41 AM
This is really looking good Immolate :) The only thing I can offer is that the road names look a tiny bit pixellized. But that might be just the jpg quality. Good job!

01-11-2011, 05:06 PM
Thank you for the feedback. I think the road labels felt pixelated because they had an inner glow chosen to make the font seem lighter. Instead, I toned down the opacity and took off the inner glow. I turned the outer glow on the forest labels up a couple of notches so that they would be more legible.

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01-11-2011, 08:32 PM
Oh that does look a lot better. Your maps are always a pleasure to look at Immolate - keep it up :)

01-12-2011, 05:41 PM
Oh my word. I've never been reverse-engineered before. :)

Sorry I haven't commented on this before now. I just saw your DA comment. My house is in disarray at the moment with everyone playing musical chairs but with bedrooms so I haven't had time to log on much at all this past month.

I'm very gratified that you think enough of the map that you want to emulate some of the techniques used but I think you are giving me far too much credit Imm - most of the techinques I used in Vaniya were either directly lifted or at best, modified, from Jezelf's excellent tutorials (which are now the hidden basis of almost everything I do).
I would have done a tutorial long ago if I thought I would be adding enough to what was already there.

I have to say though, I love your map. Don't take this as meaning you are failing in your endeavour, but your landmass area is a lot "cleaner" than mine with all the features such as towns and forests being crisper. I like that. I would probably bleed them more and add my "hand-drawn" pattern to all the shadows.
Love what you've done with the iso markers and your colouring on things such as the roads is far better than I have done on any map. Also, I'm glad that you're finding the Treething app useful. I haven't had time to work on it for ages and I had a version that was almost ready to post up when last I touched it. I'll have to get back to it soon.

Again, wonderful work. As usual. :)

01-12-2011, 06:15 PM
Self deprecation is just one of your better personal characteristics Ramah. Jezelf never did a map that I've seen that could touch Vaniya, which was your first effort. I'm not discounting Jezelf's genius. I understand that you stood on his shoulders, just as I'm standing on yours (though not as brilliantly!), so though he deserves much credit (which you gave him), it does not diminish the magnitude of your accomplishment. I've done this sort of thing before often enough, usually free-styling it, and the results didn't please me as much as this one does.

Anywho, here's the latest iteration of this continuing project, wherein I attempt to obliterate all the Ramah-inspired goodness of the map with chicken scratch. I will include the story in clear text once it's done.

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01-12-2011, 06:28 PM
The weathering looks fantastic, very realistic, but I can't read the writing! The map is so crisp that there's a lot of black-on-black and the text gets lost. Could you post up a version with the map faded so I can read the text? What I could make out looked interesting and I'd like to read the rest :)

01-12-2011, 08:27 PM
Nope, he says we can't see it till it's done :)

01-12-2011, 09:36 PM
Ah, now I see that. Sorry Immolate, read-fail. I blame the painkillers ;)

01-13-2011, 11:11 PM
I've got to find a way to make the text more legible and keep it from completely obliterating the map. I like the sloppy handwriting, but it's a bit too thick. Will ponder this more. The story isn't a secret Gidde, just hard to read. :)

01-13-2011, 11:36 PM
You could try putting a subtle colour dodge behind all of the text - it would probably make it look a bit less busy. It would affect the map underneath, but you've already scrawled all over it anyway :)

01-13-2011, 11:39 PM
I've got to find a way to make the text more legible and keep it from completely obliterating the map. I like the sloppy handwriting, but it's a bit too thick. Will ponder this more. The story isn't a secret Gidde, just hard to read. :)

You could add a small, low opacity bevel to the lettering, along with a small draw shadow, then a large white outer glow set to overlay at a low opacity.

If all else fails you could always make the map brighter. Actually the table/wall behind the map is way to bright for the map to be so dark, you should try matching up the light sources so it looks more realistic.

01-14-2011, 04:19 PM
I'm struggling with text on my map as well - keeping it small so as to not cover up the map but making it legible at the same time and yet keeping a styled font to fit the setting instead of opting for the easy-to-read modern fonts...I've redone my labels at least 8 times so far. For your map here's what I'd do (takes some time). Duplicate your map at it's simplest form ie mainly just color, no lines or coastal rings or trees or rivers etc. Then using your handwriting text make a selection expand it 5-10 pixels and create a mask on this simple map layer. This way you get the color but not all of the extraneous stuff that interferes with the writing.

01-16-2011, 11:57 PM
I decided to remove the text from the map and put it in a journal where it would be easier to follow and read. Changed the background from wood to stone as the wood was too bright and saturated for the piece. I've actually done that twice now, each time requiring several hours, because I neglected to save it the first time and the computer rebooted after an automatic patch. Doh! Funny enough, i chose a different book for the background the second time.

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01-17-2011, 12:00 AM
Looks great, man. Dig that spine.

01-17-2011, 12:10 AM
This looks fabulous. The book is very cool. Did you write all that yourself? Sweetness.

01-17-2011, 06:12 PM
Thanks Ascension, Jax. Yes I wrote the words. Words have always been easy for me. It's cartography this is hard.

01-17-2011, 06:42 PM
btw, the diary story entries are great. There are a few errors/typoes but nothing much that matters and nothing you wouldn't see in someone's diary. Nice touch.

01-17-2011, 08:53 PM
I second the appreciation of the spine -- it's perfect. The diary is great, thanks for letting us see the words! This is shaping up to be a very fine entry.

01-17-2011, 11:41 PM
Thank you kindly for the encouragement. I did go through and correct spelling errors as our narrator, being a wizard, would be more precise and exacting than I was. I also added some props to round out the scene.

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01-18-2011, 03:21 AM
Like the coins, where did you come up with those?

01-18-2011, 07:39 AM
Like most things, much grunt work in Google.

01-18-2011, 09:33 PM
Minor adjustments and added a magnifying glass to the set piece. I know it's a sin of excess, but the opportunity to play with the visual distortions of a glass is too much wonky goodness for me to resist.

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01-18-2011, 10:52 PM
I like the magnifying glass :)

01-19-2011, 12:42 PM
Beautiful work, Imm (as always), what fonts did you use for the map and the text? I really like them.

01-20-2011, 07:38 PM
The map was HamletOrNot, which I found to be versatile enough to do the whole thing. The journal entries were Aquiline 2. I looked hard for a spidery script that was very precise and meticulous, the product of how a vigorously disciplined mind handles routine tasks. I couldn't find one. Aq2 however is spidery and has a strong antique feel to it. Almost-but-not-quite effeminate. Perhaps the term I'm looking for is "prissy".

01-28-2011, 07:58 PM
I've got a busy weekend of painting lined up so if anyone sees any fatal flaws, please sound off. I've actually been working on the sister map of this one in the same style and have got the land mass and mountains built up. Haven't spent a huge amount of time on it but I'm sure that will change.