View Full Version : My first fantasy map and using Photoshop to apply consistent styles

01-26-2011, 09:56 AM
Hi mappers! My name's Mitchell and I'm a GIS guy. I'm definitely not paid to be creative so this is a fun outlet. I started tinkering with Photoshop and CC symbols and other imported images and this was the result. It's not totally polished

I was trying to create a map for my D&D game where players could readily identify the dwarven mountain, elf town, etc. This lead to a big mess of clashing fonts and symbols that don't mesh with the background to look like a proper map. Overall I value it evoking meaning in the players minds more than create a consistent style, but the overall product still looks a bit like a computery mess of screenshots. So I wanted to know (perhaps this belongs in the how-to forum)
- Can you folks suggest any techniques for integrating the cartoony style of Campaign Cartographer graphics with the texture of the background land? I'm looking for a process I could apply to one or both groups that would make htem consistent and clash less
- Is it possible to directly import the Campaign Cartographer symbol catalog into Photoshop?

Thanks guys! I value your feedback

01-26-2011, 11:46 AM
Hi Gregory and welcome to the Guild!

I don't use CC3, but I believe that their symbols are in .png form, although how accessible they are for mass exporting, I don't know, I suspect that Profantasy would frown on the process for fear of their symbols being lifted wholesale and might make it difficult, which they would have every right to.

I've always found it challenging to try to get something consistent by mixing up different symbol styles and map elements, sometimes it hangs together but mostly it doesn't, unless you start modelling the look of your map on the look of your symbols. That said, because you've kept the land textures reasonably neutral, I don't think your map suffers too much from the symbols clashing with the land textures. The fact that the symbols are oversized helps as well.

The reason why I think you may feel that it looks like a mess of clashing fonts and symbols etc is that you've tried to do too much with it. For example, to my eye, the circular LOTR image insets are a great idea, but I don't think they fit. You could try making a border with circles in the corners and putting the insets in there appropriately labelled. Suggestions of things to try:

1. Lose the background 'knobbly' texture, it doesn't add to the knowledge of the topography and IMO is distracting. Use a more subtle texture if you want one, maybe vary the texture between the sea and the land as well.
2. The coniferous forest looks like it's been cut out and dropped in (the edges are very smooth), do a search on this site for 'the tree thing' which is a java application created by a couple of members of the guild and which will generate individual trees ordered on a z axis to a mask pattern you create. It's more complicated to explain than just to see, so have a look at the thread to see what it can do. It will give you a much nicer fir forest and one that looks like it's been drawn with individual tree symbols.
3. The scale of the dead tree symbol is huge compared to the coniferous forest symbols. Maybe make them the same size (there may be 'in game' reasons why you want them different, but it looks odd to me). Again, the Tree thing might help you here.
4. Consider getting rid of the drop shadow effect on all the CC3 symbols as it makes the elements look like they are floating.
5. In terms of colours, I find that keeping a roughly consistent colour saturation level (darker colours slightly more saturated and lighter ones slightly less saturated) really helps with consistency. The coniferous forest green and the symbols are supersaturated against the rest of the map colours. So maybe desaturate the symbols or increase the saturation of topography.
6. If you are using photoshop, why not use the perspective tool to tilt the whole topography a bit into perspective, it might look good with the iso symbols?

I'll knock up a quick example of what I mean, but that's as much as I can suggest for now.

best and good to have you here,


p.s. we would love to see some of your GIS work if you're willing to share!

01-26-2011, 08:27 PM
Those are some really good suggestions. I knew the LOTR art would look off but couldn't find any other symbols for an elven city that fit. The saturation tip is really cool - it's all really relevant and helpful at my level. I'm going to look into other ways to do the background

Some days I make 8 maps a day (all confidential) so I haven't gotten to do any creative cartography, and I'm not really trained in design, but I have an amazing 4'x4' map of a South American adventure race I worked for full of world-class sports photography. I'll post an intro and some GIS work when I have time, but I've definitely got my hands full remaking the map texture. I'm looking forward to scouring these forums for ideas

01-27-2011, 03:59 AM
Pleasure! Attached is a map I've knocked up to show kind of what I meant about integrating CC symbols (these are from CC2) with the land style. There are many ways of doing it for sure. I really like the example 'Jaw Peninsula' that ships with CC2, it works so well because it has just the right amount of detail in it. The attached map is a little sparse, but hopefully it conveys the idea.

01-30-2011, 12:40 PM
Ravells points are all solid. I noticed a small ring of white artifacts around some of the symbols, cleaning that up will help to integrate the symbols with the background. I actually like the vignettes of cities etc, but you might want to use some that dont look quite so tolkienesque (if you want it to read as tolkienesque then keep em). I suggest this thread (http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/21963709/One_Billion_Words_-_1001_Fantasy_Landscapes), theres plenty of different fantasy vistas to choose from.

01-30-2011, 09:06 PM
Regarding blending the icons with the texture, you might try cycling through all the blend modes to see if something will make them mesh with the texture. You could possibly also put your bumpy texture over the top and set its mode to Overlay, then adjust the opacity. That will cause it to modify everything beneath with the texture, so the icons will appear to be painted on the surface instead of hovering over it. And killing the drop shadows will help, too.

With the variety of different fonts, it looks a bit like all the different races got together and each labeled their own spots on the map. Most maps are, rather, made by one person or a small group, and the lettering will be fairly consistent. Rather than using different fonts to indicate your various cultures, you might use something a bit subtler, like a different color for each one. It communicates the same information but removes it to a lower place in the hierarchy.

Something else to watch as you try to integrate images from different sources is their relative resolution. Your border, for instance, looks quite soft in comparison to everything, and the text is crisper than pretty much everything. The reason is likely because you've scaled some elements up, so they've lost a lot of definition. You might be able to get away with gently sharpening some items, like the coniferous forests, and you could very slightly blur others, but I think that the difference between the blurriest and the sharpest is a bit too great to really get them to fit together.