View Full Version : Emaria-style Star System Maps

04-19-2011, 04:36 PM
I got about half way through the first step in writing up the directions before realizing I could just do a proper tutorial and link to that. Ha

This tutorial will help you make a stylized star system map like the ones I have posted here (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?4886-Star-Map-Emaria). As I have not prepared anything ahead of time (and am writing this more or less on the spur of the moment) I can't guarantee it won't be a little messy, but I'll do my best. This tutorial is for the GIMP, and I have no experience with other graphics programs, so I don't know how well it can be applied to others.

The first step is to make your sun. I used another tutorial for this, which can be found on Youtube, How to make a sun with gimp (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VaArhDa994E). The tutorial is in, I think Italian, but you can see what's going on in the GIMP, and every tool is more or less in the same place. The gist of it is that you need to make a 500x500 transparent image, give it three layers, make a coloured circle on each one (red, orange, and yellow in the tutorial), give the top two layers a mask, render plasma noise on the masks, flatten the image, map it to a sphere (remember to give it a transparent background and no light source), put a layer behind it, select the transparency on the top layer, invert the selection, use a radial gradient (the German Flag gradient is the best) inside the circle, Gaussian blur it by about 90 in both directions, recolour the blur, flatten, colourize the whole thing, and save as either a .png or a .xcf.
The star I'm using for this map, Modra.

That's rather quick and dirty, and I may have left out steps, but I did every star I needed almost a year ago, so I don't really remember it all. If you watch the tutorial, however, it should be easy enough to see what's being done, and follow it from there.

Anyway, step two is making the map file itself. Be prepared to make a large .xcf file with a lot of layers, as I find that gives you the best control over things. As I'm making my maps to completely fill my laptop screen, the size I use is 1366x768. This is pretty useful if you have a television for a monitor, because it appears modern TVs all use roughly that resolution as well. Make the background of your image pure black.

The background layer will be a starfield. There's a simple trick to making a good one easily. First apply HSV Noise [Filters->Noise->HSVNoise] with these values:
Holdness: 7
Hue: 4
Saturation: 16
Value 190
This will add tiny specks to your plain background.

It looks okay, but it can be a lot better. Add Sparkle [Filters->Light and Shadow-> Sparkle] with these values:
Luminosity Threshold: 0.014
Flare Intensity: 0.33
Spike Length: 11
Spike Points: 3
Spike Angle: 51
Spike Density: 1.00
Transparency: 0.00
Random Hue: 0.13
Random Saturation: 0.22
Leave the boxes unchecked, and choose "natural color" for the radial button. This gives you a much nicer background overall, in my opinion.

Next, create a new layer, call it "Star" or whatever, and copy your star(s) onto the map. Best to stick it in a corner or centered against one of the long sides or something. I don't think one of these maps can be made well with a full-size star in the center, but it's up to you. You'll also want to take this opportunity to add another layer, "markers," on top of the star, placing a little Visible mark exactly in the center of the star. I add the star to the image by dragging it straight from the folder, so it first shows up as a separate, 500x500 layer. With this I can easily find the exact center by selecting the top left corner with a 250x250 box. Then I place a little red dot there on the "markers" layer. From there you can safely merge your star picture onto the "star" layer.
I use the most visible colour possible.

With the star in place, it's time for the orbits. Make a new layer "orbits" above the star layer. Make sure your marker is visible in the center of the star. Select the "Ellipse Select Tool" and make sure Antialiasing is checked. Also check "Expand from center" and "Fixed." Make sure Aspect ratio is selected in the drop-down box, and place a ratio that you would like in the box. Sirius, I believe, was done with 1.33:1, and anything between 1.5:1 and 1:1 looks pretty good.

Now, select a large ellipse, starting from the marker and expanding outward, until you have an orbital path you like. Make sure the Paths dialog is opened in your Layers box, and click the little button towards the bottom called "Selection to Path." This will give you a path which you can stroke using the adjacent button. Repeat the process for each planet in orbit. When you're done, make sure the "orbits" layer is active, make sure your colour is white (or whatever colour you want the orbit lines to be) and go down the list of paths, Stroking each one in turn. I generally use a line width of 1 pixel, and the Short Dashes preset with the rounded cap style, but most settings can be made to look good.
Modra has five planets, one of which is artificial and follows a different (1:1 instead of 1.45:1) orbit.

Continued in my next post.

04-19-2011, 04:45 PM
Now, you'll notice that the edges of your picture have dashes going all the way up to the corners. Yes, unfortunately when the selected ellipse was turned into a path, it made an abrupt corner to follow the borders of the image. you'll need to select the areas where the dashes follow the border of the picture and Clear them (delete) so that you keep just the dashes you want. After this is done you should have some nice neat dashes showing the orbital paths of your planets.

Now we get to the complicated part, the planets themselves. It's best to do them all at once, so make two more layers for your map image, "Planets" and "Shadows." If you want to show moons as well, you should also make two additional layers, "Moons" and "Moon Shadows." Keeping them all on separate layers will be useful later on. Save your map (as an .xcf, remember) and close it.
Ready to go

Since there are various methods to making planets, you may prefer to use a different method. This is only a quick and easy method to make different kinds of planets which will look good when they get to their final size on the map. I'm afraid I was unable to find the original author of the tutorial I used to create these planets, so I apologise for not being able to offer credit where it is due.

Make a new image with whatever background you want at size 1000x500. Add solid noise [Filters->Renders->Clouds->Solid Noise] and give it these settings:
X Size: 6.0
Y Size: 4.0
Detail: 15
tileable checked.
Randomize the seed or find one you like.

If you want an oceanless planet, skip this paragraph.
Go to Brightness/Contrast and set the contrast up all the way. Adjust brightness however you see fit. The idea is that you want the image to be black blotches on a white background, or vice versa. One will be the ocean, the other the land. Give the picture an alpha channel if you need to, then select by colour whichever you want to be the ocean and Clear it. This will give you the transparency behind it. Without deselecting the ocean, create a new layer behind the current one. use the fill tool (fill whole selection) and colour it whatever you want the ocean to be, generally some form of blue. Then, invert the selection and Fill it with a lighter version of that colour. Deselect and use Gaussian Blur [filters->Blur->Gaussian Blur] at about 25 radius in both directions. This will give you a nice looking effect with lighter blue shores. Now, reselect the land on the main layer and reapply the Solid Noise with the same settings. It generally looks better if you use the same seed, but you don't really have to.

With the land still selected, apply any changes you'll want to now. You'll probably want to Colourize it, for one. Also, if you want a more dramatically rocky planet, you can turn the contrast up, and if you want a relatively smooth planet, you can lower the contrast. When you're happy with the settings, it's time to apply the Bump Map [Filters->Map-> Bump Map]. These settings are just an example:
Azimuth: 135.00
Depth: 47
X offset:0
Y offset:0

Once you're happy with the overland map, it's time to move on. Flatten the image and go to Image->Scale Image. Resize the image to 500x500 so it looks squished in half. Then go to Map Object [Filters->Map->Map Object] and choose the sphere. Make sure you give it a transparent background, and set the light settings at "no light." Finally, set the rotational z coordinate to something like 15 degrees, and find a good y rotation. Use the preview button to play with the settings until you have something you like, and click OK.

Now you have your planet mapped to a sphere. But it still needs work, doesn't it? First you should generally Sharpen [Filters->Enhance->Sharpen] the image by 10 to 50 points. Then, create four more layers. Call them "Black," "Atmosphere," "Clouds," and "Shadow." Place Black and Atmosphere underneath the sphere and fill Black with pure black colour. This'll give you a better background to see the finished product with. Go back to the background layer and select by colour the transparency, then invert. Use a radial gradient such as the Germany Flag Smooth, centered in the middle at 250, 250 and draw down to about 410, 250. Deselect, go back to Gaussian Blur, and give it about 90 radius in both directions. This will give you a slight red blur past the sphere. Colourize the layer as you wish, generally with a light blue colour if the planet has an Earthlike atmosphere. Planets with thinner atmospheres can be given a darker colour so it fades to black quicker.

Select the planet again using the same tactic as before and this time go to the Clouds layer. Go back to solid noise [Filters->Renders->Clouds->Solid Noise] and this time set the x and y both to the same number, make sure the Turbulent box is checked, and don't worry about making it tileable. Click OK and set the Clouds layer to either Add or Screen mode in the Layers dialog box. Go back to Brightness/Contrast and set the contrast high and the brightness relatively low. You should get roughly cloudy shapes in white over your image. Play around with these settings until you're happy with the result. Leave the "Shadow" layer alone for now. This will be dealt with later. Save the planet as its own .xcf file.

Repeat for each planet in the system. Of course you might want gas giants, which can be done with a custom gradient, clever use of the iWarp filter, and a little bump-mapping for texture. You also might want planets with a very particular texture, which you can simply find, colourize, and map to a sphere. This part is where the individual creativity generally comes in, and it will take several hours to do an entire system this way, but the results are amazing. Once you have every planet and moon that will appear in the star system, move on to the next instruction.
Modra's eight orbiting bodies; Five planets, three moons. A very close hothouse planet Phoba, an overpopulated slum Hyperion, the Ghrinite homeworld Mog (now populated exclusively by the rich), a frozen rock out in space Chrio, and the artificial planet Juperos. Then the moons, a protected water reservoir moon for Hyperion called Lyons, and the two moons of Mog, Gorun and Sevique.

Back on the overall map, use your "Markers" layer to plan out the locations of each planet along the orbits. It looks best when the planets look more or less randomly staggered about the orbits, and remember that they need enough room underneath them to add the names later.

Once you know where each planet will go, open the planet pictures one at a time. Use the select ellipse tool, give it a fixed size of about 800x800, and select the part of the planet which will face the sun. Try to select a little more than half, maybe about two thirds. Now, invert the selection. Go to your shadow layer and fill the selection with pure black. Deselect and use Gaussian Blur again set to about 190 on the shadow layer. Whis should give a nice realistic-looking shadow on one side of the planet. You may need to try a few times before the effect looks right. Finally, go back to the background layer (the one which has the original sphere on it), select the transparency again, and return to the shadow layer to delete everything except the shadow on the planet itself. Now, it should have the atmosphere halo going all around it.

Now, from the layers dialog box, make the black background and the shadow invisible, right-click and select "merge visible layers" and resize the image to whatever you want it to be on the map. I keep my planets between 50x50 and 130x130 and my moons smaller than that. Remember that the image size itself includes everything around the planet itself as well, so if you want the actual body of the planet to be a certain size make sure the image size is bigger than that. Now, copy the main planet layer (which should now be the sphere, atmosphere, and clouds) and paste it onto your map, making sure the planets layer is selected first, then line it up with the correct orbit.

You can use a neat trick here. In the Paths dialog, click the left-side button next to each of the orbits to make the original path show up. Then, zoom in when you paste the planet onto the map and line up the little plus sign on the middle of your planet with the line from the path and that will line it up more or less perfectly.

Now, before deselecting anything, go back to the planet image, select the shadow layer, and paste that onto the image as well. The planet itself will automatically be pasted to the "Planets" layer. Then right-click on the "floating selection" in the layers dialog and choose "new layer." Move the layer down until it's right above the "Shadows" or "Moon shadows" layer of the map and merge down. Again, repeat for every planet and moon in the star system.
Just needs a few more touches.

And that should be it. That's the basics. You can place names underneath each planet (I use the font Zero Threes set at size 16 with Hintin and Antialiasing on) and whatever else the map needs.

Oh, and if you want to know how it's worth separating the shadow layers from the planets and moons, just click the button next to the shadow layers to make them invisible. In fact, the way I set each of my maps up, I can show or hide any combination of details, including just the moons, just the text, or everything but the star and orbits. Modra's finished .png is also included on this post, and will be added to my Emaria Star Maps thread as well.

04-19-2011, 04:47 PM
Just one more post, I promise. Wanted to detail three more tricks I use for these. Now, unfortunately I'm not working on maps which require either of these two right now, so these tutorials will have to be without pictures for now.

Ice Clouds:
This one is fairly simple, if not entirely easy to pull off looking good. Using the elliptical selection tool, select the outer limit of where you want the ice cloud to cover, more or less. Then using the same tool, deselect (by holding ctrl) the area forming the border where you would like it to begin. This should give you a selection shaped likea hollow tube. Use Solid Noise [Filters->Renders->Clouds->Solid Noise] on a new layer (I generally put it behind everything but the background) to give the area some texture, and Colourize it the way you want (blueish for an ice cloud, brown for a dust cloud, etc.). Set the opacity of the layer from the layers dialog box to something that looks good (15-33%, usually) and deselect the area. Now, using the smudge tool, rub the edges of the cloud until it looks the way you want. It should start to naturally blend the cloud into the background in a way that looks good. My map of Sirius has an example of an ice cloud.

Asteroid Belt:
Making an asteroid belt doesn't really require any new techniques, it just uses ones I've covered before in a new way. First, select the area you want the belt to cover. Be generous here, but don't cover any planets' orbits unless you want the planet to plow through the belt once or twice a year. Again on a new layer, use Solid Noise with turbulent checked and set the x and y to whatever you want. Set them higher for more, smaller asteroids, or lower for larger, fewer ones. Now use Brightness/Contrast as if you're making a planet with very a lot of water and small, roundish islands. You will probably need to take the Pencil tool and recolour some of the islands on the edge so that you don't have asteroids which just sort of abruptly end, or split larger bodies in half, or reshape others. Then Select by Colour whichever colour is going to be the background here and Clear it. Select the other colour, reapply the Solid Noise, Colourize it, and apply a Bump Map just like you would for a planet. I like to use more drastic settings for asteroids so they look even more jagged and unshaped. If you do it right you should have a decent-looking asteroid belt orbiting your star.

Inside a nebula:
In my Universe, Fuu'u'll and Modra are situated inside two Nebulae (They're not exactly the same thing as what we call nebulae--in my universe Space has air, Fuu'u'll is in a smog cloud and Modra is surrounded entirely by water vapour). Just above the background and behind everything else, I've applied a Solid Noise, set the opacity of the layer VERY low (3-15%) and Colourized it until it just barely fogs the background in the right colour.

Fairly simple to do, and all using the same handful of tricks.

04-21-2011, 05:49 PM
Very nice! Looking forward to reading it in full...and have some rep!