View Full Version : [Award Winner] Mosaic Tile Map in Photoshop (& GIMP)

02-11-2008, 11:47 PM
In this tutorial I will demonstrate the basic steps for creating a realistic mosaic tile image in Photoshop. Specifically, of course, the image I am interested in creating is a map. (See this map (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?t=1478) as a reference.) GIMP users: scroll to the second page of this tutorial and you will find the adjustments needed to make such a map as well (posted by the incomparable RobA).

I consider this a medium difficulty task, and I therefore recommend a beginning PS user follows some basic tutorials on basic PS concepts/processes either before or while using my tutorial. Just do a web search--there are thousands of helps out there for the beginning Photoshopper! (Or check out this thread (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?t=574)!)

I will in most cases give pull-down menu commands instead of shortcuts, mainly because they are easier to write! Go ahead and use shortcut keys and buttons if you know how! Oh, and I am currently using Photoshop CS3, but I believe this will work in any CS version--and possibly in older versions as well. I also am a PC user, so you Mac-ies out there will have to remember that when I say "ctrl" you need to "cmd"--or whatever it is you do! ;)

(Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I must also admit I found some rudiments of the process described below in a recent little article in Photoshop Creative (http://www.pshopcreative.co.uk/) (issue 30)--although adapted and adjusted to my maniacal purposes, of course!)

If you have any questions or comments (or improvements!), feel free to chime in or add comments after the tutorial is complete! Here we go!

Although Photoshop has a mosaic filter, the results are far too regular and stale for my tastes. So instead I will create a custom brush in order to "paint on" tiles. So first open a new PS document of the default size and resolution, then choose the Polygonal Lasso tool. Draw a 4 sided polygon slightly out of square. Fill this shape with black. [see image 1]

With the polygon still selected (the "ants marching") go Edit>Define Brush Preset. Give the brush a name, & click OK. You can then delete and to deselect (ctrl-D) the polygon.

Now open Window>Brushes, select your newly-defined brush (it will probably be the last shown), and set the following:

Brush Tip Shape: Diameter 20 px, spacing 130%
Shape Dynamics: Size Jitter 20%, Size Jitter Control="Off", Angle Jitter 2%, Angle Jitter Control="Direction"
Scattering: Scatter 15%
Color Dynamics: Foreground/Background Jitter 100%

Now you can click the fly-out menu and select New Brush Preset to save that brush [see image 2]. (If you wish, you can also delete the original tile you saved)

Note that you should adjust the brush settings to your preference. Those that I list above will give a somewhat unrefined, ragged look to the map--which fits the archaic style I plan to emulate. If you are creating a refined, polished look, then definitely reduce the jitters and dynamics closer to 0% so your tiles lay perfectly straight!

And that's it! Now when you stroke with this brush you create tiles of slightly varying size and rotation that mix the foreground & background colors [in the second attached image you can see examples of the one I just made!]

NEXT UP: Beginning your map

02-12-2008, 05:41 PM
Okay, so laying out a map for a mosaic is just like planning any other cartography project. The only special need for my specific purpose here is that in the end of the planning phase I have the land selected. Here are two of about fifty or more options to achieve this result:

OPTION ONE: Scan In a Drawing.
The first image below is a hand sketch I scanned into my computer then opened into Photoshop. It is about 1000 pixels square, at 300 px/in resolution. (Remember, if your scan is not at this level when opened in PS you can go to Image>Image Size.). To get my selection, I used the Quick Selection Tool for the large areas and the Lasso Tool for everything else and to clean up the edges.

OPTION TWO: Draw PS Color Shapes
In the second image I created a blank PS page (File>New) about 1000 pixels square, at 300 px/in resolution. Then on a new layer above "background" I used a hard-edged brush in a random color to create my land masses. Then, simply ctrl-click the thumbnail of the color layer in the layers window (the little picture next to "Layer 1") and the land masses were selected.

Please note that whatever method you use, mosaic tile work by its nature is simplifying; thus unless you plan the image to be HUGE or the tiles themselves to by teeny-tiny, I do not recommend highly detailed coastline contours.

You can also see that I left a wide border around the edge of the document; this is because I plan to have a fancy-schmancy border around the final map. You can, if you choose, take your map all the way to the edge.

NEXT: Beginning to tile!

02-12-2008, 10:53 PM
Now we'll lay tiles that will make up the land, so roll your sleeves up, mix up some virtual thinset and we'll get a-laying.

1. After my last step I still have the ants marching around my land masses. Now I activate the Marquee Tool and right-click inside the selection, then choose "Make Work Path." In the "tolerance" window that pops up, I choose 0.5 pixel (the lowest possible tolerance), and click "ok."

2. Create a new layer on top, labeled "Land".

3. Click the Brush Tool & select the tile brush I created earlier.

4. Select a foreground and background color that meld nicely (perhaps even use a color scheme generator, such as Color Jack (http://www.colorjack.com/sphere/) or this one (http://wellstyled.com/tools/colorscheme2/index-en.html)).

5. Now I click the Paths tab in the layers window [see Image 1]; you should find only the work path you just created. In the bottom right of the Paths window is a button called "Stroke Path With Brush"--I click it and my land is outlined in tiles. Neato! [Again, see Image 1] (And if anything goes wrong, don't forget Edit>Undo is your friend!)

6. Now I'll fill my land. First, I drag the work path to the "Create New Path" button to save that original path (just in case). Then with this copied path selected, I...

Click the "Load Path As Selection" button, so the ants march once again around the land.
Then I Select>Modify>Contract that selection by just over 2/3 the width of the tiles I'm using. I'm stroking with 15 px tiles, so I contract by 11.
Now I follow the same process as above: click the Marquee Tool, right click inside the selection & choose "Make Work Path", then select my tile brush, and finally click the "Stroke Path With Brush". A second row of tiles shows up inside the first. [See Image 2]

7. I'll keep doing this same process over and over again until my entire land area is filled with tiles.
Now, this repetition could (as I'm sure you can tell) get very tedious, so I created an Action to do this exact function. If you've never used Actions, they are basically ways of "recording" your steps so you can "play them back" as many times as you wish, repeating a long series of steps in a single click. So using my tiling Action about a dozen times took about 15 seconds and filled in all the land. Look at the third image I've attached and you can see the action window: I recorded the process of tiling, selecting, contracting, making a path...so with the push of a button it was all done for me! Very handy. (Plus, now that I've saved it I can repeat this process on any map at any time in the future!)

8. My final step is to fill in the larger gaps left by my automated process. I simply "dab" the tiles in where needed--sometimes even adjusting the size to a smaller px to fit with as little overlap as possible. Oh, and a useful trick I recently learned: click in one place then hold down Shift and click somewhere else and PS will draw a straight line between the two; very useful for longer rows of straight-line tile fill!

NEXT UP: Ocean (a circular tile fill. Oooooohhhhh!)

02-13-2008, 06:41 PM
The tile-laying process I described in step two easily works for all other aspects of the map. The sea could be created by simply creating a rectangular selection with the Marquee Tool, then running that same process (i.e., Action) with blue tiles. But my vision for the map is for the water tiles to be circular, which is basically the same thing, but with circles.

So first I create a new layer on top of all others, entitled "Sea". Then, I'll use the Elliptical Marquee tool to select a small circle (hold down Shift for a perfect circle) in the approximate center of the image. I then select a foreground and background blue/blue-green.

Now I must adjust two parts of my Action: 1) since I'm starting small and growing out--the opposite of how I tile filled my landforms--instead of contracting the selections I must Select>Modify>Expand them. 2) I plan to use a slightly larger tile for the sea than I used for the land (20 px. vs. 15 px), so that Expand command is at 15 px. rather than 11 px.

Now I'm ready. Then I run the Action over and over again, and ascending circles of blue tiles appear. I'll keep doing this until the entire screen is filled with blue tiles. [See image 1]

The only hitch I have found with the circles is this: as the circles keep expanding in size, they grow less and less circular, so if I continue using the Action over and over, by the end my circles are oblong or even squared. This imperfection really doesn't matter overly for an image that is intended to resemble tiles laid by the fallible human hand (in fact, I rather like it), but still I have stopped twice and re-Marqueed a perfect circle to "reset" the shape. (If anyone out there in cyberspace knows how to prevent this degeneration, please let me know!!)

Next I move the Sea layer below the land layer, click Layer>Layer Mask>Hide All so the entire sea tile layer is hidden.

Then, in the Paths window, I click on that original land path that I saved, click "Load Path as Selection", then Select>Modify>Expand it by 8 pixels (so the selection is actually surrounding the outermost land tiles).

Finally I Select>Inverse and filled in the sea with white. (I also save this land- surrounding path as a new work path, in case I ever need that again too!)[see Image 2].

(I should note that this "non-destructive" technique of masking tiles was chosen in order to allow me to easily adjust my land tiles later in the process if I so desire. Late in the building/planning stages, for before final rendering when all is set and I am satisfied with my layout, I will rasterize the mask so the tile layer effects work out correctly.)

NEXT UP: The Fancy Border

02-14-2008, 12:18 AM
Now I'll tile the border for my map. First I hide all the sea tiles that would overlap the border. I click the layer mask thumbnail in the "Sea" layer, then Marquee a rectangle around the edges of the land, followed by Select>Inverse. I fill this area with black, thus hiding the blue tiles. (Do not Deselect yet, though.)

Now I create a new layer on top of my stack entitled "Border". Of course, the possibilities for patterns and effects in the border are limitless. I'll start with a simple frame by (you guessed it) following the same tile fill procedure I've used for both land and sea. I first Select>Inverse so the land area is the selected area again. Then Select>Modify>Expand by just over half my tile size (I'm going to use big 30 px tiles for the border, so I expand by 17 px). Then I choose new tile colors and follow the procedure (Action) from before, expanding until my edges are filled.

As you can see from Image 1, I alternated colors for variety. You will also notice that the corners contain angled tiles; this is a result of the stroking process, and I like the effect for my ancient map. If you would like to avoid this, either erase the corner tiles by hand, or bypass the entire stroking of work paths system altogether by drawing the lines of tiles in by hand (click one end, then Shift-click the other is easiest.)

Now, you can stop there if you like or do any number of fancy-schmancy border patters. In Image 2 you can see I added some simple, triangular flourishes to my border. I did this by placing a layer mask revealing all over the Border later, then selecting a square marquee, Select>Transform Selection to rotate it 45%, placing it in the center of each side of the border and filling it with black to hide that triangle of border. Finally, I hand brushed in the new tiles in a newly-created layer called "Border Decor" & erased excess tiles. Pretty simple. The corner lines I created completely by hand, masking out the overlapping Border tiles as well.

NEXT UP: Land Details & Labels

02-15-2008, 11:45 PM
I want to now finish up tiling the map. This could take either much time or be rather brief, depending upon how intricate I want my final image to appear. I think I will only insert borderlines and one mini picture on this map, but on your map you could go into great detail, inserting mountains, rivers, multiple images, etc. using the exact same methods.

First I use the Paint Bucket Tool to change the Background layer's white to a tan/taupe color to simulate grout. This will help make my white tiles stand out.

Then, I put a layer mask (revealing all) over my Land layer. I'll use this in a minute to hide overlaps.

Now I create a new layer on top called Borderlines, then switch to the Paths menu where I create a new work path. Using the Freeform Pen Tool I draw in my borderlines. Then I choose my tile brush and click contrasting foreground/background colors. I click "Stroke path with brush" and my borderlines are now tiled.

But I need to get rid of overlapping tiles. So I switch back to the layers window & ctl-click the thumb in my Borderlines layer, thereby selecting the tiles I just created. Now Select>Modify>Expand by 2 or so pixels. Finally, in the Land layer mask I fill the selection with black in the layer mask, thus hiding the land tiles and giving a grout line beside my borderlines. [see image 1]

I'll follow a similar process (simplified) for an inserted mosaic picture. I found a picture of a Roman ship from a simple web search, so I copy-pasted that into my PS document, but you could also draw free hand. In a new layer on top of all other layers I draw the ship with my tile brush, using various color combos and tile sizes. Then I delete the pattern pic, and in the layer mask for the sea I simply paint with a hard edged brush in black to blot out the overlapping tiles. It's as simple as that. [see Image 2]

02-16-2008, 11:28 PM
Labeling a mosaic map may be completed in numerous manners. My method is straightforward and easy, but certainly not the only method.

So first I select foreground & background color (I chose light--almost whites), then I place all your text on top of all other layers using the Type Tool. (I used a font called Satyr--a free download here at Dafont.com (http://www.dafont.com/search.php?psize=m&q=satyr).)

Make sure the text is spelled the way you wish, because after the next few clicks they will not be editable as type! Next, I ctrl-click all my text layers in the layers palette, click Layer>Rasterize>Type, and then Layer>Merge Layers. All text is now on one layer, which I rename "Text".

Now I ctrl-click the thumbnail in this Text layer, so each letter of text is surrounded by the marching ants. I hide Text, then create a new layer on top of the stack entitled "Text Tiles". Then with my tile brush set to tiles just barely wider than my text width, I draw in all text. [see Image 1]

Note that you don't need to be neat or careful here, since the selection will not allow tiles to stray outside the ant line. As you do this, remember three things:
Because our brush settings tile are set to paint in the direction of the painting strokes, paint in the direction of your text lines, in smooth strokes.
Ragged edges add to the authentic feel of the tiling we're creating, so don't worry about these
If you do stray too far out of range, remember that ctrl-alt-Z (or Edit>Undo) is your friend!

Next I Select>Modify>Expand by a few pixels, and in my land &/or sea tiles layer masks I use the Paint Bucket Tool with black. This eliminates overlap of tiles. [see Image 2]

You can delete your old Text layer, but I usually keep it--no reason, but why not, just in case. :)

02-16-2008, 11:59 PM
Okay, so now we're done laying the basic tiles. Set up is over, and the fun of taking this from 2D to 3D begins. First I save under a different name and work in that new PS file, for I'm now moving to using a destructive technique--meaning in a moment there's no easy going back and tweak. (Or, alternatively, press Alt+Ctrl+Shift+E. This makes a new layer out of the merged image, leaving others in tact.)

I Ctrl-click every layer that contains tiles (including those with layer masks, such as Land and Sea), then Layer>Merge Layers, thus combining all tiles into one layer that I rename "Tiles." So I now have only two visible layers: Tiles and the grout background color.

With the Tile layer selected I open the layer style box (Layer>Layer Style) and entered the settings as listed in Image 1 (or something akin). (I actually have this saved as a layer style, so for me it was only the press of a button to get these settings. Ahhh, technology...)

Next, to add a little color depth I add a Layer>New Fill Layer>Pattern on top of my layers stack, using the Molecular pattern dropped to 40% scale. In the layers palette, I set the blending mode to Soft Light and drop the opacity to 40%.

Finally, those cracks of exposed grout are a little flat, so let's add a Layer Style of texture, set to the Wrinkles pattern, with a scale of 20% and a depth of +60%.

Image 2 shows the results so far.

02-17-2008, 12:56 AM
Okay, so now my anal-retentive side comes out, as I tweak ad nauseum to get this map up to snuff.

First in the Tiles layer I select the Eraser Tool and a medium sized (10 px), hard-edged brush, set to 10% flow, then trace around any hard, overly-crisp edges or other places I think could use some wear and tear. I then do this same with a larger brush and 20% fill, even tearing out a few spots to simulate ruin.

For some large scale erosion, I choose a fuzzy brush, a charcoal brush, or a splatter brush, and draw around with the Eraser Tool set to 10-20%. I usually do this is "sweeps" of light erasing, scraping away at the tiles, constantly zooming in and out to check both views so I don't get carried away in any one spot. [see Image 1]

Now when all the wear and tear is exactly how I like it, I save again under a different name, then Layer>Merge Visible. I then copy the layer with map twice by dragging it to the Create New Layer button at the bottom of the layers palette.

The middle map layer I switch to Multiply layer blending mode, play around with the Gaussian blur (about 2 px), then lower the opacity to taste (40% or so).

On the top map layer I run Filter>Render>Lighting Effects, and put wide, soft a spotlight on the upper left corner, playing with the settings as fits my eye. This layer I set to Soft Light blending mode.

Final tweaks are adding any Layer>New Adjustment Layers (such as color balance, brightness/contrast, and Hue/Saturation). I am a persistent fiddler, so this takes some time, and I won't tell you my settings because I have never been consistent at this point, choosing to leave things be only when the overall effect strikes my eye as correct. In general I can say I drop saturation and lightness down, since this seems more believable, and I do anything I can to kill neon colors.

I also added a few very light strokes of dark & light browns with various art brushes. Just for.

Image 2 contains my end result. I hope you found this tutorial was useful, interesting, or both. If you have any questions or refinements please go ahead and post them in this thread. Oh, and be sure to post your own mosaic maps here in the Guild so we can all admire your technique, too!

Take care!

02-17-2008, 08:51 AM
Really awesome. I was convinced there would be a rendering stage as the tiles in the original had the nice shadows and an overall lighting hint from top left to bottom right. So if PS can do this without bump map info then that is quite impressive.

Its also worth noting that its your fiddling with it that converts it from interesting to almost real looking. I am sure that a lot of maps here look really good but with a little extra could take them that stage higher and its often difficult to know what to do to get them to that point.

I don't have PS but my lil ole program can drop icons on a path at random rotations following the mouse track but it does not color tint them, though I could make a color tint layer manually. If I get some time I will have to try and see and post something in the other thread.

Well done - I believe you now & you can keep the rep.. ha ha :)

02-17-2008, 10:06 AM
Really great Don,

Thanks a lot. I will be sure to use it and soon, cause My player are starting the Skinsaw murderer adventure and I think a little mosaic map in one of the catacomb could be good for future adventure.

I thought I would have been harder to do… Maybe I will also try my map into a mosaic.

Each day, I love our guild more and more.

Thanks again,

02-18-2008, 05:16 AM
Brilliant Don - this tutorial will be one of the site's crown jewels.

02-19-2008, 11:41 PM
Here's my effort - blatant rip-off, just playing with GIMP. I didn't bother with most of the detail stuff, though I added a stroke around the continents.
Also attached is the brush I created to facilitate this.

I was able to follow the tutorial quite closely, with a few exceptions....

1) Gimp does not stroke along a selection well with an angular animated brush like this one. It is better to keep converting the selections into a path, then stroking the path (don't know why....)

2) No colour jitter. I got around that by creating a fairly busy gradient of the colours I wanted (or pick a pre-set) and check the "use colour from gradient" box in the pen tool.

3) I was WAY too lazy to do the expanding circle thing, so I just created a spiral in inkscape (one drawing object), converted it to a path and imported it into GIMP.

4) As always, the layer effects don't translate, as GIMP doesn't have them. I create a 50% greyscale layer, bumpmap it with the source image, and adjust the curves with necessary, applying it in overlay mode to accomplish a similar effect.

-Rob A>

02-20-2008, 01:22 PM
I think that turned out quite well, Rob! Nicely done! I'm sure our GIMP users will be overjoyed with your instructions and brush. Very cool.

Also note that instead of (or in addition to) the gradients, one could simply draw with a low opacity darker color overtop the originally laid tiles; that would simulate the color variations nicely, too.

Thanks for doing this. I'm going to change the title of the thread to include GIMP, too. :)

02-20-2008, 07:50 PM

I think there is a bit too much uniformity in the straight runs, as the brush spacing doesn't randomize. This is most noticeable on the right hand side where the vertical row of tiles exists. This could be improved if I changed the brush scaling manually between successive strokes, in much the same way I changed the gradient pattern repeat between strokes.

-Rob A>

02-20-2008, 09:09 PM
I agree. Another option is skewing the finished runs of tile; does GIMP have any kind of liquify or warp tools?

02-21-2008, 12:40 AM
Many. I think the closest to liquefy is i-warp (I think it is short for interactive warp). This tends to distort the tiles as well, however. Best, I think, to address it at source.

-Rob A>

03-02-2008, 02:33 PM
So I had some inspiration the other night, and came up with another (and I think simpler) way to do to the initial tile laying in GIMP, since "recording actions" in GIMP actually requires some scripting/programming...

Starting with the land mass blocked out

Create a selection. Fill this with a shaped gradient (in gimp I used shaped, angular) made of alternating black and white bars. To do this in GIMP actually requires defining a new gradient, (which is easy enough, and I'll provide the steps if someone wants) with the desired number of solid black and white bands. (IIR, in photoshop you can just "scale" the gradient when applying it and set repeat "on".) Eventually, we will end up stroking along every black/white edge. in the image.

Now here's where I compensate for the "straightness" problem I had. Create a new layer and fill it with turbulent clouds. Now perform a displacement map on the striped layer using the turbulent clouds. Here I used a moderate 3 px x and y. (In photoshop, IIR, you have to save the turbulent layer out to a file before using it for a displacement map.) The image here shows the result along with the the displacement map I used.

Using the colour select tool, select all the black to get a selection (0 tolerance), expand it by 1 pixel and then turn the selection into a stroke.
Now stroke the path (with the brush I provided if using gimp). Here I also used the stoke with gradient option checked:

I'm not going further with this, it was just to show another technique to get the tiles laid out. It still needs a bit of manual touch up in narrow areas and sharply angled parts of the image, but it worked fairly well.

-Rob A>

03-02-2008, 03:24 PM
I joined up for this, after seeing your map at DeviantArt.

I'm not an artist at all, in fact I'm a programmer without a lick of photoshop skill. We're working on an RPG at work right now, so on a sick day I did some searching for fantasy maps, and found a link to your DA profile. It's a fantastic tutorial, and I dont care what the artists at work may say, I'm finding a way to get this into the game we're working on.

This took about 3 hours. I avoided any complexity on the border, the scuffs don't really work because the map isn't meant to be very old, and missed out your little pictures, but I still think it turned out great despite my crappy art skills.

After spending yesterday afternoon working on this, the whole exercise led me to Zombie Nirvana's great tutorials and I've overnight become quite the map lover. You have alot to answer for!

03-02-2008, 03:58 PM
RobA: You are a genius, my friend! That took care of the problems and vaulted the map to the next level. Well done! Wow--very inventive solution. I don't know how you do that voodoo that you do so well!

Funso: Holy cow, nice work! I am so glad you found the tutorial useful, and I'm also glad you made this wonderful example of a mosaic tile map, but moreover I'm ecstativ that I roped an unsuspecting computer programmer into an appreciation of maps! That's just awesome! You made my day. I hope you will stick around the Guild and share with us your story (in the Member Introductions) as well as whatever maps you create. Thanks again for posting this!

03-02-2008, 08:47 PM
Funso - that kicks a-- ! I was just scanning this thread to look at Robs contours and came across your map. Very cool. Stick around wont ya.

I was playing around a few days ago doing some simple contours using gaussian blur and flood fill with very tight match values. Wherever you click it places rings around any shape. I was looking into putting waves into sea shapes. It works well but not as good as this. Wasn't going to comment but for Funso's great post.

03-07-2008, 02:56 AM
great work... your tutorials rock, hopefully I'll be able to implement this tutorial once I've finished with the umpteen others I need to do :D can't wait to try it out

have some rep on me!

**NM... it seems I must have given you some rep recently and I must spread the wealth... but... I'm thinking of you... does that count??

03-07-2008, 08:24 AM
Thanks, del! I can't wait to see what you come up with next!

(And yes, the "almost rep" still means a lot to me! Thanks!)

03-13-2008, 02:51 AM
Rob if you could clarify how you used the gradient and the shaped gradient that would be great.

Sweet tut! How do I rep you?

03-13-2008, 03:00 AM
How do I rep you?

Click the "Scales" symbol at the bottom of the name/avatar space on the leftside of the post. Do this on the specific post you are "repping". A little menu will pop up, give a short reason why you are applying REP and click OK... that's it, you'll have granted "rep"!

03-13-2008, 03:23 AM
Click the "Scales" symbol at the bottom of the name/avatar space on the leftside of the post. Do this on the specific post you are "repping". A little menu will pop up, give a short reason why you are applying REP and click OK... that's it, you'll have granted "rep"!

I'm getting old it seems and I am just not sure I see them... could point them out?


I do wonder if I need to increase my post count first...

EDIT: Yep I think it was a post count thing because they are there now. thanks!

03-13-2008, 10:06 AM
Rob if you could clarify how you used the gradient and the shaped gradient that would be great.

First get into the gradient editor:


Right Click to get the menu and select Replicate Segment (and pick 2). This gives two duplicates of the original segment.


Now change them so the left segment is all black and the right segment is all white. First Click on white arrow below the left side gradient to select just that segment (the bar will turn blue under the section the menu will now work with). Right Click and select "Right Endpoint Colour" and change it to black. Now select the right hand gradient portion (click the white arrow under it on the right) and change the left endpoint colour to white. You should now have a gradient made of a black bar and a white bar (I have circled the white arrow and braced the section this lets you edit by example):


Now decide how many bands you want. Lets say I want 10 (which will turn out to be 20 rows of tiles when the outline is stroked). Select both segments (shift click on the white triangles of both segment) then right click Replicate section and set the slider to 10. Now you get this:


To use it, just set the gradient tool to use Shaped (Angular) (and dial up the supersampling). It will fill a selection with the gradient following the
selection shape. You will get the ful gradient (10 stripes) from the edge to the "center" of the largest space. Here is an exmaple:


Now select the black (or white) with the Select by Colour Tool and perform a Edit->Stroke Selection with the tile brush!

Like I said, this is a bit of a workaround for gimp, as I believe photoshop lets you dynamically scale gradients. Gimp does not on any of the "Shaped" gradient fills.

Hope that helped!

-Rob A>

03-15-2008, 08:46 PM
I'm utterly enamoured with the idea of drawing a mosaic map. One of the reasons I joined this site was to try out some new things, and this is certainly one of the things I'm going to try.

However, I'm a total tinkerer, so I'll probably ignore the tutorial about halfway through, but it looks like it'll be a perfect start to trying out a new mapping style.

Thanks for the tutorial, it rocks! -- I'll post whatever I come up with later.


03-15-2008, 09:30 PM
I'm utterly enamoured with the idea of drawing a mosaic map. One of the reasons I joined this site was to try out some new things, and this is certainly one of the things I'm going to try.

However, I'm a total tinkerer, so I'll probably ignore the tutorial about halfway through, but it looks like it'll be a perfect start to trying out a new mapping style.

Thanks for the tutorial, it rocks! -- I'll post whatever I come up with later.


Thank you for the compliment, Andy, and I'm pleased you found this idea interesting enough to someday try. Like you, I'm an incessant tinkerer too, so I know what you mean about using tutorials as only guides; please let me know if your play leads you to new techniques or improved methods, too.

Take care, & I look forward to your shot at this. :)

03-15-2008, 10:27 PM
Thank you for the compliment, Andy, and I'm pleased you found this idea interesting enough to someday try. Like you, I'm an incessant tinkerer too, so I know what you mean about using tutorials as only guides; please let me know if your play leads you to new techniques or improved methods, too.

Take care, & I look forward to your shot at this. :)
Well, it's been a fun draw. I'm pretty much finished (I'd been tinkering for a wee while when I made my last post). I started by following your tutorial pretty closely, but found I wanted a little more freedom, so started to freehand everything rather than use the suggested brush options. What I've ended up with looks pretty similar to yours, so perhaps I'd've been best sticking with your brush all the way to the end.

I'll post the map after I've tinkered a bit longer. I'm pretty pleased with the end result, and it'll join the rest of my roleplaying group's Warhammer maps (I did a map of Tilea, for anyone that knows WFRP).

Anyway, I'll be back soonish.


03-15-2008, 10:37 PM
Really fantastic tutorial, Pyrandon. I'm looking forward (probably in vain) to having some free time to try this out myself. I actually stole a few minutes to use your tile-making instructions to make a Photoshop brush for painting houses. Looks pretty cool, but I think it would be more effective if there was a way to include random, different-shaped houses all in the same brush...

03-15-2008, 10:57 PM
Well, here's my map. It's been done very quickly, so it ain't perfect, but I'm still pretty pleased. If I do another of these babies (which I may do for my roleplaying group -- a mirror of this one for Estalia would be nice), I'll be more careful with the fliters, as I've lost some of the detail and bleached-out the colours in some areas. I could sort that on this one if I wanted, but I don't really have the time. Perhaps I'll go back to it at a later date -- but, as this is just a test-run, I'll live with it as it is.

Anyway, as I said before, this one followed the tut for the first half, I made up the next 3/8s of it, then used some of the filters suggested at the end.

If anyone has photoshop out there and facies a map in this style, I recommend giving it a go. It's surprisingly simple. Admittantly, I'm the sort of chap that prefers to draw these things by hand, but what's the point of having the tech if I'm not going to use it every once in a while, huh?

Anyway, here's the (over-filtered) map:

03-15-2008, 11:27 PM
Gorgeous! And very Hellenistic. I'm really going to have to give this technique a try eventually. After all, if a professional artist can do it, anyone can, right?

03-16-2008, 01:02 AM
Very, very nice, Andy. I like it! You captured both the technique and the spirit of this sort of map wonderfully. Some of the filtering is a bit heavy (but only 10% or so), and the lighting is a bit too much for my eye, but those things are insignificant. Great going!

So, did you find improvements to my method? Also, the border curls are intriguing; how did you achieve them?

Hats off to you, sir. Well done!

03-16-2008, 06:30 AM
Very, very nice, Andy. I like it! You captured both the technique and the spirit of this sort of map wonderfully. Some of the filtering is a bit heavy (but only 10% or so), and the lighting is a bit too much for my eye, but those things are insignificant. Great going!

So, did you find improvements to my method? Also, the border curls are intriguing; how did you achieve them?

Hats off to you, sir. Well done!
Yeah, I agree. I'll be less gung-ho if I give it another attempt. I just slapped the filters on in a rush and saved the thing -- it was silly o'clock in the morning, and bed was a-calling.

As for refinements: well, not really. I just drew a bunch of areas freehand, such as the goddess, or sections of the border, and separated the individual tiles with the eraser (if that makes sense)? So, no refinements, I just ignored the technique in places and did what I would normally have done to achieve a similar effect. However, as this was an attempt to learn about automating the process, I tried to limit doing that on the map.

The curls were achieved in exactly the same way as the writing, sans the underlying image to copy. I took the mosaic brush and freehanded the curls wherever I wanted them. Afterwards, I attacked any overlapping tiles with the eraser to separate them again.

I did add one extra filter to the tiles -- an inner bevel -- but that was just part of the tinkering for the look on this map, and wasn't in any way essential. More a matter of taste.

Other than that, I pretty much followed the tutorial, and it worked out pretty well. I ended up with a finished image in comparitively little time, which, for me, is pretty rare. I can do some styles of maps quickly, as I've drawn so many of them, but maps such as this would normally have taken me about a day of work, and this only took a couple of hours or so -- a good speed, that.

As I said before: thanks for the tutorial. I've learned something, and put it to use; so, in my books, your tut is an absolute success.


03-16-2008, 02:11 PM
Well, I did say I was enamoured with the whole mosaic thing, and, as proof, I've done another one.

As I mentioned previously, I wanted to draw companion map to the Tilean one, but didn't think I'd have the time. Fortunately, I finished my planning for roleplay early today, so I had a little spare time to whip up the Estalian map I wanted to do. It's pretty simple when compared to the Tilea map, so it didn't take long at all -- indeed, the image of Myrmidia at the side took longer to complete than the rest of the map combined -- and if this wasn't just for fun, I'd spend more time with the lighting and distressing, but my players are arriving already, so time is not on my side.

Anyway, that's me done with mosaics for the moment. I think I'll try another something completely different next week.


04-15-2008, 01:22 AM
would there be any chance of getting this tutorial in a more download-friendly format? =D pretty please?

04-15-2008, 04:49 PM
Sure, nijineko--remind me in June & I should be able to do that for you. Just curious, though: why would this be helpful?

04-15-2008, 06:06 PM
i am not always able to access online. but i frequently have my computer with me. that or i can print it out. ^^

06-20-2008, 03:50 PM
I finally got around to writing a script for Gimp to help with this.

Attached is a mosaic tile helper script that can set up one of four paths:

a path consisting of shaped lines following an initial selection
a path consisting of concentric circles filling the image
a path made of horizontal lines
a path made of vertical lines

using a specified spacing for the path lines.

The scipt will (optionally) stroke the path with the current pen, but this has limited value, as the tiles will all be one colour. It is best used be having it leave the path then using the stroke path command after setting up the active paintbrush to use the rotating tile set I provided earlier in the post, along with the "use gradient" colour option in the paintbrush.

Here is an example made in < 3 minutes:

1) I used clouds and threshold to get land and sea.
2) I selected the sea area, and called the script (it gets installed under Filters->Artistic->Mosaic Tile Helper using the circular option. Then I stroked the path, using a blue green gradient selection.
3) I inverted the selection to land and called the script again, using the shaped option. The path was stroked using a browns gradient.
4) I set the scaling smaller, the gradient to grey/dark grey and strokes the selection once to outline the coast.
5) I enlarged the canvas by 20 px, selected the 20 px "frame" and used the shaped option again, then stroked to get the frame.
6) I copied all visible, then pasted as a new layer, and bump mapped it on itself.
7) Duplicated that and played with blending modes to get nicer colour.

Have fun with it!


-Rob A>

07-03-2008, 04:58 PM
Pyrandon, Just want you to know that this tutorial helped me out immensely with the new version of my Lighthouse VTT map... which when I'm finished I'll show you so you can see...

I just had to give you some props and some praise ... I believe I've already given you some rep, I'll try again, because you deserve for this one...

5 Stars from me... :D

07-03-2008, 06:02 PM
Here's a little quick looksee .. just wanted Don to see how much he means to me :D

05-28-2009, 07:14 PM
Here is my attempt, converting one of my maps into mosaic style one... Inspired by Herodote's. The Oikoumene or Known world.

Not very readable...

05-29-2009, 10:02 AM
The readability is indeed awful :)
All the other stuff looks really neat, though. Nice job.

05-29-2009, 12:03 PM
aye - readability isn't the best, but in terms of art/impact it looks fantastic!

05-29-2009, 04:08 PM
I think a simple color change on the letters would go a long way, possibly black but otherwise it looks pretty sweet to me.

05-29-2009, 05:24 PM
No way. I just found this and I do believe it's ludicrously awesome.

EDIT: How has this wonderment evaded my gaze for so long?

06-01-2009, 03:49 AM
Thanks all! I'll try to make those color changes and will post the results.

06-05-2009, 10:36 PM
Here is my new attempt with slight changes in levels and colors... I think it's better.

06-06-2009, 12:49 AM
Well, I gave this thing a swing, though it's decidedly non-maplike and much more self-portaitesque, and the whole method is pretty freaking awesome.

10-01-2009, 03:21 AM
Excellent tutorial.! Have to give it a try soon.

10-01-2009, 03:45 AM
I can't believe I didn't notice this before.

I was looking through and pondering, I'll have to give this a go. i see a few thngs i might do differently, such as turning the text layers into smart objects before I start working on them, but the steps after that might make it redundant. Still, worth a try (after I finish my current map)

06-17-2011, 04:13 PM
I just came across this tut also - amazing. The trickery! Looks like real tiles !

11-12-2012, 02:52 PM
Hi, I've been slaving over some mosaic replica artwork recently, drawing each tile by hand using vector paths. I couldn't find any other way of getting a genuine looking finish without hand drawing 20-30,000 tiles and going through several Wacom nibs! This tutorial is an absolute God-send. I have just started working on a mosaic map and I stumbled across this at the perfect moment, It's going to save me so much time and will hopefully allow better results as I can produce more pieces. Thank you so much, I'm deeply grateful (and so is my wacom).