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feanaaro
07-29-2011, 03:48 PM
This is my first post, so to begin I want to thanks everybody who contributed to this wonderful site, from which I stole a lot of material and ideas for this project.
In particular, I am indebted to the terrain creation tutorial by Pasis, the FT tutorial by a2area, and to the many people which posted interesting textures in various threads (of which regrettably I did not kept track, so I cannot thanks everyone by name, sorry).

However, my general aim is to obtain a method to quickly draw good-looking maps (for rpg and/or narratives), even if not particularly inspired (I have zero autonomous artistic capacities, sorry).
So I started from fractal terrains, tinkered quite a bit with it then export an high resolution (5000*3000) bmp to work with photoshop.
Here there are my preliminary results. The first is an image of the entire continent (which includes most of the land in the world, perhaps 3/4), with just some post-processing but without added elements like cities, forests etc. The second is a regional map of an area in the norh-east; here with forests, cities, roads. The area should roughly be 1300*900km, it looks smaller to my eye, but I have trouble in exporting the background from FT in an higher resolution (so that cities and the like could be smaller in proportion) because it tends to show the "fractal pattern" at higher level of zoom. The alternative is to ditch the pseudo-pictorial style for cities and fields, but I would rather not.

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I am really looking for advices since I am not quite satisfied with the results. Notice that I am really new to photoshop and 99% of what I know come from the aformentioned tutorial (so do not be exceedingly technical!).

cantab
07-29-2011, 04:52 PM
It's good to see work on mapping areas at multiple scales.

ravells
07-29-2011, 04:57 PM
Crikey, that looks fabulous! And this is your first attempt? You'll probably be hanging your third attempt at the Tate.

I think I should be asking you for advice!

Seriously beautiful work. I have no suggestions for areas of improvement except maybe tone down or blur the vivid blue coastline just a tiny bit (it dominates), but that's just a subjective thing.

feanaaro
07-29-2011, 06:36 PM
Thanks ravells, but there is not really much of my doing in the map, just the placement of some elements (and, of course, that it is a first attempt does not mean that the attempt was not itself quite a long thing to pull off, but the good thing is that after I have settled on a set of textures and got the right proportions everything would be very quick). Everything else is either Fractal Terrains or textures that I took here and there.
But I am unsatisfied with the cities, perhaps someone may have some suggestion as to how do it better and in a style that blends with this kind of map.

Redrobes
07-30-2011, 08:16 AM
Yes, I concur, that is some amazing work for a first attempt. Really nice in many many ways.

If I had to crit it then I would say that the fade for the beach aqua colour to the sea colour is quite severe such that for the continental view it looks like its outlined. That makes it appear to visually 'float' over the sea.

Cities and man made stuff is the hardest part of mapping in my opinion. My only tips there is to think about the way a city or town might have evolved and put in those elements first and then build out from it. I.e. for your city in the second map it would have likely been driven by fishing so that the road network next to the sea would be complex and then the paths would exit out the back of the town where carts and so on might have made roads then houses form along those roads etc. You have them (well the field pattern) drawn as a kind of gridded pattern which is very unlikely and would indicate an overall town planning effect taking place. This only really happens in cities that have been demolished and rebuilt or where a whole new town was constructed in one go with a powerful governmental direction driving it. My only real suggestion is to look at google maps and find some similar looking places in a country with similar technology / wealth rating to the one your planning to draw and note some of its features. The fields would follow the roads of the town or the geography of the terrain.

I have given you rep so you have a little green pip next to your name now. Well done for these maps.

Steel General
07-30-2011, 08:29 AM
I agree with Redrobes & Ravells - Blur/fade the aqua outline of the coasts a bit. It's not as bad in the 2nd image as the first. I also think the shadow/bevel on the rivers in the 2nd image is a bit dark and thick - again that's an opinion don't feel you must change it. Ultimately you have to be happy with your work.

Cities, farmland, etc. are difficult (at best) at this scale, I think you've a fine job so far with what you have and don't really have any specific advise/ideas for you.

Keep up the good work

Master TMO
07-30-2011, 10:49 AM
Looks great! To be able to zoom in further on the FT map without seeing the fractal patterns, go in to the World Settings menu and modify the parameters on your fractal and increase the number of octaves.

A minor pick is that the borders of your rivers also look a bit strong, like the blue coastline.

You may also have a problem with scale - if the zoom in map is 1300km by 900km then I'd guess that the village on the coast is about.. 50km from left to right? I have *often* had the same issue with my FT maps. It is extremely easy to lose track of the scale of the image you're looking at. My best suggestion is to find a pair of obvious landmarks on your map section and use the ruler tool in FT to see what the distance between them actually is. Also, because the section you're working with is near the top of the map, it's likely to be more distorted. That may not matter to you though, since you're only doing a subselection of the world rather than the whole thing.

It's an awesome-looking map though! I'll have to look up those tutorials you used for myself. :)

feanaaro
07-30-2011, 11:18 AM
Looks great! To be able to zoom in further on the FT map without seeing the fractal patterns, go in to the World Settings menu and modify the parameters on your fractal and increase the number of octaves.

I have tried repeatedly, but if I lower the number (12 is default) it seems to work, while if I increase it, visually I can se no difference, and the number itself return to 12 if I re-open the worl-setting after closing it. It says that the maximum is 20, but it seems unable to take any number greater than 12, is this just me (may be that I am running FT under CrossOver on a Mac) or is it a known bug?

Master TMO
07-30-2011, 12:49 PM
The octaves work on my version. There won't be a visible difference when you increase it until you zoom in. The higher the octave, the lower the resolution it's visible at. And to just check the obvious, are you sure you're applying the changes you make?

waldronate
07-30-2011, 01:09 PM
Certain fractal functions are capped at 12 octaves because beyond that point strange artifacts begin to appear on the surface and eventually the whole thing degrades into a few spikes on a flat terrain.

arsheesh
07-30-2011, 01:12 PM
Haven't really tried FT or Pasis tut (since I don't have Photoshop) so afraid I can't offer much in the way of advice. Overall I think the full scale regional maps look really nice. The shape of the land-masses looks good and the colors are well chosen. Great job!

Cheers,
-Arsheesh

feanaaro
07-30-2011, 06:50 PM
Here there is another attempt with an increased resolution. The fractal pattern starts to show, but is not very noticeable yet. I tried a more sparse forest (hopefully less blobby).
I also toned down a little bit the glow in the water, but not by much, I like it vivid. Also, the stark shadow outline for the river was caused by the forest, now should be less pronounced.

Of course the cities are still out of scale, albeit less so than before, but that is unavoidable for a regional map of this resolution. A city of, say, 5 km of radius (quite big for a fantasy setting) would be a few pixel on the map. Perhaps I should turn to symbols, but I don't have any idea of something that could blend with the rest.

I have not understood Redrobes remarks about the road network and the structure of cities; there is no structure is just a lump of, very tiny, blocks photographed from above ("parma tiling blocks", I took it from the textures' thread I think). The field are squared just to be more recognisable, not to imply that they are a 1:1 representation of the actual field, this would be, again, way off-scale obviously. The only roads depicted are those tiny grey lines that run from city to city.

Polar distortion is not a big problem, the area is not that near to the pole (the northern point on the regional map is roughly the latitude of London). I include also a small pic of the whole planet in FT so you can have a better idea of positions and proportions.

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Master TMO
07-30-2011, 11:31 PM
Pretty!! I like the trees much better now!

Question: how did you do the rivers? Are they from FT, or did you draw them yourself?

Midgardsormr
07-31-2011, 01:21 AM
I think that at this scale symbolic cities would be far better. A simple dot, no brighter than the mountains' snowcaps, and maybe with just a bit of drop shadow, or perhaps a barely perceptible stroke.

If you want something a bit more ornate than just a dot, check out your wingdings fonts for some easily placed symbols.

feanaaro
07-31-2011, 05:59 AM
Yes, I will probably yield to symbols in the end. Do you think a symbolic representation would be better for cultivated fields too? That could be more difficult to pull off. Or should I ditch fields completely?

The major rivers are produced by FT, but I re-traced them in PS to widen them and to ease the "straightness" of some tracts. I do 2 px hard brush for regular river and 3 or 4px (depending on scale) for the bigger ones. Minor rivers are not from FT, I add them in PS with 1px brush trying to follow the orography. Both are in the same layer as the sea, so they have the same effects as the shoreline.

Edit: sorry for my english :-/

feanaaro
07-31-2011, 01:57 PM
Here, names are still mostly placeholders.

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Diamond
07-31-2011, 11:35 PM
I love love love those landmass shapes. Those are some of the coolest-looking continents I've ever seen.

eViLe_eAgLe
08-01-2011, 12:48 AM
Dang, Already got more rep then me and your new! That proves your good! :) Repped and nice work.

feanaaro
08-01-2011, 06:14 AM
I love love love those landmass shapes. Those are some of the coolest-looking continents I've ever seen.

Thanks. In fact, work was much longer in FT than in Photoshop. The (unforeseen) problem is that Wilbur Ridged Multifractal fuction does not support more than 12 octaves, therefore I cannot do all the scales I would have liked to because the fractal pattern invariably shows.
I was thinking of trying to replicate, more or less, the shape of the mountains range starting from a flat surface, using Pasi's tecnique (taking only the costal line from FT, which works good even at higher levels of zoom), but that is well beyond my capabilities at the moment.

eViLe_eAgle, I sense that the "rep" is a good thing, so thank you. But what exactly is and how does it work? I did not find it in the FAQs.

Redrobes
08-01-2011, 06:28 AM
I think the new fade is much better. For the fields I think you need to either go all out for a satellite view in which case the fields should represent the shapes and scale of the fields your trying to display or go for the symbolic approach in which case make them a symbolic patch of lines without the field shapes and colouring. The map so far looks a lot like a satellite view so the new version without the fields and smaller town / city images look better to me.

Rep is reputation. Its just a little thing on this guild forum and other web site forums where as you post a lot of stuff which people like then they can click on the little star icon at the bottom of your post and enter a line in about why they like it. Over time it builds up so you can see who has been on the guild longer, who posts good advice and who has made good work or contributions. You can hover your mouse over the green pips under to your name in any post to see your current rating. Its not all that important, just a hint about your overall effect on the guild.

Your English is just great by the way. Its a good idea that you have put up Rome as a location since I might cut down on using local slang and abbreviations (example 'by the way' at the start of this line is often 'BTW') for non native English speakers.

feanaaro
08-01-2011, 09:56 AM
This is the full continent again, with some more post-processing and names thrown in to try a different font-style.

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feanaaro
08-02-2011, 01:40 PM
For this kind of map, is it better to use monochrome names, or different colors for different classes (forests, rivers, cities etc)?

Master TMO
08-02-2011, 02:06 PM
In my Sayth challenge map I used different color text for different classes, and got at least one comment that it was a bit confusing without a legend of some sort.

ravells
08-02-2011, 02:10 PM
Hate to say it, feanarro, as beautiful as the map is, the font choices don't work at all for me. I would go for something almost as boring as Helvetica or Calibri , with a dark fill and a light outline.

feanaaro
08-02-2011, 02:13 PM
Hate to say it, feanarro, as beautiful as the map is, the font choices don't work at all for me. I would go for something almost as boring as Helvetica or Calibri , with a dark fill and a light outline.
Do you include in this the simpler serif font in the regional map (which is Linux Libertine O C)? The other fonts don't work for me either, but that one I was going to keep.

ravells
08-02-2011, 02:17 PM
Hate to say it, feanarro, as beautiful as the map is, the font choices don't work at all for me. I would go for something almost as boring as Helvetica or Calibri , with a dark fill and a light outline. Hope you don't mind, little example attached on your map.

ravells
08-02-2011, 02:22 PM
It's a matter of personal taste. I like the Gothic lettering in the regional map too. It's just something which looks really informal and brush script (as in the world map), doesn't fit with style of map which is quite precise. Sans Serif fonts tend to look more modern and as the map has quite a modern feel, I'd go for sans, but as I said, it's a matter of taste.

Serif fonts might work better if you made the fill dark and the outline light (rather as than the other way round as you have it on your regional map). A light outline will make the serifs stand out more against the darker background. Worth a try.

feanaaro
08-02-2011, 02:45 PM
The map would be for a fantasy world, so it is not a good thing if it has a modern feel, I would aim more at realistical and austere. On the other hand, I cannot change much of it without switching technique, i.e. relying less on FT and more on my drawing skills; unfortunately, those are non-existent at the moment.

ravells
08-02-2011, 03:45 PM
Don't worry, a map can still have a 'modern feel' (it's just my term) and still be suited for fantasy. I don't know how to say this but I think that we expect fantasy maps to look a particular way, e.g. Tolkien maps, but that has changed so much with the advent of computer games/RPGs where we now also see fantasy maps drawn in a modern satellite style (see Ascenion's maps for example). So when I say say modern, I guess I mean fantasy but with modern vocabulary rather than say something you would have expected to have seen drawn in the nineteen sixties / seventies.

For me the important thing is to find your own style and develop it.

best

Ravs

moutarde
08-02-2011, 04:43 PM
The Decadence (http://www.dafont.com/font.php?file=decadence&page=1&nb_ppp_old=10&text=a+general+map+of+the+world&nb_ppp=10&psize=s&classt=alpha) fonts over at dafont.com might be worth looking at. They're imitations of old printing press fonts. Very legible, but also very non-modern.

feanaaro
08-02-2011, 05:15 PM
The Decadence (http://www.dafont.com/font.php?file=decadence&page=1&nb_ppp_old=10&text=a+general+map+of+the+world&nb_ppp=10&psize=s&classt=alpha) fonts over at dafont.com might be worth looking at. They're imitations of old printing press fonts. Very legible, but also very non-modern.
The font is nice but looks 'antique' like in Gutenberg, while I am aiming more at antique like Stonehenge. So, a pre-roman alphabet being incomprehensible, perhaps a more neutral font would be better

njordys
08-02-2011, 08:00 PM
I have nothing to offer but my uconditional praise. Woah :D

Midgardsormr
08-02-2011, 08:44 PM
Maybe something with a Celtic flair, like Belwe or Sherwood?

feanaaro
08-03-2011, 04:05 AM
Thanks, nice fonts those.

feanaaro
08-03-2011, 03:23 PM
Here there is the last version, with the Belwe font. I used a light grey with black stroke and a little shadow. It seems that here the prevalent opinion is in favour of dark text+light outline or glow, but I really dislike that style. I ended up adding the text in Illustrator because working with text in PS maddens me, probably I miss some very obvious function.
I changed the forest again, playing with shadows, bevels, etc and using a different brush (because I realised how to make it!). Moreover, the saturation of everything except cities and fields has been slightly reduced (15%), for less garish colours. The frame is a simple and dumb texture that I stole somewhere (perhaps here, perhaps somewhere else, don't remember), but I like the effect.

Let me know, I would call this complete, more or less. Perhaps with some legend added – by the way, grey lines are roads, red squares are cities, red circles towns, red triangles fortress or keeps (the usual three little circles would be ruins, but none is shown). As for the scale, the area represented would be roughly 1300*1625km according to FT; perhaps I will slightly reduce the size of my world and everything in proportion.

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arsheesh
08-03-2011, 03:25 PM
Very nice. I like this font the best. The forests look quite nice as well.

Cheers,
-Arsheesh

Midgardsormr
08-04-2011, 12:31 PM
Lovely type! The only thing I think you should look at is the direction of the light on your icons v the text. I'm in a wonky browser that doesn't let me view at full size, but it looks to me, from the itty-bitty image I can see, that the shadows are being cast in two different directions.

Good choice on reducing the saturation, too. I like this style very much!

feanaaro
08-04-2011, 12:35 PM
Lovely type! The only thing I think you should look at is the direction of the light on your icons v the text. I'm in a wonky browser that doesn't let me view at full size, but it looks to me, from the itty-bitty image I can see, that the shadows are being cast in two different directions.

That is very true, I did not notice it. It is due to using Illustrator for the text; apparently they have the opposite default values for shadows. Should I correct it and re-upload the map in the same place?