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DgtlDrgn
10-18-2011, 10:52 PM
Okay, I'm brand new here, but thought I'd jump right in and seek some critiques. I've been working on this map for a long time - a few days here, a few days there, for about a year - and up until just yesterday I didn't have a clue where to go next. This is my first true attempt at creating a complete world map - all continents, all geographical features, political and regional markers, cities/villages/dungeons/towers... The whole shebang. So, before I get posting any images, let me outline my thinking (that way the smarter ones here can point out the flaws).

Firstly, I wanted to have one document that contained the entire world map, in the highest resolution of the smaller maps. That is, if I want to show a close up map of a certain area, about as big as a country, I didn't want to have to make multiple resolutions of the same area and keep them in separate docs. So, I didn't want a 2000x2000 pixel document of my country, and a 2000x2000 pixel document of the world... I kind of just want a *looks at document* 24900x12000 document that I can zoom in on. Of course, this is probably an idiot move on my part, as the document is quite large (850 mb at last count), and sometimes heavy to work with. Thus far, it hasn't proven too much of a hassle, so for now I'll probably keep the humongous file.

Secondly, I'm working in Photoshop CS5. It's always worked pretty well for me, and though there may be other programs out there, I like to stick with what I'm familiar with as much as possible (to save time learning new stuff). That said, I've been working pretty heavy layers, and generally keep a "backup" folder in my layers which contain original layers of things before they're merged. Just writing that tells me I should probably keep separate docs for that, instead of just having one massive doc.

Hmm... Thirdly, I guess I'm trying to go for a certain look/feel to the map. I want something close in color-scheme and detail as the attached map of a place you probably recognize. I could not, for the life of me, figure out how the heck to do that... I tried going a different artistic direction at one point (as you'll see in later replies), but it just doesn't feel right in my gut. It was actually this pursuit of a more realistic map that led me to the Cartographer's Guild, which frankly is a Godsend.

So, that's basically it. Please Examine And Critique Honestly (PEACH)

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DgtlDrgn
10-18-2011, 11:19 PM
Okay, so step one. Initially I had this great idea to make a whole continent in the shape of Scandinavia. That fell through on two fronts. 1) It's too recognizable as an actual landmass on Earth. 2) It kinda looks like genitalia; no offense to people who live there, but it does.

However, back before I discovered this nifty way to make random continents (on this site, of course), I didn't know how to approach making landmasses that were natural and realistic and detailed enough. My first few attempts bombed. But then I hit on a new idea. I gathered a bunch of different maps of different landmasses of Earth, then scaled, rotated, skewed and flipped to my hearts content. Afterwards, I traced over them on a new layer to get the correct shape and maintain consistent levels of detail between, say, a tropical island that became a continent, and a continent that became an island. Afterwards, I made some custom changes to the shapes to differ them even further, and viola! World map.

As you can imagine, this took FOREVER! Future maps shouldn't take near as long, thanks to tricks learned here. In fact, utilizing OldGuy's awesome technique (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?9056), already the coastline looks exponentially better.
Anyways, here's Stage 1:

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DgtlDrgn
10-18-2011, 11:39 PM
Okay, so Stage 2 was a little complicated. I want to make this world as "real-world" as possible. That required me to learn the how and why of climate, including air and water currents, and climate regions (polar, very wet, wet, transition to wet, transition to dry, and desert). This next image is just that, and it's included only because it may help explain why the step after it takes place. Also in this step I decided where major mountain ranges would go, as mountains are a huge obstacle for air currents, and can dramatically shift climate conditions.

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For those of you interested in learning more about this stuff, I recommend this amazing little PDF written by Joseph Browning - A Magical Society: Guide to Mapping

DgtlDrgn
10-19-2011, 12:11 AM
Next I did rivers and lakes, then I added mountains, jungle, deserts, and then plains and arctic regions. As you can see, it's not so good. I like how the textures kind of look, especially the jungle and mountains, but there's no definition of peaks, or trees, and the hard lines between terrain just won't do.

I provide this as both a glance at where I WAS going, and a comparison for how things will change later. (And from now on, I'll just be including a close up of this region, so you can see more detail.)

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eViLe_eAgLe
10-19-2011, 12:53 AM
Theres a bunch of Tutorials here if you need some more help. Btw, I really like your desert texture

DgtlDrgn
10-28-2011, 02:42 AM
Alright! It's been a long time in the works, but here's the lowdown on how things are going. First off, remember above when I said that working on a document 24900x12000px at 300 dpi was probably insane? Well, I was right. :P Actually, as I started to attempt things like Difference Clouds and Gaussian Blurs on the entire document... well, I crashed PS a couple times and decided that was enough of that.

So, instead, I decided to create a grid of 2200x2200 pixel sections for the whole world, and work on each section individually, then once I'm done forcing a bunch of automations on PS, flatten and merge all the images together. I decided to go with a 2200x2200 grid so that I could have a 100 px overlap between grids, allowing me to smoothly blend the two as necessary. I'm really kind of worried, though, about things like rivers and roads that will be on the edges of maps... Hopefully, I can do enough cross-reference to make them match up fairly close, and then do some simple touch-ups... hopefully.

As I began work on one section (29, because it had a variety of terrain to test my methods), I attempted maybe 6 or 7 different approaches proposed by several Cartographers in this guild for everything from texture and color to mountains and rivers. I decided on an amalgamation of 3 or 4, with a bit of my own methodology thrown in for good measure. After hours, possibly days, of banging my keyboard and cursing the skies above, I eventually settled on this:
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Soooo... looking for some feedback, at this point, before I begin to attempt to duplicate this process for the other 77 sectors. PEACH!

DgtlDrgn
10-30-2011, 01:08 PM
I showed the map thus far to my mother, and due to her responses, I have made a few changes. I made the mountain ranges more pronounced, because apparently they didn't look like mountain ranges; I fixed up the coastline so the land and sea showed better contrast, and I cleaned up some problem areas on the rivers/lakes, where sub-pixels were causing stroke issues.

PEACH39577

Ghostman
10-31-2011, 04:25 AM
That's looking pretty good - although the desert in the NW corner isn't quite recognizeable as a desert at a glance. I'm also getting an impression of the mountains sort of sloping down from the desert rather than being higher than it, although this effect doesn't seem to happen when looking at the thumbnail. Maybe my eyes are just being tricky today :P

DgtlDrgn
11-01-2011, 04:24 AM
Do you think it would help to have some sort of bevel/emboss on the desert to make it "sink" down more? What do you think would help the desert look more like a desert? Coloring? Texturing?

Ghostman
11-01-2011, 12:27 PM
Fiddling with the textures might be the best way to go about it. You could also try placing a rocky hills/badlands area as a buffer zone between the mountains and the desert, so they won't be right next to each other.

DgtlDrgn
11-03-2011, 04:23 PM
Alright, 2 days later, 2 more maps. I've created a step-by-step for myself to replicate the results of the first map, and I am thrilled! Now I can ensure uniformity in the look of the whole world. Only 75 maps to go, and they should be a breeze!
PEACH
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ravells
11-04-2011, 08:18 AM
Looks great DD, wouldn't it be wonderful if you could record everything as an action, put in the coastline and have the finished map pop out at the end! One (very small suggestion - not sure it's too late now). I like the bevel on the coastline, but it's of a uniform height along the entire coastline. Not sure if this will work (or if it's possible, given your layers etc), but it may be worth having an identical unbevelled map below the bevelled one and just erasing bits of the bevelled map to give the coast some variation.

I really like the overall painterly style of the map though.

DgtlDrgn
11-04-2011, 10:50 PM
Well, it's a great suggestion, and it's not too late until the map goes to print. :) That could work, I think. I might even have an idea of how to do it, too. I'm thinking, render clouds, delete black (or white), then use the remaining selection to delete the beveled edge of the above map. Hmm... may have to do the bevels on their own fill-less layers, rather than having duplicates of the whole thing... The original purpose of the bevel was to emulate some erosion around the rivers, actually, and not necessarily the coast. I've read a lot of people use Wilber or something to simulate erosion effects, right? Or something like that... anyways, does anyone have any other thoughts on how to "cheat" it in Photoshop?

You make some good points about the actions, and I had thought about it some time ago. For things like adding layer styles and rendering clouds and whatnot, that'd be pretty easy. Placing mountains, rivers, and coloring obviously would still need to be manually done, but having some automatic features would be a real time-saver methinks. I'll have to experiment and see which things I can automate and which I can't.

DgtlDrgn
11-05-2011, 06:12 PM
Ravells, you are a life-saver! Actions are the BEST! I'm churning out a map about every 60 minutes, now, as opposed to 2 hours. Placing rivers is still the most time consuming step of the whole process, though.

ravells
11-06-2011, 02:20 AM
Glad to be of service! I'm pretty sure that you can't simulate erosion effects in photoshop (I just don't think it's geared that way). Wilbur OTOH is designed for that, but your method to get rid of the uniform bevel sounds cool.

Ascension
11-06-2011, 10:38 AM
Before you finish, put all of the maps together and airbrush the transitions at the edges so that they mesh perfectly. Right now you can really see it in the deserts. Then chop em all up again if you want.

DgtlDrgn
11-06-2011, 01:47 PM
Ascension, I plan to. I've been pulling in the finished images onto the borders of the new maps to make sure that mountain placement, coloring, rivers, etc are all identical or close enough to match up each sector. Also, though I planned for a 100 px overlay between sections, I actually ended up with a 200px, which is better, because it gives me more room to blend the maps how I'd like.

Here are the same two maps from above, merged together with the altered coastline. I think it looks a lot better, and actually the cloud effect made random neat contours on the land, too, to break up the hills and elevations in the mountains a bit more.

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Ascension
11-07-2011, 04:30 PM
Gotcha; looks pretty good.

Korba
11-08-2011, 06:23 PM
I really like the look and thanks for the guide you attached earlier, very interesting reading.

Korba

DgtlDrgn
11-08-2011, 10:35 PM
No prob. And thank you for the praise. :)

DgtlDrgn
11-16-2011, 11:42 PM
Okay, so it's been a while since I posted anything. Mostly I haven't had much time to work on things since I started my new job; picking at them here and there when I have a free 15 minutes... Anyways, I'm posting now for two reasons: 1) I am still around. :P And 2) I have a map I'd like some feedback on because I introduced new terrain (snow and tundra) and I want to know if it looks good to the experienced eyes lingering around here.
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PEACH!

furiousuk
11-17-2011, 01:34 AM
Hey, great work, looks like a great start.

For some reason the rivers seem to be at a higher level than the surrounding land, it may be my eyes but they don't seem to be 'sunken' into the land at all, maybe some sort of shading might help them blend in?? I think some of them look like they are running along the top of a line of hills rather than seeking lower ground.

Also, the snowy mountains don't seem to rise up particularly from the land, looking instead like fairly flat rough texture.

It may all just be my eyes this morning though!

Your work on the islands looks stunning, they really rise up from the sea. Your work on the coastline is good attention to detail too with all the little crinkles that are indicative of smaller rivers hitting the sea. Nice.

DgtlDrgn
11-18-2011, 06:10 PM
I can see how you could perceive the rivers that way. I think the lighter colored areas are supposed to be the valleys or plains, and the darker are supposed to be the hills. Thinking that, the rivers should be traveling from one hill or valley to another. Are there specific rivers which give the wrong impression, or just all of them, in general?

I'm glad you like the coast and islands. They're probably my more favorite parts, actually.

EDIT: When I said "hill or valley", I meant "plain or valley". Whoops.

DgtlDrgn
12-14-2011, 10:51 PM
Alright, a long time coming, and obviously still not finished...

Attached is the first and second continents of my still-unnamed world. (I've been wracking my brains for appropriate names, but still can't decide... I'm hoping, as I continue to work, that something will come to me.)

I'm really looking for some strong criticism, one way or another. I know a few things that I like and don't like, but I want to see if anyone else thinks the same or if it's just my closeness to the project that makes me (dis)like these things...

Thank you, and PEACH!

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Elzevir
12-15-2011, 07:34 PM
Altough i am impressed by the quality of the textures and considering the amount of work on this map, i can't get out of my mind the idea that, from far, your map looks like it has a kind of skin disease... that don't show up in the zooms. Unless this is what you looked for, this is pretty obvious in the northern region (toundra and snow) : these patches of flat lands are a bit disturbing... I can't figure if they are flat because they lack of vegetation or if it is because of a difference of elevation. It fits well in the wet areas, because it can mark the difference between forests and glades, incidentally.

DgtlDrgn
12-28-2011, 03:13 PM
Yes, it's supposed to be elevation differences, kind of to show hills. However, I see what you're saying, and I think a large part of it is that the shading is so stark on the hills, the elevation changes so drastic, that it looks really... well... sick. Perhaps, if I go in and change some of the areas to be larger plains or concentrated hills, and show more non-uniform variation, that might help. What do you think? Any suggestions how to change or fix it?

Also, regarding your forests and glades perceptions, I've been debating whether I should actually try to make forests and vegetation, or leave that out of the overworld map, using the coloring alone to depict vegetation. Thoughts?

DgtlDrgn
12-28-2011, 03:14 PM
Yes, it's supposed to be elevation differences, kind of to show hills. However, I see what you're saying, and I think a large part of it is that the shading is so stark on the hills, the elevation changes so drastic, that it looks really... well... sick. Perhaps, if I go in and change some of the areas to be larger plains or concentrated hills, and show more non-uniform variation, that might help. What do you think? Any suggestions how to change or fix it?

Also, regarding your forests and glades perceptions, I've been debating whether I should actually try to make forests and vegetation, or leave that out of the overworld map, using the coloring alone to depict vegetation. Thoughts?

liciobruno
12-29-2011, 07:26 AM
This PDF is real amazing and simple. Thanks for your sharing :)

Korash
12-29-2011, 11:39 PM
Well I gotta say that this is a very ambitious endeavor and looks to be well on the way to being well executed. :) I am glad that you figured out those actions to make the job easier.

About those rivers looking to be on the ridge lines...it seems to occur more where the rivers are thinner (and mostly at full size). I think if you inverted the bevel (or what ever method you used) you might get more of the desired effect. You should also look at the lakes up in the north...some of them look to be floating on the mountain tops. Unfortunately, I don't have enough time to look at your work in depth yet, so that is all the comments I have so far.

Looking good so far.....rep worthy in fact. :)

Lukc
12-30-2011, 03:57 AM
Those brown patches are threadfall ...

Elzevir
01-05-2012, 05:05 PM
Yes, it's supposed to be elevation differences, kind of to show hills. However, I see what you're saying, and I think a large part of it is that the shading is so stark on the hills, the elevation changes so drastic, that it looks really... well... sick. Perhaps, if I go in and change some of the areas to be larger plains or concentrated hills, and show more non-uniform variation, that might help. What do you think? Any suggestions how to change or fix it?

IMO the difficulty to depict hills is somewhat related to global shading, in a sense where there is no real indication of lightsource. Sometimes i see the whiter patches as flat lands, and in another part of the map as a potential elevation... I have no precise idea how to fix it, but larger plains should be a good try. For example, i find the top-right-toundra-part better than the middle-part of the same region...


Also, regarding your forests and glades perceptions, I've been debating whether I should actually try to make forests and vegetation, or leave that out of the overworld map, using the coloring alone to depict vegetation. Thoughts?

I don't think adding vegetation would improve anything on a map of this size. Coloring seems very good to me. For the glades, should i suggest to add some water, like drawing inlets as in the everglades ?
Samples of what i mean here (http://francoisrjoly.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/everglades1.jpg?w=450) and here (http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/national-parks/everglades-photos/).

Kindari
04-29-2012, 10:42 PM
Thanks for the posts and the progress. I'm new around here, and this and other pages have really taught me a lot about map development.