View Full Version : How do I make a city using GIMP?

10-03-2012, 01:04 AM
Hello Cartographers! I am actually not a cartographer or anything close to it, I'm a college student getting all geared up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, to those that know it), and in my preparations for the upcoming month of writing madness, I'm hoping I can somehow make a city map that will help me in the developmental stages of my novel.

I'm familiar with and have GIMP and SAI (I also own a tablet), and I do own Photoshop, however it's an outdated version and I'm a bit unfamiliar with the way Photoshop works, so I'd like to stick to either GIMP or SAI, but I'm willing to download another free drawing software so long as it's not too confusing for me. I did browse the tutorials section, and they were pretty incredible, but they were mostly fantasy maps, which is great, but I'm not doing a fantasy map (Perhaps next year's NaNo!). Mine is a fictional city map set in the 1940's called Calico City.

If there's a way to make a relatively simple, yet clean-looking map through GIMP (or even by hand, I'm willing to put in the time so long as I can at least get some semblance of an idea of where to even begin), please let me know! 29 Days until NaNo begins! I'd like to have a nice looking map by November 1st!

Thanks for taking the time to listen, I need someone to point in my the right direction, either to a tutorial, a youtube video or just anything that will tell me how to get started and what tools to use.

:) Thank You,

10-03-2012, 01:44 AM
What style are you going for? If you can find an example(s) somewhere on the web and drag the link over here, that will help people to explain how to go about it.

On a software note, another good free program that can help with city maps is google sketchup. I like to use it to build basic shapes in 3D to get the perspective correct, and shadows if required, and then export a screenshot over to photoshop to do the actual drawing of the map. It has good start up tutorials and is pretty simple to learn. But if you want just a 2D map, then I'd recommend using shape tools/path tools and/or holding the shift key down (in ps, I think gimp is the same) to get straight lines.

If you don't have a clue what you want for a city layout (map before story option) then you can get some pretty interesting ideas from inkblots on those cheap little giftbox pads. But save that for when you're really hard up for ideas; it's not as straightforward as it might sound. ;)

There is also a sub-forum on here for requesting maps, if you get truly fed up.

10-03-2012, 02:11 AM
Thank you so much for the quick reply! I did a bit of browsing, and a map like this one Click Here! (http://www.unreal-fantasy.pl/gfx/wfrpmapy/middenheim-online-map.jpg) would be really great, just so I can get the placement for everything, the size of the actual city, etc down.

Perhaps once this type of 'overview' map is done, I can do a map that's more of a close-up of various sections in the city, certain districts and such. But we'll get to that later! I would prefer just a 2D Map. Also I like your avatar! :)

10-03-2012, 04:49 AM
Thank you =)

So, you've chosen the hand drawn route. That map is a line drawing with color and shading added. Not including labels, I would create something in that style using five layers; background, sketch, line drawing, color, shading... in that order. =) Okay, choose your canvas size. If you plan to print it, set the resolution to 300ppi and the dimensions to something you can use easily without slowing your computer system too much.

The background... there are a ton of free paper textures you can find online, or you could make one with a big, grungy brush. Basically just FILL over the white with the main color you want and use the burn/dodge tools with your grungy brush at low opacity to lightly mottle it.

When planning a town/city, you want to start with the big ideas first and work your way down (main districts, markets and parks, centers of power, main streets, side streets/city blocks, alleys/buildings (don't forget space for yards/gardens), then details like roof type and vegetation if you need it).

So, you'll need to figure out where you want to put all of this... work this out on your sketch layer in various colors and brush sizes and it'll be easier to see at a glance (larger brush for wide roadways, green for the parks, etc.) ... and it doesn't have to be pretty or extremely accurate.

Once you've decided on the general placement of stuff, turn the opacity down on the sketch layer and move on to the next. Line Drawing. The sketch you've just completed is going to be a guide for loose tracing of outlines. Choose a brush that you like and have at it. When finished, hide the sketch and create your next layer.

The color layer style should be changed to multiply or color burn or somesuch like that. Just fiddle with it and see what you like. Actually, you could do the color and shading in one go if you prefer. Set the layer style to color burn for the richest feel (but choose less saturated colors), and the brush blend mode/style to multiply with the opacity turned down to around 50%. Then... brush over each building, for example, with one brush stroke to cover it and another brush stroke to fill in the shaded sides.

And then label it. =)

10-03-2012, 12:32 PM
The only thing that I would add to Chashio's comments is that A hand drawn CITY map is a long process if you want a large population and individual buildings (all those houses have to be put in individually, and even copying/rotating takes time). You might want to think along the lines of just showing blocks that define the streets instead. Esp. if it is a modern city. The rest of the elements in your sample work equally well in a modern city map. How much detail you want to go into all depends on what you are going to use it for after writing the story...if it hits File 13 after the contest, I wouldn't spend too much time sweating the small details.

I THINK that we have somewhere around here a guide for how many building per size of populaton in a certain density sort of thing....Not too sure where, but first thought is in the Reference forum....

10-04-2012, 05:10 PM
Check the tutorials section. In the PDF listing in the sticky entries at the top, there's at least one GIMP tutorial on towns. On the first page of the tutorial section (at least, when I wrote this), there's a tut on medieval cities in photoshop. I dunno what version of photoshop it uses, but photoshop tuts are usually adaptable to GIMP.

That's just what I noticed at a glance. I'm reasonably sure there's more if you dig

10-09-2012, 03:43 AM
@Chashio - Because I have no idea how to make a grungy brush, I'll probably go with a free paper texture! Thank you for the step-by-step instructions, Chashio!

@Korash - what is File 13? What contest? I am so lost... But I do agree with you on the idea of just showing blocks instead of trying to do all the individual buildings and houses in one go. This is the first map I've ever made, so I'll try not to expect too much from myself as far as map-making goes. ;)

@HBrown - Will do! I'll be spending a lot of time in the Tutorials Section, I think. 22 Days until NaNoWriMo starts and I'll need this map for reference, so time to roll up my sleeves and get cracking!

I hope no one minds if I end up repeatedly coming back here in case I have more questions or need more help! :]

Oh! I apologize for taking so long to respond, I hadn't forgotten about this thread, I was just a tad busy these past few days. Thanks again to everyone who replied!

10-09-2012, 12:33 PM
I was refering to the NaNo....if the only reason you want the map is as a reference for the story and you are never touching or plan on using it in the future, I wouldn't spend too much time sweating the details that you will never need. A rough sketch of the city and important locations would be all you really need. If, however, you plan to continue using the city, be it for your own personal reference or for others to see, by all means put as much detail as you want, but I would still suggest doing it as required.

File 13 is a reference to a file system from the old paper days.....it was most often located at the side of a desk, round, and usually filled with round(ish) balls of paper.... Sometimes it was placed on the other side of small rooms and the papers were delivered to the File via a Manual Launching System..... ;)

I still use this File system from time to time. Call me old fashioned.

10-09-2012, 02:08 PM
@Chashio - Because I have no idea how to make a grungy brush, I'll probably go with a free paper texture! Thank you for the step-by-step instructions, Chashio!

You're welcome. Grungy brush creation is very easy, and can be quite fun if you enjoy fiddling. If you'd like to learn then I'll walk you through that, as well. Just ask. But you're probably best off focusing on the city map and writing for now. ;)