View Full Version : Looking for Critiques - Snow Covered Village

01-17-2013, 10:02 PM
Hello all,

I've created this map in Photoshop Elements for a D&D campaign. It's just a little stopover on the group's journey, but I've become obsessed with this map. I wanted to make a northern community in the dead of winter but I had no idea how much of a challenge this would be! I keep tweaking the colours, trying to get the white balance exactly right. I'm also not terribly pleased with the cliff (that's the lump at the bottom right!) so if you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

Any and all comments would be appreciated!


01-17-2013, 11:18 PM
I like the map but maybe not every square inch (especially on the buildings) need snow. Unless your depicting a fresh snow fall there is some amount of melt. On buildings especially if they have a fire in the hearth.

Freehand 5.5
01-18-2013, 01:43 AM
I like the look of it.

There could be a bit more difference in the trees. Especially the one with the long arm sticking put should not be used that often.

The cliff (?) in the bottom right could be a bit more clear. I just had to think a few seconds what it is.

That chrome metal frame is chilling my bones. My first impression was: Don't touch it, you will freeze.
Perhaps the map itself would stand out even colder if you use a warmer frame (e.g. some dark wooden frame).

01-18-2013, 09:33 AM
Rather than an abrupt vertical drop at the cliff, I suggest more of a very steep rocky slope ... like the small section near the center of the cliff ... with the snow blending seamlessly (like a Photoshop feather blur or similar effect) at the top and bottom of the slope. Let the subtle shadows indicate the slope.

- Max -
01-18-2013, 09:54 AM
Pretty nice. Also be careful of the buildings shadows. those computer generated ones may gives the feel that buildings are kind of floating. You really should work on those shadows :)

01-18-2013, 10:20 AM
I like the snow-covered look.

To improve it, you should consider doing something about the hard edges of the paths. I'm not sure how you have built your layers but I'd have done the snow cover with a layer containing a snow texture masked for the areas I didn't want covered...and then used a softish brush to back off the cover of the center of the paths and anywhere else I wanted the snow to be thinner or gone. I'd give the layer a style that included a slight bevel and perhaps a tiny drop shadow. Using grey in the mask (rather than black = nothing, white = full) would give you little humps and dips in the snow cover to represent drifts and variations in the underlying terrain.

I'd also soften up the bevel on the roofs. They're very hard-edged right now and you've also got the "ridging" problem that pops up when Photoship tries to bevel a straight line that's not at 90 or 180 degrees. I usually solve this problem by creating a layer filled with the roof shapes in white and then flattened to use as a layer over the roof texture layer...multiply mode usually. This lets me go in and paint out the ridges to make the sides of the roof look "flat". For your purposes, you could use it to smooth out both the "ridging" and the actual ridge line artifacts of the bevel...to make it look as if there's a nice snow layer.

Agree with Max on the shadows. Create a black copy of your buildings and copy it multiple times, moving each successive layer away from the building a bit more until you've got your shadow as large as you want it. Then you can merge them and use Gaussian Blur and set the layer on multiply. I actually get a bit more detailed and turn up the blur filter a bit more on each layer the further it gets from the building. Finally, if you want to get really fancy, you can paint in a bit more detail...to represent special things like an oddly shaped roof or a church steeple.

Hope any of this helps!

01-18-2013, 02:29 PM
It might be worth using a soft white brush to add some extra snow to the path to break it up a little too as the regularity of the path texture is showing through a bit.

In regards to the shadows - they are always a pain. I wish there was some sort of proper/solid shadow plugin or something. But anyway, you would be better of using a much smaller drop shadow with less distance (3-5px), more spread, and a smaller size to tighten it up. This will avoid the floating look but obviously your shadows won't be so pronounced.

The OTHER option which takes a bit more effort is to draw the shadows in manually on a separate layer underneath your buildings using a solid black hard brush (they don't have to be super precise). Then you drop the opacity of the layer right the way down and add some gaussian blur to soften them up.

One final option is to use a big drop shadow but paint the missing corner gaps in manually.

01-26-2013, 11:01 AM
Thank you everyone who commented! I'm trying to incorporate all of the suggestions. I'm still learning Photoshop, so it's slow going, but I'm getting there! I think I've fixed the problems with the hard edges of the roofs. (Duplicated the layer, selected the roofs, Gaussian blur, and then set the opacity). I also added a wooden frame, but I'm not convinced it looks better. If I go with a wooden frame, I'll use a better pattern fill, this was just to give me an idea of what it would look like. Thoughts?

I didn't notice that the houses looked like they were floating until it was pointed out! Talk about a DUH! moment! I tried stretching the house shapes individually, which I think has helped. I'm going to go in with a brush and fix them up a bit as well, but I thought I'd post what I've got so far.

I've been playing with the cliff for ages and it never seems to look like anything other than a horrible blob so I took it out all together. I'm going to try some hill shading and just have a bit of a slope.


01-26-2013, 12:39 PM
Looking better, I'd say. Nice work.