View Full Version : Trading City of Gasho (Al-Qadim Inspired)

02-08-2013, 12:16 AM
In the heart of the desert, there was an oasis which provided sanctuary for neighboring nomads and caravan traders. It was situated atop a bluff that overlooked a wadi (temporary river) which flooded for about a month once a year (and sporadically thereafter). Over time, a small city developed around this oasis and its leaders discovered an aquifer beneath the surface. Employing slave labor, they channeled this aquifer into a series of underground tunnels for wells to be constructed throughout the city.

The City of Gasho is loosely modeled off the City of Halwa in the Al-Qadim sourcebooks. However, I figured a new name was in order given the significant deviations I will make from the "cannon".

Thus far, I have tried to create the plateau the city will sit on, the road leading to it, and the wadi (bottom of the map). I have also laid out a sketch of the outer wall of the city (still need to play around with the layer settings). Not sure if the city area actually looks like it is sitting on a plateau or just in the center of a ring of rocks...looking for some validation or suggestions for how to make it look more convincing.

I'm also terribly worried about scale. This is my first attempt at a big city and I'm still pretty new to photoshop. My image is 3150x2400 px and I'm not sure if that is large enough to get detail in the city itself. So if anyone has any insights, please share.


02-08-2013, 12:39 AM
Looking forward to seeing how this turns out. It's looking pretty good so far.

I think the wadi looks great, very convincing! Wouldn't mind knowing how you achieved that look if you are willing to share.

What *is* the scale of the city? If it's a very big city then your wall might be a bit thick and the sand and rock textures you're using might look better scaled down a bit.

How are you doing the rock/sand? I often use a tileable texture as a pattern overlay on a completely filled layer. Then I mask the whole thing out (filling black into mask layer) and then paint back in the parts I want to show in that texture (by painting with white into the mask, usually using a "natural media" brush of some sort). You can then change the scaling of the texture, add bevel/emboss, drop shadow, etc. as desired and you've got a sort of "non-destructive" method of playing around. Please forgive me if I'm telling you something you already know.

Also, for my ground, I usually use several such layers: usually a cracked mud base, completely filled; sand or dirt (or both) painted in on top of that, mostly covering the cracked mud, but letting it show through in places; then I'll usually put some groundcover (which might not be applicable here) like grass, rough but low vegetation, and so forth; I'll top all of that off with some higher (by moving the shadow and amping the bevel/emboss) plants, bushes, and trees (again, maybe not applicable, though you might expect to see a bit growing in the low or sheltered areas even in a desert.)

On the wall: it might be a bit thick, as mentioned above. It could also do with a texture of some sort, even if its sandstone. How's it made? Should we see some indications of blocks? Do you want any color variations? Your method of construction appears fine to me, but the coloration leaves it a bit cartoony. If that's not the effect you're going for then some texture/variation might help it. What about towers, guard posts, gates? Some indication of those would break it up. Finally, you should think about your shadows. Instead of using a simple drop shadow I'd copy the wall base, move it into position and color it black and then paint in any gaps between that and the wall. When happy with it I'd use an appropriate level of gaussian blur and the set it on "Multiply" with a mid-range opacity (I tend to use 50% or 66% but, if you want to imply harsh sunlight then a higher value might look okay too.)

Okay. That's it for me! :) Hopefully you find some of it useful. I just completed a desert-ish city (posted here (http://www.cartographersguild.com/finished-maps/22178-city-map-argria-cwbp.html)) and would be happy to share any of the techniques I used on that with you if you're interested.

02-08-2013, 01:26 AM
Yeah...I literally ooh and ahh'd at your city for like an hour last night...no joke...read the WIP thread and everything...Its THE MODEL for what I want to do here. I'll probably bug you for more tips as I move through this process. So...super happy for all your helpful comments.

I'm thinking that this will be a city of about 10k. The original Al-Qadim sourcebook says 60k, but I can't justify that kind of population with an infrequent water source (even with the aquifer that I have added for it). So, I'm assuming that the area within the city walls should be roughly 100 sq. acres. (or 2000' x 2000') Not sure if that math checks out or if i'll be able to squeeze enough buildings in and around the city walls (figure about 1000 +/-).

The sand background is a combination of cloud, noise, and colored layers multiplied at varying opacities. The rocks are actually derived from Pyrandon's method here (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?1150-Award-Winner-A-medieval-town-map-tutorial-in-Photoshop). As per those instructions, I also added an "elevation" layer of progressively darker shadows. It doesn't utilize the layer masks but does work with bevel and texture settings. Since I'm not 100% on my rock formations yet, i'll probably give your suggestion a go over the weekend (looks like i'll snowed in by the blizzard-ocolypse that's headed for the Dirty Jerz).

I'd also like to experiment more with patterns for the ground cover. I started mapping with CC3 about a year ago and have used CGtextures extensively in that program, but have been less successful in converting those images to patterns and stamps in photoshop...i'll have to look into that more also.

And the wall...was a little embarrassed to post a WIP with it in its current state. It was really more of a last minute thing before I made this post to give people a sense of the dimensions I was looking at. Your suggestions look spot on to me and I'll also toil away at it over the weekend I think. My plan at the moment is to have one main gate (the only entrance/exit to the plateau) and several towers throughout (to spot an enemy advance from the lower lying areas or perhaps from the mountains on the north side). I'd also like to have a walled in "old city" which surrounds the palace, prominent temples, etc.

Thanks again - look foward to more comments, criticisms and suggestions from the experts. Hope to have another WIP if I survive the white death this weekend. :D

oh...and here's my settings for the Wadi...I was getting really frustrated while trying to create it and started just mashing settings together...pretty happy accident though.


02-08-2013, 01:37 AM
I just wanna say that I don't feel like it is perfect as I feel that there are so many things missing here you need to work more on this you should do some more work it feels like here is some kind on noise and all.

02-08-2013, 01:40 AM
That's, of course, a truly excellent tutorial. Can't go wrong by taking any of his advice!

Edit: And thanks for the appreciation and kind words! I'll follow your thread and help if I can.

02-08-2013, 08:39 AM
Scale should be quite simple, just make it 1px = 1m, or, if you are not metric and needs even more detail, 1px = 1ft. Then size everything accordingly.

02-08-2013, 01:57 PM
Figured out how to create patterns and used that to redo my cliffs (using the layer mask method). I think its a big improvement, but I seem to have lost some definition in the export...will worry about that later. I also redid the walls and added a gate and some towers. I'm still going to tinker around with those settings (and try mearrin's method for wall shadows) later on...but anyways...here's what I have.


02-08-2013, 03:31 PM
Looking pretty good.

How are you doing your walls? I do mine by taking the basic shape layer (textured and whatever) and copying that into a new layer above the base. Then I select the layer pixels (Ctrl-click the thumbnail in the layer stack, if you didn't know) and then choose Selection->Modify->Contract and bring it in a few pixels (however wide I want the "lip" to be). Then I hit Delete and apply a layer style to that. Copy it and place that layer beneath to serve as a shadow: flatten, color it black, blur, move it a few pixels and *then* I select the base wall, inverse the selection, and hit Delete...this is to make sure that the shadow of the lip falls only on the wall.

For the towers, I do something similar. If you look at your tower shadows (which are floating a bit) you'll see that the line of the edge is hitting at the same place on the ground and the top of the walls. In theory the shadow on the ground should be further away than the shadow on the top of the wall. I create the ground shadow for the towers as part of the wall shadow and place it under the wall base layer. Then I create a new shadow layer for the towers and place that above the wall and wall lip layers...adjust it so it seems to be in the right place then select the wall layer, inverse, and Delete so it's only on the walls.

Shadows are a big part of making a map work. You can get crazy complex by having them darker next to the objects, blur as they get further out, etc. Those things are just nice icing on your cake...getting them into the right place (and the eye knows these things even if the brain doesn't) goes a long way toward making your map look "right". Get your shadows and textures correct and people will ignore a lot of things. Get them right and then add little things like chimneys and smoke and vegetable gardens and people will rave about your map...when they realize they can zoom in and see even more detail.

Just some rambling ranting... :)

02-08-2013, 03:42 PM
More on shadows (I know I'm a bit fanatical about them):

Spent a lot of time figuring out this one. The shadows were absolutely necessary to convey the height of the various structures and give some hint about their shape (e.g. the thing in the center of the courtyard is a flag, and you can only really tell that because of the shadow) and things you can't see in the map (such as the light coming from the door and windows of the building to the north of the courtyard).

Here are a couple more, battlemaps, that have very custom shadows. I do use PS dropshadows for simple things but almost always do them by hand for anything complex or tall:
I guess the shadows from the sail on the ship, crates, dock, and water in the last one are the most complex I've ever bothered to go. I think the effect was worth it.

02-08-2013, 05:17 PM
These tips are like gold...Much happier with my walls now.

Although you can't really notice it at this resolution, I couldn't figure out how to get the tiling to go in the direction I wanted for the tower roofs and ended up having to use the pattern overlay effect to get it to the right scale. I also had to add a layer and draw a thin line to make bring out the roof line more.

I suppose the next step is to start planning out the road network and major points of interest. I also need to figure out how to export the image as a jpeg without loosing the detail on my rocks..in the past i've solved this problem by shrinking the overall image size...but I don't really want to do that...


02-08-2013, 05:50 PM
If you're not already using it, I recommend using "Save for Web" rather than "Export" to save a jpeg or PNG. You'll get a preview window where you can see the results of your compression settings interactively. That should allow you to dial in the level of compression that gives you sufficient file savings while preserving the details you don't want to lose.

02-08-2013, 09:38 PM
Glad you're finding the tips useful. Here's another on textures:

I often need a texture "swatch" for roofs of whatever so I generally: 1) use the marquee tool to select a rectangular area that's big enough for my purposes and fill it, 2) add a Pattern Overlay style with my texture and then scale it until it's the right scale, 3) flatten the layer down onto a new blank layer. Now you've got a swatch on a layer. Put it in the layer stack where you want it (e.g. just under your roof bevel) then use the marquee tool to grab appropriately sized bits of it and use the arrow tool to Alt-click drag a copy of a piece of your swatch to where you need it. Then you can rotate it and work with it however you want. Sometimes with a hip roof like that I'll copy some of it out into a new layer and rotate it and cut bits out so that I can create the right shape for the roof and then flatten it all back into the same layer when I'm done.

To give textures depth I'll sometimes use the same texture in the bevel/emboss->texture layer style (play with up/down, depth, etc.) That can make bricks and roof tiles "pop" a bit. Of course, if you do the texture swatch method above it won't 100% match your light source when you start rotating them around. If the texture's small enough it won't show up all that much. Judgement call there...is the benefit overwhelming the drawbacks?

Hope it helps!

02-09-2013, 08:08 AM
wow, just spent the morning reading all mearrin's tips. Great stuff there couldnt stop reading.

Regarding the map, looks good so far, glad you changed the wall, was looking a little thick in the beginning. rise to the plateau looks good coming up to the city.

02-09-2013, 11:13 PM
@Midgardsormr - Tried messing with the save for web settings and it didn't fix the problem (thanks for the suggestion though).

@Mearrin - Definitely going to try out that method once I get further into constructing the buildings.

I figured i'd start laying out the major points of interest so I can get a road network going. I made an oasis (50px or 50') in the center of what will be the old city. I then started laying out a palace complex (roughly 200 x 200). I will likely change the patterns I used for this eventually. Used Mearrin's method for the walls to do the shadows and what not...any tips on how to make long shadows for the two minarets?

Although this will be the biggest building in the city, it takes up alot of space and I'm a little worried about scale. Wondering If maybe I should shrink it in half and make every pixel = 2ft....any thoughts?



02-14-2013, 09:19 PM
I think the size of the palace is ok. I can see a cramped city of narrow alleys and souks growing around the big palace. i think it looks big because it's just sitting there by itself.

02-23-2013, 11:50 PM
I think the size is good too. I think you should indeed add a square and some areas with smakker buildings around it. Maybe a bit of green here and there to indicate a well or water source.