View Full Version : [Award Winner] Making a continent in photoshop

06-10-2008, 02:00 AM
Hello all, annoying ole me again.

I humbly submit, for your approval, my lil tutorial for making continents in Photoshop. Granted, my style is not for everyone but to each their own. This tutorial will probably change 1 or 2 more times before the year is out but here is where my current machinations stand. I'm not completely happy with my water areas but these are the areas that will be changed in months to come so if anyone comes up with a better way then I'm all ears, er eyes I guess since I'll be reading. I'd post a preview pic but the preview for this tut is already posted over in the regional/world mapping section (Untitled continent, WIP, reply #6) and I'm pretty much a novice at forums and such so I don't know how to link to it. The tutorial I have is a word document at 3.81 megs with pics. If you all want me to post the tutorial as a step by step guide within this thread instead of downloading the file then let me know.

At any rate, give it a read and see what you think and what sort of changes or modifications you use. Cheers.
Edit: Thought I'd just put up the pic that goes with this since I don't know how to link to the thumbnail.

06-10-2008, 02:04 AM
Excellent, thanks Ascension! Hardly humble! An amazing amount of work which I'm sure the community will appreciate. (I've just renamed your thread title to make it a little more self explanatory).



06-10-2008, 07:05 AM
It looks very interesting, Thanks!


06-12-2008, 05:17 PM
As I've mentioned in other threads, Ascension's tutorial is one of the best in this forum. It was very inspiring! Very nice techniques! And since I am the guy who can't even draw a straight line with a ruler, I find this extremely useful! ;)

Steel General
07-02-2008, 09:12 PM
Great tutorial, I ran thru it at work and was quite pleased with the results. What I'd like to do is convert it to work in GIMP if possible, because I do not have Photshop at home (or the $$$ to buy it). However, I am not knowledgable enough in either application to convert every step in Photoshop to the appropriate step for GIMP.

I managed to kinda "fudge" my way thru the lighting effects, they are no means accurate, but I am stuck on step #42;

"Control-click on the Base layer, then Select > Inverse, then hit Delete, then Deselect."

What is the equivalent command in GIMP for the Control-Click???

Also, anybody know if there is a script and/or plugin that duplicates Photoshops gradiant editor, I find GIMPs difficult to use.

THanks in advance for your respnses/replies.

07-02-2008, 09:39 PM
Don't know about the ctrl-click, but here (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?t=2170) is a gimp script I wrote to make a gradient from an image that I find easier to use than the native gradient editor.

-Rob A>

07-02-2008, 09:41 PM
That's a good question...I haven't the slightest idea. I know one of the GIMPers will know though, or at least a work-around, but I'd assume it deals with the magic wand since we're working with a selection. The control-click (on the layer palette) loads the layer as a selection so a work-around might be to click on the base layer and magic wand the area that is not white, hide the base layer and go back to the previous layer then delete.

Steel General
07-03-2008, 08:07 AM
OK, thanks guys. I'll give those a whirl when I get a chance and see what happens.

07-10-2008, 09:29 PM
Followed all the instructions up to where I'm supposed to select land and base, PS won't let me use inverse for some reason.

07-11-2008, 12:14 AM
Does the base layer still have a black ocean and black lakes on a white land? If it does, you need to get rid of those via an earlier step where you select the black and delete it. Also, when I say to control-click on a layer, I don't mean in the work window, I mean in the layers window/tab/whatchamacallit thingy.

08-01-2008, 02:55 PM
Just wanted to say thanks.

Found this a few months back but just finally tried it earlier this week.

Got a cool map and it gave me a lot of ideas on how to improve what I've already been doing.


08-01-2008, 04:25 PM
Glad to be of help :) I'd like to see what ya come up with in the future. Cheers

08-04-2008, 08:55 AM
is there any way that this could be done in GIMP?

Steel General
08-04-2008, 03:14 PM
is there any way that this could be done in GIMP?

I actually did try to duplicate this in GIMP. While much of it can be duplicated, where it fails badly is the layer properties (pattern overlay, etc.)that Photoshop has that GIMP does not.

Though it may be that I just did not know GIMP well enough to duplicate - the local GIMP expert is RobA. Hopefully he can more fully answer your question.

08-04-2008, 06:54 PM
I have GIMP but am nowhere near proficient with it. Logic would intend for me to be the one to do the cross-over so that the styles could be the same however I just can't get the hang of it. I've tried but I get frustrated and confused so if someone else wants to attempt then be my guest. The first thing that comes to mind that can not be replicated is the lighting effects filter. I make heavy use of this for texturing the hills and mountains so as a substitute one could just use any of the "mountains in GIMP" tutorials. Some of the layer styles that I use could be done but in a more time consuming and laborious way but I think most of them translate in some sort of fashion.

08-05-2008, 04:18 PM
i can figure out a way to get as far as adding my own variation of the hills, but thats it

Steel General
08-05-2008, 06:04 PM
I beleive there may be some GIMP plug-ins, scripts, etc. to "imitate" the lighting effects, etc. in Photoshop, but you'll need to search for them.

08-05-2008, 10:21 PM
i havent found any yet. Ill keep searching and experimenting tho. Right now im trying to get the same reef effect ascension got

08-06-2008, 05:09 PM
Ah ok the reef, now that I know where we are I can help a bit to point ya into another method of experimentation. Render up some green to blue clouds then cut em down to keep em close to the land. The layer's mode was set to normal but an additional layer on top of the reef was set to color dodge, thus lightening and brightening things. If GIMP doesn't have color dodge then just render up something lighter or use some black n white clouds as some other type of adjust, like screen or lighten or overlay or soft light. The bottom line is all about experimenting to see what you like best. I myself just went back the other night and made a whole bunch of tweaks to the tutorial based on nothing more than changing the way I did things to see what would happen and if I liked it then I added it in (I spent about 3 hours trying to create some of those cool white waves around the coast but didn't like anything).

08-07-2008, 11:58 AM
Ah ok the reef, now that I know where we are I can help a bit to point ya into another method of experimentation. Render up some green to blue clouds then cut em down to keep em close to the land. The layer's mode was set to normal but an additional layer on top of the reef was set to color dodge, thus lightening and brightening things. If GIMP doesn't have color dodge then just render up something lighter or use some black n white clouds as some other type of adjust, like screen or lighten or overlay or soft light. The bottom line is all about experimenting to see what you like best. I myself just went back the other night and made a whole bunch of tweaks to the tutorial based on nothing more than changing the way I did things to see what would happen and if I liked it then I added it in (I spent about 3 hours trying to create some of those cool white waves around the coast but didn't like anything).

uh okay......

i cant figure out what exactly it is you wanted me to do, but by playing around a bit, i managed to make an O.K. looking reef.

edit: hmm... it looked slightly brighter on GIMP...

08-07-2008, 10:11 PM
I'd say so far that looks spot on (except for that lil neon green ring in the mid to lower right side). Good job

08-07-2008, 10:47 PM
I'd say so far that looks spot on (except for that lil neon green ring in the mid to lower right side). Good job

oh lol, thats my brush. I somehow got it in there while i was moving it, so it appeared like that :lol:

08-09-2008, 08:54 AM
yay! managed to make my own GIMP continent in GIMP!

oh and I created my own little tutlet to remind me of how I did it

Steel General
08-09-2008, 01:41 PM
Cool! You should post your "tutlet" in the tutorials for others to see.

08-09-2008, 02:35 PM
Cool! You should post your "tutlet" in the tutorials for others to see.

ok sure :)

it may be a little confusing, cause im not that great at writing, but I tried my hardest to make it good :)

08-10-2008, 10:40 PM
yay! managed to make my own GIMP continent in GIMP!

Did you use the lighting effects? I could never figure out that plugin...

-Rob A>

08-11-2008, 08:37 AM
Did you use the lighting effects? I could never figure out that plugin...

-Rob A>

only for the waves on mine, i couldnt figure out how to use it for anything else.

You cant look at my little "tutlet" i made if you want, cause i forget right now how i used it

11-18-2008, 03:56 PM
Does the base layer still have a black ocean and black lakes on a white land? If it does, you need to get rid of those via an earlier step where you select the black and delete it. Also, when I say to control-click on a layer, I don't mean in the work window, I mean in the layers window/tab/whatchamacallit thingy.

Trying your tutorial out and I'm stuck here as well. I've got base, mountains (hidden), hills (hidden), land. The land is just the cloud texture with the lighting effect and the base layer is black where any water should appear. The land layer peeks through the holes in the base layer.

What's my objective here? To clear all the water pieces away from the land layer? I could color select black on the base layer, click on the land layer and delete anything inside the selection. Is that it?

11-18-2008, 03:59 PM
I should probably add that I'm experimenting with mountainous relief artwork. I'd like to take a look at your (Ascension) technique and then figure out a way of applying the climate colors selectively rather than in a gradient. It might take some blue marble samples and painting textures onto the layer. Thoughts?

11-18-2008, 05:52 PM
Bedwyr -- your base layer should be white with all of the black deleted...this is important for later steps in that you will have to omit every step that says to Select > Inverse. You will also have to add in a step every time it says Select without a Select > Inverse. What you currently have is the white parts deleted.

The point is just as you have guessed...to delete the "water parts" while leaving the "land parts" intact.

As to the mountains, the layer that they are on it set to Hard Light. This darkens or multiplies the darkness of everything below that layer directly underneath the object (in this case mountains). The brown color overlay then takes that darkness and gives it a brown tinge. The color overlay itself is set to soft light (I think) and white enhances the lightness of layers underneath. So what gets affected is the color gradient of the land layer (white to green to tan) resulting in light snowy mountains where it is white (in my example the white is in the north pole), normal mountains where it is green and sandy mountains where it is tan. As far as climate affecting the color of the mountains...(like more arid on the leeward side and more lush on the windward side) that is covered in a later step where we add color tweaks.

If you want to change the colors of the mountains by hand (for instance to make them sort of grayish for granite mountains or reddish for iron mountains) follow these steps as I have done it myself:
1. Create a new layer above the mountains layer and rename it to "mountain tweaks".
2. Ctrl-click on the mountains layer (in the layers palette)...this loads the mountains layer as a selection so that you do not paint outside of it.
3. Grab whatever size airbrush you want and set the flow to whatever you want. I start with 10% and then just keep applying more "paint" until I get the color I want. Choose your color and paint until you're happy. When done remember to deselect. Also, you can change the blend mode of the layer..."screen" will show more white while the darker areas are colored, "multiply" will show more black while the lighter areas are colored, "overlay" is sort of a halfway between screen and multiply, "soft light" is like screen but brightens everything up, "hard light" is like multiply while brightening, etc, etc, etc.

11-20-2008, 01:17 AM
Well kudos for those suggestions. I came up with this (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?p=38802#post38802). A few things I changed or added.

I used the eraser and clone tool a lot on the mountains. I just plain needed spinal ridges in exact locations and couldn't leave it up to a math algorithm. Likewise the continental shape (this is, again, a kitbash of a recent commercial product) is a selection outline.

I used only the ocean layer for reefs, didn't need more than that and simply used the eraser liberally. I've noticed in whole-earth nasa pictures that the amount of reef area visible from distant space is patchy.

The reef layer did double duty. I applied a gradient lighter than the ocean color via image adjustment and erased segments until I got a nice continental plate falloff. It'll look cool for fantastic stuff, but I'm not sure if that's visible from space so I'll remove it in the final image.

I also used several segments in my other desert areas. It took awhile to figure these out but I think I came up with a scheme.

1) I drew a very squiggly selection line, going around mountains and terrain features in ways that could sort of make sense (basin areas for heat collection, etc... who cares what the coriolis forces or albedo are doing, I'm restricting myself to the existing map and, well, it is sci fi).

2) Feathered the selection by 5-10 pixels depending on size of area.

2.5) Already had several copies of the reef layer. Did a couple more difference clouds filters to taste. Mostly just stuck with what I had.

3) Inverted selection and deleted a copy of the reef.

4) Applied a desert gradient. See the tutorial for desert color suggestions. Did use hard light blending. Played with the scale to taste.

4.5) On a black 128x128, I already created a grey crinkly paper template by doing multiple difference clouds and then an emboss filter, exporting by selecting edit > define pattern.

5) Applied the new layer (named Desert 1, 2, 3, etc for each one) via normal blending.

6) Stretched and adjusted the image at its edges by alternately using a soft eraser and smudge to taste, getting the desert into the nooks and crannys of the mountain ranges.

7) Applied the crinkly paper texture as a layer style, using hard light blending and scale to taste. Also applied bevel and emboss layer style: smooth, down, size: 2, soften: 4, highlights and shadows to taste.

If you want a scrub desert or some other feature, like forest, the same techniques might be applied along with the texturizer filter, using the sandstone texture to taste. It makes things a little less realistic, but if the viewer goes "oh that's a forest", it might be worthwhile.

Steel General
11-20-2008, 07:09 AM
That's what's great about many of the tutorials here, they can usually be adapted to whatever your particular needs may be.

11-20-2008, 10:41 AM
SG -- Agreed. To me a tut represents the sum total of my knowledge/process at a given point in time. It's been five or six months since that tut was posted here (although I used the same process for about six months prior to ever being here at The Guild), and I have learned so much in that time. Also, for me, a tut is meant to be a starting point for others to learn some basic concepts and procedures...the evolution of adaptive ideas springing forth from a common base. Sort of like you have to learn addition and subtraction before you can theorize about quantum mechanics. It's always nice to see others learn, change, adapt, and even outright disregard my stuff as I know that they have at least seen it, understood it, and made their own tweaks.

01-01-2009, 10:34 PM
I've been down in my secret lab messing around and experimenting...I've come up with coastal shelves finally and changed the ocean stuff in general. In the future I want to work on plateaus and better canyons, but for now I'm happy. Here's my current continent, divided in two because the original is 6250 x 3125 and in order to upload it I'd have to chop the quality to 3.

Before anyone says it, yes, it's probably dark...so be it, I like it :P When I get the above mentioned things hammered out I'll update the tut doc file.

Steel General
01-02-2009, 07:51 AM
It's too dark!! :D (Yes, I'm being a smarty-pants)

Seriously though these are interesting and cool changes.

Just an opinion here, I know you're still working the kinks out on this but you may want to reduce the 'bevel/height' on some of the underwater "terrain" (at least in the lighter colored water) they almost appear to be islands with the wrong coloration.

Hope that makes sense to you.

01-02-2009, 02:57 PM
SG -- take a screenshot with a red circle or something and I'll give it a look over...not sure what yer meanin.

Steel General
01-02-2009, 04:23 PM
Ok here you go, there are several of these on this map, but this one appears to be the most obvious, and maybe I'm just misinterpreting what you're trying to do here.

01-02-2009, 04:38 PM
Gotcha. I noticed these as well but was unsure if I liked em or not. I could call one a meteor impact but I didn't know what to do about the others. As I now think about it, I could shrink the size of the shelf itself and eliminate the holes or just do some manual painting to fill em in before beveling. Thanks, bro.

Steel General
01-02-2009, 06:18 PM
No problem...what about possibly reversing the bevel so that it looks sunken rather than embossed? Just a thought...

01-02-2009, 07:16 PM
What do you mean? It looks sunken to me. The shelf is an enlargement of the landmasses, expanded by 40 (I think), filled, then an outer bevel -- chisel soft, size 21 with an up direction, white color dodge highlight 75% and black hard light shadow 75% and the light source is -30, 30 (low-middle right). If you look at the ocean trench it has the same settings with the direction being down.

The common thing people assume is that the light source is in the top left and since this is a northern hemisphere map, the light source is in the south (or bottom) of the map. I always do morning sun so the sun is on the right (east). I also try to do summer maps so the light source is close to the middle whereas a winter map would have the sun be closer to the bottom. If the light was indeed in the top left then yeah, it can look opposite of the way I have done it.

Try it out on Sketch Up sometime and you'll see what I mean or just do what I did, mark on a window where the sun rises on summer solstice and winter solstice. Luckily, I have one facade of my shop that is 100 feet long on the east side with about 80 feet of windows. Here's a screenshot. Based on the shadows, green trees and dead grass, I'd say the photo was taken late August to early September about 9 or 10 am on a Saturday (only 2 cars).

01-02-2009, 07:22 PM
It's true about the light direction, but i agree with the previous, my bias is towards a top left lightsource, and with little else to tell me where the sun is, it will look wrong. Nice dark brooding style, I can imagine the dark vile creatures that stalk the land
Hoel -The beholders eye

Steel General
01-02-2009, 08:01 PM
Actually the shelf itself is fine, it's just the areas like the one I highlighted that look funny to me. Heck I may be the only one that see's it that way.

It's probably a matter of how the lighting is perceived (as you mentioned), to me it looks raised rather than sunken, and that's probably just the way I'm used to looking at it.

01-02-2009, 10:14 PM
I guess yer right in a way, it's raised up from the ocean floor, but since it's the continental shelf it's still submerged and that's what I was meaning by sunken.

Nonetheless, I've been working on geographic things: escarpment, plateau, river gorge, ridge lines, and a canyon. Here's a screenie. I think the canyon, escarpment, and ridges look pretty good, got some work to do on the plateau and gorge still. Trying to think of other stuff so I can figure out how to do those as well.

Steel General
01-03-2009, 10:22 AM
You're definitely on the right track with those. I can't really offer any suggestions though, you're PS-Fu is much greater than mine. :)

01-08-2009, 11:39 PM
Hey, I gave you props in my WIP thread, but thanks for this tutorial. This is the first time I've made anything in photoshop that I've felt good enough to put in a public forum.

01-08-2009, 11:50 PM
No problem man, it's here to help. Steel General and myself are around every day and other satellite-style mappers are around often enough so that we'll be able to help ya with just about anything you need help with. Glad you liked it :)

01-09-2009, 11:16 AM
I'm confused a tad. On step ten, you have us merging a new layer (transparent) with the ocean (difference clouds). The result in the merger with the transparent layer is no change. Did you have a different result in mind?

01-09-2009, 01:34 PM
Nevermind, I found that the threshold tool does everything done in steps 10,11, and 12. I think. ;)

01-10-2009, 12:56 AM
there should be a layer from step 9 that should be filled with 50% gray and the mode set to hard mix (typo in the tut says hard light) and named "base" layer. The new layer underneath this one, transparent at the start, is for airbrushing black and white to define ocean vs. land...this gives us more control of what the land will look like rather than just using threshold.

01-10-2009, 04:20 PM
My step #9 only contains a photo, no mention of grey fill or mix. See attachment.

01-11-2009, 10:24 AM
Hmm, odd. I re-uploaded the doc file so give that a whirl.

01-11-2009, 03:29 PM
I see step 9 now. Thanks!

01-13-2009, 10:31 AM
Just a heads up for anyone trying this tutorial in Photoshop CS4. Ctrl-Click (or Command-Click for Macs) on a layer no longer creates a selection from that layers contents. You have to click on the layer thumbnail, next to the layer name. The reason for the change is that you can now select multiple layers in CS4.

01-13-2009, 10:42 AM
It's same in CS3, but not earlier versions

01-13-2009, 12:04 PM
Thanks! I've been wondering if I had hallucinated that function back when I was using PS 7 since CS3 didn't do it.

01-13-2009, 05:48 PM
I'll edit this (as I only have CS) to fit the updated versions of photoshop. Thanks for the info.

01-14-2009, 09:52 AM
This tutorial is awesome!

I might have missed it, but what blending mode did you use for the land layer and the hills layer? Right now i have my land layer on multiply and my hills layer on soft light. It looks great, but different.


This is my attempt.

01-14-2009, 04:57 PM
The land layer's mode is normal, the gradient overlay on the land layer is at hard light. Yes, the hills layer mode is set to soft light, I also change the opacity and bevel size depending on how I'm feeling. It looks like you didn't do the difference clouds on the mountain layer (got to do it twice) so the mountains look a lil more fluffy but hey, to each his own, right? Nice job and glad you liked it. :)

01-14-2009, 05:01 PM
Ah! My mistake, i threw the gradient overlay onto the base layer. Thanks again!

Whip It
01-27-2009, 01:45 AM
I think I've done something wrong. For Step 37 your tutorial shows the the shape of the continent and the colours/features within it and a the cloudy-light-effects thing on the outside. Mine however just shows black on the outside and I've got no idea what to do. If it makes any difference I'm using Photoshop CS. Has it got something to do with opacity? I'm sorry, I've probably missed something really obvious.

01-27-2009, 01:34 PM
My guess is that you've probably not deleted the black ocean from the base layer. Could you throw up a screenshot so that I could take a gander at it?

Whip It
01-28-2009, 02:26 AM
Holy hell, it just worked itself out. Thanks for your quick response either way - I don't know what I did wrong or what I just did right to fix it but it's working now. Sorry to bother you.

02-20-2009, 06:03 PM
This tutorial has made me one happy camper! Here's what I managed to do with it.


This is a very reduced version. Anyone who wants to see it full-size is welcome to click here (http://michaeldnd.googlegroups.com/web/Continent+Map+large.jpg?gda=HpkrHEkAAABL9waNXYpwbR bJb1w9IjAeT5d3Yt3SxQGzJpDE67nZSRU3aktOJQAwFp8OQyC9 ggWgLXjFW0ZeO3J-4IGLFabBhAioEG5q2hncZWbpWmJ7IQ&gsc=WkD_AAsAAAAmr7n-eb9zc_wNcZhvhDr9) but be warned, it is a large file.

Thank you so much for this excellent tutorial!

02-20-2009, 07:28 PM
Hey...looks pretty good, love your reef layer.

03-03-2009, 07:37 PM
Hey, this is pretty much my first tutorial and my first serious attempt at making a map in Photoshop. Right now I'm having trouble with step 9:

9. Create a new layer and Edit > fill = 50% gray. Set the layer’s mode to hard mix and change the name to “base”.

I cannot for the life of me figure out how to set the layer's mode to 'hard mix'. I'm using Photoshop Elements, for the record. Thanks for the help!

EDIT- Also, I am not sure how to link layers together. Is that the same as 'Group with previous layer'?

03-04-2009, 01:21 PM
Which version of Elements? I use version 2 and it does not have Hard Mix as a Layer Mode. As I understand it, Hard Mix was added in a later version but I do not know which.

03-04-2009, 03:49 PM
You could go with Threshold, or Levels, or Curves, or Brightness/Contrast to make it solid black and white. I favor the brightness/contrast way but most others prefer the threshold way.

03-04-2009, 08:00 PM
Well .. i am an absolute n00b .. i can not seem to get past.

9. The hard mix will change the look of things to straight black and white with no grays.

As i go through the process, once i have the 50% gray and select the ocean copy, and attempt to paint in my land and oceans. With the opacity set to 10% i can not see a darn thing regardless of if i am working on the gray layer or the ocean layer.

If i hide he gray layer, and paint on the ocean layer its all just faint lines, same as when i paint in the gray layer.

I'm terrible with photoshop.. but i am trying to learn :)

03-04-2009, 08:35 PM
OK I think I can spot two things:
1. Your gray layer needs to be set at hard mix so that it looks like cow spots and
2. When painting on the ocean copy layer make sure that you are using a big ole fat airbrush tip on a brush (not a pencil) -- I use the 300-pixel airbrush tip with an opacity of the brush set to 10% (this can be found at the top of the screen). As you airbrush the black color on the ocean copy layer your black sea on the gray/hard mix layer will grow, vice-versa for white/land. If your tip is small you won't produce much of anything other than thin lines that won't do much.

03-05-2009, 11:20 AM
Thanks for the reply.

1) I did set it to hard mix bu nothing shows through to the gray layer, which is on top of the ocean copy

2) Aye, i grabbed a big ol brush and painted, there are faint lines that appear on the ocean layer but nothing on the gray layer.

I have obviously missed a step somewhere me thinks :)

03-05-2009, 04:11 PM

Ok, what I didnt do was change the layer to Hard Mix, I only did the Fill Mode Hard Mix.

My bad :)

Mm... an now that I am starting to paint, when i use the brush for black (water) the edges of the black are kinda reddish/pink ..

03-05-2009, 04:41 PM
That means that the hard mix gray layer is picking up a color somewhere underneath...either in the color your painting with (not completely black 0,0,0 or white 255,255,255) or in the grayscale clouds having a touch of color somehow. I guess it's also possible that the gray layer might be shifted towards a color slightly and not the true 50% gray but I'm not real sure.

03-05-2009, 05:33 PM
Genius .. black still had red=1 .

Ok, next question now that i am starting to feel more comfortable with my talents (heh) ..

the pencil tool for doing finer detail, there are large areas where the pencil will not draw through to the 50% grey layer. the ocean copy show the "scribbles" but in some areas on the map, they just do not show through ;

ie. in the large land mass i can not draw in the center, though if there is an existing lake. i can draw "scribble" on the borders of the lake with more black... just cant seem to create a "new" lake.

03-05-2009, 05:41 PM
Gotcha...for that I use a big black airbrush of either 100, 200 or 300 pixels (at 20% opacity) and click a few times. This will put more and more black into the ocean copy layer, when it gets dark enough the gray hard mix layer will pick it up and a black lake will pop up and grow with each new click. Then you can fine tune with smaller airbrush tips to make whatever shape you want.

This part, adding lakes, only takes about 10 seconds per lake...that is, once you get used to it it becomes quite easy (just a handful of clicks) but the first time trying something new is always a bit daunting.

03-05-2009, 07:10 PM
Ok... So far so good, I get to #20 for lighting effects, and lighting effects are Grayed out. darn... and i was on a roll.

03-06-2009, 08:27 AM
If your in 16-bit mode some filters are not accessible, my guess is they would require more memory than your pc can handle. I have the same problem so I use 8-bit only.

03-06-2009, 12:43 PM
Right again :)

Item #27, the omni directional light, i am using CS3 and i cant seem to get my light not have "5" omni lights. I just get a single circle that i can move around and expand.

Steel General
03-06-2009, 12:49 PM
If I remember correctly you have to add the other 4 lights manually...though I am not 100% sure on that one.

03-06-2009, 01:08 PM
Ok, i will try.

Next would be item #30, since i skipped the lighting for the time being.

I click the reef, ctrl-click the base and try to do a select- > inverse, but it is grayed out however.

Nice, ok, the little light bulb creates more light :) but is there supposed to a a brighter light in the center of the texture ?
Ok, fixed this, just redid it and made sure the intensity for the omni was at the same level for all of the points.

Still cant select inverse however.

03-06-2009, 09:48 PM
Is your base layer black sea and white land? It should be white land and clear (nothing) for the sea. That way the step will work. If it's solid black and white all you end up selecting is the entire image and thus no inverse is possible.

To get rid of all of the black on that layer do this:
1. Click on the base layer to make it visible.
2. Select > Color range = use black with any amount of fuzziness.
3. Hit the delete key on the keyboard.
4. Deselect (ctrl-d).
5. Hide the base layer again by poking out it's eye in the layer palette.

03-07-2009, 03:29 AM
Ok, some great progress, thanks allot.

Line #55, for adjusting colors for the land.

I am not a great colorist, but have found and ok palette template for blends. However i am, having an issue with a combination of proper blend modes, brush hardness and proper color selections for the areas to adjust.

Any pointers here would be great, thanks again :)

I have attached what i have so far ..

03-07-2009, 07:53 AM
Use big airbrushes, use no more than 20% opacity on the brush...build up the colors instead of plopping down a big blob, and for color inspiration look at some real satellite shots from Google Earth or Flash Earth. Oh and make sure that you don't paint out into the ocean. The finishing touches of a map and color tweaks are open for loads of experimentation so do as you see fit. It doesn't have to look like mine, it just has to make you happy.

03-12-2009, 02:21 AM
Ok! just a few more steps to go.

#55, crunchiness to the MTNs

a few questions here.. when following the directions for this, all it really looks like is a static white film over top of the mtns and hill regions

as for the hills, early on in the tutorial we created hills layer but never used it? and now we are creating more hills. while the big hills look great, the small hi8lls look the same as the big hills?

just need some help with the crunch, and hills thanks :)

03-12-2009, 05:25 PM
Something is messed up...my version has big hills at 58 and crunch at 59. The original hills layer gets finished in steps 43 and 44. Lemme do some checking. Even more weirdness...my original doc file downloads as something called attachment.php. I'll reupload the file...wonder how it got changed. Ok, it's reuploaded...hope it helps.

03-23-2009, 05:47 PM
First of all, amazing tutorial!. It's obvious a lot of time was spend making it, and it was very helpfull.

Here's my result. (I started this afternoon and didn't stop... addicting ;) ).

03-23-2009, 08:32 PM
Looks good. Glad you liked it and glad I could help feed the monster :)

03-27-2009, 07:22 PM
This tutorial is very good. I'm almost pleased with my work so far except that for some reasons my colors are very far off from yours when I do the gradient overlay. It doesn't really matter though as I adjusted like I wanted it to be, but I really have a problem with the mountains. I'm incapable of making them look good. (I'm at the adjust2 layer step, but I haven't touched the mountains yet as they are not pleasing). Do you have any idea how I might make my mountains more like yours?

Anyways, REPed you.

03-28-2009, 03:59 PM
Looks pretty good to me. I don't really do too much with my mountains...clouds, difference clouds, difference clouds, lighting effects, select color range = black with a fuzziness of 200, delete, brown color overlay set to soft light, a slight inner bevel of 1 to 3 pixels (optional), then set the layer to hard light. I can't really tell how you're doing yours but it looks like you did the difference clouds too many times, which results in smaller and smaller yet more and more twisty areas of white...or you changed up something on the lighting effects filter. It could be that you set the fill of the layer to zero, leaving behind just a bevel instead of the swirly grays and white that we need to represent height. Don't worry too much about that color gradient...make it whatever you want. At the very end, if it's still too dark for your taste, add a solid layer of white on top then set the mode to soft light and reduce the opacity.

03-28-2009, 05:23 PM
I can't really tell how you're doing yours but it looks like you did the difference clouds too many times, which results in smaller and smaller yet more and more twisty areas of white...or you changed up something on the lighting effects filter. It could be that you set the fill of the layer to zero, leaving behind just a bevel instead of the swirly grays and white that we need to represent height.
Indeed, I probably messed up with the clouds. That would explain a lot.

Don't worry too much about that color gradient...make it whatever you want. At the very end, if it's still too dark for your taste, add a solid layer of white on top then set the mode to soft light and reduce the opacity.
Don't worry about that ;) As you can see I tweaked it quite a lot but the values for colors that you give are pretty useful and good looking.

Thanks again for the tut.

04-26-2009, 11:38 PM
For simplicity I 'printed' the doc file to PDF. Was having loading issues with the size of the tutorial and having so many pictures inside of a DOC.
The PDF is reduced in size, but of course the pics are not quite as high quality. hope this is helpful!

05-04-2009, 02:46 PM
I spent some three hours on this tutorial and managed to do this skull-continent. I think I'll have to do this again for it was my first attempt at a map and heven't used PS for a long time.

Steel General
05-04-2009, 04:44 PM
Not a bad job for your first run through of the tutorial.

05-13-2009, 01:06 AM
Not a bad job for your first run through of the tutorial.

When I look at it now, I've gone a long way in just six days :D

05-13-2009, 11:03 PM
does the doc file have images in it? because i can't get them to show up in wordPad and it won't open Adobe Reader.

ignore my question. I found someone on page 9 had made a pdf file. Thank you for doing that ^__^

05-13-2009, 11:12 PM
It works fine in Microsoft Office and Open Office (a freeware version) but I haven't checked it in wordpad, but I assume that they would not show there. Post number 90 by sleaker on page 9 has a pdf that works fine (I just checked it) and I think Vandy did a pdf as well earlier.

Edit: Oops, looks like I was responding while you were :) cheers.

05-13-2009, 11:17 PM
Thanks for the reply ^.^

05-22-2009, 09:48 PM
Looks like a pretty decent tutorial of the basics. I love that you've definitely thought through some of the effects of erosion and how it effects topography.

05-31-2009, 05:10 PM
I've been working on this tutorial today. I only got through step 12 before derailing myself to play with the results. I learned that, if you make the map really big, it gets rather monotonous. Anyway, here's step 12 with a bit of jazz thrown in.


05-31-2009, 07:12 PM
That looks pretty interesting...could almost go cartoony with that. Nice job.

05-31-2009, 08:58 PM
Well, I have to admit defeat... for now anyway. After another 3.5 hours of effort and multiple attempts, I am getting lost in the weeds somewhere after step 12. Too often I am not certain which layer I'm supposed to have selected, and I'm not sure which effect I'm supposed to be placing where. As others have followed the instructions successfully, I can only surmise it is my inexperience that stops me from filling in the blanks by context. I will try other things and come back to this later.

05-31-2009, 09:54 PM
It might be something before step 12, is the image above what you have after finishing step 12?

06-01-2009, 09:32 AM
I tried three of your tutorials yesterday... two after I wrote the message above. All of them were continent-type tutorials... under the assumption that I would learn more and understand better. I have learned quite a bit, although clearly not yet enough.

The first thing I learned is: don't start with a large continent as it makes everything that follows harder.

When I get to the point where I know enough to ask an intelligent question, I will ask it. At present I'm not there yet. Thanks for trying to help though.

06-01-2009, 01:45 PM
Okay, this is step 59. (I'm on vacation by the way) Step 60 is unclear as to what it wants.

Here are the problems I've run into and that are probably quite clear on the map: My mountains are flat, and the color is wrong. Yes, there are a ton of mountains on the continent. Chalk this up to me not realizing just how pronounced they would be by this point. They were pretty modest earlier :).

Also, my lake didn't work out right. I wound up having to put the layer above the mountains to keep the mountains from half-burying it.

I didn't make any adjustments in the "adjust 2" layer yet. I am color blind, so that step is arduous to say the least. I usually get my wife's help when an "eye" is needed.

I welcome any comments.


06-01-2009, 04:24 PM
Those mtns are an easy fix...that step confuses a lot of people because there are 2 blend modes - one for the color overlay and one for the layer itself. The color overlay should be a brown set to soft light, the layer itself should be set to hard light. If you need me to, I'll give ya some screen shots to walk ya thru it. Other than that, I'd say you've got it right with everything else.

06-01-2009, 05:10 PM
So right! The Layer's color overlay was set to normal, but should have been set to soft light. It doesn't just change the color, it changes the apparently elevation and contours of the mountains. Wow. And I thought I had too many mountains before... lol. I have named this continent "Mountania" in honor of the 57 exploratory parties we have dispatched to explore the place, none of whom have ever returned.

You'd have to be from Switzerland to love it.

Thanks for all of your help Ascension. This one is as done as I'm going to make it, unless I get a call for something like it. You'll notice that I did succumb to the temptation of "popping" the rivers and lake, although you'll be hard-pressed to even find the one-pixel rivers (there are two rivers in the north, one in the flats). Please forgive my insolence :)


06-01-2009, 05:24 PM
Very good, you get an A :) I sorta like that extra-crunchy terrain.

06-10-2009, 07:18 PM
I have made a change, one word, that seems to be tripping folks up. My error was saying "copy" when "duplicate" is what should have been said. I have re-uploaded the doc file on the first post to reflect the change. I would upload a new pdf as well but apparently my OpenOffice doesn't seem to "export to pdf" properly.

06-19-2009, 02:03 PM
For some reason, I cannot open your word file tutorial. I have office 2003, and it keeps asking me for which encoding to use, and no matter what, I get gibberish.

Anyone else having that issue?

Steel General
06-19-2009, 02:47 PM
There is a definitely a problem with the file, I couldn't open it either.

In fact MS-Word tried to install a converter for it, but even that came out garbled.

@Ascension - I think you should try uploading it again.

06-19-2009, 05:23 PM
Wonderful. I don't have MS Office anymore so I'm using Open Office. It won't convert to pdf and it wont save proper docs anymore either it looks like. Alright, I have a backup location so I'll dl it from there and then reupload it here sometime tonight.

Edit -- I've re-uploaded the doc file, hopefully this one isn't corrupted.

06-23-2009, 11:52 AM
It worked like a champ! Thanks so much, and sorry for being a pain. I love the style here, but mainly I want to do it to help familiarize me with the tools in PS a bit more.

07-03-2009, 03:05 PM
I've been looking for a way to generate landmasses with general shapes but random edges forever, and your method is awesome.

You lost me on step 31 though. The ocean layer I have has the white landmass in it, and bringing it up and applying the lighting effect from the hills layer doesn't really do anything since I'm applying light on solid white. Did you mean for us to apply the same noise filter to it too, or did I mess up somewhere earlier?

Edit: I'm totally lost now. Your picture in step 39 looks like it had a cloud pattern on it and the image I ended up with doesn't. Also I'm assuming you didn't want us to delete the water in step 15? Because my ocean layer just has the landmass in it too, which step 41 doesn't do what you show it does.

07-03-2009, 03:59 PM
Your "ocean" layer should be exactly the same as the very first clouds render on the background layer...you might be mixing up the background copy layer and the base copy layer.

07-03-2009, 04:01 PM
Ahh, I think I got confused when I was messing around with the original few steps, mea culpa. The pdf file posted on page 9 seems to have some different instructions on it, is that a more updated version?

I gotta run for now (*sob*) but when I get back I'll start over with the pdf file.

07-03-2009, 04:05 PM
The pdf is actually a few months older, the doc file is more recent as I had to clarify some things...everytime I say "copy this layer" what I really mean to say is "duplicate this layer". Reading thru it again it appears that I still have to fix some of those things.

07-03-2009, 07:28 PM
Here's my attempt. Didn't bother trying to tweak it too much in the interest of time, hhe. I'll do that for the campaign map I'm working on.

07-03-2009, 10:45 PM
Looks like ya got it, nice :)

07-30-2009, 09:58 PM
I am a bit confused with step #34: what layer do I put the layer styles on? I put them on the base layer but that's causing me confusion in later steps. Also, it would be really helpful if you put screenshots of what your layer palette looks like because I think that's what would solve it for me.

07-30-2009, 11:08 PM
Yep, caught a typo...thanks :) Those layer styles go on the "land" layer, not the "base" layer.

07-30-2009, 11:56 PM
That makes more sense, thanks. It works much better now. :)

08-14-2009, 10:06 AM
It seems that my word processor doesn't recognize the format you saved the tutorial in. Do you have it saved in a different format? PDF works I know...

Steel General
08-14-2009, 10:23 AM
There should be a .PDF version in this (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showpost.php?p=60307&postcount=90) post.

10-17-2009, 03:36 AM
I'm having an extraordinarily hard time with this tutorial.

I am beginning to think that I'm the sort of guy that has to be walked through everything bit by bit.

One of the problems I'm having is the naming of the layers. I'm seeing lots of people here making continents, so I'm assuming its a problem of my own. My brain is aging too fast!

I'm having issues starting with step nine. What is the "background copy" layer?

10-17-2009, 02:12 PM
If you look at your layer stack, the bottom layer should say Background. If you duplicate this layer, then the new layer will automatically be named Background copy.

10-18-2009, 02:52 PM
I suppose this is why I'm having a hard time with it, since they're mostly personal notes to yourself as a reminder. There's a lot of gaps.

For instance, in steps 7, 8, and 9 I got really confused. By step 9 I assume we should have 3 layers.

Blank layer
Cloudy Layer 2
background copy

And then you apply the fill effect (50% gray) to the background copy?

EDIT: These questions are probably dumb for you, but I'm concerned about what my layers are. One mistaken layer and everything is kaput...

10-18-2009, 05:08 PM
You're not reading carefully or you are over-complicating things. Step six says filter - render - clouds...since this is the very first thing we do it should be on the background layer. Step seven says to duplicate that layer...it gets auto-named background copy. Step eight says to create a new layer and fill it with 50% gray, set the blend mode to hard mix, and rename the layer to base. How many layers is that? Three. Step nine says to click on the background copy layer and do some airbrushing. The last sentence has a typo, though. It says to copy a layer when it should say duplicate. That makes four.

I Killed Kenny
10-20-2009, 08:22 AM
This is my very first map.

I used both tutorials, this one and the Atlas one.

So what anyone thinks?

10-20-2009, 06:08 PM
Only two things jump out at me. The desert needs to be less white so, on a new layer, airbrush in some yellows and tans and oranges then play around with the blend mode and opacity. The ocean looks like it follows the tut pretty well but, and this is probably my fault, I'd put some lighter color around the coasts to signify the shallow area. All in all, good job.

11-13-2009, 08:38 PM
I just finished my first map using this tutorial; until now I had always used crude hand drawings and I'm very impressed with the results I see so far with this method. Some things are a bit "off" and it isn't the most realistic geography but it's much better than anything that's been put in front of my gaming group for the last few years. If anyone has any comments I'd appreciate it.

11-14-2009, 08:03 AM
I'd say it looks fine. And before anyone says that the shelf looks like it goes down...the sun is coming from the south east and not the northwest.

11-14-2009, 02:14 PM
I can't access this tutorial. It refuses to open and crashes my WP program. Is there some way you could post it instead? I know it's been around a long time.

11-14-2009, 03:04 PM
Haha, that's embarrassing, I didn't mean for the sun to be coming in from the opposite angle. I thought that the ocean shelf looked a little weird myself (that is what we're talking about, right?) but I didn't realize my lighting was abnormal. Thanks for pointing it out, gonna see how it looks both ways now,

11-28-2009, 04:21 PM
Hey, new person to the forums. Love fantasy and the idea of your own universe so to pass some time before I am shipped out for the Army I decided to take a hand at your tutorial to really bring my story to life and this is what I got using Photoshop CS4.

Just had one question if anyone could kindly direct me to a tutorial or a quick overview on adding destroyed bridges or something of the like? The only way to get to and from my 2 provinces is by the peninsula like land masses that almost connect to each other but was destroyed by a war and was the only bridge connecting the 2 provinces, I wanted to add some sort of debris or half a bridge or something to add to it if you have any suggestions.

11-28-2009, 05:26 PM
For that I would look through the Dunjinni.com user forums and pick up some rocks and stones...I know there are some bridges there and I think a few docks that could be used.

11-30-2009, 02:37 PM
I'd just like to thank you for this tutorial first - great job, I learned a lot and have been looking for something like this for a while.

Secondly, here's my result. What do you think? :)


11-30-2009, 04:46 PM
Love those big mountains. They look really tall and very imposing. Nice job.

12-10-2009, 12:11 AM
This is brilliant. I know how I will be spending my weekend...

12-10-2009, 12:16 AM
I don't have MS Office anymore so I'm using Open Office.

I am so glad that you are using OpenOffice. That is what I use, as well (I switched from MS Office about eight years ago, and have been very pleased).

I am not sure why you would have problems exporting to PDF. OpenOffice has supported export-to-PDF forever. But even OpenOffice has a bug or two -- maybe try installing the most recent version?

And could you upload the original OpenOffice document, rather than the save-as-M$-Word version? OO's "doc" export is pretty good, but I much prefer to have the proper format.

12-10-2009, 12:23 AM
I'll do it tomorrow evening when I get home from work, it's late now and I was just checkin in.

12-11-2009, 01:36 AM
Gah. Note to self: save often, particularly before applying filters. All I really lost were the lakes I went back and added, but it's still annoying.

Ah, well. I might start over, anyway. I was using 12800x12800 resolution (I was trying to do the whole eastern hemisphere), and the "clouds" turn into noise when the image is that big. I got around it during the first "render clouds" step by rendering them and then stretching one-quarter of the image to cover the whole thing, but when I got to step 18 (render difference clouds x 2), I saw no change in the image at all.

Since I have to redo the lakes again one way or the other, I have a question: does it matter if I add lakes in step 13 or 14? I added lakes in step 13, but then step 14 said to duplicate the layer and then add lakes. so that seemed a little odd.

12-11-2009, 08:39 PM
Here's the odt for ya (zipped). It was originally written in Word so this is just a "save as".

12-12-2009, 12:45 PM
Here's the odt for ya (zipped). It was originally written in Word so this is just a "save as".

Thanks. FYI, you do not need to zip an OpenOffice file. It is already a compressed format. You gain nothing by zipping it.

Any help on the lakes or clouds would be appreciated.

12-12-2009, 01:43 PM
You can't directly upload odt files to this forum so, yes, I did have to zip it.

12-14-2009, 04:24 AM
This is my very first map. I used both tutorials, this one and the Atlas one. So what anyone thinks?

You might try using an airbrush with the desert colors or the forest colors and breaking up the desert so that it isn't quite so obviously a stripe. Maybe make it follow the landscape, and have more green along the coast, and have the desert be inland?

These are just ideas. Of course it would depend on what you have in mind for the geography.

12-14-2009, 04:25 AM
Here's my attempt. Didn't bother trying to tweak it too much in the interest of time, hhe. I'll do that for the campaign map I'm working on.

I like that big mountain in the middle. My mountains look more like plateaus....

12-14-2009, 04:28 AM
Anyway, here's step 12 with a bit of jazz thrown in.

I really like the shape of that continent, and the little islands.

01-09-2010, 12:28 PM
So, Im a complete newb to Photoshop so when Step 21, and I have nooooo idea how to properly add layer styles, and Ive tried a couple different things, but If I could get a bit of a walkthrough regarding this step in a more detailed way, that would be fantastic.

01-09-2010, 12:40 PM
So, Im a complete newb to Photoshop so when Step 21, and I have nooooo idea how to properly add layer styles...

Here you go:


01-09-2010, 12:56 PM
Well that is good to read, but specifically, step 21 has me confused. Im not sure the step is clear to a newbtard like myself. Here is the step... problem part...

21. Ctrl-click on the “base” layer (in the layers palette) to load it as a selection (in newer versions of Photoshop you have to ctrl-click on the thumbnail in the layers palette). Select > Inverse then hit the delete key then deselect. Add a layer style; we’ll use 4 colors with 5 stops as follows: color 1 at the 5% position is flat white, color code FFFFFF (rgb 255, 255, 255); color 2 at the 35% position is a dark olive green, color code 405018 (rgb 64, 80, 24); color 3 at the 60% position is the same dark olive green; color 4 at the 85% position is a dark flesh, color code DAC094 (rgb 218, 192, 148); and color 5 at the 100% position is a papyrus, color code F0E6BE (rgb 240, 230, 190). Set the blend mode of the gradient to hard light with 100% opacity. Next we’ll add a layer style of outer glow: use a light blue, any will do for now and you can change it later but I use 40C8FF (rgb 64, 200, 255). Set the blend mode of the outer glow to screen at 25% opacity and a size of 11. If you want a lighter gradient then add a layer style of color overlay of white and set the blend mode to soft light and then turn down the opacity until you are happy with it.

My problem is I don't know where to add the Layer Styles, and if I assume that Im putting them in on the base layer, then it only allows me to put one on there.

Edit: For Example... I think Im supposed to use Color Layer to do all that jazz since it seems to have all the right information that I need. I am confused on how to make multiples, or if certain layers such as Mountain or Hills are supposed to have the differeng layers laid out in this portion.

01-09-2010, 01:16 PM
Heh funny story... Im on the wrong post. Gosh Dern it...

02-23-2010, 12:52 AM
pretty cool your tuto, thanks!!!!

02-23-2010, 02:13 PM
There was a very large part of me that just died out of joy, and I'm almost positive that my kidney was part of that...i heard a large boom just now from somewhere in that general vacinity.

That map is amazing! I've been looking for a long time for a decent tutorial on how to make a map like that. Thank you so much!

03-10-2010, 12:47 PM
Sorry to repeat the need for help, but I'm having a little trouble here:

8. Create a new layer and Edit > fill = 50% gray. Set the layer’s mode to hard mix and change the name to “base”.

// When I followed these steps the layer keeps coming out as a giant gray mass. No blotches or anything. Not sure if I'm doing something wrong. The Fill Content Use: 50% Gray, and for the Blending I'm using the Hard Mix. Do I need to reduce the opacity or something?

EDIT: HAHA! I figured it out. I was changing the Hard Mix inside the Fill rather than changing the blending mode on the layer to Hard Mix. A little confusing I guess, but it's probably because I'm not too good with the technical terms of PS.

Steel General
03-10-2010, 12:59 PM
EDIT: HAHA! I figured it out. I was changing the Hard Mix inside the Fill rather than changing the blending mode on the layer to Hard Mix. A little confusing I guess, but it's probably because I'm not too good with the technical terms of PS.

Run through this tutorial a few times, and you'll have a pretty good working base knowledge for using Photoshop.

03-10-2010, 01:42 PM
Hmm. Do you know in Step 34 which layer you're supposed to be adding the reversed gradient to? I'm not sure I played around with it by moving it to different layers, but never quite got the same effect that is illustrated in Step 39.

I'm not entirely sure what I did wrong, but it's obvious I didn't follow one of the steps completely.

03-29-2010, 12:39 PM
There's the final. Thanks for this tutorial. It's amazing!

03-29-2010, 04:57 PM
The layer with the bas relief; I might lower the opacity or erase a bit to leave more flatland to put towns n stuff. Not a big thing. Otherwise, looks great, man.

Edward Protera
08-04-2010, 04:03 AM
Love this tutorial. I got frustrated at first because I was trying to do this in Photoshop Elements 7, which doesn't have much in the way of layer style editing, but then I remembered that I still have CS lying around. Here's what I've got so far! I decided to remove the ice and desert parts of the gradient, since I plan to add more complex climate zones later.

08-04-2010, 06:26 AM
Looks good, man.

09-26-2010, 04:59 PM
Excellent tutorial! Here's what I came up with. I know this has problems, (the lakes in southern edge are too close to the ocean... erosion would have turned them into bays), but this was just a test run. It took me about 2 hours and is pretty easy to follow.

What version of Photoshop are you using? I have 7 and it seems to be a little different from what you must be using, especially in the select -> color range options. I've included a quick shot of that dialog box, and as you can see, I can't select 'black'. So I use the eyedropper on the image and try to get the closest to black I can get. I think not having this feature has led to the very 'wavy' ocean... the waves are a little harsh because I couldn't select true black.

Thanks for this tutorial! I'm going to see if I can find a newer version of Photoshop sometime here soon.

* EDIT * I just realized that as long as my colors are black/white before I select color range, it seems that I can click on the black color palette in the tool bar and get black. Is that how you're doing it? Thanks again!

09-26-2010, 07:50 PM
Exactly, when you pick select - color range it uses the currently active color. So put any color there and you can select a color range. I never use the drop-down menu there and I always forget about it. As to the map, I might tone down the ocean waves but everything else seems to be in order.

09-28-2010, 11:14 PM
Now that I understand this whole 'rep' thing, let it be known that I've given you some for this tut. Thanks again, well done!

10-02-2010, 04:17 PM
I'm completely lost at step 33. I can't choose the "Inverse"-option. It's greyed out. I have CS3 and I selected the correct layer by holding CTRL and clicking on it in the layer palette. What went wrong? :P

E: I can do Inverse when I only select one layer, for example the base layer, but when I Inverse, nothing happens. No textures. :(

10-04-2010, 07:15 PM
I've been on vacation so I didn't answer before but now that I'm back just give me a screenshot...the whole screen showing the layers palette and such. I'm suspecting that the base layer still has black on it so when you try to inverse you get nothing.

10-10-2010, 02:47 PM
Thats a great Tutorial ^^
But i need a little help now D:

Im from Germany and a few points are very difficult to understand for me .____. Sepecially point 14 and 15. These two points are knocking me over D:
I did everything i could do, but i wont work O.o my steps doesnt look like your examples in the tutorial.

04-10-2011, 09:20 PM
Thanks Ascension for this incredible tutorial! I madly respect anyone who teaches their craft and gives away their secrets for the benefit of the art!

I've been running through this tutorial and I noticed a few things to make it stronger. I work as a pre-press illustrator/editor in the publishing industry, so I'd like to offer my experience to help it see the potential it deserves.

Things get tricky when going through a personal workflow. A lot can go wrong but I think you’ve done an incredible job with documenting your steps. That said; please don’t take the following critique personally:

A lot of the great advice you give should be separated from the steps as a "side-note" or "tip." This will make for the actual reading of your instructions more fluid. The numbering of steps could be improved as well. Your steps 1 through 4 are a great intro and they don’t need to be numbered. Your true step 1 would be step 5.

The pictures being numbered as steps are also a bit confusing. The implications being that the reader is left wondering if the picture is an actual stand-alone step or if it’s illustrating the step before or following the picture. This could be clarified with “see figure a” type notations for reference to the pictures.

More pictures! This may seem more like a nit-pick (maybe it is) considering I’d have to know your personal intent and target audience behind the tutorial, but a tut of this magnitude should have a picture for each step.

A space or two in-between steps would do wonders for readability. Also, try a font much better for internet reading, such as Verdana.

There is a definite breakdown in work flow between steps 9 – 15. It stopped me dead in my tracks from completing the tutorial. It seems that the person who posted before me (Larxene18) may have gotten caught with it as well. The problem exists in that, in step 9, the BASE layer gets absorbed and changes into the BACKGROUND COPY 2 layer. So in step 14 you mention a BASE COPY layer and step 15 you mention a BASE layer. These layers don’t exist. To which layers are you now referring?

Again, I hope this review doesn’t seem too harsh. I’m a fan of your work and wouldn’t take the time to offer my insight unless I love what you do and what you stand for at this community. You’re a great teacher at this craft and I only wish to help you strengthen this tutorial as a presentation of your workflow.


04-10-2011, 11:04 PM
No worries, man. I was a real noob when I wrote this and still am, really. I know diddly squat about presentations and publishing. I used Office 98 and I still don't know how to use it properly, that's why the pics get numbered. I had a lot more pics in it at the beginning but trying to fit it online forced me to take a bunch of them out; the original was over 100 megabytes. The breakdown in 9-15 came from a re-write and I got mixed up and lost myself and I still don't know how to fix it. I'm not all that smart. :) I agree with everything you have said but I haven't touched this thing in about 18 months because I don't want to mess it up any further. Thanks for your assessment, it's spot on and I really do appreciate it. You obviously know what you're talking about. I really need an editor for this thing and I also need to fix those broken steps as well. I've had this on my list of things to do for quite some time - I just need to buckle down and get it done.

04-13-2011, 04:21 AM
Hi Ascension and thanx for the great tutorial! I found brilliant the idea of the 10% op brush to place land and ocean keeping the irregular borders!

I've got a question thou...on point 18) you say to "reverse cloud" and then "repeat". But a second reverse cloud would just slip back to previous configuration, so making no change at all! did I missed something? Moreover, you get a complex and very 'contrasty' cloud render in the closest figure, while, following letter-bby-letter, I found myself with a cotton-like softy clouds...so mountains do not get very well. Any suggestion? Thanks!

04-13-2011, 04:23 AM
sorry, it was point 18!

04-13-2011, 08:38 AM
There is no reverse cloud, it is Difference Cloud. It does not do the same thing as the first cloud. Each rendition of the cloud filter makes a totally new cloud. The Difference Cloud basically is just a new cloud but given a treatment that takes two colors and combines them but the output becomes opposite. Just try it. :)

04-13-2011, 12:06 PM
There is no reverse cloud, it is Difference Cloud. It does not do the same thing as the first cloud. Each rendition of the cloud filter makes a totally new cloud. The Difference Cloud basically is just a new cloud but given a treatment that takes two colors and combines them but the output becomes opposite. Just try it. :)

Sorry for the lapsus, of course, I meant "Difference Clouds" :)
Anyhow I tried it and with "difference clouds" I obtain nothing but a "negative" of the original clouds...and doing it again it just switch back to the previous config. I must say I am using PS CS5, but still is more likely I am doing something wrong. Also, I wander why we have no control over the clouds [as we have, for example, in Gimp, where we can fix the seed and "grain" of the clouds!]

04-13-2011, 04:30 PM
I think what you're doing is duplicating the clouds layer and setting the blend mode to difference...this, of course, will just make things the same if you duplicate it twice. You need the filter - render - difference clouds. As to no control, that's a Photoshop thing. There are some plugins that allow for a bit more control but not all that much, just different sizes and densities of "puffs".

02-12-2012, 01:38 AM
Hey, I'm new and just trying to get into mapping in Photoshop, but all I have is Elements 5. I'm getting stuck on step 15 because Elements doesn't seem to have a Select>Color Range option. Is there a workaround for this?

02-12-2012, 02:57 PM
Never mind, I answered my own question. You just have to use the magic wand tool with "contiguous" unchecked and click on a black area.

02-21-2012, 09:20 PM
Awesome tut Ascension. I actually dll'd this a awhile a go and gave it a whirl, producing a decent looking map...until all my work went up in smoke :)

At any rate, i just wanted to bump this one, and say thanks again.


02-22-2012, 06:51 AM
3 and a half years later and still kicking! Simply awesome tutorial, Ascension. If I was locked in a room for a month with Photoshop I wouldn't come out with nearly as detailed a map.

If anyone is having problems, one thing I did was create selections (Select > Save Selection) of the land areas. Then whenever the tutorial said "CTRL+Click the base layer", I instead loaded my land selection. I'm using a Windows PC with CS3 so I figured it was just a shortcut combination that wasn't working the same for me even if I clicked the layer thumbnail.

And if you are working on a map larger that the size specified in the tutorial SAVE EARLY and SAVE OFTEN if you have the room for it. My .psd files were over a gigabyte by the end, but a couple of times I messed something up and went back to a previous save.

03-22-2012, 02:39 AM
OK, So I am following your tutorial, and in step 18 I can see the landmass outline through the difference clouds. Is this supposed to happen cause looking at the picture that follows I do not see the landmass through the clouds.

03-22-2012, 06:36 AM
Hi. New to mapmaking with photoshop and the learning curve is pretty steep, but I'm getting better! Question about the tutorial. Is the base layer created in the beginning (after applying the Hard Mix w/50% gray) supposed to make it a solid gray? Because in order to play around with the background copy, I have to hide the base layer.


03-23-2012, 11:25 AM
I have finished creating my first map. Took two tries going through the tutorial and not sure where I screwed up the first time, but I made it. Here is my finished work. I actually skipped a few steps as well just cause I wasn't real keen on what it was doing to the map beings as this is a world map and the effects seemed a wee bit extreme, and still not sure how I feel about the end result, but here it is. Thanks Ascension!!!
http://s930.photobucket.com/albums/ad149/avalier/?action=view&amp;current=Landmass1Flat.png" target="_blank"><img src="http://i930.photobucket.com/albums/ad149/avalier/Landmass1Flat.png" border="0"

04-04-2012, 12:02 AM
I am new to the forum and the first tutorial I saw was this, it really is quite amazing.
This is what get done.
As you will notice, do not delete the mountains apart and I think I did a couple of things wrong. Still, I liked the end result makes clear evidence for improvement in future attempts.
Thank you very much for the tutorial, though not primarily understand the Select> Feather, I think in the latest versions or simply not found it. even so I found what I believe served as a good substitute.

P. D. I'm bad writing in English, only read it well. This text was translated with Google Translator.

04-21-2015, 02:53 PM
I completely lose it when the tutorial gets to the hills mountains reef ocean layer, not sure if I am supposed to deselect at some point before hitting it with filters? Also, it's very confusing to switch back and forth between duplicate and copy, especially when I keep getting "background copy" layers, and the tutorial is getting "base copy" layers.

Arg, the results look sweet, but it gets too confusing for me to understand when something goes wrong, was it me, or was it not understanding what he wanted when.

ps, plus,render > lighting effects filter seems to have lost a few options between the version the tutorial uses and the one I use.