View Full Version : Round, varied height roofs - (Mapping my Temple/council building/grounds)

02-02-2014, 12:35 PM
I've decided that my other WIP (Goat island) will be, when finished, the locale of the Council building (very temple/monastery-ish) for the rulers of my novel.

My problem is... height.

Height's never been an issue for me. I paint the world from the horizon... everything flows to the center of the page, and high things are above you.

So.. height with a top-down view is hard. Shadows fall differently. Nothing is above or below the horizon, because there is no horizon. My temple is built, like many buildings, in different stories.. each higher than the last.

My experiment with layers of shadows on my lite challenge project did not turn out very well. I want this to be better.

I tried the creating a medieval city with gimp mosaics tutorial, and it showed me a little about bump maps, and the dodge/burn tools creating light and shadow, which is a big help.

But I still don't know much about GIMP, or its' tools... and digital painting is an entirely different matter than physical painting... the brushes and colors don't work the same. You need 30-step tutorials to show you how to do something that takes ten seconds with a brush and oils.

It's very frustrating. So this thread will probably be a lot of trial and error.

I'm starting, for accuracy's sake, with a highly cobbled-together rough outline based on 1) Specific examples of medieval/byzantine/roman/greek architectural examples and 2) My own needs, story-wise.

There will be other buildings outside this main building, but I want to take it one step at a time.

Okay so... here's the rough outline:


There's no order to the color variation... I just didn't want two veery different heights touching. in general, the building gets higher to the north, and lower to the south (and away from the central, longer part of the building, to the sides. In general, domes (the round ones :o ) will be higher than whatever they are sitting on.

And in general, with concentric, or semi concentric areas, the center will be higher than the rest.

Now I just have to figure out a way to make that look plausible...

If anyone knows how, please do share. :P

02-02-2014, 01:36 PM
When I really want to emphasize height, I create a simplified version of my intended structure in 3D with shadows and render the image to show me how the shadows are cast. Then line up the rendered image with my mapped version of the structure and duplicate the shadows as transparent dark shapes. On my second challenge map in October 2007, I was creating a temple with onion style turrets on the towers like on Russian Orthodox or Muslim temples. I didn't know what an onion turret might look like as a shadow. I did this exact technique to figure that out - it worked.

Since you're a free software kind of gal, Sketchup would be the free 3D app for you - note 3D isn't so easy to learn, though.

02-02-2014, 01:50 PM
How do i make it in 3D? :o

02-02-2014, 02:21 PM
Well you'd have to download Sketchup, read the help files and intro steps. You'd be learning to do extrusions, insets, x-y-z axis and directions - there is stuff to learn.

Since I don't really know what your structure looks like in height, I created a castle in 3D, both an isometric view and a top down view. I made the castle brown in the top down view so you can more easily differentiate the shadows. But this is how I'd do it.


Incidentally, I created the castle model in Nichimen Nendo, and rendered the final images in Raydream Studio (both old software, but its what I got.)

Note: I created this 3D model and rendering in the time that you posted, and I responded to the post (about a half hour) - so once you learn 3D it can be fast and easy.

02-02-2014, 05:02 PM
Oh dear, I'll have to look into getting one of those then :?

In the meantime, I'm trying an experiment in gimp with layering bump maps. :(

I've got this dome so far:


I figure, if I keep that area as white, and do the next level down the same way, in shades of gray to black, without the current dome, that should give me extra height, right? Like a stacked effect?

02-02-2014, 05:03 PM
It should.

02-02-2014, 05:14 PM
There is also Blender, but it is a tough learn, though there are a lot of good tutorials. Not having experience with Sketch-up (when I went for it it had recently been transfered ownership and I just ignored it) I assume it's more newb friendly?

02-02-2014, 05:24 PM
There is also Blender, but it is a tough learn, though there are a lot of good tutorials. Not having experience with Sketch-up (when I went for it it had recently been transfered ownership and I just ignored it) I assume it's more newb friendly?

I don't think its necessarily more newb friendly, rather its the current popular free 3D app. As I said on other posts, I usually pay for software. Nichimen Nendo is a fast easy to use subdivisional surface modeler, like Wing3D, I paid $25 for Nendo, 12 years ago. Raydream is a low end 3D package. I don't care to model in it - its a poor modeler, instead create stuff in Nendo export to 3DS then import to Raydream for rendering only. Not that the Raydream render is especially good, rather fast and easy.

02-02-2014, 05:58 PM
I can only, unfortunately, afford stuff that doesn't cost anything at the moment :P

Maybe I will try to find this blender thing?

This is what I get when I made seperate layers of the bump thing:


It's not quite what I wanted, but much better than I thought I could do :)

The next height levels down are away from the dome section, and I don't want to have to redo each one when I find the right colors and textures (you didn't think I was going to stick with the ugly, gimp-y pink marble, did you?)

So I'm on a color/texture hunt at the moment.

Something I noticed.. the separation at the edge... where I put in the drop shadow filter thingy, looks a little awkward.. without a shadow it looks to be all one roof, and with a thinner shadow, it looks like it's resting on air on top so... I think a bigger shadow will have a raised-platform type effect that could be really useful for domes on towers? :o

02-02-2014, 06:06 PM
A completely different approach would be to 'abstract' the building somewhat. From your description, and the work I've seen by you, you must be pretty good at drawing. You could have an elevation or isometric image of your building alongside the Goat Island map (did I assume correctly that you plan to insert this building into that map?) That would also help to make your map more original.

EDIT: you can get some very good textures at CGTextures.com (you have to register, but it is free). The image below is from my Birdseye map/model (forgive the shameless self-promoting), and it was heavily inspired by Byzantine architecture, and uses only CGTextures images (and was made in SketchUp).

02-02-2014, 06:32 PM
Thanks THW :)

My problem with isometric "mapping" is that all my "maps" end up looking more like my landscape paintings than anything (and I'm AWFUL with manmade structures, lol). What I need most is a map that can go in to a novel (if I ever finish it) So I keep shying away from that. But maybe I do need an isometric view in order to properly visualize what I'm mapping, anyway :)

And I've been meaning to check out CG Textures (since first seeing Bogie's mapping elements thread) and this just confirms that I should. :) I think I will do so now. :D

(Awesome building, by the way, and very similar to the style I'm going for .... must be that byzantine influence :) )

02-02-2014, 07:10 PM
From my research, the key to getting a Byzantine look is the shallow dome, with the slightly flared lip, and the church-like aisles with a central nave. The semicircular apses at the front and back, and occasionally overlapping roof elements also help.

If your good at landscape painting, use that to your advantage. You can incorporate those elements into your maps (that is kinda what I meant when I said abstract -- a map doesn't have to look like maps you've seen elsewhere; make the map in your own style, and play to your strengths while your at it). The best maps I've seen (and tried to emulate) are ones where the central mappy section is complimented with nearby doodles, sketches, building plans, notes, etc. It makes it look like the cartographer is not only trying to show a place, but give the viewer some of the flavour of that place, too. And as far as I know, there's no reason that shouldn't be appropriate for a novel.


02-02-2014, 07:30 PM
You're right of course. From a creative standpoint, at least editors are (*with a few exceptions*) notoriously CS (let's just say, so I don't have to explain what that means on the forums and get in trouble - that they are afraid of new things). They don't want to do anything unless they're sure it will sell.

BUT as I haven't even finished my novel, you're probably right :) I should worry about MAKING my temple/maps first and worry about changing it for cry-baby editors if I ever finish the book :P

I'll keep trying this bird's eye thing though.. not your bird's eye.. but... yeah :P

Meanwhile, here's what I have so far, with and without the outline on top:



AAND With:


Edit: Uhhhh ignore the giaant white space at the bottom of the first image. kthx :P

02-02-2014, 10:15 PM
I made pretty picture! :)

Not really... but I'll post it anyway.

I'm notoriously bad at buildings of any type, so I tried a sketch of a real-life temple/church similar in shape and style to what I want for mine.

Then I started trying to draw what would be on the columns on goat island. Then I remembered people in the goat island thread want satyrs, so I drew a picture explaining why there are none on the island anymore.

See, there was a beautiful, beloved young princess, heir to a vast kingdom, filled with goats AND satyrs. One of the satyrs was her tutor. Now the princess was reading quietly in the garden... a boring tome on the heads of baronies and such, as her tutor watched over her, and her brother (1 year younger, and second in line for the throne) sat near the quietly near the pond.

Somehow, the princess lost her head.

The prince tearfully swore the satyr tutor meandered up behind her and pulled a sword he didn't carry from behind his back, and, as his pet serpent (which he never had) watched on, hissing, he lopped off the head of the princess.

The tutor stated that the prince took his own sword and viciously hacked away at the neck of the princess, as he (the tutor) came running from nearby to try and stop him.

Although the prince was covered in blood, and the tutor was fastidiously clean as always, and although the prince's story made no sense whatsoever, and although the tutor had no reason to want to harm the princess, and the prince was next in line for the throne, the King, of course, believed his poor sweet son, and slew the tutor himself.

He then ordered the slaughter of all the satyr's.

The sketch is the "historically accurate" version of the story.

Then I took pics of all my little sketches with my webcam since I'm the last person on the planet without a digital camera (nope, not even a cell phone) and pasted them together.

Then I doodled some stuff.

And THIS is why we don't let Jalyha work unsupervised, or ever EVER suggest she shows her process. :P


Unless you like that sort of random idiocy... :D

02-03-2014, 04:08 AM
By Falconius
There is also Blender, but it is a tough learn, though there are a lot of good tutorials.

Could not have said better! I did not truly practice Blender, but that was my feeling about it.

@ Jalyha : so, no satyrs anymore :)? Satyrs are misunderstood ones. Everybody takes them for lubric, lazy, hedonist guys... And to put it short, I'd just say that I like your story! A kinda of an old greek story revisited :)

Oh, and I almost forgotten : you should try the Xach effect I use for the shadows of Argona. It's quite surprising and I thing it could be a good tool for a kind of 3D render of buildings. Even if your own talent of painter is probably more original to use.

02-03-2014, 10:08 AM
Xach effect? D:

I'm glad you like the story. There are Satyrs, just not anywhere near goat Island anymore :( Poor satyrs...

I fell asleep early last night so didn't do any more work yet :/

Cunning Cartographer
02-03-2014, 11:03 AM
Honestly I don't think you need to go to such great lengths as Gamer and recreating your image in 3D (as impressive as it is) as this starts to become impractical once you have multiple buildings because quite frankly you're not going to create them all, so really you're better off just training your eye anyway.

Shadows, as ever, are going to rely on a couple of things but most importantly is going to be the direction of your light source (probably your sun) and the height. The higher the sun, the shorter your shadows and if determining height is particularly important for you then you're always going to be better going for any time a few hours either side of high noon when the sun would be shinning directly down on top of your building.

Couple of examples on how to go about it:


First pic highlights where your light source is coming from and then the second shows a more accurate representation on how a shadow should be cast. Now this is a rough and dirty method so still isn't absolutely accurate (you'd only notice such a varied angled shadow if the light source was really close). So with the sun typically you can go with just one angle for your shadows, ie. the first image on the bottom line. Now this is a rough and ready shadow going off what I think the rough heights of the buildings might be (with a shadow the further away from the object the shadow is cast the lighter it will be, but we're getting into more advanced shadow casting here and it's probably unnecessary).

The second image on line 2 is a more fuzzy less accurate shadow (this is all a style thing) which is just to quickly demonstrate that you dont need absolute accuracy to make a shadow believable. The angles are different to pic 1 and the shadow is rougher.

The most important aspect, imo, to creating believable shadows are the shadow that they cast onto other objects. The middle of your temple will cast a shadow on top of the building next to it, the tower at the back only casts on the floor, but if there are trees on the garden or other buildings behind it then it needs to hit these as well for the whole thing to come together.

A high noon example is given in the last image, the sun being directly overhead, which as you can tell is pretty difficult to show height. The only real way to do it is by representing the highest buildings being brighter than the lowest buildings, which is more easily done in a crowded city area where some of the smaller buildings are blocked out almost, whilst your spires and towers rise up out of the city. A lone building makes it hard to represent as really you're only going to get subtle differences with the shadows.

As with anything when it comes to a new skill, in this case cartography, it's all practice. Very soon you'll just be able to rely on your eye. Right now you'll know when something doesn't look right, but you might not always be able to tell what it is that makes it look that way :)

02-03-2014, 11:25 AM
oh. well that's just how they work from ground level, too. :? Just... distorted a bit more :?

Am I overcomplicating things? :P

02-03-2014, 11:35 AM
Honestly I don't think you need to go to such great lengths as Gamer and recreating your image in 3D (as impressive as it is) as this starts to become impractical once you have multiple buildings because quite frankly you're not going to create them all, so really you're better off just training your eye anyway.

When I create city maps, almost all the shadows are simple drop shadows, especially for single story or 2 story square/rectangular buildings with fairly generic roofs. I only apply 3D based shadowing on the most complex of structures: temples, cathedrals, castles, unique towers, town walls, gates, etc. And yes, I will create 3D based shadows for them all. I am creating the 3D shadows so I can help show the unique structural design of large complex buildings and to infer greater height differences.

Whether something is impractical depends upon the person doing the activity, and the needs once the map is competed. I created the City of Kasai for the Paizo Publishing Jade Regent adventure path in 16 hours with a total of over 8500 buildings, although I wasn't required to finish it with color and shadow, had I done so, that would have been another 8 hours or so of work. Is it practical to complete a city map for publication in under 24 hours total - I think it is.

Maybe its not practical for everyone, but I can't measure what is practical for me and not practical for you.

Cunning Cartographer
02-03-2014, 11:49 AM
Definitely not practical for me, and I would imagine equally as impractical for Jalyha given that (like me) she doesn't know how to use the software to render 3D shapes. I guess it's a tool like anything else and once you get to grips with it can knock up buildings easy enough with a few short cuts and tricks, and you're obviously pretty capable with it so fair play :)

02-03-2014, 11:59 AM
Now, boys, you're both pretty.

I think that the 3D rendering is a great tool, and I'll use it, eagerly, once I have enough *base skills* to do so. For now, I'm like a toddler, taking baby steps, and I think the shadow method here will work better for my first attempt... and if it's enough, I'll probably stick with it for this map. :)

But I can see how beneficial the 3D render would be for any project - especially tricky temples - and I'm really glad to hear both methods, because I will need them at some point. :)

02-03-2014, 12:42 PM
The beauty of 3D is that it is only slightly more difficult to create this as opposed to a building - I've got about 2 hours in creating this angler deep sea fish. The right 3D program can be great for organic forms. Its properly aligning the texture or 'skin' on a 3D object that is a pain. Its fine if the object is a sphere, cylinder, box or flat surface, but when the object shape is complex texturing is a not easy to do. Lately, I've been creating 3D objects rendered gray, then apply the textures in Xara in 2D, but faking it to look right.

Note both the teeth and the fins have partial transparency applied.


02-03-2014, 12:56 PM
Sorry, I realize that my last post was seriously lacking of good explanations :D... guess I had not had my coffee yet.

I found the Xach effect in GIMP with "Filter" -> "Lights & Shadows" -> "Xach effect". It's a fu script apparently which manage both light & shadow effects in different layers. You only have to give some tests with the parameters.

02-03-2014, 03:37 PM
The two bridges and the towers in this mining map I did in the Finished Maps forum used 3D to create the shadows. Linkee here - Dhur Naal Dwarven Mining Complex (http://www.cartographersguild.com/finished-maps/25394-dhur-naal-dwarven-mine-complex-map.html).

02-03-2014, 04:39 PM
Oh I like that xach effect on top of the domes :)

@ GP - I'd love to be able to do that. Hopefully I'll be able to afford the software soon (or figure out the free version, lol)

02-03-2014, 06:06 PM
Okay I'm having some issues with the smaller domes...



And after adding the smaller dome-like things...


I think it's a problem with the settings for my bump map, but I'm not sure what. I'll have to play around with them a bit :(

02-03-2014, 08:06 PM
It doesn't appear as if you've used as much of a bevel on the smaller domes as you have done on your first ones. They look flat, rather than rounded.

02-03-2014, 08:12 PM
Aye.. when I used any more/less they turned completely black (or flat) it was weird. Is it one of the shape settings, maybe?

Cunning Cartographer
02-04-2014, 02:58 AM
You probably need to soften the shadow/line or something, but maybe take a screenshot of your emboss settings and copy them here. In Photoshop you are able to to copy a layer style then paste it onto another so it matches the settings, might be worth trying that out (not sure if GIMP has the same settings).

02-04-2014, 10:19 AM
Hmmm maybe I should screenshot everything so people can tell me where I mess up :D

I think I shall...

02-04-2014, 11:02 AM
WELLL I went and turned off all the layers so I could only see the "bump map layer" for the smaller domes, and... immediately saw my problem. Something had gone wonky when I used the gradient tool, and I just redid that layer.

So then I tried the domes again, repeating the whole bump map process, but this time I took screenshots... for future reference or in case of future problems.

Basic shades-of-grey for bump map:


Setting bump map:


With bump applied:


So... much better now, though still not 100% happy with it, but I think it will look better with my small roof >.< (And Idk why it's so much darker?????)