View Full Version : How to make topographical shadow from Illustrator Layer - Technique 1

03-04-2014, 05:36 AM
From 2010 to 2013, I've searched all over the web to find how I could make my own topographical shadows from the layers of my Illustrator file concerning Galia (http://www.cartographersguild.com/regional-world-mapping/12352-galia-political-regional-topographic-maps.html).
The thing is I created Galia from scratch and did not use any relief generator and draw all my layers from nothing except drawings on paper.

To make my map look more realistic, I always wanted to have these shadows but never managed to find any tutorial. So I decided to crated them aswel and now, like I promised on the WIP thread, I'll share with you the technique I used.

So far, I've found 2 techniques, this is the number 1 (but the last of the two I found).
You will need :
Adobe Photoshop
Adobe Illustrator (optional, you can technicaly use photoshop layers).

All my appologies for all the linguistic hiatus or mistakes in my english. I hope I'll make myself understood.
And above all, appologies for all franco-phobics out there because the screenshots are made using french versions of Illustrator and Photoshop.

Let's consider this small island for the tutorial.
Let's name it "Guild Island"

Step 1 : Layers
Of course, you need to have different topographical layers.
I've names some layers x,5.
It's a tip for the final step.
These layers are not very precise. It took me about 20 minutes to do them.
The more precise they are and the more layers you have, the more the effect will look good.

Step 2 : Invisible shape
To make the export on Photoshop more easy. I recommand to place an invisible shape on the border of the image on each layer.

Step 3 : Export on Photoshop
To export your layers on Photoshop simply select them on Illustrator, copy/paste them on Photoshop.
Repeat it for each layer (but the first one is not necessary).

Step 4 : Special Effects
Then, starting with the second layer, use the bevel and imboss effect.
You'll have to use a shade of gray, (from the lighter for low altitude to the darker for the last layers) for the dark tones.
But in this exemple, I really used a gray that was too light. I wouldn't recommand it, but the screenshot was already made (see Step 9)

Step 5 : New Layers
When done. Click on the effect and choose to create layers from the effects.

Repeat step 4 and 5 for each layers using darker grays

Step 6 : Deleting
Select all the original layers and ... erase them (save before to avoid any mistakes).
You should also erase the background if there is one.
You should have something like that :

Step 7 : Blur
Mix all the layers into one and add a Surface blur (unsure of the english name) effect on this new layer.
The level of the effect depends on your previous layers so adjust it as you wish (just not too blury)
Save it as a PNG file with no background.

Step 8 : Back to Illustrator
Return on your illustrator file and import your new file on the map.

Step 9 : Finish it !
My advices to finish the map :

change the oppacity (transparancy) of the photoshop file
Hide xxx,5 topographical layers (remember Step 1)
On the tutorial, my first gray (step4) was a bit to light so I had to hide the light colour tones layers on photoshop when I mixed the layers together (before creating the png file)
Finaly, I changed my preexistant colours into a shade of very light grays
Et voilą !


Here's Guild Island with a pwoper relief shadow !

Ok. Hope you enjoyed this tutorial.

On Step 1, I advice the use very very precise layers to have a cool effect at the end, here is how Galia looked like using the same steps as above :

See you later for technique #2 !

03-04-2014, 05:38 AM
Here is the WIP link for my map using this technique :
WIP - Galia (http://www.cartographersguild.com/regional-world-mapping/12352-galia-political-regional-topographic-maps-3.html)

03-07-2014, 01:41 PM
I'll have to look at this when I have more time, but at a glance it seems very useful. Thanks for the tutorial!

06-17-2014, 07:41 PM
Nathan, I used your tutorial today... and I gotta say, this is wonderful! In fact, I wanna share how awesome this is....

I took this fractal terrain:

And ended up with this amazing outcome:

A great big thanks, Nathan!

06-23-2014, 05:33 AM
Thanks a lot. Glad it could help ! :idea: