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View Full Version : First battlemap - Sand Raiders from Dark Sun 4e



reddragonjr
04-02-2014, 04:53 AM
Hello everyone! I've just started using GIMP and decided to learn how to do battlemaps (including drawing my own tokens - but that will have to wait). This here is a part one of the introductory adventure from the Dungeons and Dragons 4e Dark Sun Campaign Setting book. There will be two (one also in the outdoors and one will be in the tomb) more battlemaps to follow this one. I am still learning how to do stuff and am fully aware that rocks look bad, cart marks don't even look like cart marks and the palm tree looks too out of place and nothing looks like it should look. I know all that, but need to learn on how to improve things. So if anyone have advice - please don't hesitate to share it with me. I use GIMP mostly.

Here is the sad sad version with explanation of what people are actually looking at.
*Silt is difficult terrain.

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Here is a clean version, with no grid (because most VTTs have their own).
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Jacktannery
04-02-2014, 05:56 AM
This looks really great RedDragonJr. It's a nice-looking map that would be very easy to understand in a game, and help all players visualise the encounter. It does exactly what it should do.


...am fully aware that rocks look bad...
Your rocks look great! I notice you have a light dropshadow - why don't you double it up if you want the rocks to pop out a bit more. If you instead want the colour of the rocks to be more yellowy-orange like the desert, you can easily do this: 1) duplicate the rock layer & place above; press the button that freezes pixels; choose sandy colour and drag it into the layer so rocks have 1 block colour; change layer to overlay or grain merge and alter opacity to give sandy vibe to rocks.


...cart marks don't even look like cart marks...
True! But cart-marks are really hard. I'd probably use a gravel texture, and with a layer mask make two sinuous lines of gravels.


...and the palm tree looks too out of place...
Have you though about making it four-times bigger? It's not like anyone was going to do much in that corner of the map anyway. I think the reason it looks a little out of place to you is the scale between the sand-dunes, tree and rock. Making the tree bigger and perhaps selecting a sand-texture without sand-dunes might sort this out.

reddragonjr
04-02-2014, 06:41 AM
This looks really great RedDragonJr. It's a nice-looking map that would be very easy to understand in a game, and help all players visualise the encounter. It does exactly what it should do.

Thanks for kind words. I think until I myself am satisfied with the outcome, it's not all that great.


Your rocks look great! I notice you have a light dropshadow - why don't you double it up if you want the rocks to pop out a bit more. If you instead want the colour of the rocks to be more yellowy-orange like the desert, you can easily do this: 1) duplicate the rock layer & place above; press the button that freezes pixels; choose sandy colour and drag it into the layer so rocks have 1 block colour; change layer to overlay or grain merge and alter opacity to give sandy vibe to rocks.

Changed that up in both ways. Doubled the drop shadow and instead of stealing a sample pixel, I've just cut the shape from the dunes themselves and put it on top with 30% opacity. Looks better now, thank you for mentioning how to do it.


True! But cart-marks are really hard. I'd probably use a gravel texture, and with a layer mask make two sinuous lines of gravels.

Too complicated for me. I've yet to grasp the basics of GIMP and VD in general. I did change things up a bit, it still looks way out of place, but a bit better.


Have you though about making it four-times bigger?..

I did not, because I was trying to be as close to the original as it was possible. But you did provide a good point - nobody will miss that corner much, so I've enlarged the palm tree.
Any advice on how to make the dunes pattern look more random ?

Here is version 0.1a
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madcowchef
04-02-2014, 12:07 PM
I actual like the rocks a lot. As JT said its an effective battlemap, you'll refine your skills a bit and it will be very eye candy like. Sadly I'm unfamiliar with GIMP so I can't give any advice on that front as I have no idea what transfers over and what doesn't. My suggestion for the dunes is search around at CGTextures (http://www.cgtextures.com/) (a really wonderful resource as you said you plan to do more battlemaps in the future) and find a base texture with the right randomness dark and shadow, its easy to recolor things once you have that.

reddragonjr
04-03-2014, 02:38 AM
I actual like the rocks a lot.
The shape or texture or both ?

As JT said its an effective battlemap, you'll refine your skills a bit and it will be very eye candy like.
Like most students I WANT IT NOW! See the immediate results instantly is gratifying, to say the least.

CGTextures (http://www.cgtextures.com/)
Wow...

Well, this is MOSTLYFINISHED version of the first map. I don't think I can do any better right now. Need to learn some tricks first. Please do comment and advice if you feel like it.
Anyone who want to use it - feel free. The adventure is on the page 216 of Dark Sun Campaign Setting book. I'll make sure to do the rest of those maps.

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Here is one from VTT
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madcowchef
04-03-2014, 12:04 PM
For the wagon tracks I know how I would do it in PS maybe someone who knows gimp better could chime in and say if it translates or not?

1. I first made a custom brush that is just to dots set apart and then painted on a new layer with my brush control set to directional. This is probably just as easily done by copying the line and placing it again or just drawing two lines, but this way if I wanted more complex wagon tracks it would also work
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and here is what I mean about a more complex shape (I didn't have to calculate the distance between the lines at the corners that was all done by a single brush).
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2. I lowered the fill to 0% (fill is the visibility of what you've drawn but not the effects you apply to it. And added a Bevel Set to down (to make it look like the section is sunk rather than up to make it look raised). I changed the blend mode for the highlights to overlay rather than screen, and lowered the opacity of the shadows a bit down to about 50%.

3. I then fiddled with the setting a bit, including doing a custom shape for the bevel but these fiddly bits are things best messed with on your own. Play with bevel shape, depth, opacity of the layer etc. till you like the look.

Here are my results:
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Sounds like a lot of steps, but once you get the hang of it it all takes only a couple of minutes at most. Learning beveling tricks will be of infinite help to you in the future for battlemaps.

reddragonjr
04-05-2014, 06:05 PM
All my rocks seem like they are 'levitating' in the air ? How can I make them look more like normal rocks ?

madcowchef
04-05-2014, 06:26 PM
The shadows on an object often give that impression. It helps to use two kinds. a directional one like the drop shadows you used, and a second one that has no direction to it but just extends a very short ways from all side (like the way objects cast an ambient shadow). Lowering the opacity of shadows often helps too.

Raptori
04-05-2014, 06:44 PM
The problem with a lot of shadows that I've seen is that they just use the Photoshop drop shadow layer style, which really isn't the right thing. If you move it further from the shape, you can see more closely what it actually does - creates a faded and blurred copy of the layer's outline. I copied the shape of one of your rocks to show an example of this:

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In the vast majority of situations, that's not going to look realistic no matter what you do with it. What happens with shadows in real life is more like this:

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It's still not exactly right - it assumes the entire rock is of a uniform height, and the gradient from dark to light is linear rather than following the contours of the rock's outline. That last one is the most conspicuous flaw visually. However, it's a lot more realistic than the usual shadows, and doesn't take too much effort. All I did was copy the layer, move it down and to the right, use the polygonal lasso tool to join the new shape's corners to the original one's corners, fill selection with some random colour, apply gradient overlay, set content fill to 0%, and add a gaussian blur. I could screenshot that process at some point if anyone's interested! :D

Edit: actually, it's even faster to just use the paintbrush, and I think it looks even better than the changed one above...

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reddragonjr
04-05-2014, 06:53 PM
I could screenshot that process at some point if anyone's interested! ]

Me! Me! Pick me!

reddragonjr
04-06-2014, 02:14 PM
Edit: actually, it's even faster to just use the paintbrush, and I think it looks even better than the changed one above...
Could you elaborate on the brushes please ?

madcowchef
04-07-2014, 04:18 PM
Those are pretty, and good representational shadows Raptori, but I'm going to argue against them being more realistic. Look outside on a sunny day, shadows cast by most objects are actually quite sharp, and unless there is a second light source, or a highly reflective area behind the object they don't typically fade that visibly unless they are very large objects. That said I think its more important that you shadows look good than are realistic, and your fading shadows pass that test with flying colors.

I think for the brushes he simply means take a brush and paint your own shadow under it, its a great technique and on a couple or rocks like you have very quick. He can correct me if I'm making a poor assumption there.

Raptori
04-07-2014, 04:29 PM
Those are pretty, and good representational shadows Raptori, but I'm going to argue against them being more realistic. Look outside on a sunny day, shadows cast by most objects are actually quite sharp, and unless there is a second light source, or a highly reflective area behind the object they don't typically fade that visibly unless they are very large objects. That said I think its more important that you shadows look good than are realistic, and your fading shadows pass that test with flying colors.

Yeah it depends on the lighting - I think the reason I randomly made it blurry is that it's very cloudy over here at the moment so shadows are usually blurred like that; it's probably not actually that appropriate for such an arid scenario! :D I'm pretty sure it could work for the more well defined shadows you'd see in this kind of place, might have to try that when I get a chance.


I think for the brushes he simply means take a brush and paint your own shadow under it, its a great technique and on a couple or rocks like you have very quick. He can correct me if I'm making a poor assumption there.

Yup you're pretty much spot on - I just brushed along the edge of the rock (with a separate layer selected) using the brush tool, then used the eraser to fix it up a bit.

Despite it being such a simple trick I'll create some screenshots and post the process here when I get some time (which should be Wednesday at the earliest), since it might help someone and it'd be cool to see if anyone does anything differently. :)

Jacktannery
04-08-2014, 05:12 AM
The guys above are right, but another reason you might not be satisfied with your rocks, is because they look like they are very flat. This is because you are adding lots of shadows UNDER the rocks as per the guys above but not OVER the rock. Adding shadows and highlights over the rock will make it feel rocky and natural. Personally, I like your flat rock formations and think they are fine.

reddragonjr
04-09-2014, 02:53 AM
Thank you guys for taking time and analyzing my battlemap. I am yet to decide which way I want to go with doing battlemaps - make them 'realistic' like in the map uploaded (use real textures for items) or just use paint tool to draw them (if I manage to make things look like they suppose to without having to explain what everything is). Wish I could draw better ~_~

"Drawn" variant
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Raptori
04-09-2014, 07:43 AM
As promised, here are some instructions!




The starting point here is a Photoshop document with initially two layers - a white background layer and the shape above it. First, I'll show the steps to create the painted shadow version with soft edges, then develop that a little, then show a quick way to create a sharper shadow.

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I created a new layer, and placed it in between the background and the rock. I then selected the paintbrush tool, chose full black as the colour, and made the brush pretty big with 0% hardness and 30% opacity, giving the result you can see below.

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To start the shadow, I used that brush along the edge I wanted to add shadows to. By that I mean I positioned the cursor so that it's center was directly on the edge of the shape, then followed the shape along, giving this as a result:

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I then repeated that step several times, trying to focus on the areas that should be darkest.

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Next, I used the polygonal lasso tool to select the excess shadow, and pressed delete to remove it.

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Next, I used the Gaussian Blur filter to soften those sharp edges.

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Finally, I selected the eraser tool with a smaller brush at 0% hardness and 15% opacity, and fixed the shape of the shadow so that it looks a bit better.

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Using that same layer, to address Jacktannery's point, you can put the shadow layer above the rock layer, and then use the eraser to give some different impressions of 3d rocks.

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Obviously that would look a lot nicer with a bit more work. Highlights and different shadows would make it feel a lot more three dimensional, but for a quick start it's not bad.




To make the sharper shadows really easily, I first copied the rock layer and placed the new layer underneath the initial one, then moved it to where I wanted the edges of the shadow to be.

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I then used the colour layer blend mode to colour it black, and flattened the layer.

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Next, I used the polygonal lasso tool to connect the corners together, and filled the selection with black using the paint bucket tool.

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At this point, you could just reduce the opacity and then set the blend mode to multiply, and it'd probably look pretty good. You can also improve the shape using the brush tool with hardness set to 100%, and you can also make it look a bit more three dimensional by placing the shadow layer on top and messing around with it as above.




I think that's probably all you'd need to know to get the basic steps, and once you've got those, it should be pretty obvious how to improve the result to make it look really good. If you need any help don't hesitate to ask though!