View Full Version : [Award Winner] Clustered houses for a city in Photoshop

02-10-2009, 08:09 PM
This one is pretty easy to do and the results look fairly decent. It is by no means the greatest tut of all time and it is not hands-free but it does save a lot of time. Here's what the final image looks like.

02-10-2009, 08:13 PM
1. Ok so the first thing you have to do is get some terrain. I won't go into that part here as there are many other tuts for that.

2. The second thing is to have your rivers and lakes on a layer separate from the terrain.

Here's what I have so far...2 layers, terrain and river.

02-10-2009, 08:15 PM
3. Now lay out some streets. Use various size pencil tips; I have used a 5-pixel hard round pencil, 3-pixel and a 1-pixel.

02-10-2009, 08:21 PM
4. Next, draw out a shape that covers the area where you want your buildings to be. Here's why we have our rivers on their own layer: once we have our shape, ctrl-click on the river layer to load its selection. Hit the delete key then deselect. This cuts our shape to fit between the rivers. It might be necessary for you to do some erasing of stray bits on banks where you don't want any buildings.

02-10-2009, 08:26 PM
5. Copy this layer and hit ctrl-i to invert the color from white to black. Ctrl-click on the river layer again then Select > Modify > Expand =10. Hit the delete key then deselect. This pushes our buildings away from the river banks.

6. Ctrl-click on the streets layer and repeat step 5 except this time only expand by 5 or less. Add your favorite layer style to the streets to make them look however you like, I went with paved blocks in gray.

7. Use the eraser to make these building shapes look more angular. Don't worry if you have thin strips with no black on them...you can always add some market stalls or public squares or small parks.

02-10-2009, 08:31 PM
8. Use a 1-pixel eraser to cut some small lines into the shapes that roughly look like building shapes. These cuts are going to form the basis for our roofs.

02-10-2009, 08:41 PM
9. Add some layer styles, but leave off a drop shadow. The most important thing is to add an inner bevel set to chisel soft with a large enough size to bevel the whole shape all the way to the middle as well as a 1-pixel outer stroke to hide the erasing.

The pattern I used was the standard nebula pattern, scaled up to 1000% with an opacity of 33%. The color is a brown color code 403018 (rgb 64, 48, 24) set to multiply. This is still quite dark so I added an inner glow of a tan, color code 92813D (rgb 146, 129, 61) set to linear dodge, 10% opacity and size of 76 (so as to affect the whole shape)...this lightens everything up. I used a brown for the stroke and bevel highlight is overlay at 100% and the shadow is multiply at 100% The nebula pattern combined with the color overlay set to multiply serves to break up the solid color and give our houses some varying colors.

02-10-2009, 08:47 PM
10. Lastly, we'll add a shadow. Copy the buildings layer and clear the layer styles.

11. Move this layer underneath the buildings layer.

12. Click on the move tool. My sun is in the southeast at about 4 o'clock. Using the arrow keys on the keyboard, move your shadow 1 pixel up/down and 1 pixel left/right depending on where your sun is. Since my sun is at 4 o'clock I went up one time and left two times.

13. Copy this layer and repeat step 12. Make as many layers as you want...each layer makes the shadow longer.

15. When happy, link these layers together and merge them (ctrl-e). Give it a 1-pixel gaussian blur. Then reduce the opacity to whatever you like (I went with 75%) and change the blending mode if you like (I went with multiply).

Voila! Some clustered buildings that look more like a city than a village.

Steel General
02-10-2009, 09:01 PM
Cool stuff, my friend.

02-10-2009, 09:03 PM
Thanks, bro.

02-10-2009, 09:23 PM
Very awesome tut, enjoy your rep.

02-10-2009, 09:29 PM
Thanks, man. I appreciate it. :) Just hope that someone can use it to build upon for something even better.

02-11-2009, 06:55 AM

02-11-2009, 07:43 AM
Hi, Ascension.

You've created another nicely done tutorial. I am sure it is going to be quite useful to a number of people.

I have a couple of questions for you. I'm not sure if it just my eye's perception or not but your rivers seem to be floating above the ground. Perhaps because of the shadowing and, what looks like, a glow on the left banks?

Also, You are using an inner chisel which (again, to my eyes) seems to "drop" the roofs down rather than lift them up. Would a outer bevel for the rooflines be better?

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I have attached a PDF copy of Ascension's tutorial for anyone who would like a hard copy.




02-11-2009, 08:17 AM
Very good Ascension, its the best way I have seen so far - will look at this a bit more. It looks like it could be adapted to 3D and then we can texture, shade and shadow it all in one go. RepU if I am able.

02-11-2009, 08:46 AM
Vandy -- outer bevel would not work at all...run thru it and try it yourself and you'll see why...the shapes would not look like roofs at all, they'd look like berms or mounds. You're also probably used to having the light source in the upper left and therefore everything seems to be opposite of what you're used to...remember my sun for this is in the lower right. The river...well I wasn't too concerned about making terrain for this tut, the emphasis was on making buildings.

Red -- Yeah I had it in the back of my head to try and keep this as simple and generic as possible to see what can be done by you guys who really know your stuff. Taken one step further you could generate paths with the selection based on the streets. Putting down the streets and the 1-pixel eraser cuts are hand done but the rest should be able to be automated. Oh and thanks :)

02-11-2009, 11:56 AM
Hey, that was cool and seems easy enough. Have some rep.

02-11-2009, 01:42 PM
That is really helpful, Ascension!

You seem to get a nicer bevel with PS than I can with the Gimp :(

Here is my attempt, starting with your black block buildings:


I'm trying to work up something new for the roofs. What do you think?

-Rob A>

02-11-2009, 02:44 PM
Hi, Ascension.

I worked through your tutorial over lunch and I see what you mean about using a bevel. While the buildings did rise up, the roofs are still flat and not very believeable.

I can also see I need to start using Photoshop instead of Elements in order to have more control over what I'm trying to do.

I really like what you've done here and do believe it is going to be quite useful.



02-11-2009, 03:15 PM
I would recommend trying with two layers for the buildings, one with low or one story buildings and one for higher multi story buildings. With two layers you can make buildings with multiple roofs and more complex buildings, eliminating those boring house rows...

02-11-2009, 05:00 PM
Rob -- my goal for this was to keep it simple (since I just kind of stumbled upon it during my Brownstone map) so that you and Red could work your magic :) I was hoping that you could build upon it to do the thatched roof and tile roof things cuz that's way beyond me...I'm just an idea man, toss out an idea and let others more skilled make it better. I'm sure you two will have something up in a week or so ;)

Hoel -- Exactly, take it and run, build upon it...this is just a simple starter kit. That's what I did on Brownstone, to some extent, but with three different levels of housing (tall, medium, and short houses) but I did mine with more emphasis on the shadows to denote height but I'm sure that you can do up some nice multi-storied houses that cool :)

02-11-2009, 05:11 PM
It's a very nice tute. Good work. Having that sun the the SE throws me very time - I'm so used to NW lighting that most of your maps look inverted. I had to downlad and flip your corrupted map to look at it! Nonetheless, this is a very good result on the buildings. I'll have to play with it and see what I can produce in Gimp.

02-11-2009, 05:20 PM
I use the same technique although i use different brush thickness and put some more work on each individual house to make it look more natural.

Great tuto!

02-11-2009, 05:36 PM
I'm wondering...GIMP does image tubes so what if you took the selection of the streets, increased the size of the selection, then made a path of that selection, then stroked the path with a tube of various house shapes. Can you stroke a path with a tube? Going further, is there a vector program that could properly rotate an image tube to orient according to the path so that the house shapes are not all straight up and down?

02-11-2009, 07:19 PM
Yep...just look way back to 2007...when I made a GIMP Brush for drawing Buildings (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?t=545).

[edit:] and if you look at the first script in my sig you'll find an easy way to make your own rotating brushes in gimp ;)
-Rob A>