View Full Version : [Award Winner] Create long distance mountains in Photoshop

05-01-2009, 03:14 PM
This tutorial works best with the Alienskin Xenoflex 'little fluffy clouds' filter which I use all the time over photoshop's 'render clouds' filter which is very basic. Considering how much the clouds filter is used, I've always been amazed that Adobe haven't upgraded their clouds filter. The Xenoflex clouds filter allows you to:

1. Adjust the cloud size
2. Seamlessly tile clouds
3. Adjust the hardness of the cloud edges.
4 Adjust the amount of cloud coverage
5. Adjust the type of fractal cloud you want (fluffy, wispy or puffy)
6. Adjust perspective and height of the clouds
7. Adjust the background colour (including transparency).

(I don't work for Alien Skin, but their filters are just superb).

As you can see, it knocks the native photoshop cloud filter into a cocked hat. If you don't have the filter don't worry, I have attached a few seamlessly tiling alienskin cloud filter results in this tutorial. Save it as a pattern fill and you should still get good results.

This tutorial works in conjunction with my editable photoshop map tutorial (see link in my sig) You will also need the 'jiggle' filter which is now a free download (see my editably map tutorial for the link).

Let's get started in the next post. But for now this is the final result with the mountains against a simple background and against a complex background.

05-01-2009, 03:32 PM
This is the map with the basic background.
Use the lasoo tool to define where you want the mountains to generally be and fill with white. As with the 'Editable map' tutorial, feel free to overlap coastlines if you want the mountains to abut them. You will delete the overlaps later so the water shows thorough. You can be quite rough and ready with your mountain shape as you can refine it later.
Use the jiggle filter (free download) to break up the mountain shape. Alternatively use the 'ripple' filter in photoshop.
clean up the edges by using a white pencil at 100% opacity and an eraser at 100% opacity. Don't worry about cleaning up the coastlines, just get rid of and fill in white bits at the edges of the map.

05-01-2009, 03:47 PM
5. On your landmass layer select the sea using the magic wand (make sure the contiguous box is unchecked) and then make your mountains layer active and hit delete to get rid of your mountains overlaying the water layer.

6 & 7. Select the white and use the Xenoflex filter to put in some clouds. Here are the settings I used. If you don't have the Xenoflex filter, use the seamless textures I have added at the end of this tutorial and use an appropriately sized one as a pattern fill.

8. Create a new layer mask. With the layer mask selected in the layers tab select Image>apply>[name of your mountain layer] (your mountain layer should be selected by default). This makes the black parts of your fill transparent.

05-01-2009, 03:52 PM
9. There will be some hard edges on your mountains. Get rid of them now by selecting outside the mountain area using the magic wand, then selec>feather>x pixels (x is a number try 10 to start if it doesn't feather enough then use a higher number, if it feathers too much use a lower one). After the selection hit delete. You may need to undo if the feather is not quite right. Alternatively, just use a soft eraser around the edges of the mountains. Then select filter>render> lighting effects and use the settings shown or experiment.

10. Set the layer blend mode to overlay as shown in the next image.

11. In layerstyles, use the bevel and emboss on the settings shown or similar.

Experiment with different layerstyles with colour fills etc. particularly experiment with different blend modes. I found overlay to be the best one. Use textures in layerstyles if it takes your fancy.

05-01-2009, 04:03 PM
Here are some tiling mountain fill filters from Xenoflex at different scales to try. If you can find a free filter which produces the same results PLEASE post the link here.

05-01-2009, 04:06 PM
Here is a version of the mountains against a more complex background.

You can use black and white brushes on the layer mask to erase or add mountains.

Steel General
05-01-2009, 04:16 PM
Neat stuff Ravs, very mountain-y :)

...I did something a bit similar a couple of months ago, but never really took it much beyond the starting point.

05-01-2009, 04:18 PM
Cheers, I was fiddling about with it tonight and thought I would make a tutorial so I wouldn't forget the method! I'm always doing that, I get a great effect by fiddling and then forget how I did it.

05-01-2009, 04:29 PM
Good stuff, bro.

05-01-2009, 04:31 PM
Cheers, but it's not me...it's that magic filter. Look at it...it's got 'mountain' written all over it.

05-01-2009, 05:02 PM
Oh, yeah. I've just never used any of the third-party filters very much. I don't know why, I really don't, cuz some of them are quite good.

05-03-2009, 03:05 PM
Surprisingly good looking mountains you have made here. The problem I always have is that the mountains will not be exactly where I want them. but these sure look better than the ones I had created with the basic clouds filter.

05-03-2009, 08:00 PM
Looks suspiciously like a ridged multifractal type noise function with maybe an exponential post effect. I keep meaning to write some filters for Photoshop if I can get a few weeks of free time (too many other things in the channel ahead of the Photoshop filters).

I did the attachments with Wilbur's Filter>>Fractal Noise filter followed by Filter>>Mathematical>>Exponent with the default values. Generating a few large ones of these and loading them will allow for the same effect without direct synthesis in Photoshop. Wilbur also lets you save the images as 16-bit PNG surfaces so that might get you a slightly better effect in some cases.

05-03-2009, 09:04 PM
Do you know, Waldronate, I really wish I knew what all these functions meant. I've been playing with mapzone today and 'abs sum' and other weird names mean nothing to me. The only way I know what they do is to use them and play with the sliders, and then it's only really a vague feel rather than thinking, 'ah I need this effect' I need an 'abs sum' function. I really admire how you can see a pattern and immediately are able to spot its provenance to a mathematical function.

05-03-2009, 09:56 PM
I really admire how you can see a pattern and immediately are able to spot its provenance to a mathematical function.

20+ years of looking at such things and implementing them in code will tend to do that to you... Of course, I'm not good for much else, but that's a personal problem.

In this case, the diagnostic features are the winding ridgelines. The most common noise function basis out there is the Perlin lattice noise, which has a nice cubic interpolant (slices look like cubic curves). The absolute value function gives ridges where the basis goes from positive to negative. From there it's just scale and add as shown in the animation below (just a change in octave). An exponential will bring the mid-range parts down lower while leaving the highest parts intact.

There are suprisingly few primitive operations involved in many of the standard filters. Add, multiply, convolve, displace, FFT noise synthesis ("tileable clouds"), voronoi, median, and a half dozen or so others. It's fun to decompose the common filters to see the operations involved. The jiggle filter, for example, is very roughly a low-octave noise used as input to a displacement filter. The "bathroom glass" type of filter is the same sort of thing but with a higher-frequency noise pattern. The mosaic filter is a random Voronoi image colored by the average color in that area of the image. The stained glass filter is a mosaic filter blended with the underlying image and with a glass displacement filter applied. And on and on.

10-14-2010, 01:16 PM
Beautiful, pal! I love it :).