View Full Version : May/June Lite Entry: Golden Sands

05-20-2009, 10:29 AM
Update: Added the final version of the map to the attachments

Well, I'm a whole hog kinda guy, so in honor of my third week in this community I'm submitting another entry. I'm excited because I have so much more time to work on this month's entry, so here we go...

This is the map of my old campaign world... I've been using it to toy with techniques and ideas while I work on a map for my DM's world (which will be a WiP once we get the coasts and mountains decided). This is a region in a young world where a handful of new human and demihuman nations and try to hold their own against a dangerous, arid land full of monsters, savage humanoids, and the restless dead.

The Burning Sands is a restless and savage arid land located in the northern equatorial region. It is equal parts paradise and wasteland, where expanses of loose, nutrient poor sand and stone are peppered with fertile rivers and lush oasis. To the north-east, an ancient human-dwarven alliance toils endlessly under their rigid god-kings, erecting massive monuments and tending their heavily engineered fields along the Kurfu river. To the south, a relatively new and loosely organized human confederation shares a tenuous relationship with savage elves in the foothills of the Twilight Mountains. Around them, the brutal hobgoblins of The Envenomed Spires, the howling undead of the Blasted Lands, and the barbaric orcs of the Desert of Flame constantly threaten the their daily existence. Will these civilized nations endure, or will the chaos and savagery of this brutal world prevail?

05-20-2009, 12:10 PM
I like your mountains, their different that the usual styles. Over all and excellent start!

05-20-2009, 05:42 PM
That's a good lookin delta. I also like the play of the blue-slightly purple water against the yellow-slightly green land.

05-20-2009, 11:15 PM
Like Ascension, I love the coloring

05-22-2009, 10:58 AM
Here is the second revision of my map, and I've added most of my terrain features now. The new revisions includes:

Forests - not many of them... appropriate for my desert map
River texture - Some fading at the edges to help them blend in better with the map, and some detail along the path of the river to give it a little more depth
Improved wasteland - Trying to create the feel of a broken, blasted desert (the work of an ancient civilization that experimented to heavily with necromancy and destructive magics)

Thanks for the positive feedback! Here are my direct replies:

@Lath, the first few weeks of my mapping have all been about mountains, in particular creating a long, gradual decrease in elevation that results in pronounced foothills. These are actually very similar to the mountains with gimp mountain tutorial here. I'm fairly happy with the result, although I think some more experience will help them further. I made a few changes:

Combine the clouds with a layer of blurred noise to create some finer granularity elevation changes
Create 2-4 additive layers of this noise covering foothills to peaks.
Near the coast, I use the elevation heightmap to define the coastline instead of fading the mountains away based on the pre-mountain coastline.

@Asce and Joe, thanks I like the colors a lot too. For the record, there is no red in the ocean or green in the land (except around the fresh water). They are pure blue and yellow-orange respectively, although there is a significant amount of gray mixed in. I think I'm partial to the low-saturation colors.

Steel General
05-22-2009, 01:04 PM
I've looked at this several different times, and even though I like the shape and the layout of the terrain, etc. something always seemed 'off' to me and it finally dawned on me what it was.

The coast lines are very smooth, I guess I've gotten used to the very 'jagged' coastlines the majority of stuff folks post has. In fact all of the map features have a 'rounded off' look to them (for me anyway).

I think it's a different look and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. Just putting forth my opinion/thoughts...

05-22-2009, 01:26 PM
The coast lines are very smooth, I guess I've gotten used to the very 'jagged' coastlines the majority of stuff folks post has. In fact all of the map features have a 'rounded off' look to them (for me anyway).

I'm actually really torn on this issue. Basically, I agree... I feel like in many parts the coastline is far too smooth. I'm relatively happy with it where the ocean meets mountains, like the western edge of the large island. But I've retouched it there to fit with the mountains. The other coastlines are all older when I wasn't as good at roughing them up.

On the other hand, if you look at a world map, coastlines are much smoother in areas that are largely loose deserts. Rough, detailed, fractal coastlines I think need to have various rock layers or flora to cause unusual erosion patterns. If you look at, say, eastern egypt or the southeastern coast of Yemen and Oman you see very smooth coastlines.

So I feel like its more *realistic* now, but I think it would be more *pretty* the way you (well... both of us) are suggesting. I'll probably go with the later. If I cared about realism, I wouldn't have populated the map with f***ing orcs, elves, and zombie empires, now, would I? LOL!

I'd love to hear anyone else's feedback on the matter, though.

Zar Peter
05-22-2009, 01:55 PM
I just wanted to say the same. I used Google earth to get some "Real Life Examples" and found very different types of coastlines. I took a picture of the coastline of Cameroun (very interesting for the river police, too, I think ;))

And so far I really like the map. The coloring is looking great.

05-24-2009, 08:49 PM
Here is my newest draft of my map, and I am now starting to add the labels. This is my first time with labels so I would be thrilled with any feedback on them. They look a little bold to me personally, but I will start playing with the colors a the background once I get them all in place.

There are two additional minor changes since the last version. First, I added a small detail around the coast in the form of a second ripple just beyond the initial fade. Also, I did one more iteration on the coastline, adding some more noise to make it a little less smooth.

05-25-2009, 09:33 PM
Another new versions... I had a little bit more time to play this weekend.

Added more labels for minor geographic features
Reduced the intensity of the background highlight on the labels
Experimented with a compass rose effect

I might have made the compass too big, but that is easily adjustable. I am still trying to figure out how I feel about it. I am much happier with the new labels, however, and I like the differentiation between the major and minor geographic features. At this point I am trying not to let it get so cluttered that it impacts the map features.

Steel General
05-26-2009, 06:40 AM
I think you should probably reduce the compass rose some. I opened and closed the map several times over 15 or so minutes then had my wife look at it. We came to the same opinion, the compass rose draws the eye to much away from the rest of the map.

It is a nice compass rose though :)

05-29-2009, 09:17 AM
Steel, thanks for all your feedback on my map!

Here is the newest revision of my map. Again, a few touch-ups, and another iteration of completion. This now has (I think) all of the details I want, with names for all the major geography and a fully detailed compass and scale. The only major change I might make is to add a frame to the map, but if I don't get time to do it I consider this one acceptably complete.

05-31-2009, 03:51 PM
This is my first pass at the frame. I don't think it has all the detail I want and I am not sure I am going to settle for it. I made an unfortunate mistake when I resized the image--apparently GIMP will change the resolution if you update the canvas size incorrectly. So... I lost a little resolution and added some very minor scaling artifacts, and I can't recover it in my gimp file. Live and learn.

In any case, all feedback on the frame is welcome!

05-31-2009, 04:08 PM
I must have missed this thread somehow...
I like the map, especially the forests. The Blasted Sands also look very cool.

The frame is fitting (the gold and the moons) but does seem to be a bit on the large side. It attracts too much attention I think. Another thing I noticed: the compass, moons and labelling seem to lack proper antialiasing. They are suffering of jaggies.

Steel General
05-31-2009, 04:50 PM
I also like the frame, but agree with Gandwarf that you might consider shrinking it down some.

05-31-2009, 07:09 PM
Thanks again for the feedback!

I was going to make the frame smaller, but I went with bigger so I could fit more detail into it. Now that I have a mock-up in place, I think I agree with the consensus--its too big. I don't know what I would fill it in with, and I think its just too much. I think I will drop it down to half its width, and add a few more elements that overlap the map (like the moons in the current version. We'll see how that works out.

Re: antialiasing

I know :( Unfortunately, I did a lot of coloring and re-coloring using the bucket and cut tools, which pretty much immediately got rid of the anti-aliasing on all those items. Now that I know how to save selections to a channel and how to color using the hue adjustment filters, I will do it differently. But to fix it on this map I have to redo everything, which I am not willing to do. Live and learn, I'm afraid!

05-31-2009, 09:56 PM
Live and learn, I'm afraid!

On the frame, if you have the time think about distressing it. You could add a lot of character to it by drawing in chips and scratches, a tip broken off one of the moons etc.

Also if its possible I would see how the "Golden Sands" title looked with the blue in the recessed parts. In an actual engraving the enamel is recessed to protect it from wear.

Anyhow, I think you have a wonderful map. For whatever reason Gimp frustrates me to no end when I try and use it. Whenever anyone uses Gimp to produce something like this I'm impressed.

05-31-2009, 09:59 PM
What if you changed the color from that yellowy green to something brown and then used gold for thin lines/moons/text like it was gold-leafed? The main problem that I see is that the color scheme of the frame is the same as the map...the frame should frame the map and not look like part of the map. I'm fine with a fat frame because then you can put in some runes or Arabic script in the recessed areas to give it a bit of mysticism or use an old egg and dart type carved look.

06-01-2009, 10:42 AM
Well, I just get so excited when I get feedback with new ideas it gets me in an update spam mood. Thanks all!

Here is my completed version of my original vision for the wide frame. Asc's idea helped me a lot--I was grappling with the fact that the frame blended too much with the map. I did the following things to fix it:

Replaced the depressed sections of the frame with a wood grain to help differentiate the color
Created a more dramatic bevel between the frame and the map
Added a shadow to the map underneath the frame, to help prevent the lighter map colors from blending with the gold

I also added decorations to the copious empty space in the frame. It may well be too busy now, but its certainly dramatic. I love it, even if I decide to go with a more minimal look for my final submission. Only time and experimentation will tell.

PS. Hieroglyph fonts courtesy of the AutoRealms installer!


Anyhow, I think you have a wonderful map. For whatever reason Gimp frustrates me to no end when I try and use it. Whenever anyone uses Gimp to produce something like this I'm impressed.

I started using the gimper maybe a decade ago... I've been a linux geek and a student for a long time, so it was my best option. No matter how bad it is now, it was far, far, FAR worse then. This is probably why I am so patient with it. It may still be a turd, but its a turd with a sweet sound system, dope rims, and leather interior in comparison.

Steel General
06-01-2009, 12:06 PM
The Hieroglyphics is a nice touch I think...do they actually say anything or is it just random characters?

06-01-2009, 12:16 PM
Totally random. I'm not even sure if they are real hieroglyphs.

Also, my current thinking is that I might should lighten the wood grain so the frame doesn't dominate the picture. If anyone has any comments on that thought, feel free to voice them.

Steel General
06-01-2009, 12:22 PM
I think the issue is more that the yellow/gold color in the frame is nearly the same as that of the terrain. Maybe change that... move it a little more toward orange-y gold than yellow *shrugs*

06-01-2009, 05:10 PM
I'm with the Steel one, add a lil red into the color mix to orange it up and I'm also down with lightening the wood as well. A diagonal gradient (set to overlay or burn or dodge) could give you some added pop because I'm not sure what sort of bevel tools you have access to with Gimp (in PS I can use various contours to define how my bevel looks and how that interacts with light to produce various shine and gloss). What I'm getting at here is that your frame looks kinda plasticy and not metally/shiny. The gradient should be b&w but have many stripes in it of varying thickness. Here's a screenie of what I did with a gradient...it lightens up the wood as well adds drama...it's not masked off of course but you get the idea.

06-01-2009, 07:20 PM
Beautiful stuff msa, very nice indeed!

06-02-2009, 08:06 AM
Thanks for the advice. I was hoping to keep the gold frame and the gold sand similar in color--they are supposed to be evocative of each other. But I appreciate that if it doesn't look good then it doesn't look good, so I'll try to differentiate between them better.

I don't know what kind of bevel tools I have in the ole' gimper. I've been using its fairly limited emboss for just about everything. But I'll see if I can pull off something like you describe, asc. There are almost certainly other tools and techniques that I don't know about and could stand to learn!

06-05-2009, 04:03 PM
Here is the newest iteration of the Golden Sands. I took a lot of the advice from y'all, and tried to differentiate between the metal and the map. In particular, thanks Asc for his recommendation on the metal. I used a technique similar to the one he suggested and I feel like it added some real depth to the look. I also bumped up the saturation of the map a little bit... I tried to keep true to the muted look, but I felt like it looked a little too washed out. So now it pops a little more and I think it was worth it.

I thought I was done, but it looks like I didn't remember the rules so I need to add some settlements. I need a little more space I think, so I have to decide if I want to go through and shrink all the existing text (a real pain, but it has some benefits) or just turn off the minor geography items and add cities. Such are the trials of life!

I'm really happy with my competitors maps in this contest. I'm also really happy with mine. I am looking forward to the vote coming up :)

06-05-2009, 06:16 PM
That frame and compass rose are worth the price of admission alone. Lovely work! It's probably just me, but the sea and the land (not sure if its the texture the colours or if it's just in my own mind) looks mis-matched. Can anyone else see this or is it my imagination?

06-05-2009, 07:41 PM
Being a color-blind fool as I am, the colors could be pretty mangled and I wouldn't see it, but they look good to me. I love this map. The striking frame and the machined compass really appeal to me and the subtle features are very easy on the eye. When voting day comes, this one will get my vote.

06-07-2009, 12:40 PM
Alrighty... probably the last version of this map. I'll update the OP with a new version too. I did end up redoing all of the text on this version, which went much faster now that I know what I'm doing. This fixed some of my anti-aliasing mistakes, although I'm afraid the compass is probably unfixable... at least in the time I am willing to commit to this. Next time I'll know better.

The only major change is that I added major cities on this version. I also tweaked the forest color and some of the geography names, but nothing serious.

Oh, if anyone can elaborate on Rav's comment, I'd love to know.

06-07-2009, 01:55 PM
Perhaps Rav feels that textured land looks best with textured water. Your land is noise-based and your sea is cloud-based. For me, the mountains kind of tie the two together. Perhaps you could experiment with gauss a little on the water and see if anything works. Another thing to look at is Ascensions's continent building tutorial. He has some sea methods in that that might add some dimension to your water. Or perhaps a bit of a ripple. Not sure what would look good.

Another suggestion I have for you is to put some color in the recesses of your rose and scale. Perhaps a glossy black enamel? It doesn't cost anything to try and take it out after.

For what it's worth, your presentation is very clean and simple, and I think that anything you do that detracts from that is probably a mistake.