View Full Version : [Award Winner] Hand drawn mtns. and other stylistic map elements for use in PS/GIMP

05-22-2009, 02:20 AM
OK, so I've received some complements on my mountains in my recent maps so I decided to make a quick tutorial on how I draw them...

While simple upside-down 'v' mountains or rendered terrain mountains and forest textures are excellent ways to show physical features on a map, very cool looking mountains, forests, and other elements can be created by hand with very little effort (provided that you have access to a scanner).

The first part takes place on paper (preferably card stock or something harder than printer paper) and is detailed with examples in the first attachment. Although this is specifically for mountains, the general techniques can be used for making trees, hills, dunes, snowdrifts, canyons, mesas, etc.:

1. Draw a simple outline of a peak (I use a 0.1-0.35 mm sketching marker (technically, a 'pigment liner') for this step).

2. Draw a line down approximately the middle of your mountain from the peak to the base - jagged for a tall, sharp mountain (like the Himalayas) or smoothish for an older, eroded mountain range.

3. Add heavy shading to the inside of one side of your mountain... this is the side that will be shaded from the sun and should be the same on ALL FEATURES on the same map. I always shade the right side but it's up to you... do not shade a solid line on the base of the mountain, only along the ridge you drew in step 2 and one side of the outline. Other rock formations can be added into the dark side of the mountain right now by shading them in solid (see step three picture... the line in the middle of the dark side would be an example of a rock formation)

4. Draw horizontal lines from one shaded line to the other across the dark side of the mountain. If it looks too light (judge by your eye), cross hatch the shading near the top or just scribble around a bit inside until it looks right. You don't have to use this method for shading - you could fill the dark side in solid or come up with your own method after experimenting with different things.

5. Shade the outline of the lighted side, adding indentations or ridges wherever you want (try not to add too many or it will look too cluttered and not realistic). Shade these in as you see fit, solid.

6. Add very small horizontal lines perpendicular to the general form of all ridges and rock formations on the mountain. See example picture from step 6 on the first attachment, it's difficult to explain exactly what I do here. Again, you can come up with your own technique for this or disregard this step entirely.

7. (combined with 6 in attachment) Draw some random horizontal lines at the base, scattering them to represent the base of the mountain. Keep in mind the ridges you drew and how far out they would jut from the general shape of the base of the mountain.

And there you have it. Also shown in the attachment are steps for drawing trees, hills, and sand dunes/snowdrifts.

Now all you have to do is scan your drawings into the computer (It's good to have 6+ different mountains for your map... more if you make different types of mountains... for example, if all of your mountains were pretty much cone shaped with similar ridges separating the light and dark side, you could probably get away with 5-7 different mountains without much notice). Once you have them in, open the document in photoshop and scale it however you want... keep the original file so that you can create brushes at different scales (adjusting the radius on the brush tool in PS itself causes blurring of the mountains, which will look weird alongside sharper symbols that were not adjusted) for continental, regional, and city maps (unless of course you want to draw more detailed mountains the smaller scale you go... :))

Select each mountain with the lasso tool and create a brush for it using the Edit > Define Brush Preset command.

With this you can craft mountain ranges by carefully placing mountain brushes on your map (see the 'composite range example' in the third attachment). Alternatively, you could draw the entire range by hand and scan that in (see 'drawn range example' in second attachment). Both styles look nice in my opinion so use the one you like best or, again, try to come up with your own.

And that's it for now... after I work on my technique myself I might post a tutorial about how to draw terrain, such as grasslands, marshes, etc.

I've attached some examples of completed trees and mountains that you can feel free to use in your maps if you want. Happy drawing =)

05-22-2009, 05:06 AM
Thanks for adding this tutorial ironmetal. You have been repped and this thread has been rated :)

I really like your style. Your mountains and trees resemble those the cartographers of old did!

05-22-2009, 05:14 AM
What a fantastic tutorial - I *really* like the sketchbook presentation. Rated and Repped!!!

05-22-2009, 07:34 AM
Great tut dude. You can expect to see this in my future maps. R & R from me as well...apparently I gotta spread some love so just one R :)

05-22-2009, 10:15 AM
Awesome tutorial. Those are some beautiful mountains. I imagine I'll have to try this out soon.

Steel General
05-22-2009, 10:26 AM
Very nice, yet one more tutorial I'll some day get around to trying. :D

05-24-2009, 06:15 AM
OK, so I've received some complements on my mountains in my recent maps so I decided to make a quick tutorial on how I draw them...

Thanks a lot. I had been looking for a tutorial like this for a few days, and not finding it I just started doing things my way (which, let me tell you, is quite crappy specially compared to this). I'll revise what I have with all this new knowledge.

06-07-2009, 02:18 PM
Fantastic tutorial. I'm no artist, but I've still managed to put a few of these together that look pretty good.

06-14-2009, 02:11 AM
This was really helpful for mountains. I originally just did them by drawing them with my mouse in PS, but this adds a very nice personal and more realistic touch. Do you think you could offer any advice on buildings?

06-17-2009, 06:21 PM
@ironmetal250 - I had to abbreviate your post title to fit in the "[Award Winner]".

Congratulations, by the way, on the 5-compass rating!

-Rob A>

06-17-2009, 06:36 PM
Congrats, Ironmetal! 5 compasses are much harder to get than before and you got the first on the new criterion!

06-25-2009, 03:34 PM
Hahaha thanks guys

07-08-2009, 09:07 PM
Advice on buildings? I think so! I just drew some flying ziggurats and science/magic hybrid cities for my Tlaocazotl map so I guess you could say I'm in the mood!

Anyways. For these cities I just drew a single building and that was it (or in the case of the levitating ring cities the entire city is one building).

I've attached the upload where I drew all my buildings, I'll work on some more general-use buildings later because I realize these are pretty specialized.

But in general, use geometric, three dimensional shapes... a rectangular prism is the best, I think, for general buildings, and shade the same side/wall that you shaded your mountains on. You can draw these as big as you want to shrink them so feel free to add as many details as you can.

07-11-2009, 10:46 PM
very nice, i like the shading on the mountains! i think if you incorporated a T-square/ruler combination to your process it would take your drawings to the next level.

Then again, the hand made feeling is kind of nice.

Thanks for the info man!


07-14-2009, 02:01 AM
Thanks for the Tut ironmetal, its a big help especially to newbies like me. I hope to see more from you. :)

07-23-2009, 10:18 AM
Just found this tutorial! I needed help with my mountains, and this looks like it should do the trick!

Awesome tutorial -- thanks for putting it up!

07-24-2009, 04:12 PM
With your permission I would like to post a photoshop brushes file with all your mountains from the first post. I think they are awesome and am sure many people would love to use them. If you don't want these to be public then let me know and I will take them down.

Edit: Turned your trees into a brush preset as well.

09-10-2009, 12:05 PM
Can I just thankyou, I've been searching the web for days to try and find something like this and the results garnered by just a few minutes working on your technique has improved my mountains ten fold :D

10-18-2009, 10:14 AM
Nice mountains! They look similar to what I myself came up with (although your maps have more detail than mine)

Very nice!

10-19-2009, 02:56 AM
Thank You! Long time reader, first time poster.

07-16-2010, 01:46 PM
Ironmetal, thanks for showing how this can be accomplished. It's a style that I really like. Perhaps I missed the explanation but once you have the images scanned in do you set the white to transparent and simply copy/paste the features into your map or do you convert them to brushes/tubes and use them in a more painterly manner?

02-14-2011, 10:21 AM
Hi, All.

I wanted to let everyone know that I have taken ironmetal250's wonderful "Hand drawn mtns. and other stylistic map elements for use in PS/GIMP" and created a PDF tutorial out of it.

It is available in the Photoshop Tutorials section of the Tutorials in PDF Format (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?4987-Tutorials-in-PDF-Format) thread located in the "Tutorials/How To" forum.




03-29-2012, 03:26 AM
Hi! I can see that this thread haven't been used in a while, but reading it helped me out a bit in my own work - but I seem to have a problem!
When making brushes the larger mountains and objects are ok and look pretty good, but the smaller I make them (in scale with the other objects) the more Photoshop creates flow jitter. I can't seem to turn that off?

Here are some of my mountains, these are the larger ones; as you can see there's some "grass" below the third upper mountain and making a brush with that creates this jitter effect. I didn't want to create too large brushes and made them something like 200 x 200 pixels for the largest one and then scaled them down from that one largest object.

I would like to know how you make your (all of you) brushes and what size you make them. What size is reasonable for a usual run-of-the-mill map?

Kind regards

08-19-2012, 11:18 AM
Awesome stuff, thanks for sharing your techniques.

06-01-2015, 08:38 PM
Thanks for the tute! very nice!