View Full Version : May/June Lite Entry: Devil's Head (Working Title)

06-02-2009, 12:36 AM
The working title of this entry, "Devil's Head" is based on the happy accident of the shape of the land mass that evolved from my effort. I made many choices that led to the end result, but I assert that I did not realize how diabolical my coastline looked like until I was almost done.

This region was created using Photoshop and a version of Ascension's excellent continent building tutorial. Now I am neither an experienced Photoshop user or a skilled instruction follower, so any shortfall in this presentation can be attributed to me, not to my teacher.

Having learned much from my first complete run-through on the tutorial, especially the need to go very easy on the mountains, I decided to make another map for the purpose of this contest, this method being the only tool I own. The results you see below are preliminary. I have coastline, and Island, some rivers and plenty of mountains, but no forests or settlements yet. There is little time left, another nine days, but I will post any significant progress I make and make sure to include a finished product before the deadline of June 10th.

Although I have only been here a short time, I have been made to feel welcome and have been offered much encouragement. Thank you all for your hospitality. I hope I can someday repay you by offering the same to others.


06-02-2009, 01:04 AM
This looks nice, the mtns look really good. OK for the next step in the process, I would suggest taking out the eraser tool, set it to brush mode not pencil (at the top of the screen) then use oh about a 100 pixel airbrush tip and set the opacity at 10-20% and erase some hills around the rivers. Go back with some yellow or tan color and lightly airbrush in some plains areas, do it lightly so that you can build up the color to suit what you want. Oh and make sure that this color is on its own layer just above the land layer but below other layers like mtns and rivers.

06-02-2009, 02:18 AM
What Ascension said!

But also use the hightfield (grayscale) that you have there (or your cloud layer but it doesn't look as good in the end) and make a selection using the select by colour tool (next to the wand i think) feather/blur out your selection and use that selection to paint into, some accent colour (tans, browns, or texture) this way your "random" spraying of colour when zoomed out will every so subtly follow the relief bump map you have on top. Here is an example from a map I was working on... I selected the dark part of my height map, so the dirt starts at the bottom and blurs as it comes "up hill".

06-02-2009, 12:39 PM
Ascension: I did as you suggested, but wasn't happy with the end result. I suspect I was a bit ham-handed. I removed a large number of hills, and don't regret that a bit, but the brown-shading was perhaps a bit over the top. I am not a good judge of that and have to substitute experience for instinct.


Lathorian: I understand the technique you describe. It is one that Ascension uses all the time, though I am not sure what tool you're referring to. However, can you tell me what I am picking in order to expan upon? Something to keep in mind is, though my rivers follow the terrain as well as I could manage, they are not actually a function of the terrain or the height map underlying the map.

I apologize for not "getting it".

06-02-2009, 01:02 PM
Looks good man. Here's another bit of advice that I adhere to...listen to experienced words of wisdom but always go with your gut. Most of what I say is just to try to help folks, it's not always the best way or the perfect way so take it and use it or tweak it if you like. I'd say you're about ready for cities and towns and labels...good job.

Steel General
06-02-2009, 01:34 PM
Are you gonna put a city named 'Demon/Devil's Eye? :D

I see the perfect spot for it, right on that small bay where the island points in toward the land.

06-02-2009, 11:35 PM
Ascension: no worries. I've been too many miles down too many roads to substitute another's judgment for my own. On the other hand, I've been wrong too many times to disregard suggestions from others who have gathered more experience.

Steel: I've thought about something like that. I haven't really decided the theme of my region yet so I'm not sure if I can get away with a gag or not.

Anywho, here is the latest version. All I've really done at this point is added some forest. Now I don't know whether this forest looks good at all. It took some hours of work with me and my youngest daughter trying various filters and layers and you know the drill, but we finally came up with a combination that looked something like trees from overhead. I can't possibly tell you the steps to get there. Half the guys here could probably take one look at it and whip it out in five minutes. I can tell you there was some clouds on a huge image (6k x 6k) and some hard mix on a grey layer to b/w them, then a color select to contract the size of the black areas. Color got applied somewhere in there and the a variety of filters and layer styles including multiple instances of spatter and craquelure were applied, maybe some emboss and satin. I am positive it was all completely wrong, but it worked... I think.

I am including the PSD along with the PNG so if it is a worthwhile pattern, others can use it. It is tilable.

The forest is a pattern fill. I paint white on the layer and it "reveals" the trees. Added a 5px drop shadow @ 75% opacity because it made them pop. FYI, I am aware that trees are completely invisible at this resolution. But this is a map, not a photograph. The purpose is to engage and inform.

Props to Butch Curry's podcasts for some good ideas.

PS: sorry about the weird looking thumbnail for the PSD file, assuming it stays that way. I removed and reattached it and hit didn't change.


Steel General
06-03-2009, 06:32 AM
Yeah, the thumb-nailer built into the board software doesn't handle .PSDs very well.

I've been doing some experimentation with forests and had some pretty good results with the following steps;

1) New Layer
2) Set foreground/background colors to shades of green (or whatever is appropriate)
3) Filter > Render > Clouds
4) Filter > Render > Difference Clouds (at least x2 - but use even number)
5) Filter > Brush Strokes > Ink Outline
6) Select > Color Range {darkest shade(s)} and remove [optional]
7) Filter > Sketch > Bas Relief
8) Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur (adjust to taste) [optional]
9) Filter > Noise > Add Noise (Mono & Gaussian - adjust to taste) [optional]
10) Apply pattern overlay of choice (usually with adjustment to Soft Light or Overlay)
11) Apply Layer Mask > Fill With Black
12) Use soft/brush eraser on the mask to reveal the forests where desired

You may want to repeat the process changing the colors to "break the color monotony" of the larger forests.

06-03-2009, 05:22 PM
Here is a minor update before I go too far down the wrong road to see what you guys think about the text choices...

I am also considering including an inset with a rough map of the main city and I'd like to hear what you all think.

I still have towns and minor features to label, for which I plan to use a simple, visible font, perhaps Lucida Sans Unicode.


06-03-2009, 05:31 PM
The forests look a lil too vivid green to me, maybe something more like in the terrain but darker, I dunno. I didn't really intend for this style to have forests so that's untested waters. The inset idea is a good idea and will get you some practice with cities. Oh, and labels are my kryptonite so I can't really help much there other than "is it readable?"...if yes then good, if no then bad :)

06-04-2009, 05:16 PM
Another update. I have placed all of the cities and towns and labeled them. That took longer than I anticipated as I had to come up with a lot of names. It doesn't seem like that many places when you're dropping the symbols.

The symbols themselves are pretty straight-forward brushes, 11x11 pixels.

As with most things, this is my first time placing settlements, my first time naming them and my first time choosing fonts, sizes, placements, colors and effects. Advice is welcome.


06-05-2009, 02:11 AM
It has been a frustrating but instructional day. As you can see, I have added a frame and a nameplate to my map. It is all quite fancy, like a gift given to someone of royal blood.

The frame's genesis was from Lileya, a Romanian brush-maker (lileya.deviantart.com) that I'm sure some of you are familiar with. It was a brush, so I had to hack it to get it to fit around my map, which was a beast.

To my surprise, the name plate was extremely difficult. The only tutorial I could find on the technique was a video, and the instructor didn't bother to explain a few things and the colors were off. I think I got it fixed, but my wife went off to bed a while ago and I'm pretty much guessing at this point. If it's wrong, I'll fix it tomorrow.

The font was from dafont.com, Chopin Script Font. Very elegant and it looked like the kind of font someone would stamp into a brass name plate.


06-05-2009, 06:31 AM
Great work, Imm. I particularly like the symbols you have made for the towns, cities, castles etc. I do find labelling easier on a vector package where you can get all the labels on one layer and adjust them independently. The frame and border are really beautiful too - perhaps a little drop shadow from the frame to suggest that it's standing proud of the border? With the border it looks like you've got white as your highlight colour on the bevel - try using the colour picker and choosing the light purple colour on the border it will make the bevel look less harsh.

Presumably a scale and compass rose are coming soon?

Beautiful work and well done!

06-05-2009, 09:33 AM
Thank you Ravells for the praise and criticism. I find it amusing that sometimes the things that take the least effort can have great impact. I addressed some of the issues you pointed out on the frame and plaque, I hope sufficiently. A lot of what you pointed out I saw as soon as I looked at it without the 2am filter on my eyes.

I do plan on a compass, scale and cartouche before I'm done.


06-05-2009, 11:24 AM
This map is beautiful. I really like the pattern in the frame and the vibrant colors. I feel like mine looks a little washed out in comparison, which I'll have to fix a bit. Also, I think your forest pattern is really slick.

My one feedback on the new version of the frame--right now it looks like the map is floating above the frame (to me). Which may be what you want. But in the other version the mix of light and dark highlights made it look like it was set back into the frame (even though I think it looked a tad off that both horizontal edges were dark and the vertical edges were light).

06-05-2009, 05:46 PM
I can see what msa is saying, when I said drop shadow on the frame, I meant the outer frame not the fabric border (sorry, should have been clearer).

I know the 2 am filter well. Oft has been the time when I've done something late and thought it looked brilliant and then looked at it the next morning and seen the warts. Toning down the saturation and brightness on the brass plaque has really improved it.

Regarding the 'least effort - most reward' equation, it's so true. They say that the last 10% of a drawing takes 50% of your time, and I totally agree with that.

Great map! No more crits from me.

06-05-2009, 07:32 PM
More significant update this time. There are one or two more features I'm considering adding to the map, but functionally, it is complete pending final critique.

The compass began with a design by midnightlynx (midnightlynx.deviantart.com). His adaptation of a classic design was clean and strong. The enameled emblem in the center that looks like it came from the third reich is from the font "Devils and Dragons" which can be found at http://www.dafont.com/theme.php?cat=707&page=3.

The cartouche came from a simply gorgeous seventeenth-century Scottish example kept in superb condition, but which nevertheless required a big chunk of time to clean up and adapt to my purposes. I think it turned out well, but if anyone can come up with a good alternative for the text background in the cartouche, I am all ears.

Original is here: http://www.nls.uk:8080/StyleServer/calcrgn?cat=Maps&item=/00000504.sid&style=maps.xsl&wid=700&hei=500&browser=win_ie&plugin=false#

I expect the text in a cartouche to be flowery to the point of silliness as it often is in real maps. I borrowed from that without making the text unreadable. For this I chose another dafonts font, Brock Script: http://www.dafont.com/search.php?psize=m&q=brock. I'm fairly pleased with how that came out too, and yes I know how to spell "commissioned". :)

Finally, the scale was a straight-forward grid with some Photoshop magic to make it look interesting.

Please share your thoughts on how I can improve this project.

I guess I'm not completely understanding the point being made on the frame. If the problem still exists, could you clarify?


06-05-2009, 08:01 PM
Here's a pic. You may need the shadow to drop from left to right rather than right to left though (haven't checked).

06-05-2009, 09:45 PM
I'm with you ravells. I have to poke around the WIP folder. I think that at some point the frame got merged which will make changes more difficult. I know my post-prod PSD has the frame as a separate layer, but the components of the frame may not be available. If necessary, I'll just recreate from raw components. Always faster the second time, right?

Steel General
06-05-2009, 09:48 PM
Nice update... I think the only thing I would change (other than the shadow fix on the frame) would be to make the compass rose just a bit smaller.

06-06-2009, 10:49 AM
Plagued by the notion that the shadows on my frame were detracting from an otherwise attractive feature, I decided today to deal with it. Now the frame itself got merged at some point in the past with some lighting effects blended in, and that was the crux of the problem. I could not remove what was no longer a property of the layer but rather a part of it--or rather I could but not without more pain than it would take to recreate it, and then some.

So I decided to scrap it. My redesign did several things: first, it kept the same basic premise - dark frame with fancy patterns. Second, it used a different pattern that was more easily extensible so that I wouldn't be faced with the prospect of trying to stretch or contract a complex graphic as I did on the last one. Third, I loved the idea of runes around the frame from MSA's entry so much, I decided to have a go at an interpretation myself.

The runic border was created using a font called Ancient Geek which I got from dafont.com. The words are sayings. For example, "Perfer et obdura; dolor hic tibi proderit olim" means: "Be patient and tough; some day this pain will be useful to you."

All of the words are ideas that express a philosophy, presumably of the individual to whom the cartographer is giving the map. This reinforced the notion that the creator is presenting his work to someone of royal or noble blood. It also re-emphasizes the martial nature of the land of Faldanore.

I have learned some things about creating a world without a particular purpose as I have this one. I do not intend to use it beyond the contest, yet I've invested many hours into it. In that time, it has grown with each decision that I had to make, one by one, until it has taken on a life of its own. It has been a pleasure seeing this thing happen independent of my will, and at the same time strange.

My work has benefited greatly from commentary from a number of you, and I appreciate that help. I welcome additional criticism as we go down the home stretch.


06-06-2009, 12:47 PM
Looks pretty good man. The only thing I really see that needs tweaking is the apple green/rust nameplate...I did a tut on making a brass nameplate just because of this. I'd hate to think that there is any one part that I could have helped someone on but didn't so that's why I did the tut. Don't take offense I'm trying to be "teacher-guy" :) Otherwise this rocks man.

06-06-2009, 03:16 PM
As I seem to have chosen you as my mentor, it would seem ungrateful for me to take offense. In any case, I'd found your new tutorial and had already gone through it once before I saw your reply. I loved the level of detail that you put into it (so much more than the video I'd watched) and enjoyed the process almost as much as the product.

However, the result was too bright and did not look good when compared to the original. Still, I knew that your methods were the better approach, so I proceeded to try a variety of things, finally settling on this:

I adjusted the courseness of the random gradient down significantly, as I wanted the wavy reflection on the plaque rather than the splintery one. It gives it a warmer look. I also changed the gloss pattern to the U-shaped one because it significantly darkened the effect. I clicked on that and both my wife and I said "ohhhh".

Of course I also took liberties with shapes and bevels. The text still isn't as dark as I'd like it, but here's the results at this point.


Oh and Ascension, thank you so much for all of the help you've given me over the last couple of weeks beginning with my first day when i stumbled on your continent tutorial. I've learned a lot from a lot of people, but none more than you.

06-06-2009, 04:35 PM
This is a beautiful map, Imm. It definitely has my vote coming up. I like the new version of the frame, although for the record I liked the old one a lot too. In some ways more, and in some ways less, and I think you could use it again on another map and it would be beautiful.

I definitely agree that the world pictured becomes more vivid as you dedicate attention to the map.

06-06-2009, 04:49 PM
Coming from you, the praise means a lot to me msa. I'm glad you didn't poke me for stealing your idea.

06-06-2009, 06:45 PM
Coming from you, the praise means a lot to me msa. I'm glad you didn't poke me for stealing your idea.

Well, to be fair it was hardly original when I did it either!

06-07-2009, 01:59 PM
The more I look at my rose, the more it bugs me. Perhaps it grates on the cartouche or maybe I've been looking at my map too long and have started to see things that aren't really there. What do ya'll think? Is the compass a keeper or should I come up with something more stylistically attuned to the cartouche?

06-07-2009, 02:15 PM
I think something more gray/green like the cartouche would be more fitting color wise...as it is currently it ties in more with the frame. Stylistically, I think something more illustrative, like the cartouche, would fit better as well. Or maybe you could just put something in place instead of the stars on the cartouche itself.

06-07-2009, 03:14 PM
Well I can honestly say that this map gets my vote. Just gorgeous, even though the style is based on familiar ones we've seen before. The border is just amazing. Well done.

06-07-2009, 04:10 PM
Absolutely splendid! Great work Imm!

06-07-2009, 05:53 PM
Wow. Thank you so much for the effusive praise guys. I know there's an element of encouraging the newbie involved and I appreciate it. I'd do the same in your shoes.

I have done a version with a more subtle compass rose, and one more in keeping with the cartouche. It took some searching to find it as the map that the cartouche came from and others like it seem to have a dearth of compass roses. I guess they'd fallen out of vogue for a time.

Anyhow, I wanted to stay with a Scottish rose, or at least one from the Isles. I found this: http://archivemaps.com/mapco/scotland/compass.htm. The compass is enormous and has insane amounts of detail. Those of you who enjoy staring at currency with a monocle will appreciate it. The compass itself is actually larger than my map before shrinkage. And it's Scottish. :)

The effect is definitely subtle. Please let me know what you think about this one versus the earlier one.

PS: I changed the hue of the original rose to green of the shade used on the cartouche background like you suggested Ascension, but it still "popped" in spite of the earthier, darker color. That rose was just not meant to blend.


06-07-2009, 10:10 PM
I know, I know, I'm like a mother on her daughter's wedding day. I can't stop fussing.

Change to the name plaque, basically making it slightly smaller, but also more shiny. I have three versions of the name plaque in the file and three of the rose, so please let me know if you think and older version is better.


06-07-2009, 11:33 PM
I like this gold one.

06-08-2009, 04:45 PM
A minor comment from me. You have a body of water called "The Deepingvald". That sounds like its the name of a German forest. The suffix "vald"->"wald"="woods/forest".

Doesn't detract from your map any really. Just something that stuck out to me.

06-08-2009, 04:58 PM
A minor comment from me. You have a body of water called "The Deepingvald". That sounds like its the name of a German forest. The suffix "vald"->"wald"="woods/forest".

Doesn't detract from your map any really. Just something that stuck out to me.

In Swedish, våld means "force" or "violence". I wanted to convey a bottomless sea of storms. Most of all, I liked the sound of it :)

06-08-2009, 05:13 PM
Oh ok, cool. Learned something new.

06-09-2009, 02:12 AM
I think that Ill have some stiff competition. Really nice map..

06-09-2009, 09:10 PM
This is my final submission. Some minor adjustments.