View Full Version : [Award Winner] Photoshop Town Tutorial

08-01-2009, 03:05 PM
This is by no means complete and I haven't even finished proofreading it yet. There are no screenshots and I can't really answer questions either since I'm still editing it and changing techniques. It is long, it is hard, and it is complex. You will probably get confused and have many questions. I just wanted to put this up here for those who are going to do this current challenge...just to have something to get you started. I hope to have it done by the end of next week and chopped into smaller sections. So if you do get lost then just make up stuff and try new things...that's what I'm doing too :) This is just temporary and I'll be updating things as I go. Please bear with me and good luck. This is an Open Office doc file so if it corrupted then let me know. On the good side...you all get to be beta testers :) The pic below shows where I am in terms of proofreading so that is why it is incomplete. The terrain part is pretty well nailed down, though, so you should be able to get that part done.

08-01-2009, 03:43 PM
I haven't read it yet (preparing for game in 15 minutes) but I am sure this will be as good as the rest of your stuff sir :)

08-01-2009, 03:47 PM
That pic rocks :D
You are still getting better at this...

08-01-2009, 03:52 PM
Thanks, guys. I appreciate it cuz I'm feeling really frazzled right now trying to get this done. I need a valium or something :)

08-01-2009, 04:07 PM
Excellent, file is downloaded and as soon as i get to taking a break from the current map, I'll start reading through (and probably try it out shortly thereafter)

08-01-2009, 04:36 PM
ooft thats a lot of reading :)

08-03-2009, 12:26 AM
Awesome! I'm off to bed, soon, and work tomorrow, but I'm definitely going to have to take a look at this.

Geidor's nearing completion of a first draft (I think I'm going to have it printed tomorrow, just because I can. Well, and because I need to test something at work, but I prefer the previous reason), and I'm going to need a new map project very soon. I hadn't decided, yet, whether I'd do another world, or a city, but this might just decide it. ;)


08-05-2009, 04:28 PM
Downloaded, and printed (booklet style) so that I can read through it while doing my daily walk...

Steel General
08-05-2009, 04:40 PM
I have no doubts that its up to your usual quality work, and will check it out in the near future.

08-05-2009, 04:52 PM
I've been working on it ona nd off for the last 2 days, I've been keeping a word document of notes regarding changes that may be considered (there's at least one spot where I needed to reset a brush before using it again, took me a while to figure it out, for example). Mostly it's little stuff though, though i've been keeping a log of my own personal working notes too :)

I like it so far, it's VERY thorough.

08-05-2009, 04:53 PM
Already started playing with it... GIMP does have a lighting effects filter, but the settings are different enough that I'm confused...

15. Click on the Mountains layer. Filter > Render > Lighting Effects...use the setting in the attached image.


08-05-2009, 06:48 PM
Yeah, no image. Like I said, it's nowhere near done. If you have a copy of my atlas or continent tutorials then the same lighting effects images are in those.

08-05-2009, 07:05 PM
The nice thing about having done one tutorial from Ascension is that if you remember to save the lighting effect styles, it will save time if you do the others :)

(i'm doing the bridge shadows right now - as well as the bridge I have a series of docks and wharfs - headache!!)

08-05-2009, 08:17 PM
Yeah, but knowing you, you'll pass with flying colors :)

08-05-2009, 09:59 PM
Originally I wasn't going to post any pics till I completed the tutorial, but I have to say, I could not get step 88 (foam around the bridge footings) to work for me. I went over it several times following exactly as written.. So in this step I have to say I completely deviated from the tutorial (I've been avoiding doing that so i can test the tutorial for you, heh)

I'll paste in my comment and working notes (I've been putting tutorial comments on bold, and my own working notes for future reference into italics) to show you what I've been going through so far :P

Step 88 – no matter what I do, following exactly, I can’t get the lines to look anything at all other than simply 3px wide squiggles drawn in with a brush.
Ended up using one of the spatter looking brushes at 20% flow 20% opacity with dynamics/other opacity jitter set to 0 with fade at 100. drew around the footings with the spatter brush at.. 40? size. Used a 14px version with 25 fade for the pilings on the docks. Ripple medium all at 85%, then motion blurred 20. Set a 50px round splatter brush to fade at 50 through dynamics, used that to brush inwards along the downstream portion. Short strokes and single clicks around the upstream section of the footer.Still not happy with downstream so smudged it out a bit for more length, then a few touches with the same eraser.

Ok, so I'm a stickler for details when I write up my notes. I got tired of not being able to recreate effects :)

That having been said, this is what I ended up with, I used some pics from google to get ideas as to what the end effect should look like.
(I've been avoiding looking at any other town maps while doing the tut, keeping influences out.. you're amazingly thorough considering there are no pics to work with, and I think I'm doing an ok job so far)

08-05-2009, 10:50 PM
Looks fantastic. Here's a simpler thing for you to do with the brush strokes here...use the basic 3 pixel brush tip and draw a squiggly line, since it's ugly and not tapered, grab the smudge tool (with a 5 pixel tip altho you can play with that) and smudge out the ends of the stroke with a squiggly motion...this will taper them and looks like it was done with a tablet (which I used). You can also use the blur tool to lower the opacity those tips as well.

08-05-2009, 10:59 PM
I will definitely keep that in mind. (one of these days I may even justify getting a tablet!)

thanks! ( I think I'll stick with the current method for the moment for the sake of consistency, only have to do in the mill right now, but that sounds a lot easier, heh)

[edit - or cheat and use creative copy/paste/edit/modify of the foam i already have, yay]

08-06-2009, 05:48 PM
So far still kinda fumbling around trying to figure out which lighting effect setting in GIMP is which setting in Photoshop...

08-07-2009, 08:22 AM
Having a go at this myself although I'm struggling to work out how to scale it correctly to the landmass I'm placing it on.

08-07-2009, 08:53 AM
Scale threw me off, and it's still throwing me off even though I've figured out what it should be :) I was working at 1px=1foot, which you would think would be easy to remember, but I keep finding things don't look right, so if I consider them at haf that (1px=6") it looks better, but still doesn't feel quite right :)

For the moment, I'm just going by looks, but I trust my artistic eye to tell me if something feels off :)

I know there's the "lazy" method of making houses, but I really want to follow this one as is. And I do like the way this is turning out, it's just taking me a long time. heh
**I has developed a whole new respect for those who put out city maps..**

08-07-2009, 08:59 AM
I think my first attempt actually ended up something like 1px=5 feet. Not quite close enough when I came to start the buildings and walls.

08-07-2009, 09:04 AM
I'm doing a pretty small town (300 or so people, I figure). I wonder if anyone has any suggestions on the kind of scale to use for different populations sizes (based on a 2000 to 3000 pixel map) or if anyone's really thought about in in those terms..

08-07-2009, 09:10 AM
No thoughts, sorry... and I did a *lot* of city maps ;)
CD3 does have the benefit that you can create a map at a certain size and then scale it up if necessary (without quality loss). Most of my city maps started with 1000x800 pixels I think and then I exported them to larger sizes.

08-07-2009, 09:12 AM
The landmass I'm using is about 1.8 miles across so I reckon I might be better off trying to double up the size of the map to 4000 wide.

It's to be the main city in my campaign so I have no problems putting the work in but to get it at a decent scale I think thats what I'm going to have to do.

08-07-2009, 09:21 AM
Any WIP's for your work guys? Would love to see them.

08-07-2009, 09:43 AM
So far I just have the one on the last page, showing the water around the bridge pilings.
I'll punch out a copy in a bit to show what it's worked up to :)

08-07-2009, 10:13 AM
The bridges leave me craving for more :)

08-07-2009, 10:41 AM
At the moment I've only got eh land mass as I keep deleting the work I've done due to the scale being off. Once I get something that looks good enough to go on I'llpost up some WIP pics

08-07-2009, 10:43 AM
Ahhhh, but the craving....

08-07-2009, 10:46 AM
Down, Fido, Down! ;)

I can't wait, either. That bridge was pretty amazing looking.
I still need to find some time to go through this tutorial. Class starts back week after next for me, though, and I'm tied up with the finishing touches on Geidor.


08-07-2009, 11:41 AM
So far still kinda fumbling around trying to figure out which lighting effect setting in GIMP is which setting in Photoshop...

I have never understood the gimp lighting effects filter, and it is different enough from photoshop the the kajillion photoshop tutorials don't seem to help much.

-ROb A>

08-07-2009, 12:01 PM
Just for Gandwarf...


08-11-2009, 01:11 AM
Well, using the layer effects python scripts I found... I'm still having some issues... the

21 1.Select > Color Range = use white with a fuzziness of 200. NOTE: Photoshop Elements does not have this function so skip this step. Select > Inverse. Hit the delete key then deselect. Set the fill of the layer to zero and then add a layer style of Bevel and Emboss. Style will be Emboss, Technique is Smooth, Depth is 50%, Direction is up, Size is 250, Angle is -45, Altitude is 30, Highlight Mode is white at Color Dodge and 75% opacity, Shadow Mode is black at Multiply and 75% opacity. On this layer you can use the airbrush and add in more hills or erase hills if you want.

step cranks gimps memory usage over 5 GB and takes literally over an hour (not sure how much, only that I started it, took a shower, got dressed, ate a little, and it was still going when I went to work)... so I think i'm gonna wait until either I learn python (unlikely) or someone who knows what they're doing takes a look at the scripts and finds a way to make them not quite so resource intensive...

On the other hand, my brother in CS2 is really enjoying the tutorial.... and I really only started whacking at it for the sake of a GIMP conversion...

I did however learn a lot and picked up some tricks for when I do take a stab at city maps again! :)

08-11-2009, 11:11 PM
The scripts create bevels by growing (or shrinking) the selection a pixel at a time in order to build a bumpmap by filling with the appropriate grey. So, to make this emboss, you are growing the selection 250 times with flood fills each time...

It is most likely the undo buffer growing out of control that chews up the memory until you are thrashing the swap space.

-Rob A>

08-11-2009, 11:20 PM
The scripts create bevels by growing (or shrinking) the selection a pixel at a time in order to build a bumpmap by filling with the appropriate grey. So, to make this emboss, you are growing the selection 250 times with flood fills each time...

It is most likely the undo buffer growing out of control that chews up the memory until you are thrashing the swap space.

-Rob A>

Yeah, I figured that out by watching it... I'd ask some questions, but that'd take away from the tut... I've got a thread in the software discussion board about them...

09-01-2009, 01:36 PM
Thanks for the great tutorial.

I'm trying to work through the river section and I'm stuck on step 31.

"31. Duplicate this layer (it becomes River base copy 3). On the layer stack, right click on this layer and choose Clear Layer Style. Ctrl+click on the River base layer to load it as a selection..."

Am I supposed to ctrl+click on the copy 3 layer and the river base layer at the same time?

Or am I supposed to ctrl+click on the river base layer?

When I do either one I am unable to Select>Modify because modify is grayed out.

I'm using PS CS4.

Any help would be appreciated.

09-01-2009, 02:12 PM
You should be control clicking the river base itself, with no other layers, if I recall (wasn't that long ago I worked through this).

Do make sure you are ctrl-clicking the thumbnail picture on the layer stack though, otherwise you're just adding a second layer to your layer selections.

09-01-2009, 03:15 PM
Do make sure you are ctrl-clicking the thumbnail picture on the layer stack though, otherwise you're just adding a second layer to your layer selections.

Thanks that's what it was, not clicking the thumbnail.

09-01-2009, 04:50 PM
Excellent guess on my part then, it sounded like the same problem i had when I first upgraded to CS3 - it took me ages to develop the new habit. In PS7 and before you can just click anywhere in the layer stack and it makes the selection.. But they had to find some way to work it in now that you can select multiple layers (omg that's one of the best things they ever added).

Mystery solved! Now I look forward to seeing your work :)

10-04-2009, 07:06 PM
Okay .... well ... >< I am suck at the begining haha. This is my first time using PS sooo I would expect nothing less than this haha.

11. Now we are going to paint in a rough river valley with black and then we are going to go over everything else with white. We will leave some gray around the valley edges.

I ended up with something that was like the attached file.

This is just the bottom corner of it, but what I dont get is if I am supposed to make the background around the river completely white like I have or if I am just supposed put one layer of white .... ><

10-04-2009, 09:02 PM
It should be on a layer of its own, clear around it. Ambitious undertaking as towns are the hardest things to do and my tuts aren't easy either...especially since it's just written and not totally done. I'll help ya as much as I can and so will (probably, hopefully) Coyotemax since he's been through it (and gotten a Feature Map award for it to boot).

10-04-2009, 10:33 PM
So then the way I have it on my picture I posted is correct?

10-04-2009, 10:51 PM
I guess so, can't really tell. As long as it's on its own layer with nothing else on it (like white background), then yes. The river builds up over successive layers and it's pretty subtle, some layers may seem to do nothing until it all comes together.

10-04-2009, 11:04 PM
Okay then .... I will keep at it :)

10-04-2009, 11:58 PM
Sorry, took me a bit to find this. The river was the fun part of the map, and ascension is completely correct - many layers come together for the river. I was confused a few times wondering what the layer was for, but just kept following, and it came together when it was supposed to. So absolutely, keep going with what you're doing :)

Start up a thread under th city mapping section so you can post your progress and get tips as you go :) It's a lot easier to get fedback on things and make changes as you go rather than go back after it's all done to start making corrections.

10-06-2009, 03:32 PM
Started trying to follow this (using gimp); I knew that things wheren't going to translate over completely but I am working diligently. I see there are others trying to make a gimp conversion of this tut, any body got a working copy?

Escelent tut by and by very indepth.

10-06-2009, 10:12 PM
Been playing with this for the October challenge and something, somewhere went south I think. It is difficult to know without reference pictures to compare with. I screenshot the whole thing so you could see the layer orders Ascension. Hopefully that helps diagnose the problem.

The water texture is completely hidden. The bevel make it look like there's high, steep, muddy banks around all of the river, above the water level. I sense that they should be under the water and that the waves should be visible.


10-06-2009, 11:12 PM
I think it looks fine so far. The whitecaps and ripples come in a few more steps so keep going and see what happens.

10-06-2009, 11:15 PM
Started trying to follow this (using gimp); I knew that things wheren't going to translate over completely but I am working diligently. I see there are others trying to make a gimp conversion of this tut, any body got a working copy?

Escelent tut by and by very indepth.

I have found that it is always handy to link your WIP thread here, in the tut thread so that others may look at what you are doing and maybe dicover ways of getting over their own stumbling blocks. Even more so if you are trying it out in a prog that the tut was not written for. I would also recomend that you make copious note on the conversions 'cause they will come in handy when you try other tuts for that other prog.

If that makes any sense :?

10-08-2009, 06:45 PM
so I've been handed a copy of photo shop 7.0, and I can't seem to get it to save the images in the zip as patterns, and I can't get it to load them for patterns...

I tried saving them as patterns in gimp, but that doesn't seem to work either...

10-08-2009, 07:07 PM
They're images. Unzip, put it someplace where you can remember, open the image in PS then click on Edit - Define Pattern.

10-30-2009, 10:44 AM
I lose track whilst still on the everything looks like odd clouds stage- step 29.
What exactly are you meant to be doing here? Where should you be to set the fill of a layer? Where should textures be for photoshop to let you use them?

10-31-2009, 04:39 PM
If you look on the layer stack (or layer palette as it is often called) you will see the word Opacity and just under that is Fill. Textures are different than Patterns. Although, they are, in reality, interchangeable, PS only has a few loaded into the textures folder on your hard drive (they are used in various filters like Texturizer). Patterns can put there but it isn't all that important. Patterns can be found on your hard drive in a folder called Adobe/Photoshop/Presets/Patterns.

11-01-2009, 04:38 AM
I haven't read this tutorial yet but I do intend to. I'd just like to say though that even though I haven't read it I consider this to be one of the greatest tutorials on here.
This tutorial has been directly responsible for two recent Cartographer's Choice maps and turns out stunning results time and again. (I didn't even realise that Coyotemax's map had its basis in this tutorial until after the fact.)

I'm sure they put their own spin on their work but I'm also sure they'd agree that the look and style of their maps is completely down to this tut.

Wonderful tutorial. :)

11-01-2009, 07:22 AM
Thanks, bro :)

11-02-2009, 02:53 AM
Yes, full credit where it's due to Ascension for the tutorial. I did put my own spin on things (especially for the second version of the map, that made it to the feature) but it would naver have a>happened at all or b>looked anywhwere near as cool without Ascension's wisdom and willingness to impart his knowledge.

*bows to the mastah*

11-02-2009, 03:09 PM
Thanx for this tutorial. It's working wonders. :D


One question, the zip seems to be missing the crystal4 and Ornament1 patterns.

I looked all through my Adobe files, I dont' have very many patterns. Is there a place I could download these???

PS: I gave you some rep.

11-02-2009, 05:48 PM
Ornament 1 is a default brush that is part of a set, it should be in a folder called Adobe/Photoshop/Presets/Brushes...not sure which set it is in, though. The crystals4 is a pattern that I must have omitted, sorry for that. I'll put it here and then redo the zip.

11-05-2009, 06:58 PM
i tried the tutoiral but i have gimp and i had photoshop but when i changed operating system i dont anymore so i couldnt follow tutoiral but the image looks GREAT =D keep up the good work.

11-14-2009, 02:30 PM
Hmm several times in the tutorial it refers to attached images for the purposes of determining PS settings, but there are no images of that sort in the download. Am I missing something? I really cannot seem to make this tutorial work well without them.

11-14-2009, 11:43 PM
I never finished it with screenshots and pics. This was a rush job to help folks out with a challenge we had a few months back.

Servant Of Thor
04-23-2010, 10:26 AM
Hmm, I'm having trouble downloading the file, I click it and then nothing happens...

04-23-2010, 04:26 PM
Yeah, the attachments system is messed up right now.

05-12-2010, 10:26 AM
Any chance you'll get around to finishing this tutorial, or is it deceased?

The descriptions in the word file are detailed enough to get me drooling for more, but they would certainly benefit from pics.

05-12-2010, 04:48 PM
Actually, I've been thinking about updating it with new techniques and putting pics in but, man, doing cities is a huge time sink and making a tut for it is ten times worse. It's not dead by any means but version 2.0 is way down the pipe right now.

06-09-2010, 11:45 AM
I am creating a WIP thread to mirror the contents of the tutorial, please follow along and correct my (likely copious) mistakes.


05-15-2011, 04:01 PM
Just finished reading through this tut Ascension and it looks to be the best I've seen for towns thus far. All I can say is, I wish someone would have figured out how to translate it over to GIMP by now. But regardless, have a little rep for taking the time to share this with the community.


05-15-2011, 05:19 PM
Hey, man, thanks. :)

07-10-2011, 02:33 PM
I agree Ascension this is a brilliant Tut that gave me many good technique's.

07-10-2011, 10:40 PM
Thanks, man. One day I hope to come back to this and put in screenshots.

09-14-2011, 04:35 PM
To begin, I want to say thank you Ascenscion for this awesome tut'!
Besides being well done, it allows me to learn new very useful techniques!
I had noticed this tutoriel months ago and today I decided to make a try. I am not disappointed! ;)

However, the reason why I raised up this subject is that I meet a little problem at the 40 step.
40. This part can be confusing for rookies. Ctrl+click on the River base copy layer in the layer stack. Click on the Paths tab (or open it if you have turned it off). At the bottom of the paths window click on “Make work path from selection”. Click on the Brush tool and then at the top of the screen click that little triangle to open the Brush Picker. Scroll down the list and pick the one called “Ornament 1” (it looks like a little wave or tilda). If you don't see this brush listed then load it via the Preset manager following the steps I showed you for loading up the patterns...but this time go to the Brushes folder instead of the Pattern folder. We need to modify this brush tip so open the Brushes window (Window > Brushes). Click on Brush Tip Shape and change the spacing to 100%. Click on Shape Dynamics and set the size jitter to 100%, angle jitter at 5% (set the control for this to Direction), and roundness jitter at 100%. Click on Scattering and set the Scatter to around 300 and the Count is 2. Make sure that white is the foreground color. Still on the Paths window, at the bottom, click on “Stroke path with brush”. When done, drag the path to the trash can at the bottom of the screen.

I didn't found the brush called "Ornament 1". It seems that I havn't this one on my presets folder.
If someone could tell me where I could find this brush, it'd be kind (or if someone could share it via the forum :) ).

09-14-2011, 04:58 PM
It's not all that important if you don't have that certain brush, you can always improvise or just do without. I guess various versions of Photoshop have some minor differences in what is included out of the box. If you're really wanting it then you could try to make your own brush using the tilde, new image, times new roman font, hit the tilde key, edit define brush preset.

09-14-2011, 05:05 PM
Ok, I'll try by myself ;)
Thanks again for your advices!

11-12-2011, 06:43 PM
hey ascension...

superb tut so far. However I have absolutely no clue what you mean by "Pick one end of the bridge and make a click near the end in the middle. " in step 81???? end or middle? Near the end in the middle? What middle?


06-16-2012, 07:46 PM

I'm trying to make it through this one, but I think I must be screwing up somewhere. I just finished the river. Is this what it is supposed to look like? My point of reference is coyotemax's cruzamento map. He has a river and I seemed to have ended up with a muddy ditch. Any idea what I am doing wrong on this?