View Full Version : Creating Nameless Bolkenheim - Process and Reflections!

08-09-2009, 02:10 PM
Hey everyone! I know I promised this about a month ago, so... here it is! A month late! I recently wrapped it up with the big parts of my composition, but if there are any components of this tutorial you felt should be fleshed out more, feel free to start discussion and we can converse about it here. Luckily I somehow managed to keep this under 10000 words, too. :)


PS: I'll cook up a PDF of this later for you all. :)

Thumbnail of the full image:
Link to the original thread: http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?t=6253

I had worked on this piece for about 6 full days, between Thursday, July 2nd and Saturday the 11th. Needless to say, this is probably one of the cleaner images I've managed to produce, and one of the most time consuming. With that, I'll go through my process step by step covering my thoughts and direction, as well as acting as a tutorial for anyone wanting to read this! Though I'm writing this in my Advanced Seminar journal, it will be processed to be viewed on ChamplainEGD.com and cartographersguild.com. Let's get started!

**Day 1: Research.**

I did a lot of this, primarily because I had no idea how to start a map, nor most of the fundamental components of one. Cartographersguild.com, Google searching, and simple asking around of those I know who have experience in this area came in very handy. Basically, thanks to the advent of the internet, I was able to outline the components I would need to see in a _basic_ map:

1. A legend.
2. A compass.
3. A ruler.
4. Markers to represent the capital, major cities, villages (or towns), and a couple more to represent dungeons and keeps.

There were many more components I could have added, but the function of this map did not require any more than this. I did however need to figure out how to construct this behemoth. With that, I figured a few things were true: I would need a lot of custom brushes, and I would need a lot of patterns. Photoshop provided the patterns, I provided the brushes. With that, lets move onto actually painting this map.

**The next step - silhouetting**

This all starts with Australia. Just a brush, sharp edges and fairly high resolution. I didn't dwell on it too long, I just drew in the form that I felt would make it feel believable.


While looking at Schley's Safari (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?t=5887), I was trying desperately to figure out the fastest way to emulate believable coastline like he did. His method is done by hand and then brought into Photoshop. I too could have just sketched a map quickly in Photoshop, but as I feel about line drawing to begin with, that is a process that has hampered my ability to work fast and effectively in the past. So, this is why I bring in Australia. The silhouette of Australia has all of those interesting little nooks and crevices that was drawing my attention on Schley's map, so why not make a brush out of it? I disabled all brush effects except angle jitter (blow off the charts), assigned my new Australia brush to both brush and eraser tools, and just went nuts. Eventually I came out with a shape I liked:
This was a lot of push and pull. I didn't even worry about any kind of terrain emplacements like mountains, rivers, valleys, plains, deserts, nothing. The idea is to detach yourself from the goal and to just get an inkblot that feels interesting and complex enough to be believable and aesthetically pleasing. I felt this shape would bode well for hosting all sorts of dynamic direction to give to a party of adventurers.

**Defining the terrain**

So Australia was pretty successful at making the land mass as a whole. That's good and dandy. Now it was time to make the rivers. After scouring for any shortcuts that I thought I had missed, I came to the abrupt conclusion that they would probably have to be made by hand. It's a good thing I decided to take the slow and steady route on this part, because as I learned, river placement is utterly dependent on where the weather cycle dumps its water and how that water escapes to the ocean line:

During this step, I also starting forming the lakes using the australia brush again. After that, I duplicated the layer and started filling it with a solid beige-ish green color, almost like a clay. This acts as the base for the rest of your continent, and the next step will require this base to absorb some of the color beneath. The brush I use is a dirty brush, this one specifically from one of the Nagel series but its fairly quick to make up on your own. Making sure opacity settings are on, I just applied this in a variation of hues all over, making sure I did it within the masked selection of the silhouette. Applied like a quick wash, this basically applies those cool bits and greebles all over the terrain. I then did a pass of burn and dodge to highlight the inland areas and to frame the land.


The next thing we have to do is to get a stroke going on this continent. I find that using a normal layer stroke is hard to control, and does not produce the crisp effect I wanted. Because of this, I simply duplicated my finished continent, and darkened the bottom copy to an offblack/blue color. Now on the layer above, I Ctrl+Click the layer to select its silhouette, and I contract the selection by a few pixels. After doing this, I use Ctrl+Shift+I to invert the selection and delete the crust. Now the darker layer below shows through, and we are able to simply paint out any inaccuracies ourselves! I was sure to add an outer glow at this point to the "stroke" layer, to have it naturally blend into the color of the water better, and to eventually act as my "shallow" border.

08-09-2009, 02:11 PM
**And then the trees came**

Make a blobby little brush. That's what I did. What is important to take from this brush is that you want a lot of variation for quickly laying down crazy shapes. Why? This will make our forests!

Note that the brush has no opacity or fill settings applied - just a simple angle jitter. On top of that, looking at the below image, you'll notice I just used a simple mossy green color to map out the forests. When placing paint down in tight spots, feel free to use the free-lasso and polygonal-lasso tools to prevent overflow into hard-to-fix spots, and remember to keep pushing and pulling using the eraser and brush tools together with this tree brush.

Now to make it blend into the map! Set your forest layer to overlay, and apply the following outer and inner glow settings to bring out the silhouette.

You'll notice that it may have difficulty blending into certain spots. This is not a problem. In order to remedy this, what I did was ctrl-click the forest layer, create a new layer below this forest overlay, and paint in detail with the dirty-brush from before to make it pop more. Play around with it, see what works for you.

Additionally, you'll notice that my swamps are marked in a blue color. I achieved this using the forest brush and some toned down layer effects. I set the layer to Linear Light to achieve the illumination I wanted.


Ah boy. The mountains. This part was a fun experiment, but a long one. I tried everything I knew in attempt to make something that didn't suck, but I was just drawing a blank. But then I discovered this:

Yep. A simple bevel and emboss with a gritty texture applied. Once I got that down, I just made another small grit brush with pen-pressure sensitive opacity. It's all down to push-and-pull with the brush and eraser again. Simple. :)

** Final Notes **

Well, I could go over the rest in obscene detail but I feel the rest is mostly just typology and color balancing. I believe you all understand how to handle composting tools :). I notice on a lot of maps not designed for illustration (such as a typographical map), consistency comes before readability. Because I was going for more of an artistic piece, composition, color, and typology came before some of the core principles in cartography. With that said, here's my final advice on anyone working on a map for illustration:

-Use a good and clean font. If possible, do not use any drop shadows or strokes. These are only necessary if the detail in the illustration is conflicting with the text.
-When making legend elements, they don't necessarily have to be symbolic, but merely have a good, readable shape that the reader can easily associate to what is defined in the legend.
-Standardize your colors and sizes based upon your different legend elements.
-Have fun while doing it!

Questions, comments, critiques, suggestions, and general feedback is welcome, and I hope you found this tutorial helpful! :)

Steel General
08-09-2009, 03:50 PM
Neat stuff...thanks for posting.

08-09-2009, 05:07 PM
I love me some cool brushes and bending them to my will. I'll have to give this a shot soon. Looks great.

08-09-2009, 05:09 PM
Excellent tutorial, thanks a million for posting this!

08-09-2009, 05:42 PM
Ravells: You are welcome!
Ascension: Brushes rule the world.
Steel General: Thanks!

08-10-2009, 11:06 AM
Just curious as to what Nagel series that brush came from. Also if you could go into more detail on the mountains it would much appreciated.


08-11-2009, 02:20 PM
Okay so I got the mountains figured out or at least a result I am happy with. When using the nagel brush to do the terrain you say to "making sure opacity setting are on..." Are you referring to layer opacity or brush opacity? Also did you do any layer blending with the brushed layers?

Sorry for all the questions but I am a complete noob to mapping. My PS experience is in web graphics and design.

Thanks in advance!

08-11-2009, 07:56 PM
And sorry I didn't respond sooner! :P

Yes, I was unclear with the opacity instruction: make sure you have opacity applied to pen pressure when you paint, or if you're using a mouse, use a low opacity setting. The layer itself should be as opaque as possible.

In terms of layer blending with the brushed layers, it depends. In some situations I would use, for instance, an overlay layer or something like it to get the kind of colors and vibrancy I needed. It's really more a matter of experimenting with what works for you than me telling you what works since how I handle the brush may change my outcome versus your own methods. :)

And in terms of working the mountains, I found it best to be very gentle with the brush to create really soft and nearly transparent forms. If I glopped down too much color it would often look like complete crap and would need to go back at it again with the erase+brush combo.

Feel free to ask more questions if you have them. :)

08-11-2009, 09:11 PM
What Nagel series was the brush from?


08-12-2009, 10:39 AM
Crud. I just spent the past 45 minutes digging up the number - unfortunately I don't have it. :( It came from one of the dirty packs, I know, but I couldn't seem to find it...

08-12-2009, 01:56 PM
Yea i have been searching for his brushes but all i have been able to find are the skin and fur brushes. I 'll have to play around and see if I can create something. Would you just take and existing brush and modify the properties or create a custom shape and define it as a brush?

Thanks for the help!

08-12-2009, 04:43 PM
If possible I'd like to see the map after brushing but before the burn and dodge brushing.


08-13-2009, 07:34 PM
Well I downloaded a whole crap load of Nagel brushes, but rather than go through every one of them I just grabbed the image you posted of the modified one and created a brush from that. Its only 472 pixels and probably blurrier than the original, but it is one awesome brush once you play with the settings. I forgot how much I enjoy using brushes in Photoshop. I'll hopefully post something soon using the various techniques I have picked up here.

Thanks again.

BTW are in anyway related to Hartley Peavey/Peavey Electronics?