View Full Version : Haunted Mansion: An After-the-Fact WIP

08-31-2009, 12:26 AM
Some time ago, I created a map of the ground floor of a haunted country manor for a D&D horror adventure. I created the map entirely in Photoshop CS 2. I devoted numerous hours, spread out over several months, to the project while we negotiated (ultimately unsuccessfully) with several publishers interested in the underlying adventure. The length of the negotiations enabled me to add details for which most commissioned projects simply lack time. (So here's a glimpse of what I do in the wee hours of the morning when I'm unaccountably awake and not obsessed with an ongoing oil painting project.)

I've gone back and recreated my development of the map, which I now offer here. I've designed this post-mortem WIP to walk anyone interested through the challenges I encountered wrestling with this piece. Nonetheless, this WIP is not a how-to tutorial on any specific aspect of Photoshop, although I'll describe my use of many tools along the way. To create a how-to tutorial, I'd do better to focus on a single room or individual effect. This thread presents a big-picture view of a major project's development.

Here's the finished map:

08-31-2009, 12:44 AM
Two quick asides before launching into the creation process:

First, many of the manor's rooms serve specific purposes in the accompanying adventure. Unfortunately, because I've neither found a publisher nor given up hope of finding one, I can't explain here why each room's elements were crucial to me, or how they interrelate to the adventures overarching mystery. All I can do is tell you what each room's visually significant elements are. Sorry about that.

Second, I love the mansion map in the most recent edition of Clue (and earlier version too, for which nostalgia kicks in powerfully), and, of more recent discovery, the map in the board game Kill Dr. Lucky. I decided to create an image with similar visual power. Moreover, I decided I'd create each room of my map with its own one-point perspective, just like each room has in the Clue and Kill Dr. Lucky boards.

This doesn't mean my aspirations ended at duplicating or imitating either or both of these board games' images. I sought to create my own compelling horror map image. But I embraced these earlier visions as inspiration.

(Please Note! The image I'm attaching here of the Clue board game's map is one I downloaded from the internet. It contains someone else's nationalistic/ethnic slurs that I find repugnant. It's the best visual image I've got of the board, but I don't ascribe to the image's inserted labels. I'll take a better picture of the board when I get home next week and replace the image here.)

08-31-2009, 12:52 AM
Continuing my thought from above, I'm sure you all know that one-point perspective is a visual design schematic in which all linear elements (the edges of all forms) vanish (trace back in space) to a single vanishing point (a dot that I set in the middle of the picture plane for each individual room). Below are several examples of one-point perspective. Lay a ruler along the edges of any form, and you'll find it intersects at the vanishing point.

Making every room have its own one-point perspective violates a major rule of perspective for the map as a whole. As a whole, the map should have a single, common set of vanishing points. Put differently, if you chopped off the top floors of a house revealing the ground floor and its walls, as seen from above, all rooms would vanish to a single vanishing point in the middle. Each room wouldn't have its own vanishing point. All rooms would share a single vanishing point. I decided to break that rule and give each room its own vanishing point. Why? Not because I'm brave or ingenious. I did so because I'd seen the Clue game board and the Kill Dr. Lucky game board do this successfully. I followed their lead.

The resulting effect is pretty good. Each room on my map has its own dynamic pull. But the artist in me instantly recognizes that the rooms don't hold together across the entire map because each room has its own gravitational center diverging from the whole. Each room's strength becomes the entire map's collective flaw. I couldn't have it both ways. I accepted that overall flaw to gain the power if each room's individual integrity and allure.

You all probably saw all of this the moment you looked at my map. My point here is simply that this was a conscious decision.

(Anybody still awake?)

08-31-2009, 01:04 AM

I did catch the perspective issue, after the first few moments of "ok, what's wrong here" i figured it out, and smacked downt eh part of my brain that was objecting to it. once that was out of the way, I actually consider it a rather nifty effect, it really does help the map stand out.

Forgiven, absolutely.

08-31-2009, 01:08 AM
I began the process by reviewing dozens of floor plans of Victorian and other mansions that I downloaded from the internet. I strongly recommend that, if you create a haunted mansion, you look at real mansion floor plans first. I found it enormously inspirational, even though I eventually rejected most of them and struck out on my own. I'm commencing this thread while on vacation on the beach. I copied my graphic files for this project and brought them with me, but failed to copy the dozens of floor-plan diagrams I downloaded. Blast!! I'll post them (out of order) in this thread once I get home next week.

Despite the power and inspiration these existing floor plans gave me, I decided to create my own from scratch. I scribbled out a slew of rough floor plans with a pencil. Unfortunately, I don't have any of them any more. The best, however, included a broad ballroom, a small courtyard sandwiched between house wings, and a variety of other features that felt right to me. I scanned it.

I then built walls over my scan. Using my Rectangular Marquee Tool, I created a long horizontal block spanning the width of my picture plane (my open window). This became my wall template. I then duplicated this template layer numerous times with the Ctrl J command (which makes a duplicate copy of the layer). I used the Free Transform function, holding down the Shift key, to rotate the duplicate wall layers to 45 degree and 90 degree images where necessary. I blocked out the ground floor's walls, erasing out everything that didn't fit my schematic.

For the arched walls in the hallway at the southeaster corner of the mansion, I used the Eliptical Marquee Tool. I held down the shift key to constrain each elipses I used to a circle, rather than an irregular elipse. I set the edge of each circle at the outside perimeter of each arc, then use the Stroke function to create the arc itself. (If you want your arcs to have clean edges, always set the Elipse Marquee Tool as the outside perimeter, and then use the Stroke/Inside tool to create your block.)

08-31-2009, 01:11 AM
Although this next step probably wasn't necessary - I knew in my head where I was going - I next added tags to the map designating what each room was to become. This helped me visualize where I was going.

08-31-2009, 01:13 AM
Forgiven, absolutely.

Thanks, Coyotemax! You're now on my Christmas card list.

08-31-2009, 01:18 AM
Crap. I just lied to you.

Before I placed the overall bulk of the walls, I dropped a square grid behind the image. This map is for a D&D adventure (pre-4.0 edition), and both Wizards and Paizo love their square grids. I drew the walls on top of the grid to ensure the spaces between the walls accommodated full squares.

08-31-2009, 01:27 AM
Over the years, I've built (I created in Photoshop) a slew of grid patterns based on "tiles," within which each square grid (for a D&D map) is either a stone or wood gradient. I dropped a blue-gray "tile" grid behind my walls diagram to set the stage for the improvements to come.

Specifically, I just added the gray tiles layer behind my walls and tags layer, and used the layer Transform function to match it to the existing grid. Then I deleted the existing grid layer, leaving the "tiles" layer in its place.

Note that I'll ultimately switch out the "tiles" grid for many rooms with one that simulates parquee flooring. But not for all rooms. Some will remain stone-like and, hence, cold.

08-31-2009, 01:41 AM
Here's where the color fun began.

I use a combination of the Polygon Lasso Tool and the Eliptical Marquee Tool to create selections for cobble stone areas and grassy areas on the "tiles" grid layer. I saved each selection using the Select/Save As function, so I could alter the colors, contrast, dimensions, or any other aspect of these seleactions later on.

(Advice: When you save a selection, immediately save the document. I usually save the document as a new name -- i.e., Mansion 09 becomes Mansion 10. Why? Because if you don't save it, you may scroll back up the History bar to a point before you save the selection without realizing it. Doing so eliminates the selection you made with such care. This sucks. Trust me on this one!)

I then tweaked the color of each outdoor selection using Image/Adjust/Hue Saturation and Image/Adjust/Color Balance to begin creating the sense of pavement and grass.

08-31-2009, 02:17 AM
Even though the red doors have not been drawn in a one-perspective manner ;) , I think that the two maps which you posted in this thread are amazing. Nice light effects. Great atmosphere.

08-31-2009, 07:49 AM
Even though the red doors have not been drawn in a one-perspective manner ;) , I think that the two maps which you posted in this thread are amazing. Nice light effects. Great atmosphere.

Good catch! The doors' perspective presented such an insurmountable problem that it almost caused me to abandon my multiple one-point perspective approach. Ultimately, despite several tries, I failed to come up with a visually pleasing way to place the doors in perspective.

Doors and walls are the only map elements that must be part of two rooms (or a room and a corridor) at the same time. Hence, walls and doors are the only elements that must be subject to multiple, incongruous rules of perspective. Forcing the walls to be part of multiple, separate perspectives creates some visual confusion. But, because they're everywhere and obviously the only division between rooms, the walls remain recognizable as walls. They're a little disturbing with their double sides, but they're clearly walls.

When I drew the doors in double perspective, they stopped resembling doors at all. They looked like strangely distorted red treasure chests. I tried adding handles and door knobs. I tried all kinds of things. Nothing worked, as the examples attached demonstrate. The problem grew worse where a door fell between two rooms whose vanishing points fell in completely different directions, twisting each side of a door in wholly different directions and creating absurd looking shapes. I don't have an example of this saved. The door on the left in the third image below comes closest, but that's not an extreme instance. Imagine a door with one side reaching up to the right and the other side reaching down to the left. Ugh!

So I decided to remove them from the whole perspective issue and just make them red rectangles. The result is less than perfect. But it was that or abandon the larger project. Anyone have a better idea?

Steel General
08-31-2009, 07:55 AM
Maybe a woodgrain texture on the doors would help them not look awkward when you add the perspective. *shrugs*

08-31-2009, 10:20 AM
I tried wood first, actually. To me, the blocky constructs looked like weird furniture. They lost their appearance as doors. Worse, because of their massive size, they stole attention from the real furniture in the rooms. Ultimately, I just went with the thin red rectangles.

08-31-2009, 10:37 AM
How about having the doors thinner than the walls? Or add a door frame on the sides, just something so it doesn't look like it's painted on the wall?

09-02-2009, 12:04 AM
Are you planning to do the second floor?

09-02-2009, 02:05 AM
How do you do the lighting effects in your maps?

09-04-2009, 01:51 AM
I like it!

I've been looking for mansion type maps for a board game I've been working on based on the Thief computer games.

I was going to have one player setup the mansion, and one or more players try to steal things - but now I'm thinking of geomorph tiles for the mansion and automatic rules for setup.

09-04-2009, 09:17 AM
How about having the doors thinner than the walls? Or add a door frame on the sides, just something so it doesn't look like it's painted on the wall?
I'm going to play with them more. I'll post the results. I've got something like 20 more WIP images to post and I'm trying to decide when best to fit in the doors.

09-04-2009, 09:18 AM
Are you planning to do the second floor?
I've always intended to do so. Other projects keep getting in the way. If and when I sell the adventure behind the maps to a publisher, the second floor will definitely burst into being!

09-04-2009, 09:29 AM
How do you do the lighting effects in your maps?
I create the original room elements in cool colors and dark valules, as if the room were not illuminated. I then use Photoshop's Quick Mask and Gradient tools to create gradient selections spanning across rooms from the light source to the walls. The selection, when applied, will select everything fully immediately adjacent to the room's light source, but diminish as it flows away fromt he light source until it selects little or nothing on the far side of the room. I save the gradient selections.

Next, I duplicate the elements of the original, unlit room (floor, walls, etc.) into new, separate layers. I apply the gradient selections to each element separately, then use Image/Adjust/Color Balance, and Image/Adjust/Hue-Saturation, and Image/Adjust/Balance-Contrast to alter each element to make them lighter and warmer. The gradient selection reduces my changes as the light flows away from the room's light sources. The effect is that the lighter, warmer values and colors grade down to darker, cooler values and colors, flowing away from the light source.

I don't have a tool or magical way to know when I've done this properly, when the effect is correct. I just eyeball it. Like all things in mapping, ultimately our own eyes and judgment are the only meaningful tools. Be an artist first and a technically proficient computer user second.

For rooms with multiple light sources, I repeat the process for each light source until I achieve a convincing balance. It's time consuming but fun. If you're insane.

I then add shadows. I usually do this by selecting where the shadows would fall and then deleting those selections out of the lighter layer, so that the cools and darks of the original, darker layer show through brom beneath. For two reasons, this works far better than painting on a semi-opaque layer of darkness for the shadows. First, the semi-opaque layer of a painted-on shadow would obscure the textures and details of the floor or walls on which it sits. The loss of texture would make the shadows look painted on rather than looking like a natural part of the setting. Second, it's too easy when painting on a dark shadow to make that shadow too dark, darker than anything else in the room. Sometimes shadows are the darkest part of a room, of course. But in a haunted mansion, light sources shouldn't push back the darkness all the way. They should look like they're inadequate to illuminate everything. By erasing down to the original cool and dark room coloring of the underlying layer, I keep the shadow's temperature and value consistent with the original darkness already filling the corners of each room. I don't end up with a strangely black shadow that feels out of place.

I then blur the edges of the shadows as they move away from their light source. Of course. Clear near the object creating the shadow, diffused far away.

My plan, time permitting, is to devote several posts containing examples of this process later in this WIP retrospective. Please let me know if you think this would be helpful! ( I unsure how deeply to delve into technical details in this WIP. There are half a dozen extensive tutorials one could spin out of a project like this, and I can't fit more than a glimmer of them into one WIP retrospective.)

09-11-2009, 03:13 PM
That is absolutely beautiful work! :) Bravo!


Virgil Vansant
09-28-2009, 09:23 PM
Ashenvale, the haunted mansion looks fantastic. Thanks for sharing the WIP and your steps in its construction. As someone who's used Photoshop for a good while, but never for anything related to maps, I like reading about different techniques. I look forward to more!

09-29-2009, 09:56 PM
I'm getting to the party late, but great work. I've started a couple maps with this feel, but always gave up on the walls when push comes to shove.

As for the the doors, my personal vote is to have them exist in 3 dimensions outside of the perspective of the map.

09-29-2009, 10:56 PM
Actually I was just reviewing your house again, and I noticed something I hadn't caught before (now that I was specicially looking at lighting techniques).

The statue of the tiger is not casting a shadow from the light coming in through the window next to it. Of course, this could be intentional, and add to the "ok what's wrong in this room" factor when presenting it to a party.

09-29-2009, 11:53 PM
Yes! That's it! I'm deliberately adding to the mystery, to the building's almost inexplicable violation of the rules of optics and physics, forcing one to doubt his own senses, or his sanity, or

I'm so full of ****.

Missed that! Great catch! I wonder if I had it in an earlier version and inadvertantly deleted it along the way (something I do with far too much regularity.) Thanks! I'll fix that right up.

Edit: By the way, here's the room Coyotemax is helping me fix. As you can see, the chair in the bottom right casts shadows from both the window and the fireplace. The white tiger, however, casts a shadow from the fireplace only. Apparently, moonlight could not frame his fearful symmetry:

09-30-2009, 12:42 AM
As for the the doors, my personal vote is to have them exist in 3 dimensions outside of the perspective of the map.

Thanks, Nytmare, that's the way I'm headed. Spurred on by Alfar's suggestion a few post back up the thread, I've begun fiddling with dimensional doors that don't depend upon each room's unique, one-point perspective. I'm encouraged by the results! Let me see if I can pull it all together! If it works, I'll have to thwack Alfar with some rep!