View Full Version : Continent WIP

09-04-2009, 01:55 PM
Hi Everyone! Long time no see!

After a long break from mapping, I decided to try my hand again. This is a random continent I've been messing around with. I'm to the point where I need to start labeling and putting in roads/cities/etc. (I think), but I thought I'd stick it up and get some opinions first.

09-04-2009, 03:12 PM
The colors are different but still interesting and nice, me dig. I'd put the rivers underneath the forest and then on the forests very lightly erase a bit so that the river just peaks through here and there. Overall, I like it a lot.

09-04-2009, 03:18 PM
I like the colors, too.
I think the forests are a bit blurry, though.

09-04-2009, 03:37 PM
Agreed, on both counts. I think tonight I'm going to redo the forests entirely; I think the texture's too big, it makes the mountains look little. I'll incorporate these two suggestions when I do. Thanks!

Steel General
09-04-2009, 09:19 PM
I think it's quite good.

There seems to be some weird line patterning in the mountains - though I think that is something to do with the way GIMP is programmed.

09-05-2009, 09:39 AM
Thanks SG :)

Yeah, it's an artifact of shaped gradients in GIMP. I've been working on how to reduce/get rid of it, but haven't been able to yet.

Steel General
09-05-2009, 10:34 AM
If I'm not mistaken RobA had some kinda work-around for this, but durned if I can find it.

09-05-2009, 11:46 AM
I played around with it a bit and I think the mountains are better now, but their style shifted a bit. A tiny gaussian blur got rid of the lines, but since I was fiddling with them anyway, I tried to fix their apparent size too, plus I wanted to add some foothills and random hills throughout the countryside.

I also sharpened and shrank the forest textures, and added a bit of a drop shadow on them. I opened up some of the previous forested area to allow for the human development.

In the top left forest, I tried both outlining the river and erasing a bit here and there. I'm not sure which I like better, or if I did either of them as well as I'd like to, but I'm not sure how to improve it. Any suggestions would be very welcome :)

09-05-2009, 11:57 AM
Zoomed out, I really, really like the map. Zoomed in it's a bit blurry.
Great work so far, though.

As for the rivers running through the forest: I would totally clear a path.

09-05-2009, 12:27 PM
The mountains look great. You're on the right track with the forests but the edge looks a little too clean and defined - maybe add some clumps and break up the edges more...make it look ragged. Nice job, though, so far.

09-05-2009, 02:10 PM
Forests redone yet again :)

There are a few gaps that will be roads once I figure out how I want to show the roads.

Does this look better?

Gregorus Prime
09-06-2009, 05:58 AM
I think the forests would look better with a bit more depth to them. Maybe double up on the bump map, or play with the levels on the filter a bit.

09-06-2009, 09:35 AM
The forests do look better I think, though there's some room for improvement... can't really help with that, unfortunately. I make maps using standard symbols.

09-06-2009, 01:20 PM
New update: Increased the depth of the forests and added tentative political borders in the temperate area of the continent.

Thanks for all the feedback so far guys, this is REALLY helping!

Gregorus Prime
09-06-2009, 03:54 PM
The forests look a bit better, but now they look kinda plasticy. Try darkening the bump map overlay, and maybe adding a noise filter, and see if you like it any better.

09-06-2009, 05:01 PM
Actually, I think the plastic feel of the forests might be at least partially due to the fact that the highlights & shadows are white & black (rather than shades of green). Might be worth trying that, too, to see how it changes.


09-06-2009, 05:02 PM
Thanks for hangin in through all these iterations, guys. I'm gonna get these forests right if it kills me.

@Gregorus: Those were good suggestions; I think I like this better.

What do you think?

09-06-2009, 05:03 PM
Sorry for double post, but asp posted while I was updating. Asp, does this look better? If it still needs help, that's a good thing to try!

09-06-2009, 06:13 PM
It does look better than your original post, in my opinion.
It's a shame you overwrite your original image every time, so people don't see your progress, which means they can't learn from it.
After all, this is what this forum is about, just saying.

My next step would be to get rid of the "pixel islands".

09-06-2009, 06:38 PM
Hmm. Good point; I was thinking about server space. I still have most of the intermediate steps; I'll put them back.

09-06-2009, 06:55 PM
I was thinking about server space.

I'm no moderator or anything, I was just talking from a learner's point of view.
Soon enough, a moderator will show up and tell me if my suggestion was over the top, but they are really friendly here so don't worry.

Until then, post away. :)

09-06-2009, 07:18 PM
Well, you were right I think, so hopefully it won't take up too much space :)

I tried to get rid of enough of those tiny little islands that it didn't look messy, but keep enough to keep the coastline's character. Hopefully I struck a good balance.

09-06-2009, 07:21 PM
Server space doesn't seem to be an issue at the moment. We will let you know if or when it has become an issue :D
Until then, feel free to post several WIP versions in a thread. As Tear said that's a good way for everyone to monitor progression and maybe learn some new things. Also threads tend to make less sense if there's only one image... comments get outdated, etc.
Just don't overdo it (work five minutes on a map and post a new WIP every time).

Anyway, you made some great improvements. Forests look more than convincing enough for me now. The texture for the ocean is great.
The mountains look good, but they do seem a bit thin. You might want to thicken some parts to break the uniform look.

09-06-2009, 07:22 PM
I was worried about that once upon a time as well...taking up too much server space. But Arcana assures us that we are nowhere close to maxing out. If we ever get there we'll probably just retire some old stuff to the archives.

09-07-2009, 10:17 AM
Added a border, compass rose and scalebar, and now I think I'm stuck until I come up with a way to show cities and roads. Nothing I've tried looks right :(

10-18-2009, 01:38 PM
Resurrecting this one since it won't leave me alone. I think I'm actually going to use this continent for the novel I started all this for in the first place.

It needed some tweaks though, some of the climate wasn't right, and I wanted to tilt the whole thing a bit. Plus I'd learned a lot in the meantime, so here's the new version after completely starting over.

What I'm having trouble with are scale issues. I've roughed in the forest with some dark green blobs; I'm not sure whether I should go with a slight texture, or full blown forests like in the middle earth map (which was at about 4x the scale). The latitude and longitude lines are 5' each, which makes this about 2mi/px.

Any thoughts on which would be better at this scale?

10-18-2009, 02:16 PM
Your mountains look a lot better on this new version.

May I ask though, why are using this method when you went to all the trouble of converting Ascension's tutorial with amazing results? I would have thought that using that method would reduce your forest scale issues too.

10-18-2009, 02:39 PM
Thanks, Ramah :)

Actually I tried. That's why it took so long to get something postable; I've been working on this since I finished the translation. I ran into bunches of problems, though, partly because I'm remaking a continent that doesn't fit (it extends past the desert latitudes into jungle), partly because that method works best on a continent without predetermined mountain ranges, and partly because I increased the size to a point where gimp's clouds (which have a hard limit on detail size) don't produce the same effects. So this ended up being an attempt at working some of the concepts I learned from translating that one into the style I've been developing.

Edit: I suppose while I still have the PS trial on my machine that I used to do the translation, I could give it a go using PS for the parts that gimp's making difficult for this continent. I'll give it a shot and see what happens.

10-18-2009, 02:57 PM
Your forests seem to have a strange phobia of mountains and coastal regions. Looking at an earlier version, they did go up to the mountains in places, but had the same avoidance of the sea. What is the reason for this?

10-18-2009, 05:10 PM
In this particular case, it's because it's only the rough base shading layer that's there. The actual forests go on top of it and are better incorporated with the mountains. For the coast, it's just aesthetic.

10-18-2009, 10:27 PM
Ok, so to get a nice style contrast I started this one based entirely on the gimp translation i did of ascension's atlas tut. I think I managed to get the mountains in the right place after much wrangling, but the colors are driving me crazy. No matter what I do, the desert either blinds me or is grey.

I'm thinking that tomorrow I'll start trying to put the mountains from this version onto the color base from the first version and see how that looks. If I darken it a bunch and put some land contours on, maybe I can still get away with no forests atlas-style ;)

10-18-2009, 10:34 PM
I think your sand looks great. If you want to fiddle with it then, on a new layer, airbrush in some yellows and oranges and play around with the blend modes or use yellow and orange clouds. But I like it as is.

10-19-2009, 03:22 AM
I'll second that. Nice desert colors as is.

10-19-2009, 03:32 AM
The desert colours are great, I'd be happy with that.

If anything, the mountains in the desert area look a tiny bit washed out to me along the subtle edges, almost like they're being viewed through a cloud or mist layer. Not sure how to fix that, maybe a tiny bit of sharpening?

Colourwise it's great though.

10-19-2009, 04:01 AM
I agree with both the colours and with CM. I think it's a great colour but to me the mountains in the desert would maybe still rise up to be a stone colour? From this distance would they look like sandstone rocks? I guess they'd get blown with sand but... heh... I dunno. I'd try changing the colour on those mountains first I think.

10-19-2009, 04:53 PM
The problem with the mountains is that, according to the tut, the layer needs to be set to hard light while the color overlay needs to be set to soft light. That way you get the separation needed to make it look like the mtns are above the terrain.

Scott Livingston
10-19-2009, 10:01 PM
Really good stuff here. I like all three versions in this thread, and each one has certain elements that work beautifully. It's interesting to see the same land realized three different ways by the same mapmaker. Every aspect of your latest effort looks great at full zoom, but I actually like the previous version better in the zoomed-out view. When viewed zoomed out, the new version's mountain ranges start to look a bit too random and disintegrated, and the cloud filter is a little too obvious, in my opinion. Impressive, though, how you have done it using a tutorial that was written for a completely different program.

The second version of the map has a great palette and awesome-looking oceans. I love the river channels, too. And even the earliest style has a lot to recommend it--I particularly like the forest texture (something I've recently worked a great deal on, myself). Overall, I think version #2 works best for a full-continent map*, and version #3 would make some outstanding regional/smaller-scale maps.

*At least so far...feel free to prove me wrong!

Steel General
10-20-2009, 06:50 AM
Looking pretty good so far.

10-20-2009, 09:15 AM
Thanks so much for all of the comments and suggestions, everyone. I didn't end up getting to work on this at all yesterday, so I'm looking at it with some fresher eyes. First and foremost, it's apparent from the comments that the desert color isn't blinding to everyone, so I'm going to have to adjust my monitor. It was literally hurting my eyes, it was so light and bright.

@CM and Ramah regarding the desert mountains: Agreed. I actually managed to sharpen up and darken the mountains a bit while I was endlessly trial-and-erroring the other day, but that didn't make it into the posted version. I'm pretty confident I can fix that issue though.

@Ascension: You're right, but the coloring in gimp doesn't work the same way, and I'm still feeling out the differences and the whys. Tonight I'm going to play more with the plugin RobA turned me onto, that does color overlays etc. in a closer way to PS, and see if that helps a bit.

@Scott: Thanks for the detailed comments! I actually agree with most of what you said regarding #2 and #3. There are parts I like of each of them that I'd really like to combine. Thanks for the compliments on the forests as well; I've actually been thinking of doing a tutorial on those (actually it would be on the forests from the middle earth map, since they take these ones and improve upon them a bit). Maybe I should throw that together while I'm dithering over how to render this map ;)

10-25-2009, 12:55 PM
Ok, after days of grabbing pieces of mountains and fitting them in place like a jigsaw puzzle, I think I'm happy with this. I had been trying to blend styles a little more into something that didn't look quite so obviously like it was copying Asc's atlas style, but my skill level doesn't seem to be there quite yet, lol. So I ended up essentially with the atlas style, but I kept the ocean hybrid from the previous version, and the cut-in rivers, and modified the color palette a bit.

On to placing borders, cities, etc., but C&C are always appreciated and I'm not getting rid of my layers, so I can make adjustments as needed.

10-25-2009, 12:57 PM
I like it.

Steel General
10-26-2009, 06:19 AM
This is coming along very nicely.

10-26-2009, 08:48 PM

Placed territorial borders, and started the process of city placement and labeling. I'm not happy with the city icons, but they'll do until I find better.

The area with borders is the "civilized" portion of the continent, a theocratic empire. The empire is comprised of seven districts, each nominally ruled by a noble family (for which the cities are named that are their seats), but the only real power lies with the church, whose seat is in Corcavron. All of the lands in the small eighth district surrounding Corcavron are under the direct rule of the church, without any veneer of secular rule.

The wilderness areas hold settlements as well, but they're much smaller than any of the cities in the empire, with the exception of Arenport, a piratical free city on the edge of the eastern desert. I'm not sure if I'm going to put these other settlements into the continental map or not yet. We'll see how crowded it starts to look after I get the terrain labeled.

Still a ton of naming and labeling work to do, but here's the current WIP:

10-27-2009, 03:18 AM
Arenport doesn't seem well located to have trade going by it. Pirates need trade ships to plunder, or they stop being pirates for lack of piracy.

Gregorus Prime
10-27-2009, 03:37 AM
Damn. This map has really come a long way. Looking good, man. I do agree that Arenport is in a bad place, piratically speaking. That huge bay halfway down the continent from it would be a great place for pirates to set up shop.

10-29-2009, 08:46 PM
Thanks for the comments guys :)

I oversimplified Arenport a bit ... in my head, it has the feel of a pirate city (i.e. Tortuga in the PotC movies), but the people there don't necessarily pirate trading vessels. They're more rebels, dissidents, and refugees who got far enough from the Empire that it doesn't come after them. The location is due at least in part to ruins from a previous civilization that lie in and around that desert; I'm thinking either they built upon them or found the city abandoned.

The building of this world is still quite obviously a work in progress ... all of my previous efforts pretty much focused on the empire.

10-29-2009, 09:30 PM
Gidde> I'd be thinking the following about Arenport.

#1 Old civilisation = many more adventure options. I'd make the city in tact, but ancient (think South American "cities in the walls" kind of thing).

#2 Society wiped out by:
a) Plague (caused by flood??)
b) Famine (caused by lack of flood....)
c) Miscellaneous unknown apocalypse (caused by the undead spectre of Issac Newton for example)

#3 Empire doesn't go looking because "nobody lives there... our ancient records tell us the area is dead and nobody lives there"

10-29-2009, 09:45 PM
Thanks Juggernaut; I pretty much have been thinking along those sorts of lines myself. The people of the empire are pretty new to the world, having fled an ancient menace through magical means (sort of Riftwar-esque), and this civilization was long gone before they arrived. I'm thinking they were very powerful though, and would have built things that stood the test of time. So yeah, I'm leaning toward the intact (at least mostly) city as well.

10-29-2009, 10:53 PM
Gidde I think you've taken the style in some new and interesting directions. Agreed that those city markers need a different approach. They look like they should be on the side of a VW van. :)

10-29-2009, 11:30 PM
Thanks Immolate :) And yeah, the city markers are horrid.

Put in some terrain labels ... not sure the mountain labels are as readable as I'd like, but I'm having a rough time putting labels over such craggy mountains and having them be readable without completely obfuscating the mountains.

That said, at least I like the font/size of those labels ... which makes the city labels completely wrong. I think I'm going to redo all the cities in the style of Arenport, just a little smaller.

10-30-2009, 12:36 AM
Mtn and desert labels look good.

10-30-2009, 02:05 AM
Looks good to me. Although if you any doubts about labels obscuring features, the easy answer to that is to have two final copies of your map: one labeled, one not labeled. Just be sure to keep all the labeling on separate layers from the map and it is just a matter of turning off the label layers. So you have all the labels you need, but if you want to see every detail, look at the label-free map.

Steel General
10-30-2009, 08:16 AM
I found the mountain labels a little hard to make out, but not overly so. Otherwise the size, font, etc. looks good.

10-31-2009, 12:54 PM
Thanks for the feedback on those mountain labels, guys. I made them a little more visible in this version, plus I redid the city icons and labels and put some more terrain/region labels in.

Scott Livingston
10-31-2009, 01:30 PM
Very nice to look at. I like the embossed labels, the fonts, and the city icons. Not sure how I feel about the differently colored districts. How relevant are they, particularly if it is the church that holds the real power? If you feel that it is important to show the districts, maybe the colors should be subtler, or there should be fewer of them.

10-31-2009, 01:47 PM
Those city icons look great.

11-01-2009, 10:16 AM
Thanks, Scott & Gandwarf :)

@Scott: The districts are still relevant, as the church hierarchy is set up to rule them as districts, but I think you were right on making them a little fainter, so I did in this version.

I think this is just about finished. Added sea labels, more cities, compass rose, scalebar and border.

11-04-2009, 06:09 PM
I really like this :) I'm trying to get a similar look for my first world so would be interested to know how you made the texture of the grass/trees/deserts look like they look and how loosely (or not so) you followed Ascensions style?

I've read this thread the whole way through :) Good work :)

11-04-2009, 06:46 PM
Thanks, basil :)

I used the gimp translation I made of Ascension's atlas style tutorial (since his is in Photoshop). Then I tinkered a bit here and there .... for instance, I added a layer of dark brown over the desert where the mountains were so that they popped a little better. If you follow the gimp version of the tutorial, though, you should come pretty close.

11-04-2009, 06:51 PM
Hi Gidde,

I use PS so I guess I need to stick to the original :P

I can get something close to the effect on the land thanks to Ascension's tutorial, but how do you do your trees?

Thanks for the tip about the mountains :)

11-04-2009, 07:57 PM
Well, the PS version looks a bit different, so be aware ... especially the mountains don't match up well. So if you want that look, you may want to download the gimp (it's free). The end result didn't have any trees, so I'm thinking you mean the early version's trees. If so, there's a tutorial link in my sig (again, you'd have to download gimp).

11-04-2009, 08:35 PM
Oh :) I thought the heavy dotty bits on your final version looked quite like trees compared to the more blurred bits of ground which didn't!

Thanks for your feedback, hopefully I can come up with something :D

11-04-2009, 08:49 PM
Ah! Those are meant to be hills hehe ... they're covered in either version of Ascension's tut.

11-04-2009, 08:52 PM
Ahh ok :) Thanks!

*waits patiently for his 200m/pixel file to save*