View Full Version : My first WIP

Gregorus Prime
09-04-2009, 05:04 PM
Hello, everyone. Be gentle, it's my first time.

Attached is a basic WIP of the yet-unnamed islands in my campaign world that the elves fled to when the human empire was first establishing its dominion on the main continent. They now live a simple subsistence lifestyle in harmony with nature, wearing little more than warpaint and grass skirts, praying to wooden idols of their gods, and generally eschewing both technology and magic, blah blah blah. You don't care about all that. You're here for the map.

Here it is, so far. I made it using RobA's GIMP tutorial for regional maps. I can salvage the basic land shape from the .xcf if I need to restart from scratch. I plan to make regional maps for each major area of the world and then stitch them together into a world map, and make political maps in addition to the topographic ones using the base land shapes. The jungle bump maps need to be cleaned up a bit and I just feel it's lacking something. Probably a lot of somethings. Thoughts? Comments?

09-04-2009, 06:03 PM
Actually, we care about the story as well :)
A good map conveys a story I think...

Anyway, nice map so far. Nice colors and the land is well done. Not too sure about the mountains... they look a lot like brown blobs at the moment. I suck at this style though, so I can't really help you improve them. I think you made it difficult for yourself by creating islands with just a small mountain on them :)

The smaller islands are all round. You might want to experiment with different shapes. I think it will make the map look more realistic.

Don't let anything in my comment discourage you, you really are on the right track.

Gregorus Prime
09-04-2009, 06:14 PM
There's only so much I can do to the little islands before they lose so much detail that they might as well not be there.

I haven't even tried my hand at any of the other tutorials yet. GIMP isn't quite as hard to learn as I thought it would be, seeing as how I've used Photoshop before, but there's still a steep learning curve here. The fact that the only artwork I've done in the past is simple sketches and some basic figure drawing doesn't help much. These are supposed to be tropical, and the tutorial in question was focused on a temperate region that was mostly land, so I should probably do some more practice maps before I start getting into this.

09-04-2009, 06:37 PM
Tropical shouldn't be too hard, actually. Use a more vibrant green and a stronger contrast for the dark bits, thicker looking texture (though that doesn't seem relevant to this style), place more of it than you would for a temperate region, and you should be good.

I'm not familiar with the style/tutorial you're using so I can't offer much in the way of advice for the mountains (plus never worked with gimp). If there's a way to overlay the jungle over the base of the mountains so they climb up a bit in irregular patterns, that could help some.

As to the smaller islands, i notice you're at 1200x1200 for the image size - if you're comfortable working at, say, 2000x2000 you can stretch things out a bit to allow for more detail on the smaller islands (assuming your machine can deal with it).

Nice work overall so far though, keep working at it!

09-04-2009, 06:43 PM
It will take time to get comfortable with the software... practice enough though and you will be able to create some amazing stuff.

I wimped out and purchased Campaign Cartographer 3 :D

Gregorus Prime
09-04-2009, 07:19 PM
There's no trouble with my machine being able to handle a large image.

I actually went the GIMP route after, er... "demoing" CC3. The redraw rate on that program when you have just a few simple style sheet effects active is ridiculously slow. And really, the only thing that appealed to me about CC3 was all the fractal line/poly options, which makes it easy to make realistic-looking land. But the "not-so-random coastlines" method demoed elsewhere here eliminates my need for that, and the program can make much prettier maps at the expense of not being easily scaled. But I have Inkscape for that, don't I?

09-04-2009, 07:24 PM
I like it. Your mountains are pretty good when compared to some others that I've seen. The only thing I would change are the island shapes, as mentioned. I'd make them more like cigars, long and thin but also sort of twisty...in your case here, don't make them thinner just longer and maybe bendy. Maybe combine two into one. The resulting shapes will sort of create a rhythm and movement to the whole that causes the eye to flow from one shape to the next (which you already have due to the "string of pearls" effect). Make them smaller and smaller as you get further away from a big island. Think of your big islands as mountain tops and the smaller islands as footie hills.

Since you're just learning, though, I think you've done a great job so far so keep up the good work. I think you're just touching the tip of the iceberg of what you're capable of doing because you have a very solid start and that usually means good things to come. :)

Gregorus Prime
09-04-2009, 07:32 PM
Please. When I follow that awesome tutorial that RobA posted this map practically draws itself. I'm just working from some sketches and I think that if I get this stuff done correctly it will really wow my D&D group and maybe even convince them to let me run the campaign.

Thanks for the support and suggestions. I think I like it here. :D

Steel General
09-04-2009, 09:14 PM
It's really a pretty darn nice map for what is pretty much a 'first-go'.

Keep at it, you'll get the hang of it in no time, I was absolutely terrible when I first started. Now I'm just slightly horrible. :D

Gregorus Prime
09-05-2009, 12:51 AM
Here's a redux hot off the presses, sans vegetation. I can't get the mountains to get quite craggy enough. I'm using a Gaussian blur and spread to set up the bump map, but I'm thinking I should touch them up with a fading brush before I do that again.

And of course I'm not sure how I'm going to get one or two of them to look like volcanoes. A bit more black in the center when making the bump map, then a lava layer mask and some spread lava-colored gradients?

Gregorus Prime
09-05-2009, 04:26 PM
Yet another update. I'm almost done with the terrain and I'd like some criticism on how it looks so far.

I'd still like to know if anyone has a good technique for making a volcano out of a mountain. I'd like to put one on the lower right island. I'm sure I'll need to make some adjustments to the bump map template and generate new maps on top of it, but as far as the lava goes I'm kind of at a loss. Should I make a pattern and apply it or stick with a radial gradient? Then there's the matter of smoke/ash after that. Anyone have some advice?

09-05-2009, 05:03 PM
Funny you should ask that, Ascension jsut posted a mini tutorial on just that topic :)


Gregorus Prime
09-05-2009, 05:14 PM
What luck! This will keep me occupied for quite a bit. Then I need to put in some small rivers and after that, the easy part: labels, villages, and temples.

And of course figuring out the scale of the damn thing.

09-05-2009, 07:32 PM
It's an old tut for Photoshop and I need to redo it. You can get some ideas from it but the methods will produce something messed up probably. :)

09-05-2009, 07:39 PM
This is indeed looking a lot better. A volcano should be a great addition.

Gregorus Prime
09-05-2009, 10:49 PM
They did produce unsatisfactory results, so I continued using the methods in RobA's tutorial to make a nice little lava crater after redoing the bump map for the mountain in question. Dodge and burn are great tools for doing just that, by the way. After that, some clipping, noise, gradient mapping, and two more layers of random noise, and I got lava I could live with.

Anyway, here's the result. I'm probably going to have to play around with threshholds, noise layers, etc. to get something I can use as the basis of a global bump map to use with the light and shadow filters to give it a shiny satellite photo look. (The Saerdastian Empire's mages have special clairvoyance spells or something. Shut up. :|)

After this, it's all symbols and text. Anyone know some good freeware clipart sets that would have some good Roman-looking compass roses in them?

09-06-2009, 01:02 AM
Oddly enough there's a few sets of brushes on here :P Somewhere in the Mapping elements section, I know I've downloaded 2 brush packs but they're on the other machine so i don't recall details.. and a quick scan through the mapping elements section eludes me.

But i DID find a great font that's full of compass roses.

Gregorus Prime
09-06-2009, 02:44 AM

Check this out. I used the light effects filter on the land and generated my own water ripple effect through lots of noise, blurring, distortion, and good ol' down-home voodoo magic powers.

I am very happy with this as it is now. The two new layers add quite a bit to the map, I think. And I've got some new techniques to keep in mind when I move on to the other regions of the world. Those are a whole new set of problems, what with the icy areas and deserts and normal forests and such. Tell me what you guys think.

EDIT: Oh, and thank you to Coyotemax for the compass rose fonts. I'm sure they'll come in handy.

EDIT: Replaced posted version with adjusted one that includes shallow waters.

09-06-2009, 03:20 AM
The water has improved greatly. Could you redo the effect if you wanted? Sounds like you stumbled upon something :)

09-06-2009, 03:50 AM
Love your map! Very nice!

Did you consider bleeding some lighter color into the water area immediately adjacent to islands (letting it diffuse out to nothing as it moves away from the islands) to suggest shallows? (If you do, be sure to add some distortion to the shallows, like the Filter/Distort/Ocean Ripples, to give it some movement and texture.)

Gregorus Prime
09-06-2009, 03:55 AM
Let me see if I can remember:

First I made some water ripples using this tutorial I found. I should probably take some screenshots in case the Wayback Machine ever fails to find it:


I put a layer of noise above it, overlay blend, then merged down. I then made the layer seamless and tiled it on itself two times in a row. There's probably a way to do that in one step. After that I put some more noise on it and after that it becomes a little fuzzy. I do know I put together a gradient on overlay blend and merged it down to get the illusion that there was light coming from the upper right from some sort of sun-like object (possibly the sun). There were was a bit of screwing around with levels and curves, maybe more blurry overlays in different blending modes, I don't remember exactly what I did. I may have used the Light Effects filter, but I think I was sick of screwing around with that thing so I probably didn't. Anyway, blending mode of the final product is Soft Light, laid atop the other layers explained in RobA's tutorial.

I'm sure I could figure out exactly what I did, given enough time, but right now I'm working on labels, which should be pretty swift as there are no roads on the islands, just a few scattered villages and temples, and after that just text labels for the islands, landmarks, and seas. There will be much abuse of Tolkien's elven language and of course multiple translations into Common above that, written by the poor Imperial cartographer who's been assigned to file a report on these islands for the hundredth time in as many years.


Actually, the seashore effect is already there. It's subtle, but I suppose I could add yet another layer (poor GIMP!) to get some more shallows in there, to suggest that ship-destroying coral reefs might have as much to do with the islands' unconquered state as the elven magic that the superstitious military men on board the boats blame for their millennium-long tradition of failure.

EDIT: Replaced old final geographic version with one that includes shallows. Take a look and tell me what you think.

Gregorus Prime
09-06-2009, 08:43 PM
Another status update. I wanted to get some opinions on my labels. The elven text would be the locals' names for things, with the handwritten script above being translations by the Imperial cartographer. I'm still making up names for the other landmarks on there, as I hope the elves would be more imaginative than to name everything "Tower of the Sun" or "Village where we caught this really big fish this one time, dude it was huge."

09-06-2009, 08:53 PM
I tend to have a real problem reading labels in red. The fonts look nice though, and the elven gold is perfect.

Gregorus Prime
09-06-2009, 08:57 PM
Red is a better contrast against blue than white is. That's the only reason I chose it, really.

Speaking of contrast, now that I look at it I don't think brown works too well for the towns. I'll have to change that.

Gregorus Prime
09-07-2009, 12:26 AM
Here it is, what I hope is the finished product.

I'll leave this up here for a day or so to solicit further comments, and if it meets everyone's approval I'll put it up in the Finished Maps section after that.

09-07-2009, 12:31 AM
I can't read the red labels but since you want it that way then c'est la vie. Otherwise, it looks good to me.

Gregorus Prime
09-07-2009, 01:03 AM
Legibility is definitely a concern there. It's hard to find a calligraphic font that has a good balance of "looks cool" and "I can read it."

Here's another alternate version. Better? Or worse?

EDIT: After several iterations and different tweaks, I have what I think I can call my final product. See the attached image.

Steel General
09-07-2009, 07:47 AM
I like the new font better than the red script (which I could barely read).

09-07-2009, 07:52 AM
Hey great map, I do have one gripe though. It's probably just me but I'm finding the compass and large white script in the top left to be very eyecatching, they seem to steal a little focus away from the rest of the map. I think its because they're quite bright by comparison, maybe making them a little less bright might work. But again, its probably just me.

Keep up the good work.


09-07-2009, 08:22 AM
The new font is much easier on my eyes too :) I like!

Gregorus Prime
09-07-2009, 02:19 PM
The map is finished, thread is here:


Thanks to everyone for your support and suggestions.