View Full Version : Yet Another Middle Earth

09-08-2009, 11:12 PM
It's been done, I know ... but Mom begged, so I'm working on a version of Middle Earth that she can hang on her wall. And, since it is going on the wall, I'm posting it as a WIP so that I can make it the best it can be.

Please don't hold back with criticism on this one; I'd rather get it right than feel warm and fuzzy. :)

This version is ... extremely preliminary. The land needs texture still, but (I think) the sea fill is done, the rivers are in, and the mountains are roughed out. I'm not liking the mountains as they are, but for some reason (I need to start taking notes or something) I can't duplicate the mountain look from my other WIP after trying all day. It's really frustrating.

So, any suggestions on the mountains would be really appreciated, and if the rivers/sea look off let me know.

09-09-2009, 02:45 AM
hmm. I'm not sure I can tell you how to do it right, I'm having some trouble mountains myself (though yesterday i think i had a breakthrough) but one or two things:

the snow areas come over as flat. like plateaus with snow and ice rather than very tall peaks.

what I found yesterday was that when I tried to draw the mountains with just one ridge they didn't really 'fill out' the area thats supposed to be mountains (I'm doing a world sized map too). then almost by accident I drew several ridges overlapping and merging which in my opnion gave a very realistic look. try zooming in on the Alps or Rocky Mountains in google earth and it might give you an idea. even though mountains are depicted as one big ridge there's often more to them than that.

I'll post my WIP in a few days and you can see what I mean and return your opinion :)

Oh and don't forget the parallel ridge in the upper left 'square' of the Mordor area. It's called the Morgai.


Gregorus Prime
09-09-2009, 03:17 AM
You know, the only thing that I can think whenever I look at any map of Middle Earth is that given the way Mordor looks there's no way anyone could think Tolkien was a geologist instead of a linguist. :P

Here's the most recent mountain tutorial I could find.


The only advice I can give you is to keep scouring that section of the forums until you find what you need. Now if you want some help making water ripples for your ocean, I can give you a few pointers there.

09-09-2009, 03:33 AM
It looks pretty good to me so far. The only thing I can see that might be off is that star-shaped sea (is that the Sea of Rhun? Been so long since I've read LotR...) seems too far to the west to me. I may just be imagining things though.

09-09-2009, 08:01 AM
@LA: Good point! I was intending to do that (multiple ridges) and then forgot my intention, thank you for reminding me!

@Gregorus: I know. Although, to be fair, Sauron (or was Morgoth still around when Mordor was created? Been a while since the Silmarillion) probably just made those mountains. It helps when you have a divine being in the flesh living in the improbable zone.

@Diamond: Good memory, it is indeed the sea of Rhun. Placement is one thing I know I have right, since I traced a scan ;) It's just really out there.

Thanks for the comments guys! Most of my problem I think is the fact that I need this thing bigger than my pc can handle. So today I'm breaking it into tiles and I *will* fix those silly mountains.

09-10-2009, 08:06 PM
to me the mountains look like brown ridges with white plateaus on parts. some [more?] shading would be in order i think to make it look better.

@Gregorus: I know. Although, to be fair, Sauron (or was Morgoth still around when Mordor was created? Been a while since the Silmarillion) probably just made those mountains. It helps when you have a divine being in the flesh living in the improbable zone.

no, mordor served as a refuge for sauron after morgoth was obliterated and angband was resting at the bottom of a brand new sea, and the world of arda is based on an alternate geographical history of earth essentially; in the world maps you can sort of make out the different continents of today.

History of Mordor 101

Dring the first and second age of arda (before beleriand and numenore sunk) the region of mordor was mostly covered by the sea of Helcar, though I cant recall any explanation for its drainage (perhaps to fill the sudden hole created by a sunken beleriand). The mountains surrounding mordor were the former coast of helcar, and the black, lifeless land are mainly due to a very rocky bottom I should guess.

on a side note, the sea of rhun seems to be a remnant of helcar

this map might help you understand former geology of middle earth:


09-12-2009, 09:53 AM
@ Rythal: Thanks! Good info, I'll check those out :)

Ok .... so, I think I've done a better job of the base land, and I love my new mountains, but I'm stuck and need some input if anyone is kind enough.

My basic issue is that the mountains are now too realistic for the base lol ... and I'd like to get them more brown, but I've played with saturation and hard light vs. overlay, and neither are helping, so I think they're probably what they'll be.

Should I tweak the mountains to match the base, or should I tweak the base to match the mountains?

Two pics here, one zoomed out at half res to show the base, and one at full res of the Ered Luin range in the northeast corner.

09-12-2009, 10:42 AM
Apparently all I needed to gain inspiration was to ask for help. I think I got it -- this is the final (I think) full-res mountain range.

09-12-2009, 10:56 AM
Yeah, I think you nailed it. Looks very promising!

09-13-2009, 07:31 PM

Put in another mountain range and started on hills, wanted to check in and post progress before I went too much further with the hills, in case anyone had comments on them.

//Edit: And added the forest surrounding the south end of the Blue Mountains.

09-21-2009, 11:58 PM
Time for another update. I couldn't resist tweaking the mountains ... I think they're final now, and the forests are all done (maybe). I'm torn between dotting the countryside with random bits of forest for more realism, and keeping it to ONLY what forests are on the many maps I'm working from (as it is now). I may hit a compromise and add in forests that are mentioned in the books but not on the maps.

Next up: roads, towns, towers, etc. ... and swamps. No idea how I'm going to handle the swamps :(

This is at ~60% resolution (the highest I could post), after the shrinkage necessitated by my so-far-disappointing vista experience.

09-22-2009, 02:00 AM
You know, the only thing that I can think whenever I look at any map of Middle Earth is that given the way Mordor looks there's no way anyone could think Tolkien was a geologist instead of a linguist. :P

To be fair, at the time continental drift was considered a lunatic fringe idea. Long, thin land bridges leading from India to South America, or lost continents sunken into the ocean? Sure. Continents moving from place to place like giant stone rafts? Whatever...(ya lunatic)...

LOTR was finished by about 1946, the first serious support for the theory of continental drift wasn't until ten years later. Had he been a geologist of the time, he might have created something really off-the-wall.

Gregorus Prime
09-22-2009, 04:12 AM
It was mostly considered a lunatic fringe idea because it was first theorized by a meteorologist.

For the map: I'd recommend putting some more noise on those forests, since they look kinda plastic right now. Mountains are kinda fuzzy, too. I've found that making a simplified height-defining bump map on top of the texture bump map on the mountains really gives them great definition. The rivers look great, though.

Steel General
09-22-2009, 06:10 AM
It's definitely coming along nicely.

I agree with Gregorus Prime though, the forests do still look a bit 'plastic'. Also you may want to consider a bit more color in the mountains.

09-23-2009, 10:27 PM
Thanks for the kind words and suggestions :)

I added some saturation to the mountains and (hopefully) de-plasticked the forests. I cropped the merry hell out of this one to get closer to actual resolution, but it's still a little lower-res than the actual.

I'm not doing anything about the fuzziness of the mountains yet, because I still need to detail the base land texture, and I don't want to mess with the land-mountain interface until I have the land all set.

Does this look better, guys?

09-23-2009, 10:39 PM
I like it. Now, the last thing to add to your forests is color variation with brown and green clouds and mess with the blend mode of the color adjust layer if you want.

09-23-2009, 10:55 PM

Had to translate that to the gimp, so I'm not sure if this is exactly what you had in mind. Like this?

09-24-2009, 12:55 AM
Not too shabby. I might add some more brown spots but I didn't realize you were in gimp. But like I said, not too shabby.

Steel General
09-24-2009, 06:42 AM
More good progress :)

09-25-2009, 12:30 AM
I tried upping the saturation on the color adjustment layer for the forests, hopefully they have closer to the right amount of brown now.

Then I realized that the same thing was wrong with the base land, so I did the same thing to a lesser extent to the entire landform, and got the base colors down for barrens and swamps. Mordor still needs a lot of work, but thankfully I now have a really cool before and after volcano map to look at for inspiration ;)

Edit: I'm adding a full-res piece (Mirkwood and the Lonely Mountain), because most of the color work I just did went bye-bye when I shrank the map to fit under the size limit.

Steel General
09-25-2009, 06:14 AM
The forests are definitely look better to me.

I think my issue with the mountains now is that the highlights are very bright. You might consider lowering the opacity or maybe using a different color... food for thought :)

09-26-2009, 10:16 PM
I'm starting to see a pinprick of light at the end of the tunnel on this one. Did most of the labels (Mordor labels have to wait for later for final polish), and lowered the opacity of the hard light bump layer a bit on the mountains. Does that look better? I'm trying really hard to resist the urge to redo the mountains yet again. >.<

Anyway, still to do:

-- Blacken the Plateau of Gorgoroth and add lava
-- Swamp textures
-- Roads and the path of the fellowship
-- Border/Compass/Cartouche

I'll probably also touch up the sea layer a bit, the surf doesn't look right to me.

09-26-2009, 10:59 PM
The labels really make that pop.

09-27-2009, 12:08 PM
Thanks :)

Blackened Mordor, and since that was so much fun I decided to do some hand shading of all of the mountains. Added the roads as well, and the compass.

Still to do: Lava, Swamps, Border, Cartouche, and symbols for towns/ruins/etc.

09-27-2009, 02:22 PM
You also added shadows in your forests and they really look the better for it too. I really like your trees now. The mountains pop out more too which is cool.

As Ascension said, the labels really make this map come alive. I've been watching your WIP on this and wondering where you were going to go with it and I can finally see something of your vision I think. It's looking really good.

The only thing I'm still not sure about personally is the palette. I'm not sure I like that green you have for the land. That's just me though.

Looking good. :)

09-27-2009, 02:49 PM
Thanks! I forgot to mention the forest shadows :)

The palette was chosen to complement Mom's wall paint, so not much can be done about it ... but I may do a color adjust of the whole thing and save a second version for viewing on a screen.

09-27-2009, 05:50 PM
Well, I believe this is actually finished.

I decided to forgo the lava (because I just can't get it to look right) and the border (since it will be matted and framed anyhow).

Any last suggestions before I move it over to the finished area?

Edit: It looked silly with the blank space where the dedication is, so I decided to upload the version with the dedication on it. It's silly and mushy, but it's also in elvish, so no harm done ;)

Edit 2: Closing out the WIP thread and posting in the Finished Maps forum.

09-27-2009, 11:08 PM
how did you burn the rivers into the ground? I know in photoshop to use a bevel but I haven't figured out how to do it in GIMP. Nice to see another GIMP mapper keep pushing what can be expected from the program (for mapping) instead of switching to Photoshop and using Ascension's or Pasis's tutorial.

09-28-2009, 08:09 AM

I made a channel of the landmass with the rivers cut out (so that they're black on the white land) and then put a bump-mapped overlay on the land layer using that channel. GIMP's bump mapping is the biggest reason I use it over photoshop. For some reason it's much easier for me to use than the lighting effects in PS.

09-29-2009, 03:32 PM
*face palm*

omg so simple, can't cut the rivers down? raise the land around them...