View Full Version : Heghruil - RPG map in the making.

09-24-2009, 09:31 PM
Okay, I said I would begin a WIP for this map and after an hour's worth of work and a couple of restarts this is what I have come up with.

I used some of the techniques I learned from RobA about overlay's and noise. I also utilized his trick of saving a selection to a channel. That came in handy on multiple occasions. I am still a bit weak on using layer masks. I need some more information on why they are used and what they are good for.

I kinda fumbled through the making of the shoreline and I am still not 100& sure I like it but it seems to work for the map for now. I did play around with some emboss filters to get the water the way it is and I actually like the way that came out.

Ascension, your advice to just "wing it" inspired all of this work to continue. Thanks a bunch for the quick kick to the rump.


Also, I got some heavy pixelation on the edges of the land mass towards the end. Not sure where that came from and have no idea how to get rid of it. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

09-24-2009, 10:28 PM
I like the texture you've got going, and those are great colors.

A very small (2px or so) gaussian blur should take care of your pixelation and the tiny lines that look like artifacts of your bump map.

Good start!

09-24-2009, 11:54 PM
I tried your suggestion of using a guassian filter. I ranged it from 2-8 and while it does get rid of the pixelation, I lose a lot of crispness from the overall image. Is there some way to just grab the edges of the land mass and apply the filter then?

If not, then I guess I am gonna have to start from the beginning again or deal with it being pixelated/blurry. At this point, I think having a slightly blurry picture at 300% zoom is gonna be worth it.

09-24-2009, 11:56 PM
That's a nice coastline so keep on keepin on.

09-25-2009, 12:00 AM
So do you think the coast line is too pixelated or should I just run with it and not let it bother me (as it is only prevalent when zoomed in)?

09-25-2009, 12:03 AM
I say keep going and when you get completely done...redo it then (if you want) because you will have learned much along the way. Approach every map as an experiment and you will soon want to be making a new map to try out new ideas...like every other week :) S'what I do.

09-25-2009, 12:04 AM
I'm seeing a few coastlines that look a little more straight than one might expect, and a few 90 degree angles in there, I had a map come out similar to that recently, I just grabbed a 3-4 pixel tip and switched between eraser and pencil to make then a tad more natural.

Otherwise, this looks fine to me. Keep on trucking!

Steel General
09-25-2009, 06:17 AM
I'm with Ascension and Coyotemax, the overall landmass shape is neat, it just needs a few tweaks.

09-25-2009, 01:41 PM
Ok, so I decided to take my work to Photoshop CS4. I am way more familiar with the software and I wanted to see what I could do with it. I found Pasis's tut and textures and started playing around with them.

This is a very preliminary work up. I am not too excited about the ground textures but I like the forest texture alot. I am still playing with the mountain textures and trying to get them right so the ranges look more organic and flowing. I liked the way he makes rivers I just need to find a more suitable texture to go along with it.

I would like the river police to double check my flows and make sure I followed the rules that I found on the forums. Plus if anyone has any good websites for textures, I would be appreciative.


Updated pic with water added and some semblance of a coast line. Tried to lay down some sort of snow on the northern part of the realm but couldn't really figure out how to do it. I'll scan over some more tut's later.

09-25-2009, 05:34 PM
There's a pretty good selection of links and textures in this thread (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?t=724) right on the site.

Looking pretty good though! The forest edges seem to end very suddenly, perhaps you might want to have some of them edge off a bit more sporadically? I find the spatter brushes work well for that, myself, gives it a bit more of a natural feel, especially on the slopes up the mountains.

Nice so far!

Oh, and one of the things I do for snow over the mountain peaks is to add another bevel layer in the style of the mountain peaks, and use straight white. For putting it over the terrain itself, you can just use a texture, and either overlay or use as is. Lots of different ways to get that happening :)

(and i just LOVE the forest texture!)

09-26-2009, 06:00 PM
Ok, fiddled with some colors and hues to make the land a little more to my liking. Try some different textures for the water and so other techniques trying to get it a bit more fluid. Added some effects to the rivers to make them a bit more true.

I also began fooling around with the coast line. That's still a work in progress. Next will be the mountain over haul. Hopefully I can get them to come out the way I want them to. I will be reading alot of tut's in an attempt to bring them to life. Coyote, I am not sure what you meant to convey about the forest. Can you be a bit more descriptive and maybe provide some examples?

09-26-2009, 08:13 PM
Looking good! I love that ocean texture, it looks like breaking waves.

Here's a good example of that spatter-effect ... http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?t=7238

09-26-2009, 10:08 PM
I have been thinking about putting a delta on one or both of the rivers that empty into the southern ocean. Any tips? Is this against the River Rules? Can a landmass possess two deltas if it is from two separate river systems?

I was also considering the lake in the original map. It is situated on top of one of the mountain ranges. I was thinking it was akin to a really big natural spring that broke loose and has a single river outflow. Is this possible or does it break the rules for springs or rivers?

Link to the original map:


The lake is near the middle of the map on the eastern side.

09-26-2009, 10:18 PM
Pictures are worth a thousand words and all that :)

One of the best examples I've seen recently are in Ascension's map for the september challenge, here (http://www.cartographersguild.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=16671&d=1252381068)

The forests aren't continual blobs, they break up as they go, especially towards the edges.

If you like your forests the way they are, then by all means go with it!

09-26-2009, 10:30 PM
I don't see any reason both of those rivers couldn't have delta systems.

As for the mountain lake, as long as you have an outflow you should be fine. Lake Tahoe is a great example of exactly that sort of formation.

09-27-2009, 09:14 PM
Deltas are formed when sediment is pulled down the river and dropped at the river's mouth. Eventually this accumulates into a delta. If you have a river that floods often, then the delta will probably develop faster, as each flood will pull new silt into the river.

So having any delta depends on the terrain the river flows through, but nothing says two rivers can't each have a delta!

-Rob A>

10-01-2009, 11:26 PM
I allowed the artist that is helping me work on my RPG take a look at my map. He gave me a rather in depth critique that gave me cause for concern. You see, the pages of my RPG are written on parchment paper. He said a realistic map would look out of place in my book. So, he suggested that the map follow the "old" style I was presenting in my book should be mirrored when presenting my map.

I told him about the Guild and after we looked around, the sepia/old style map is what he suggested I should go with. So I am switching gears on this project, and I am presenting what I have so far.

I will be keeping the old map because I think I still have much to learn with the style and I still haven't conquered the mountains or the technique Coyote suggested about having the forest gradually fade as they end. Both techniques I am interested in exploring.

10-02-2009, 03:10 PM
Okay, here is the updated map. I've added mountains that I pretty excited about and the forest which I am still not completely sure of. I also placed the rivers but they seem to blend to well with the rest of the map and it makes it hard to make them out. Any tips would be appreciated.

I am fooling around with the sea. Not sure if I want to keep the texture I laid down. In a way it looks nice, but I think it might take to much from the "old" feel I was going for. I tried to subdue it some but I am not sure it was enough for the style.

You can also see I started to play around with a compass and banner. These are works in progress but I am pretty proud of myself with the banner. The compass, on the other hand, I feel may be to simple. I might attempt to spruce it up later.

Thoughts? Suggestions?

10-02-2009, 03:54 PM
Some suggestions and observations I have are:

Your mountains are side view but your trees are top-down. I guess it doesn't really matter all that much but you might want to try making a tree brush that includes a trunk. If you DO keep the round trees as they are then maybe repostion them so they are mostly tighter together and then just draw some simple lines coming down from the front ones.
Also, you mention the sea texture "taking away" from the old feel but you must also be wary of things like the drop shadow on the compass which really shows it to be digital. You might not mind about this and that's fine, just pointing it out if you want it to look as authentic as possible.

Anyway, it's coming along nicely. I really like the shape of the landmass. :)

10-02-2009, 04:07 PM
The only thing that I will mention is that I'd take the black mountains and trees and make them dark brown instead.

10-02-2009, 05:23 PM
Okay, I did change the colors of the mountains and trees and I have to say that was good advice. I see now how the contrast in color was choking the map and now it looks more fluid.

I took my tree brush, reduced it size, and spot-filled the holes. Then I added by hand the trunks of the trees. Zoomed out the trunks are not that noticeable, but up close it really added some depth to the forests.

I am really pleased at the way this is coming out and appreciate all the tips.

10-02-2009, 05:26 PM
Avoid "proper black". Ink isn't "black black" it's just really super dark grey, like a 90% black. The "other" 10% is probably best in the purple range. If you're curious why...just get a cheap felt-tip pen, draw a big splotch on a strip of paper at one end and lay the end into water (keeping the other end out of water). Come back in 2h and you should have some nice colour separation of the tints in the "black" ink.

In older maps the seas often turned into "doodle spaces", notations or other things. I remember seeing a map from Columbus' voyage to the Americas that had drawings of the three ships named in the "spare sea".

10-02-2009, 05:56 PM
Looking good. I was going to mention the tree trunks but it sounds like you've addressed that.

I'd avoid the overall drop shadow beneath your land. If anything I'd go for a straightforward outer glow instead. At the moment it looks a little like your land is a plinth rising straight out of the sea.

Otherwise this is coming along nicely. I like the colour scheme you've got going on. Definitely looking forward to seeing how this progresses.

10-03-2009, 01:03 AM
Ok, I dropped the shadow and played around with the outer glow and I like what I see so far. Now I need some advice on the rivers. They just look like lines with no character. I want to be able to see the difference between rivers and roads.

I had considered using a different color for roads but wasn't really sure that would be a good idea. Any tips from you guys?

I put up the work I've done to the map up until now. You can see the improved forest in the northwest corner. You can also see what the coastline looks like now without the drop shadow and some toying around with outer glow.

10-03-2009, 03:38 AM
Yeah, that forest looks a lot better.

As for the rivers, they look ok as they are but you could try thickening the lines up somewhat as they get closer to the sea. Maybe that will provide the variation you feel they lack.

As for roads, a different colour could work, yeah, or maybe try making them a dashed line instead of solid.

10-03-2009, 07:39 AM
That forest is looking much more convincing, nice move :)

Definitely thicken the rivers a tad towards the coast. Just increase your brush size incrementally as you go closer to the shore (or decrease if drawing from shore to the end) if you don't have a tablet, or play with the fade option (noticing you use photoshop) Perhaps use the same colour as the edge of the coast for the river colour? That will help blend them in at the coastline too.

And dotsor dashes for the roads seems to work well on quite a few maps out there, might be worth a try here too.

10-03-2009, 01:19 PM
You could add character to your rivers by making them more squiggly and adding thick and thin spots along the way...like in the bends.

10-03-2009, 09:34 PM
Here I finished the forests and started the laborious task of cleaning up the clipping with the mountains. I've also began to address the river issue. I have been playing with different things in that respect.

You will also notice I have also began labeling the cities and land features. The font is not set in stone but I was thinking about just keeping it simple to avoid hard to decipher fonts.

Ok, I am uploading the next stage in the map. I have finished the mountain clean up and added most of the terrain tags. I am undecided on whether to label the mountain ranges and still haven't come to a decision on the font style.

I am also considering making some hills and brushing them in to give the map some more depth. If I like the outcome that will be the next post.

10-05-2009, 02:35 PM
Ok, changed the font. There is something hookey going on with that. Some words looked bold while others are normal. Not sure where the hiccup is there. I put in the hills and I am happy with them. As for the rivers, I have tried several things but nothing seems to strike home for me. So I am leaving them as they are and considering other avenues (no pun intended) for the roads.

So let me know if the font is too hard to read or if the coloring is not enough of a contrast from the terrain.

10-05-2009, 03:11 PM
The new font looks ok to me apart from where it changes like you pointed out.

Did you change the image you posted two posts up when you edited it? I ask because, I liked your trees when you had done them all but now they seem too thick. I'm sure you changed them. If so, I preferred the first ones.

A few changes I'd make would be: The new hills. There is little to no variation in them but I just can hardly see them. They are so light in relation to everything else. Also, there would maybe be some hilly areas that aren't just mountain foothills.
I think you need to change either the colour of the sea or the land as for now, all that is to differentiate between them is a stroke or two.
Also, and this is just personal taste, I'd re-darken your mountains somewhat. They don't want to be black but they just seem kinda washed out as they are now.

Still, coming along nicely. :)

10-05-2009, 03:38 PM
The changed with the trees has to be something to do with the reduction of the hi-res image to lo-res. The only thing I changed was that I changed the color from black to the brown you see. I also removed the drop shadow. I am not sure how that would increase the thickness of the trees.

As for the hills, I thought along a similar line that I should have some "hilly" regions but I just haven't gotten around to "dressing up" the rest of the terrain. I was considering making brushes for plains, swamps and such and seeing what comes of it but I am not so sure I want to clutter up the map.

The darker and more varied hills, I will have to address that and see what happens. They do seem to have lightened considerably with the transition from hi to lo res.

10-05-2009, 08:03 PM
One thing I have noticed, don't know if it is deliberate or not, is the "font-noise" interaction. There seems to be a lot of noise or colour variation in the font that can make it vanish into your terrain markers and the like.

Blood Tusk Peak is a good example of that. So is Forges of Dwarf Peak...

Maybe, and this is a maybe, consider moving mountain names "off" the mountain or "rubbing out" the mountain behind the name.

10-06-2009, 12:49 AM
I added a satin layer to it in the beginning. It helped to pop the text out now it seems to want to blend it together. I guess removing it would be better than leaving it. I was already considering "rubbing out" the underlying mountain. So much to do....

Thanks to every one for their time in helping me with my first map. You guys are awesome.

10-10-2009, 12:35 AM
Well I had every intention of updating today but I had a major setback that is going to take me a few days to come back from. So I should have a close to finished product by the time I respond (or as close as I am going to come - never satisfied and all that...)

10-20-2009, 03:05 AM
Ok, finally recovered from my (almost) total loss of picture. Stupid mistake on my part but it has been fixed. I have been playing around with fonts, layer effects, and everything in between and I think I have the fonts pretty much where they need to be.

I also played around with the rivers trying all the different tips offered here and in the end it just seems like the original layout worked best.

I also fooled around with the idea of adding other terrain features but could never get a style or design that really meshed with the overall "tone" of the map and in the end decided that it took away more than it added.

I did add the roads using the dash suggestion and really like the way they came out and I feel it was a good step in the right direction.

There was a suggestion about using something to really divide the land from the sea and I tried several ideas that came to mind but none of them really seemed to work out in a manner that was pleasing.

I also had to move and resize the banner and compass due to printing concerns. I don't feel it altered the map in a bad way but figured I would mention it in case some noticed it.

Overall, I am pleased with this map, but feel more work can be done on it that would really put it over the top. However, I have fallen behind on the actual RPG making aspect so I now need to put this project on hold or consider it "complete" for the time being.

I feel I will be coming back to this map in the future and tweaking it until my eyes bleed, but I cannot ignore the other parts of the RPG any longer. I still have a few months of playtesting to conduct and review and then I need a draft in the hands of my publisher by the beginning of next year.

I also want to play around with the realistic map and try to make it work to my advantage. Maybe release it as a large, full color map.

*I am still taking suggestions on how to improve this map and by no means consider this project at the end. I just need to switch gears for now.*

10-20-2009, 03:41 AM
Hey there, welcome back.

A few suggestions...

It was me that suggeted changing the sea or land colour to better separate them and I'd still call for that. Doesn't have to be a lot but that's what I would do.
Most of your mountains have drop shadows which I'd get rid of. The big named ones don't for some reason. I'd still darken the mountains too. Not to what they were before but a nice brown instead of that sandy tan colour.
Your rivers don't look bad apart from they're too uniform in size. Before adding your stroke to the outside of them just take the eraser along the edge of the rivers near their start to thin it a little.
Your arrow on your compass now goes over the "N" and shows that you've lowred the opacity on them both. You might like to ctrl+click on the "N" layer, select the arrow layer and then cut the pixels away.
You seem to have placed a really heavy layer of reticulation over the whole map. To me it seems far too much and you might try toning it down somewhat.
I don't particularly like that raised ring thing you've put around your banner. Another thing that looks far too digital for the type of map you seem to be shooting for.

Sorry if this list seems overly long but they are all very small things. I actually do like your map. :)

Edit: Oh, and your lake looks very odd. Would probably be better if you just filled it in with the river colour.

10-20-2009, 03:50 AM
Thing about that much C&C.. if you didn't like the map you wouldn't care enough to make all the suggestions :)
I take it as a compliment if people give me that level of detail.

10-20-2009, 04:58 AM
I am with Coyote on this one. If you are willing to take the time out to give such suggestions I would be a fool to ignore them. I do have some points to bring up.

Sea color variation: I have tinkered with it a little bit and the new contrast is nice although subtle.

Drop Shadow: The drop shadow on the mountains was put there because for some reason there is opacity that allows bits and pieces of the underlying mountains to bleed through. I couldn't find any other way to eliminate that. So I guess I will have to nix the drop shadow and go back in erase the bits that poke out. Ugh.

Rivers: I almost laughed at the simplicity of your suggestion. I yelled, swore and threw my arms up in disgust trying to achieve that effect, and here you go offering such a simple way of doing that I completely did not even consider. You are the MAN!

Compass: The compass gets disfigured during the reduction process when I am trying to decrease the file size in order to upload to CG website. The original hi-res version does not look like this.

Reticulation: I am not quite sure what this means. If you could clarify for me maybe I can address it.

Banner: In the hi-res version the raised ring is not so pronounced and it gives it a nice effect, but when considering the reasons you cite (the style of map) I can see why it might be too much. On a positive note, a side effect of getting rid of it allows me to increase the size a tad and move it further away from the shore!!

All in all, I would not have placed my map up here if I wasn't ready for criticism. I love this input and you guys have taken what at first seemed a real pain in the arse and turned it into a possible new hobby for me. This has been really fun.

10-20-2009, 06:19 AM
It may not have been called reticulation that you used. Film grain maybe or just noise, the gazillion little dots used to grunge it up a little. I'd lower the opacity on that effect by quite a bit personally.

01-01-2011, 12:20 AM
Okay. I have finally finished my editing and layout of the actual RPG and I have about two weeks to fine tune this map so I can place it in the book and send it off for publish. I looked back over all the threads and advice that was given to catch myself back up to speed. I have applied some fixes and uploaded the results. Thanks to everyone and their input. Ramah I cleaned up the grainy look and I like the outcome. Thank you for that bit of advice. Anything else?

01-01-2011, 12:28 AM
Very Nice !! the only thing that draws my attention is that some of the labels are hard to read especially the one on the island it gets lost in the "stroke"

01-01-2011, 12:38 AM
Oh, great catch!! I will tend to that ASAP.

01-01-2011, 11:55 AM
If you have the time, try playing around with making each mountain slightly individual. You really don't have to many to to deal with. Also, if you do play with the mountains, try to make the bottom a bit more rounded... umm. well not rounded so much as a roundish irregular shape instead of flat. That will produce some depth to the mountains themselves. In any event, nice map and good luck!

01-01-2011, 01:42 PM
Could you post a pic or link of an example of the "rounding of the bottom" so I can get a better idea of what you are talking about? I ask because the mountains are the one feature of this map that I really don't feel good about. I like everything else, but the mountains don't feel majestic enough and they seem rather sporadic. To explain, all I did was hand draw a mountain in PS and then make it a brush. I played around with the size a bit for every one but I never really like the mountains. So any advice there would be appreciated.

01-01-2011, 02:39 PM
Perhaps rounded is not the correct word. What I mean is to make the bottom of your mountains not cut by a straight line. You would either need to make 5-10 mountains to use as "stamps" or probably easier to just make each mountain unique and have the shadows come a bit below the outline of the mountain in a few places. It kind of needs a bit of extra definition to make it look a bit more 3-D ish(unless you are specifically going for a flat look).

01-01-2011, 02:57 PM
I would try to tone down the dark side of the mountains. On some of the bigger ones it looks rather sudden almost like a black line drawn down the center and at least on my monitor those dark triangles jump out. I think what might help with the rounding part is if you take a look at Ramah's hand drawn hills Tutorial (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?11322-Hand-drawn-hills-a-quick-tutorial.). An excellent tutorial for this type of thing.

01-01-2011, 06:24 PM
Here is a touched up version with some additional substance.