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jwbjerk
04-08-2010, 11:38 PM
Hello, fellow cartographers!

I have a world-building and mapping project that i've been working on intermittently for some time. The plan is to build a habitable extrasolar planet from the ground up, being pretty rigorous in applying what we know about gravity, weather, temperature, etcetera, to figure out what the climate should be like, and where various biomes should be (including some biomes not found on earth).


My mostly unvisited blog: http://orb.jwbjerk.com/ documents and explains the world-building process, which may be of interest to some of you, but so far doesn't have anything to do with cartography until the last post. I've been dealing with the orbital mechanics and physics of the planet. Hereafter, i'll be free to focus on more of the good stuff (i.e. mapmaking) since i have most of the boring foundation out of the way.


The basic plan for this Orb is as follows:
This Orb is an out-of-the way planet in a sci-fi setting where some form(s) of FTL are possible. Several waves of sapient explorers, refugees, conquers, & colonists have settled there.


While humans can live on it unaided, it is not as hospitable as Earth.
This Orb is not conducive to global communication and rule.
The oceans are completely separated by land, so it's impossible to sail round this Orb.
Mountains, rivers, currents & coast make it generally less convenient to cross a continent.
There is one location that is geographically destined to be the crossroads of the whole planet.
Some factors prevent the inhabitants from rebuilding a spacefaring civilization.



Anyway, you are here to see pictures of maps, so without further ado, here's what i got so far: The coastline, and a rough idea of where the mountains go. The blue area roughly indicates the area of year-round ice.

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Click either one for larger view.

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These were created in Photoshop, using LunaCell as a base that was much modified. The textures were then wrapped around a sphere in Google's Sketchup, and then captured to make the 6 views of the globe.

Comments, Criticisms and Questions are welcome.

jwbjerk
04-10-2010, 01:47 PM
OK, in trying to move on to the next step, "elevation" i've hit a couple problems. I looked through all your tutorial threads (at least looked at all the titles), found some good tips, but ultimately didn't find the answers to my problems.

1)
I'd like to create a realistic elevation map, along the lines of this:
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I have the elevation roughed in some detail like so:
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But obviously the level of detail is dramatically less. The obvious ways i might try to achieve the effect are mind-numbingly tedious, and i don't want to embark on one of those paths if there might be a better way.

a) Paint it by hand: tedious, but eventually i'd get what i want
b) Copy/Paste bits of elevation from our world: possibly faster, but getting stuff to match with my coastline, and planned mountain locations may be impossible.

It looks like some people use Wilbur to make erosion-effects, but that's a Windows program, i have a Mac, with limited Windows emulation, which can't handle Wilbur.

Advice? Helpful suggestions?

No matter how i do it, i'll probably retouch some of it by hand. Can anyone recommend some good custom brushes for this kind of effect?


2)
I also seem to have a chicken-or-the-egg type problem. Looking over Earth's elevation map, i get the impression that erosion patterns are much more strongly defined in wet areas than dry ones. But of course you need to know elevation to figure out your rainfall patterns. Is the difference really going to be significant on a global scale? How have other people dealt with this?

Guldaroth
04-10-2010, 02:58 PM
I also seem to have a chicken-or-the-egg type problem. Looking over Earth's elevation map, i get the impression that erosion patterns are much more strongly defined in wet areas than dry ones. But of course you need to know elevation to figure out your rainfall patterns. Is the difference really going to be significant on a global scale? How have other people dealt with this?

For the first question, I'm sorry, I just got the same problem of detail level...

But, for your question, I talked with a geologist about such a similar matter. He said to me that the erosion patterns could be approximate this way: In the beginning the erosion is quite everywhere the same. What really matters is the geological soil. On a long scale it tends to diverge from regions to regions. For exemple after at a certain time, a region will be quite flat because of its soil which is far more tender than another region. And so you've got the first step to define your rainfall patterns! I think you'll have to work those question together.
I hope I was understandable enough...

Ascension
04-10-2010, 04:57 PM
If you have access to DEMs then B is the way to go...just copy n paste and blur n paint until they fit seamlessly. Otherwise you're with the rest of us looking for a way to emulate a DEM...finding some techniques or doing it by hand. On the erosion, it shouldn't matter too much for a world map because you can only get so detailed in the image. By and large the rest of us just use informed guesswork and make it up as we go.

jwbjerk
04-10-2010, 07:55 PM
But, for your question, I talked with a geologist about such a similar matter. He said to me that the erosion patterns could be approximate this way: In the beginning the erosion is quite everywhere the same. What really matters is the geological soil. On a long scale it tends to diverge from regions to regions. For exemple after at a certain time, a region will be quite flat because of its soil which is far more tender than another region. And so you've got the first step to define your rainfall patterns! I think you'll have to work those question together.
I hope I was understandable enough...
If i understand you, you are saying i shouldn't worry about eroding high rainfall and low rainfall areas differently, because climate and rain patterns vary, and at some point in the past all the different parts of the planet will have gotten some rainfall. Is that right?



If you have access to DEMs then B is the way to go...just copy n paste and blur n paint until they fit seamlessly. Otherwise you're with the rest of us looking for a way to emulate a DEM...finding some techniques or doing it by hand. On the erosion, it shouldn't matter too much for a world map because you can only get so detailed in the image. By and large the rest of us just use informed guesswork and make it up as we go.
Is there any different between a "DEM" and a "bump map", like these: (1. Terrestrial elevation data) (http://www.shadedrelief.com/natural3/pages/extra.html)? He's labeled the 16bit versions as "DEM"s, and the 8bit version as a "bump map", but i would have called them both "bump maps". Maybe you would call them both DEMs?

16,200 pixels wide is the largest i've been able to find a bump map, and while it's 4x bigger than my map, would anyone recommend working from something larger (if it's available somewhere)? Seems like my elevation might be much less obviously part of Ethiopia (for instance), if i copy/pasted a piece that was more zoomed in. Of course the scale of the features would have been changed, but i expect such geologic features are "fractal" enough, that they look similar at different scales.

Ascension
04-10-2010, 09:38 PM
There may be some technical disparities but I don't know what they are...someone here surely would know. I guess bump-maps could be applied to anything like walls or car hoods or snack boxes to give the surface some texture while DEMs are earth specific. I'm guessing there. They're the same thing really in application for what we do with maps.

jwbjerk
04-11-2010, 07:47 PM
There may be some technical disparities but I don't know what they are...
Then it probably doesn't matter.

I got to thinking about brushes made from DEMs (or elevation bump maps)... after some experimentation, it seems pretty promising. I doubt they can produce perfect results, but it should look a lot more authentic than round, fuzzy brushes.

jwbjerk
04-13-2010, 05:49 PM
It is indeed time-consuming, but actually i'm pretty happy with the copy/paste elevation method. It has a way of including interesting details that i hadn't intended, which makes it more fun, and increases the authenticity of the final product. Of course i still have my larger, more complicated continents remaining. The true test is to see how much of my enthusiasm remains for this method at the end.

I've more or less completed two of my smaller continents. I don't think it will be nearly as easy as i feared to spot the terrestrial origin of the pieces i "borrow". IIRC i used 4 pieces of Earth (plus one for the island on the right)-- anybody care to guess which ones?

Radial gradients are a great tool to pitch the elevation of an area in the direction you want.

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P.S. Interesting thing i've observed. Lots of imaginary maps have continents with mountains roughly in the middle, but earth doesn't seem to work that way. Almost all the main watersheds are jammed up against one side of a continent, usually with a smaller watershed opposite.

waldronate
04-13-2010, 09:29 PM
P.S. Interesting thing i've observed. Lots of imaginary maps have continents with mountains roughly in the middle, but earth doesn't seem to work that way. Almost all the main watersheds are jammed up against one side of a continent, usually with a smaller watershed opposite.

As though moving plates accumulate long piles of stuff on the side that's undergoing collision vs. the simple fractal models that use a function that's the same in all directions, which means that the high spots will be in the middle. It's a good observation that many people never make.

Nice work on the altitudes, btw.

jwbjerk
04-14-2010, 12:35 AM
Thanks.

I think the "high in the middle" generalization also tends to be true of the more easily observable chunks of land, i.e. small islands, so it's understandable how the generalization takes root.

Guldaroth
05-05-2010, 11:21 AM
Would it be possible to have a little tutorial about the technique you used to do your realistic heightmap ? Because I'm really trying hard to have such results... Thanks

jwbjerk
05-06-2010, 08:26 PM
Would it be possible to have a little tutorial about the technique you used to do your realistic heightmap ? Because I'm really trying hard to have such results... Thanks
Sure. The following works for photoshop, but the GIMP can probably do something very similar. Intermediate skill with your app of choice is required



1 ) I'm assuming you've already figured out your coastline.


2 ) I set things up to do the elevation one continent at a time, since it was easier that way. Make a layer from one continent: the land fully opaque and the sea fully transparent. Make it white if black is your max elevation color, or black if white is your max elevation color. You may want to do this in a separate document, if your map high res enough to be slow. Most of the layer's you'll make will be flattened when you are done.


3) On another layer sketch in where you want your mountains, continental divides, or whatever you have as a guide. The brown in my example is where i want my mountains.

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4 ) Open some elevation maps like these (http://www.shadedrelief.com/natural3/pages/extra.html). You just want greyscale without any shadows. For something more exotic use elevation maps of the moon, mars or other celestial bodies.


5 ) Look for parts on the real elevation map that more or less match what you want on your map. If your continent is large or complex you will need to look for one piece at a time. The Rocky mountains here gradually sloping down across the great plains is basically what i want for my continents, since this one is pretty simple (as examples should be). Select what you want with the lasso, feather your selection and then copy and paste it in as a new layer. I'm using white as down, so i need to invert this bit of the rockies.


6 ) Move your cut-out piece of elevation over your shoreline layer from step 2. Then "Create a Clipping Mask" with the cut out bit of elevation. In Photoshop you can do that by OPTION clicking between the two layers, or from the contextual menu. If you do it right, it will look the following. The clipping mask will only show the part of your elevation layer that is over an opaque part of the coastline layer, thus anything over the ocean isn't shown.

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7 ) Resize, Flip, Rotate etc. the elevation layer until it goes where you want it to. It won't be a perfect fit, but we'll refine that later. Turn on your guide layer when you need to remember your original idea, turn it off, when it gets in your way.


8 ) Chances are the bit of elevation you copied doesn't have everything you want. That's fine. Go grab another piece of elevation as per step 5. Paste it into your document and position it above the previous bit of elevation-- don't worry if it overlaps. You'll want to "create a clipping mask again" with this one and any additional layers to your base coastline. All should be clipped to your base coastline layer.


9 ) OK, now the tricky part is getting these disparate bits of elevation to line up, right? Don't worry, it's not tricky my way. If down is white, you'll set the blending mode of all your elevation layers to "Multiply". If down is black use the "Screen" blending mode. What this does is add both elevations together, assuming that some of the layers of copied elevation overlap-- which they should. The only hard edges you see should be at your coastline. If you are more familiar with your app, you can probably think of variations on this method to achieve different effects, but i won't go in to that.

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10 ) I find it hard to gauge what going on just staring at greyscale elevation. So i made a gradient map with a series of colors like you'll find on a topographical map. This gradient map layer sits above all the other layers. While you are painting with black or white on one of the elevation layers, the gradient map instantly converts the appearance to nice topographical color.

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11 ) Now it's time to refine the elevation. You can paint with fuzzy, semi-transparent white and black brushes on any of the elevation layers to emphasize or de-emphasize any feature. For wide-spread, gentle changes, use a radial gradient tool, set to low opacity.


12 ) When you are happy with the appearance, merge all your layers together (but not the gradient map layer, or your guide layer) and your are done.

Guldaroth
05-10-2010, 07:49 PM
Thanks a lot Jwbjerk ! I'll try your technique and see what I can obtain. At least, with your explanations and images, I'm sure I won't waste my time trying to do a realistic heightmap. Thanks again !!!

jwbjerk
05-11-2010, 07:07 PM
Here's where i am so far in the process of using my method to build elevation. I thought i better provide a little better evidence that my process explained above actually works. I can't claim it's a quick process, at least not to the level of detail that i'm going to-- but i like the results.

I discovered some tutorials about how to use Hugin to convert a map to different projections, so i've gotten bogged down refining my poles' coastlines-- which if i do it obviously needs to happen before i do polar elevation.

click for much bigger version.
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The blue overlay is year-round ice. The elevation scale goes up approximately to Everest hight.

Rhotherian
05-22-2010, 01:57 PM
Sure. The following works for photoshop, but the GIMP can probably do something very similar. Intermediate skill with your app of choice is required


1 ) I'm assuming you've already figured out your coastline.

...

12 ) When you are happy with the appearance, merge all your layers together (but not the gradient map layer, or your guide layer) and your are done. I am so applying that technique to Rhothar! Thanks! ^^

alizarine
05-25-2010, 03:24 AM
Now I wonder why I spent so much time working with bevel and other layer styles! This is such a great technique - I'll have to give this a shot ^.^

- Alizarine

jwbjerk
10-29-2010, 10:04 PM
Just for fun, here's part of my planet rendered in an rich, antique style:
It's more stylistic practice than serious placement of rivers, towns, etc.
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AHawk
12-21-2010, 08:20 PM
loved the antique style

RecklessEnthusiasm
12-29-2010, 01:58 PM
I've been thinking about making some photoshop brushes of patches of gray-scale height maps of earth to do something similar. Good to hear there are other folks thinking along the same lines.

silvijanus
12-29-2010, 02:22 PM
Just for fun, here's part of my planet rendered in an rich, antique style:
It's more stylistic practice than serious placement of rivers, towns, etc.

good work. Style is great :)

The_Buce
03-13-2011, 02:16 PM
Loving the whole orb idea, I especially like the fact that there is a definite centre to the world too, the gateway between the oceans! I take it there's a canal there, an a hefty price to pay to use it! :D
The antique map is brilliant! How did you get the concentric rings in the seas? I've tried to do something similar but it always ends up looking very poor, as opposed to the crispness of those you've created.

J

jwbjerk
03-14-2011, 10:27 PM
Loving the whole orb idea, I especially like the fact that there is a definite centre to the world too, the gateway between the oceans! I take it there's a canal there, an a hefty price to pay to use it! :D
The antique map is brilliant! How did you get the concentric rings in the seas? I've tried to do something similar but it always ends up looking very poor, as opposed to the crispness of those you've created.

Thanks. :)

The gateway is about 50 miles wide at it narrowest, and rather elevated in the middle, much less convenient than Panama. Canals are unfortunately out of the question, which means that most cargoes get unloaded there, which makes it more exotic than if most stuff just traveled directly through.


For the "ripples" i use Photoshop's "outer glow" effect. Instead of a single color, i set it to a gradient. "Technique" must be set to "precise".
The gradient fluctuates between opaque and transparent portions see attached.

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