Haunted Mansion: An After-the-Fact WIP
Some time ago, I created a map of the ground floor of a haunted country manor for a D&D horror adventure. I created the map entirely in Photoshop CS 2. I devoted numerous hours, spread out over several months, to the project while we negotiated (ultimately unsuccessfully) with several publishers interested in the underlying adventure. The length of the negotiations enabled me to add details for which most commissioned projects simply lack time. (So here's a glimpse of what I do in the wee hours of the morning when I'm unaccountably awake and not obsessed with an ongoing oil painting project.)
I've gone back and recreated my development of the map, which I now offer here. I've designed this post-mortem WIP to walk anyone interested through the challenges I encountered wrestling with this piece. Nonetheless, this WIP is not a how-to tutorial on any specific aspect of Photoshop, although I'll describe my use of many tools along the way. To create a how-to tutorial, I'd do better to focus on a single room or individual effect. This thread presents a big-picture view of a major project's development.
Here's the finished map:
Limitations and Inspirations
Two quick asides before launching into the creation process:
First, many of the manor's rooms serve specific purposes in the accompanying adventure. Unfortunately, because I've neither found a publisher nor given up hope of finding one, I can't explain here why each room's elements were crucial to me, or how they interrelate to the adventures overarching mystery. All I can do is tell you what each room's visually significant elements are. Sorry about that.
Second, I love the mansion map in the most recent edition of Clue (and earlier version too, for which nostalgia kicks in powerfully), and, of more recent discovery, the map in the board game Kill Dr. Lucky. I decided to create an image with similar visual power. Moreover, I decided I'd create each room of my map with its own one-point perspective, just like each room has in the Clue and Kill Dr. Lucky boards.
This doesn't mean my aspirations ended at duplicating or imitating either or both of these board games' images. I sought to create my own compelling horror map image. But I embraced these earlier visions as inspiration.
(Please Note! The image I'm attaching here of the Clue board game's map is one I downloaded from the internet. It contains someone else's nationalistic/ethnic slurs that I find repugnant. It's the best visual image I've got of the board, but I don't ascribe to the image's inserted labels. I'll take a better picture of the board when I get home next week and replace the image here.)
The Power and Shortcomings of One-Point Perspective
Continuing my thought from above, I'm sure you all know that one-point perspective is a visual design schematic in which all linear elements (the edges of all forms) vanish (trace back in space) to a single vanishing point (a dot that I set in the middle of the picture plane for each individual room). Below are several examples of one-point perspective. Lay a ruler along the edges of any form, and you'll find it intersects at the vanishing point.
Making every room have its own one-point perspective violates a major rule of perspective for the map as a whole. As a whole, the map should have a single, common set of vanishing points. Put differently, if you chopped off the top floors of a house revealing the ground floor and its walls, as seen from above, all rooms would vanish to a single vanishing point in the middle. Each room wouldn't have its own vanishing point. All rooms would share a single vanishing point. I decided to break that rule and give each room its own vanishing point. Why? Not because I'm brave or ingenious. I did so because I'd seen the Clue game board and the Kill Dr. Lucky game board do this successfully. I followed their lead.
The resulting effect is pretty good. Each room on my map has its own dynamic pull. But the artist in me instantly recognizes that the rooms don't hold together across the entire map because each room has its own gravitational center diverging from the whole. Each room's strength becomes the entire map's collective flaw. I couldn't have it both ways. I accepted that overall flaw to gain the power if each room's individual integrity and allure.
You all probably saw all of this the moment you looked at my map. My point here is simply that this was a conscious decision.
(Anybody still awake?)
Designing the Basic Floorplan
I began the process by reviewing dozens of floor plans of Victorian and other mansions that I downloaded from the internet. I strongly recommend that, if you create a haunted mansion, you look at real mansion floor plans first. I found it enormously inspirational, even though I eventually rejected most of them and struck out on my own. I'm commencing this thread while on vacation on the beach. I copied my graphic files for this project and brought them with me, but failed to copy the dozens of floor-plan diagrams I downloaded. Blast!! I'll post them (out of order) in this thread once I get home next week.
Despite the power and inspiration these existing floor plans gave me, I decided to create my own from scratch. I scribbled out a slew of rough floor plans with a pencil. Unfortunately, I don't have any of them any more. The best, however, included a broad ballroom, a small courtyard sandwiched between house wings, and a variety of other features that felt right to me. I scanned it.
I then built walls over my scan. Using my Rectangular Marquee Tool, I created a long horizontal block spanning the width of my picture plane (my open window). This became my wall template. I then duplicated this template layer numerous times with the Ctrl J command (which makes a duplicate copy of the layer). I used the Free Transform function, holding down the Shift key, to rotate the duplicate wall layers to 45 degree and 90 degree images where necessary. I blocked out the ground floor's walls, erasing out everything that didn't fit my schematic.
For the arched walls in the hallway at the southeaster corner of the mansion, I used the Eliptical Marquee Tool. I held down the shift key to constrain each elipses I used to a circle, rather than an irregular elipse. I set the edge of each circle at the outside perimeter of each arc, then use the Stroke function to create the arc itself. (If you want your arcs to have clean edges, always set the Elipse Marquee Tool as the outside perimeter, and then use the Stroke/Inside tool to create your block.)
Locking the Walls to a Grid
Crap. I just lied to you.
Before I placed the overall bulk of the walls, I dropped a square grid behind the image. This map is for a D&D adventure (pre-4.0 edition), and both Wizards and Paizo love their square grids. I drew the walls on top of the grid to ensure the spaces between the walls accommodated full squares.
Creating Courtyards and Grass
Here's where the color fun began.
I use a combination of the Polygon Lasso Tool and the Eliptical Marquee Tool to create selections for cobble stone areas and grassy areas on the "tiles" grid layer. I saved each selection using the Select/Save As function, so I could alter the colors, contrast, dimensions, or any other aspect of these seleactions later on.
(Advice: When you save a selection, immediately save the document. I usually save the document as a new name -- i.e., Mansion 09 becomes Mansion 10. Why? Because if you don't save it, you may scroll back up the History bar to a point before you save the selection without realizing it. Doing so eliminates the selection you made with such care. This sucks. Trust me on this one!)
I then tweaked the color of each outdoor selection using Image/Adjust/Hue Saturation and Image/Adjust/Color Balance to begin creating the sense of pavement and grass.