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Thread: Experimental Cavern

  1. #1
      wdmartin is offline
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    Map Experimental Cavern

    So, this wasn't really made to be anything in particular. I just wanted to experiment with some techniques, namely:

    1) Generating fairly organic seeming tunnels using rendered clouds + hard mix grey;

    2) Taking a stab at moderately realistic transparent water with displacement maps;

    and 3) Lighting.

    Here's the result, with and without grid.

    Experimental Cavern-experimental-cave-grid.jpg

    Experimental Cavern-experimental-cave.jpg

    Scale is 100px = 5 feet.

    Mushrooms by Neyjour; I changed 'em purple.

    Campfire by Bogie.

    Everything else consists of textures from cgtextures.com.

    I'm pleased with the organic feel of the cavern shapes, but I may have gone awfully heavy-handed with the bevel-and-contour layer style.

    The water ... is okay. It really needs a larger area for this technique to work best, I think. Making good water is freakishly hard.

    The lighting turned out okay. I'm using two techniques here. The cave was darkened with a layer of translucent solid black. For the area of pure light around the campfire I just masked off the darkness. The glowing mushrooms and the area of pale orange immediately surrounding the campfire are Curves adjustment layers in which I've masked it to just the areas that need to glow, and then adjusted the three RGB channels individually to get the desired hue.

    As I said, this is mostly playing around. It turned out okay though. Maybe somebody will find a use for it. Can't hurt to have another generic cave, right?
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    Professional Artist Cunning Cartographer's Avatar
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    Overall it's not a bad effort and I dare say some folk will get some use out of it. There are some core issues with the lighting that I think means it doesn't tie together properly and lighting, for me at least, is often the one thing that can make or break these types of digital maps that use realistic components.

    Firstly is I'd say you need to make a new darker shadow at the base of the wall where it touches the floor, thinner and darker, as up close I think it has a strange floating above the ground effect to it.

    Secondly is where the shadows and light are being cast on the wall. For example if you look at the piece of wall jutting out to the left of the campfire, that wall is the closest thing to the fire... but it's got shadows cast on it, that and the wall to the right of the fire should be bright as that is where your main light source is coming from. Alternatively following that jutting wall around and on its north side, that wall is shielded from the fire (well there would be a little light casting that peaks round the wall) and should be in shadow, but instead is lit up.

    This is the main problem when you use a programs artifical shadow tools and emboss, it can't account where your light sources are coming from and to get a more accurate and better looking map it's much better to do it completely manually. On the flip side you have identified that the light around the campfire on the floor is brighter than anywhere else, so you obviously have an idea of what you are doing. Also, a good technique I always found where you want some moody lighting is to drop a layer of pure black colour on top of everything, use a large soft edged eraser and just cut a hole in the blackness over your main light sources, then change the opacity of the layer (or blend it) to make a much more ambient room.

    Quick and dirty before/after of the effects I mean:

    Experimental Cavern-cavemap.jpg

  3. #3
      wdmartin is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cunning Cartographer View Post
    Firstly is I'd say you need to make a new darker shadow at the base of the wall where it touches the floor, thinner and darker, as up close I think it has a strange floating above the ground effect to it.
    Hmm. I'm not sure I follow you exactly. Currently the walls layer has an inner glow effect (black, multiply, about 150px) which may be causing the floating effect. Let's see. Here are a couple of variations.

    No glow, no stroke:
    Experimental Cavern-experimental-cave-detail-1.jpg

    Glow alone (as it is in the initial map):
    Experimental Cavern-experimental-cave-detail-2.jpg

    Glow with a stroke:
    Experimental Cavern-experimental-cave-detail-3.jpg

    Does that address what you were talking about, or am I misunderstanding you?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cunning Cartographer View Post
    Secondly is where the shadows and light are being cast on the wall. [...]
    This is the main problem when you use a programs artificial shadow tools and emboss, it can't account where your light sources are coming from.
    Yes, that is a limitation. Photoshop does have some tools for tweaking the fall of light in layer styles, but they're severely limited by the program's assumption that there's only ever one source of light.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cunning Cartographer View Post
    ... to get a more accurate and better looking map it's much better to do it completely manually.
    Well, why don't I give that a try?

    Turning off the highlights and shadows in the bevel layer style yields something like this:

    Experimental Cavern-experimental-cave-detail-4.jpg

    Then manually brushing in shadows/highlights using a couple of black/white layers above with masks and a soft brush:

    Experimental Cavern-experimental-cave-detail-5.jpg

    Note that I didn't mess with the light/shadow of the walls in the pool of water. That bit is a complex mess (seven layers plus a displacement map just for that little spot).

    On the plus side, that clears up the shadows that don't match the light sources. The ability to extend shadows where they would naturally fall, e.g. behind the rock spur next to the big glowing mushroom, is very nice.

    It's also more time consuming, which can be a factor if I'm pressed for time prepping for a session. I think some of the detail in the wall has been obscured, though it could be just that I'm using the wrong blending modes on the highlight/shadow (which are set to Soft Light and normal, respectively).

    It also feels like I've lost a little bit of depth in the map. Conveying depth in a top-down view is something I struggle with. Walls, pits, chasms -- anything with a steep slope that needs to be visible is just really hard.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cunning Cartographer View Post
    Also, a good technique I always found where you want some moody lighting is to drop a layer of pure black colour on top of everything, use a large soft edged eraser and just cut a hole in the blackness over your main light sources, then change the opacity of the layer (or blend it) to make a much more ambient room.
    Yes, I've come across that before, and I actually used it here. The main area of brightness around the fire (not the orangey area but the clear light around that) was done in exactly that way. But I tend to shy away from making very dark maps, especially ones that are going to be printed rather than used in a virtual tabletop program.

  4. #4
    Professional Artist Cunning Cartographer's Avatar
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    Of the three examples I would say the bottom one looks the best, but maybe increase the softness/size a little so it's not quite so sharp a stroke. If you want to go an extra mile then use mask layers with a softer brush and experiment brushing the edges of your shadows so they're softer where they touch the light and darker in the depths. But overall the quick techniques you applied do make a marked improvement in my opinion.

    As for all the other stuff, yeh it really depends if you have the time to commit (or even want to). The more time you spend on a map the better it's gonna look, if you want something quick and easy then you're process works fine enough. If you want to develop your map making to make your final maps look better then you need to spend time on them.

    For my own maps (I play VTT) I have some that are literally just quick sketches and, for a map, they work fine, but they stay locked up in private Anything I put out there, personally I want to make sure it's as good as I can make it.

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    Although I use a stack of transparent layers to emulate realistic water features - especially simulating depth in water. In looking at your water feature, the only criticism I have is that you have waves going on in your little lake. Unless there is a powerful underwater current feeding this pond, or some other magical reason, the water should be still with no wave action at all. If it were a larger outside lake, then your turbulent water surface would be fine, but in a cave...? There shouldn't be anything disturbing the water suface. Otherwise you seem to use many of the techniques I do - use of bevels, shadows, etc.
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      wdmartin is offline
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    Yes, the turbidity of the water is decidedly unrealistic given its location in a cave. I wasn't overly concerned with that in this particular case, since I was mostly interested in trying out the displacement technique spelled out in that tutorial I linked, and I just used the textures they suggested. I spent more time on that water feature than on anything else in the entire map, by a significant margin, and I'm not sure it was worth it.

    Good water is hard. Looking at stuff like Theran's Rest (about 25% of the way down the page) makes me realize how very much I have to learn. I mean, in that Theran's Rest map, every little bit of water is just gorgeous, and he's got lots of different types: rough turbid water in fountains, limpid clear water with caustics in pools, choppy clear water with beautifully distorted tile floor underneath. The works. I have no idea how he did all that, but it makes me want to learn, and just Googling for tutorials has limited results, at least partly because most people aren't working with a top-down view. If I find another tutorial showing how to make water ripples reflecting the foreground object, I may have to firebomb someone.

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    Professional Artist Cunning Cartographer's Avatar
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    choppy clear water with beautifully distorted tile floor underneath. The works. I have no idea how he did all that
    Really easy when you know how, it's all about getting to know your tools. Knocked this up in 5 minutes just to demonstrate:

    Experimental Cavern-water.jpg

    You wont get the colour right just by selecting a red, as the Difference Cloud will mess your colour up, so just change the hue once you have the pattern you want. For more rough water make your waves more accentuated, but for water that's barely moving then throw on some faint ripples.

    I agree with what Gamer says about the water (literally looks like a mini ocean in your map), but as often as not you'll want to have SOME ripples even in dead water otherwise it can be quite hard to make it look like water (possible, but adding faint ripples is a lot easier).

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      wdmartin is offline
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    Well, that's certainly a lot simpler than I thought. Might be tricky to get just the right color, especially if you don't want blue water -- like maybe a pool outside with trees over it would be a sort of olive green. But thanks a lot of the pointer on the Wave filter!
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    Professional Artist Cunning Cartographer's Avatar
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    To get the right colour just go into your layers tab, click the coloured layer and then use the bottom layers to add a "Hue" on it, you can change the colour with a slider to match what you are after, including the saturation (colour intensity) and light/dark

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      madcowchef is offline
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    That's definitely a water technique I need to file away for later. Thanks!

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