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Thread: [Award Winner] Realistic Land/Mountain Texture Made Easy

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    Guild Novice Flawedspirit's Avatar
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    Feb 2009
    Peterborough, ON

    Tutorial [Award Winner] Realistic Land/Mountain Texture Made Easy

    This is the first tutorial I have released on the site, and probably one of the first I've released onto the Internet, so bear with me. I want to see if this process I have worked on for the past few months translates well to the tutorial setting.
    Basically, this involves creating a bump map that we “overlay” on top of the land to give it texture. I’ll try to keep it short, simple, and to the point, but basic Photoshop capability is of course required.
    Of course, I can’t take all the credit. If there is a similar tutorial on CG, chances are it's been an inspiration. This is simply my unique take on the process of making an atlas/satellite-like map. So I have to give…

    Thanks to the following people:
    • Ascension – excellent tutorial for creating a map, as well as land shape
    • Kalvinlyle – his tutorial helped me refine my process as well
    • Anyone else who’s helped/supported me on

    Note: This tutorial assumes you have land created already that requires texturing, so I have decided to forgo adding this section. For an awesome tutorial on that, go to:

    Without further ado, we begin.

    1. Create a new document. I chose 1000 x 1000 px at 150 dpi for this tutorial's picture.

    2. Name your land layer something like Land Base, and CTRL-click its thumbnail in the Layers window to select it.
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    3. With your selection still active, create a new layer above that one, and name it Overlay. Go to Filter -> Render -> Clouds. After that, do the same thing again, but with Difference Clouds this time. Hit CTRL-F a few times until happy. I usually do it 7 or 8 times. You should end up with something similar to below:
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    4. This is where the artsy, patient part comes in. Create a new layer above your Overlay layer, and name it Elevation Adjustment. Now choose a soft, round brush at a low (10-25%) opacity. CTRL-click your Land Base layer so you're not brushing on your ocean, and brush black onto areas you want to be lower, and white onto areas you want to be higher, and more mountainous. Places like shorelines and basins where water would collect should obviously be lower (painted more black) than other areas.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    5. This is the fun part. Once you're done making your land look like what you want, merge your Overlay and Elevation Adjustments layers (or duplicate them and merge, if you don't like destructive editing), and copy the layer.

    6. Go to the Channels tab, at the top of your Layers window. Create a new Alpha Channel, and paste the copied layer into there.

    7. Go back into your Layers tab, and hide the merged Overlay/Adjustment layer. Create a new layer above the Land Base layer. We'll name it Land Texture. Go to Edit -> Fill and select 50% Gray from the dropdown box. Click OK and the Texture layer will be filled with a flat gray color.

    8. Go to Filter -> Render -> Lighting Effects. Enter the settings below, and make sure the Texture Channel box is set to Alpha 1, or whatever you chose to name the alpha channel. Uncheck White is high, because it seems to turn the mountains into valleys, despite its name. Drag the two little light indicators around until the preview picture mostly looks like a fairly neutral gray color.

    Light Type: Directional
    Intensity: 35
    Gloss: -15 (0 is fine too)
    Material: 100
    Exposure: 0
    Ambiance: 0

    Mountainous: 100

    9. Viola! You now have texture. CTRL-click the Land Base layer one more time (while you still have your overlay layer selected), and hit CTRL-Shift-I to invert the selection. Then hit delete. This will get rid of the portions of the overlay that are water, and makes the shoreline look better as well. Now set the Land Texture layer to Overlay. Your land should look like this now.
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    10. There is only one thing left to do now. Color! Using a round, soft brush (set to about 25-50% opacity), brush in the color you'll need for your map, such as a light green for grass, a dark brown for mountains, and white for snow-capped peaks. Each color should occupy its own layer. This is another part where general skill and imagination comes in. Everyone's picture will be different in some way. My result is below:
    Click image for larger version. 

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    That's my tutorial in a nutshell. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, or think the tutorial is confusing, be sure to post something. I hope my tutorial helps some people make some great maps; I hope to see what people come up with.
    Last edited by Flawedspirit; 09-02-2010 at 01:38 PM.
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