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Thread: [Award Winner] A medieval town map tutorial in Photoshop

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    Community Leader pyrandon's Avatar
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    Tutorial [Award Winner] A medieval town map tutorial in Photoshop

    My purpose in this tutorial is to show how to create a Photoshop map of a medieval town containing a great deal of flexibility—meaning it could be either used as a photorealistic map or (with the help of one or more Photoshop filters) an “artistic” map. Above and beyond this, I also tried very hard to streamline the process so the map could be created exceedingly quickly. Flexibility and speed: two cartography goals worth pursuing, I think, if a high degree of quality can be maintained.

    I am assuming you know the basics of Photoshop, such as selecting items, layer manipulation, brush use, etc. The most advanced techniques I'll use are layer masks and layer styles--so nothing out of this world. However, if these seem exotic to you I'd suggest you perform a quick Internet search and follow a few simple PS tutorials to become acquainted with the program.

    The program I’ll use is Photoshop CS2, but I think everything I do works in both older or newer versions as well. For this tutorial I also use an "Rolepalying City Map Generator" program which can be downloaded free of charge from the developer's website (see below)--but you need not utilize this application if you choose to work by hand.

    Attached below is the basic map I'll create. At the end of this tutorial I will also show "artistic" variations of this basic image created in mere seconds.

    Finally, let me say I am a PS and cartography amateur, completely self-taught in both areas. If you note any suggestions, improvements, or corrections in my work, I would be grateful if you let me know! I write tutorials to teach myself more than for any other purpose, and I'd accept any and all assistance you can kindly offer.

    On we go!
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    Last edited by pyrandon; 11-15-2007 at 12:30 AM.
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    Default I. The Basic Town Layout

    To create the basic layout of Koppollex, our medieval town-to-be, I am using the "Roleplaying City Map Generator", a free program available here: http://www.drachenzahn.de/city_map_g...city_maps.html This small application quickly creates the basic layout of hamlets, towns, and cities.

    [NOTE: If you do not wish to use this application, you could alternatively create the map by hand directly into Photoshop; if so, skip this step and move on, below.]

    Once you've opened the Generator, create a town map with any settings you prefer. One suggestion I have is to set the "Trees" toggle to zero (the trees the program generates do not gel well with the process we'll follow) [see the image, below]

    After you create a map which intrigues you, click the “Export Selection as an Image”; in the screen that pops up…
    • retain the 1 x 1 divide section
    • select a larger file (I chose 2000 px in size, but this is really big, so be forewarned.)
    • Choose “Colors”, and in that screen select colors for the major elements that will be easy to distinguish. These need not be the colors you will finally use, but I created a palette in the program that closely resembles the final colors I will use; I then saved this palette & now use it whenever exporting. (I also suggest setting all streets & street outlines to the same color, plus squares, parks, and the background set to another color.) [see image below] When you’re ready, save, etc., then click “Take This Time.”
    • When ready, click “Create Image” and save it!
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    Default II. Importing into & Readying within Photoshop

    Now open Photoshop, then File->Open the .bmp file you just saved from the City Map Generator.

    Next isolate the map elements. While there are many ways to do this (the most versatile way being in saved Chanels) let's stay simple and direct: choose Select->Color Range, click on the background color, play with the fuzziness to be as exact as possible, then hit "ok." Then, with the “ants marching,” delete the background.

    Repeat this Select->Color Range process with the buildings, the river, etc.--although instead of deleting, copy-paste each element into its own, individual layer.

    • You'll notice I did not cut & paste the walls or towers: I found in tests it was easier to simply add them manually, later, if I choose to use them at all (for Koppollex I will not be adding walls or towers at all)

    When I'm done creating layers for each element, I rename the imported image's layer "Original bmp file," then hide it by poking out the eye. I could, in fact, delete this layer altogether, but I'm a "layer pack rat" and so I save it just in case.

    Now I have the exact same image as was imported, except with no background. So below the lowest layer I create a new layer ("background"), then use the paint bucket to fill a new layer with a solid green. [I've pasted a screenshot image, below.]

    NOTE: If you decide not to use the Roleplaying City Map Generator, you should basically start with this step: create a "background" layer and fill it, then draw on your roads, buildings, etc., each in its own layer.
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    Last edited by pyrandon; 11-10-2007 at 01:14 PM.
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    Default III. Touch-Up & Corrections

    While the Generator is a really neat program I highly recommend, remember that it is a "dumb machine"--meaning it produces roads that lead nowhere, houses in the middle of streets, odd shapes here and there, etc. So the first true step is to examine the map and "correct" any anomalies by erasing &/or adding elements--each in their respective layers, of course.

    In the image below you can see that I added some buildings, roads, and water features, plus erased a few of the same. As the wonderful Guild members here pointed out in a works in progress (WIP) posting I used to quality check the finished map, I could have done much more to this--especially if Koppollex is intended to be a newer, more purposefully designed city--such as either eliminating meandering roads or adding more buildings to give them a purpose, but for my purposes I worked quickly and basically. (By the way, make sure to post your maps in the Guild's WIP forums; you'll get very useful advice!)

    The rivers and roads were added with a hard-edged brush of the required size, using the color picker ("eye-dropper") to find the right color. The buildings were added freehand and by dabbing with a square edged brush (see image, below, for how to get to those brushes--and don't worry when it asks you to replace brush sets, you can always get back to the default brushes in the same way).

    And by the way, if you want to get really technical &/or plan to do a lot of this sort of thing, I suggest creating a set of custom "building shape" brushes that are rotated, multi-shaped, etc. Creating custom brushes is amazingly quick & easy in Photoshop (do an Internet search & you'll learn how in about 2 minutes.)
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    Last edited by pyrandon; 11-10-2007 at 01:02 PM.
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    Default IV. Adding Geography

    RIVER & LAKE DETAILS
    Now in a new layer just above “rivers” called “river details”, touch up your water using lighter blues (even whitish-blues) with a soft-edged brush set at a low opacity.

    • Hint: Before beginning, you may wish to ctrl-click the “rivers” layer (or use the magic wand on the blue); this will select the rivers and thus prevent you from accidentally coloring outside the lines.

    • When done, you may wish to smudge the rivers to simulate a flow. You also may wish to use Filter>Distort>Ripple filter on it.

    • Set the layer blending mode of "river details" to Lighten & play with opacity

    • Remember that deeper water is always darker


    ROCKY TERRAIN
    In a new layer above “background” create a “rocks” layer—if you plan to have rocks/cliffs/mountains, etc..

    • With a large, soft brush set at medium-low opacity & flow (30%?), draw in rocky areas in a tan/brown color.

    • Then, with a smaller, harder-edged brush, draw in details in a darker brown (or even black); set your brush to a more stark opacity & flow (60% or so). It helps to draw mainly in the direction of the slope (i.e., draw "downhill" lines), with a few crosscutting them for variety! When done, set the opacity of this layer down to around 50% [see image below]

    • Finally, add a layer style of “Bevel and Emboss”—inner bevel, smooth. Also play with the highlight mode (I turned mine to overlay to cut on the glare!). Finally in that layer style box, add texture (one of the stock ones was used for mine) & contour (my range was dropped to 40%) [You can see my settings, below. Note from the uppermost screen that I already determined the angle and altitude of the shading; this will be explained below, but it's time to decide from which direction your light source will shine.)

    If, after applying, you can still see the lines you drew, either lower the layer's opacity OR run a Gaussian Blur on the layer.


    HINT: Once you like your settings in the layer style window, click the "New Style" button & give it a name. Next map, after drawing your squiggles, pull up the layer style menu, click "Styles" and you'll see yours listed. Click it and BAM! Instant style! [see image, below]
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    Last edited by pyrandon; 11-13-2007 at 11:07 AM.
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    Default V. Elevations & Shadows

    The construction of this map is not 3D, although the end result hopefully shows some slight illusion of such. While there are a few ways of achieving a 3D "height map" in Photoshop (such as displacement maps), and while cartographers often demonstrate elevations by color (hypsometrically), I chose instead the extremely simple method of darkening lower elevations, then adding shadows.

    Create a new layer above all others called “elevations,” and set the layer blend mode to “multiply.”

    Choose a large, soft-edged brush of your choice (I like to use a textured one), set to around 10% opacity & 10% flow. Then...

    • Color with black all elevation areas EXCEPT the highest "peak(s)" of the hill(s). [see image, below]. HINT: keep your mouse/pen held down for the entire painting of the dark color; this will maintain consistency with no darker overlapping. You can also run a Gaussian Blur on the layer if you notice overlaps or edges.

    • Create another new layer above "elevations", set its blending to "Multiply", and repeat the darkening process, darkening everything but the next highest peaks of hills. Do this over and over so the lowest valleys are the darkest. [see image, below]

    • Don’t be afraid to go dark! Later you can always lighten up with the opacity of the layer--or even play with the brightness adjustments, levels, and such.

    • If you haven’t already, decide from which direction the light source is shining (in mine it’s upper-right) & then shadow on the opposite sides of hills, etc. This will add to the a sense of 3 dimensionality. [see image, below]

    • Once done, merge all elevations layers. You may wish to play with the opacity of the "elevations" layer &/or run a final Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur.

    • To create even more depth and interest, copy the final “elevations” layer on top of the original, then set the copy to a different blending mode (such as darken, color burn, etc.)
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    Last edited by pyrandon; 11-12-2007 at 10:16 PM.
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    Default VI. Building & Road Improvement

    BUILDINGS
    Let's give the buildings some life now. Ctrl-click (or Apple-click) in the “Buildings” layer to select the buildings, then add some random color variations with a small, soft brush; since the buildings are selected you should be able to draw quickly without leaving the lines.

    Then apply a couple layer styles: Drop Shadow first, then Bevel & Emboss. [You can see my settings in the image, below. The texture I'm using is simply a pattern I created out of a picture of a brick wall.]

    Now copy this "buildings" layer on top of itself. Gaussian Blur the new layer, then drop the opacity way down to reduce the sharp edges slightly.

    I also copied the buildings one more time on top of the other two, then set the layer blend mode to "multiply" & played with opacity.


    ROADS
    To create eye interest in the roads set the "roads" layer's blending mode to "overlay" and then Gaussian Blur it ever so slightly.

    Then run Filter>Texture>Texturizer, with sandstone texture set to the smallest scaling (50%) and verrrrry shallow relief. I also ran Filter>Artistic>Paint daubs on the roads to break the monotony of the sandstone.

    Copy this layer on top of the original and set the upper's blending mode to "multiply"; play with the opacity to taste. [see image, below]

    With a darker brown I also drew in lines for bridges, which turned out fair.
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    Default VII. Vegetation

    GRASS
    Because our green "background" layer is a bit too flat, give it some life by creating a new layer above it called "grass". Fill that layer with an almost-white gray color, then run Filter->Artistic->Sponge, with settings around: brush size 3, definition 15, smoothness 4 (play with these to taste, of course).

    Next set the "grass" layer's blending mode to "multiply" & down the opacity to 60-70% or so. (you may also wish to run a Gaussian Blur on it very lightly to downplay the edges.) [see image]


    TREES
    Of the many ways to add forests, I chose to use a seamless tile I previously created from a picture of some trees. And may I say that creating that one pattern was an amazingly useful project--I highly recommend you do the same! (You can easily be taught how to create both a seamless tile and how to define a pattern in about 10 minutes by doing an Internet search).

    First click Layer->New Fill Layer->Pattern, and name it "trees"; in the next screen, choose your tree pattern at whatever scale you deem best. The entire image will instantly be covered with forests. Then use the paint bucket to fill the "trees" layer with solid black--all the forests will disappear.

    Now with a white brush of your choice, draw wherever you want trees, and the trees will appear! I used a large brush to create forest areas and smaller brush to dab in individual trees; I also used some of the spotty brushes to break up the solid edges.

    Now, your trees are placed, but they probably look very flat next to the other 3D-ish details of the map. So add a Drop shadow, Inner shadow, Bevel & Emboss (inner bevel, chisel hard) + texture set to the same tree pattern with which you filled the layer.

    There you have it! [see image, below]


    GROUND COVER
    Finally, let's add some random shrubbery and ground cover. Create a new layer above the "trees" layer called "vegetation". Set layer style settings close to your "trees" layer [see my settings in the image, below].

    Then choose a smaller stipple brush set to 40-50% opacity and fill. With various greens, browns, etc. either dab or draw in ground cover. Change brush tips, colors, and opacity/fill often for more detail and realism. (One note: the harder the brush & higher the fill/opacity, the taller the vegetation will appear, for the shadows and such will be more pronounced.)

    You can even draw on top of the trees you just placed to lend them further dimension.
    [see image below]
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    Last edited by pyrandon; 11-13-2007 at 11:02 AM.
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    Default VIII. Final Adjustments

    The bulk of the grunt work is now done, so time to step back and assess. Most likely the first thing you'll notice is that the entire map is quite dark. The best way to lighten it up is adding an adjustment layer as the top layer in your stack (Layer->New Adjustment Layer); which type you choose is up to you: Brightness/Contrast is easiest, Levels allows a little more control, and Curves boasts most control but can be tricky.

    You could also play with the color scheme in this same way by adding an adjustment layer for Color Balance. Even the Photo Filter can offer some interesting, subtle color effects.

    Also, if colors look a bit too neon/pastel for your tastes, add an adjustment layer for hue/saturation.

    This is really just the "play" stage, so try a few things to near your vision for your map.

    Below is the before & after version of my map, showing the adjusted colors and brlightening.
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