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  1. #1
    Guild Novice TheMumm's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2011

    Default Sculpting organic landmasses in Photoshop

    First tutorial posting; apologies if there's one similar.

    I've been mozeying on through the forums here, and, while most everyone's workflow on sculpting landmasses is similar, I've got a quick, easy and good-looking way to sculpt organic landmasses.

    Step 1:
    Create a new document. Pixel dimensions don't matter, however, some forethought is needed here. Before choosing a document size, answer these questions:
    A) Will the image be used on the computer only?
    B) Are there intentions to print the map? If so, what paper size do you intend to print on?

    Coming from a graphic design background, I'm a fan of larger documents, because of their scalability. For the most part, I'm not going to have my maps professionally printed, so I'm limited to an 8.5x11 paper size. As such, I choose those dimensions.

    Set your resolution to 300 dpi. This is standard, print resolution.

    Step 2:
    Create a new layer, fill with black.
    Filter > Render > Clouds
    NOTE: Should you desire, you can render difference clouds a few times, so long as it ends up darker than lighter (it will invert the colors every time you render difference clouds)
    Set the top clouds layer to 'Hard Mix'.

    This is the point at which my workflow differs slightly from some of the tutorials here.

    Step 3:
    On the top clouds layer, instead of using a black brush to fill in the seas, use the Burn/dodge tool. (shortcut: O). Dodge will 'raise' your landmasses and Burn will 'lower' them.
    Go Bananas.
    I've just started experimenting with using the same workflow to sculpt rivers into the landmass, rather than making a new layer and drawing on it with the pencil tool. So far so good.

    When you're satisfied, save the document as a .psd, merge the two clouds layers, and save another copy (DO NOT OVERWRITE YOUR ORIGINAL .PSD). I cannot stress this enough. SAVE your documents at all points before 'destructive' actions. This way, if you want to change the map for whatever reason, you have this point to come back to.
    Cheers, all!
    Marginally Sane.

  2. #2


    This is a really interesting method of creating land formation! It can work really well with a number of methods that other tutorials cover (any that use clouds to render land).
    I had to duplicate the cloud layer to get it to work (in step two), which I think you skipped.
    I do have a quick question though: my Burn tool seems very ineffective at removing land (particularly in the shape of rivers). Clicking on the layer has more effect than dragging across the layer to define the land/water. Do you have any tips to make it more effective and faster for workflow??

  3. #3
    Community Leader Gidde's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Michigan, USA


    Looks cool, thanks for posting and have some rep

  4. #4
    Guild Novice Facebook Connected
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Portage, WI.


    So I was with this technique and then decided to try some other stuff with it. In photoshop if you go under the image menu there are a bunch of other options to alter the picture. Following steps I used are the following
    1)image>curves (play around with the curves. It lightens and darkens the image as a whole)
    2)image>Shadow/Highlights(Play around and see what you like)
    3)image>Exposure(Again play around)

    This image only took about 5 minutes.Click image for larger version. 

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