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Thread: Struggling with mountains, craters, and canyons (oh my!)

  1. #1

    Help Struggling with mountains, craters, and canyons (oh my!)

    Hey gang - love perusing the site and checking out all the amazing creativity around here. Keep it up!

    I asked for some input on this problem a long time ago, and tried to implement the suggestions... but... the results aren't as good as I really want. I need more finite control.

    Anyway, I posted a few maps way back when that are part of a 70+ full 8.5x11 re-creation of a 30 year old D&D campaign world. We're trying to digitize thousands of pages of completely original content, including these edge-to-edge maps. It's a pretty cool project, but LOADS of work.

    I'm in charge of re-creating the new maps in Photoshop based on the pencil line drawings which only indicate mountain ridges, craters, and canyons with simple little lines. I've drawn about five different map tiles about twelve different ways, but these mountains, craters, and canyons are killing me. I need some advice or tips.

    Essentially, all mountain ranges have critical importance, so I must respect the placement of the ridges which are at times very complex. I've tried using the Render Clouds technique for generating the mountains and hills, but they are way too random and just don't look right - especially when trying to create the craters and canyons. The fixed nature of the geography and topography are imperative, so I have to find a technique that is far more predictable but won't take forever to create (i.e. I really don't want to hand draw 70+ maps by hand if I don't have too... we aren't sure this will get published!).

    I'm VERY fond of Ascension's overland mapping style, but I can't seem to find a way to control the creation of the geography so hillls, mountains, alpine areas, and all the rest are exactly where they need to be.

    Can someone please chime in and help me figure out the best way to create predictable geographic features with Photoshop? I appreciate every tip I can get.

  2. #2
    Guild Expert jbgibson's Avatar
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    Oct 2009
    Alabama, USA


    Can you show us a scan of what you started with, and examples of what you've tried?

  3. #3
    Community Leader Guild Sponsor
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    Trelleborg, Sweden
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    predictable = hand drawn ... mabye you could scan the original map and brush up in photoshop after? ... if you use illustrator as well, you can vectorize the lines there for added sharpness and control.
    regs tilt
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  4. #4


    Based of what's here, I don't think it's really possible to get randomly generated terrain to line up with a pre-existing map. You'll probably need to put the scans into PS, Illustrator, or Inkscape and use it as a backdrop for either hand-editing.

    Or you can also use it as a backdrop to guide placement, and then use the tutorials to build something and slide single features around and into appropriate places. You'll probably have to create several runs of the randomly generated maps to get enough features that look right.
    My Finished Maps | My Planet Maps | My Challenge Entries | Album: Pre-generated Worlds

    Assuming I stick with fantasy cartography, I'd like to become a World Builder, laying out not only a realistic topography, but also the geopolitical boundaries and at least rough descriptions of the countries and societies.

  5. #5
    Community Leader Facebook Connected Ascension's Avatar
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    Jun 2008
    St. Charles, Missouri, United States


    What you need to is take the random clouds and then hand paint black and white over top to fit how the terrain is supposed to be. For starters just paint the oceans solid black. On the land use the 50% gray (true neutral gray not 50% opacity) and set the blend mode to multiply and use an airbrush at 3% to darken areas that need to be lower (thus darker). Then set the blend mode to screen and paint the areas that need to be higher (thus lighter). Do your painting on different layers so that if it doesn't come out right then you can just delete the layer and try again. Once you get your land situated then you can go back and do some lightening around the coasts and darkening for the deep parts of the ocean. When you do the render-lighting effects make sure to render the land separate from the ocean.
    If the radiance of a thousand suns was to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One...I am become Death, the Shatterer of worlds.
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