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Thread: [Award Winner] Assorted tips and tricks

  1. #1
    Community Leader Facebook Connected torstan's Avatar
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    Jul 2007

    Default [Award Winner] Assorted tips and tricks

    This is a non-traditional tutorial thread. I'll be posting little snippets that I originally posted to G+. I'll try to keep an index of the posts at the top for easy and quick reference. We'll see how that goes... These are intended to be entrance level tips that anyone might find useful. Feel free to ask questions about specific topics.

    How to use your phone to "scan" a map
    Drawing top down hills
    City design - start with the roads
    Dungeon design and adventure flow
    Simple hatched city district styles
    Using the Shape Tool to create quick simple icons in Photoshop
    Hand drawn mountains
    Turning a map into an aged paper handout
    A classic gatehouse design for guarding your front door
    Creating isometric dungeon maps
    Quick and Easy Dungeons using Grids
    Using layer styles for attractive dungeons.
    Using paths to create pretty dungeon maps
    Old School Mapping in Photoshop and Maptool
    How to colour a dungeon map.
    Different Tree Styles for Different Battlemaps
    More City Design
    How to make a dynamic grungy brush in photoshop
    How to quickly colour trees in photoshop
    How to make a grungy brush in Gimp
    How to draw isometric mountains
    Three different cliff styles
    Isometric Cliffs
    Explaining Blend Modes
    How to Draw Grassland
    A Note on Background Textures
    How to Draw Forests
    Using your phone to 'scan' a hand drawn map
    How to Draw Realistic Coastlines
    How to create a ripple texture using the clouds filter
    How to turn a map into an underwater landscape
    Drawing Water
    Using Photoshop Grids
    How to create icons
    Iso Rivers
    How to design a town
    How to draw swamps
    How to use the pen tool to draw buildings
    Drawing old fashioned coastal waters
    How to highlight featured buildings - shape, detail and contrast
    Three Dungeon Wall Styles
    Labeling Locations in Gimp or Photoshop
    Placing icons on a map in Gimp
    How to illustrate mountains
    How to draw forested hills on a top down map
    How to draw, shade, and colour an isometric mountain range
    How to draw an isometric house
    How to draw simple trees
    Here's a compiled pdf of the tips (thanks to NZLemming for all the work!)
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Torstan - Tips & Tricks for Mapmaking.pdf 
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    Last edited by torstan; 04-05-2016 at 12:16 AM.

  2. #2
    Community Leader Facebook Connected torstan's Avatar
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    Today's lunchtime mapping tip - my workflow on mapping hills:

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    1. Lay in the shadows with a large fuzzy brush. In photoshop or the Gimp I'd suggest doing this on a layer with the blend mode set to overlay.
    2. Lay in the highlights with a slightly smaller fuzzy brush. Avoid sharp edges. You want hills to be rolling, and in contrast to the sharp peaks of a mountain range. Again, here I've done this on an overlay layer.
    3. Add colour (here I'm a layer with the blend mode set to colour) and leave the hills slightly browner than the flat plains. That helps to differentiate them - and means that even with subtle light and shade they'll be easy to read at a glance.

    A couple of other things to keep in mind:
    • Lay in the rivers first. As rivers drain the water out of hills, they will determine where the hills should go.
    • Less is more when it comes to shadows and highlights here. Your mountains should have the darkest shadows. Make sure that your hill shadows are quite a bit more subtle.

  3. #3
    Community Leader Facebook Connected torstan's Avatar
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    City design.

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    When laying out a city, first pin down the major areas of interest.
    • Where is the center of power?
    • Where are the major markets?
    • What do people need to defend, where are the city walls (if any).

    The main roads will connect these locations, and they'll be determined by the city gates. Then smaller roads will radiate out from these locations - as people need to get to their source of food, and city planners tend to focus roads around palaces and city squares.

    Once you have the roads in place the city map is entirely functional. You can label that and be done. Everything beyond that is making it pretty (and that's an entirely different topic - drawing buildings is a long task that can push people to the edge of sanity.

    (today's map is taken from the City of Flint, illustrated for ENWorld's Zeitgeist adventure path: )

  4. #4
    Community Leader Facebook Connected torstan's Avatar
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    Today, a couple of thoughts on dungeon design and game flow.

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    Your dungeon design determines the flow of the adventure. If you have a linear dungeon with just one route to the end, you'll have a linear adventure and your players can feel railroaded. If you have different routes to the goal, your players may miss some areas. Are those areas less important to the story? If so, will players feel that they shouldn't explore? You can give players reasons to explore different areas, or have running battles take them into those other areas.

    A dungeon is more than a map - it determines the plotline of a game and presents your players with specific choices. Those choices should be interesting choices, and players should feel rewarded for making them. Keep in mind how you'd like a dungeon game to progress when you design the adventure, and make sure that players can't skip important plot areas.

    The map today is from the Lost City adventure by Logan Bonner:

  5. #5


    Wow, this is awesome, and very well timed as I'm just at this point with a map of my own! Thank you so much. Do you have any further tips for mountains?

  6. #6
    Community Leader Facebook Connected torstan's Avatar
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    I've got a few different ways of tackling mountains. I'll see if I can put up something on those tomorrow. Glad these are useful to you!

  7. #7
    Community Leader Facebook Connected torstan's Avatar
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    Today I'm covering a quick way to layout a city and make it look pretty and easy to read. This one is particularly for Richard Green who was asking for some advice on a city map he's working on.

    The challenge with a city map is to lay out information on districts of the city as well as specific locations. The two can easily get confused, especially if you have a very detailed texture showing roofs and individual buildings. In this style I'm focusing on just showing the different districts. Individual locations of interest can then be placed on top by using icons, or something more elaborate.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    1. Lay in the roads. Here I've used a fixed width round brush, with a slightly wider width for main roads than minor roads. I've also used Photoshop's layer styles to give the roads a dark outer glow to make it easier to read them. They're white on a light background, but that won't be an issue for long.

    2. Here I've use the magic wand to select all the negative space where the city blocks are going to be. You can also use Select Pixels and then Invert Selection in photoshop. I've then shrunk the selection by 3px (though that depends on the resolution of your file of choice). The selection is then filled with black and this layer is set to overlay. I've also given the layer a layer style which is an internal stroke set to colour burn at 70% opacity. The result is that we can see all the city blocks, and the roads are visible as the negative space between the city blocks.

    3. Now we want to designate the different districts. Again we use the magic wand tool to get the selection of the city blocks in a specific district (you can also just get the selection by using the magic wand on the layer from step 2). Now, with one layer and one selection for each of the district, fill with the patter of your choice. Here I've used a striped pattern. I've set the stripes to a colour and used a combination of overlay and colour burn layer modes to create the effect.

    Voila! An easy to read city map with clearly differentiated districts - all in less time than it takes to eat lunch. As ever, let me know if there are any questions in the comments section, or let me know if there are topics you'd like to see covered.

  8. #8
    Guild Artisan eViLe_eAgLe's Avatar
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    Nice tips Torstan! Ill be sure to try out the hill method eventually.

  9. #9
    Community Leader Facebook Connected torstan's Avatar
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    First lunchtime tip of the New Year - today how to do simple city icons in Photoshop. This is more of a series of pointers to tools that will make your life easier. The actual tips are in the image this time.

    Some useful tricks here:
    • When you're on the Move Tool (V), if you hold down Option, the tool will create a copy of an object and move that rather than moving the object itself. This saves a lot of copying and pasting, or duplicating layers and really speeds up laying out a lot of icons.
    • There's a little arrow beside the list of shapes in the Shape Tool toolbar. That has all sorts of useful options, like arrows on lines, or turning polygons into stars.
    • Layer styles are very powerful. They are worth any amount of time invested into learning them, especially as they can be saved (using the New Style... button in the dialog). Once saved they can be applied very quickly.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by torstan; 01-03-2012 at 02:47 PM.

  10. #10
    Community Leader Facebook Connected torstan's Avatar
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    Default Hand Drawn Mountains

    It's a bit of a long one today for the lunchtime mapping tip. We're doing mountains.

    After I put together a post about drawing hills, I had a request to do the same for mountains. Here's a walk through of my process. For this, you need any piece of software that allows you to use layer blend modes, specifically overlay. I know these appear in Photoshop and Gimp, and I'm pretty certain they're available in others too. It also helps if you have a tablet, but this can be done using a mouse with a low brush opacity to build up the shadows gradually.

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    I build up mountains in 5 steps over a textured brown background. I find great for good backgrounds, or you can use the one I've attached here. I've provided it CC-BY-NC licensed so that you can use it for any non-commercial purpose.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Okay, onto the mapping!

    1. Draw the ridge line for your mountains. Mountains form in lines and create ranges spanning long distances, and help to form natural dividing lines for countries. Don't make it too straight. If your hand shakes whilst you're drawing this it's a good thing.
    2. Add in the lines for the mountain ridges that come down from the ridge line. These should bunch up near peaks and help the viewer see where the mountain tops are. They spread out as they get further from the ridge where the ground becomes flatter and easier to navigate. This part just takes a little time and practice to get it looking good.
    3. Create a new layer and set its blend mode to overlay. Take a large-ish circular brush and either set its opacity to pressure sensitive (if using a tablet) or low opacity (if using a mouse). Now, with the colour set to black or very dark blue block in the shadow on the SE side of the mountains. Always start a stroke at or near the ridge line and draw away from the ridge. That will result in the most overlapping strokes being beside the ridge. This means the darkest regions are beside the ridge, and also you'll get lots of details around the ridge. Now pick a few region on the SW side of the ridge that would be in shade and block those in too. Switch to white, and do the same for highlights on the NW side.
    4. Create another layer and once again set it to overlay. Reduce the size of your brush by at least 50% and repeat the process. This time you're looking for the drakest shadows and the brightest highlights to give some detail and definition. Focus on mountain peaks and the top of the ridge line.
    5. Create a final layer, and set it's mode to colour. Using a large fuzzy brush, and pure grey, turn the peaks of the mountains grey. Then using the same fuzzy brush, lay in some verdant green around the base. You can also go back to your first overlay layer here and spread the shadows and highlights into the surrounding plains to blend the mountains in with the background.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    The biggest leap of faith here is trusting that you can be fairly loose on your overlay layers and it will some out fine. The second image attached provides a quick look at what my overlay layers look like as normal layers on a grey background. You can see that the brush strokes aren't that careful, but when they are combined into the overlay layers, they look just fine.

    You can download the .psd of this mountain test here:

    This mini-tute originally appeared here.

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