I just discovered this today, and I HAD to share it over here on Cartographer's Guild.
At work, I've been experimenting with several different drawing / page layout programs, in an attempt to see if our business can move away from Adobe products to something else.
However, during my experiments, I stumbled across a feature for a program called DrawPlus by Serif (you can download the free trial version here) that ABSOLUTELY BLEW MY MIND, because I KNEW it could be a killer feature for doing city mapping. I'm certain there are ways to do it in Photoshop and Illustrator too, but for the price of "free" with the trial version, which you can use forever, this CANNOT be beat.
The program is vector-based, but it gives you the option to create "brushes" for your vector lines that apply stylistic effects. One of the options for line brushes is to create what they call "photo brushes," where you can assign a series of images--vector or raster--in a collective row, then have the program place those images in a row along the vector.
The default example they show is with flowers--not terribly inspiring, right?
HOWEVER---When I went to experiment with it, I discovered that you can easily replace the images in the brush, and the order they appear.
Notice as well that you can totally control the other elements---the amount of vertical / horizontal jitter, the spacing between elements, and so on.
So in a crazy "Eureka!" moment, I totally figured that I could use tile graphics of city buildings--from CC3 or other sources--and create a "brush" that runs those buildings in a line. And what you know, IF I WASN'T RIGHT!!
(Can you tell I'm just a little bit excited about this???) Anyway, it only took a few minutes of experimenting to create a couple of "brushes" to use, and it looks like you can add a dozen or more elements to each line. When finished, you can use the program's export function to immediately export it to PNG, with the pixel dimensions and DPI specified, all with a transparent background--making it a cinch to import the output file into GIMP or Photoshop afterwards as a layer.
Now, here's the other AWESOME thing about all this--you don't even have to create different sizes of the building rasters if you want to change the building size slightly. Simply by updating the width of the vector line, DrawPlus automatically updates the relative size of the images in the brush, making it brilliantly easy to make the buildings slightly larger or smaller (obviously to make this work, you need to have some very high-resolution originals to input to the brush, or use vectors).
Furthermore, If you get a few buildings too many, either too long or too wide, all you have to do is adjust the nodes of the vector line, or shrink the bounding box, and it simply removes the buildings from the line! And even better than that--if you change the FOLLOW PATH ROTATION setting all the way up to 100%, the line of houses NATURALLY TURNS AND SHIFTS ALONG THE PATH, JUST AS IF IT WERE ON THE STREET!!!!!!! (**mind blown**).
Anyway, I don't know if any of the rest of you can make use of this, but I know for me it COMPLETELY REDEFINES my ability to quickly draw out city buildings, especially since I already have a lot of artwork collected from CC3 and CD3 (which I don't ever use anymore, TOOOO SLLOOOOOW). Obviously you have to plan ahead for the other things in the map, like setting a consistent pixel size and DPI for the other layers, but for me this is a seriously COOL time saver, and I'm going to make heavy use of it going forward.
Oh, and since the tool allows for the use of SVG, if you have a bunch of vectorized building art already, all you have to do is add them to the brush.
If someone else has already reported this, forgive me for being so excited, but the application of this for city mapping is potentially huge, in my opinion.
Thanks for letting me have a "happy rant!" =)