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Thread: Feb/March Lite Mapping Challenge - It's a River!

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  1. #1

    Post Feb/March Lite Mapping Challenge - It's a River!

    Hello all,

    I'll be quite honest, I really was struggling to find inspiration for a river map... not only are they kind of tricky given all the rules, but it's also hard to map JUST a river, seeing as how it's so long and spindly... so this is going to end up more a map of a river + the surrounding region. Anyways, the comments in Vorro's thread about it being a slow month so far motivated me to finally throw the beginnings of something together. River-centric or not, here's what I've got so far!

    # # # LATEST WIP # # #
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    The waterways, river bits included, were created by doing a black/white :: land/water sketch, a gaussian blur and some smudging, throwing down a noise layer, and using the color levels function to get a randomish coastline with the rough river/lake shape I wanted. The mouth of the river came out pretty jagged, which prompted me to put a cliff face facing the ocean. The idea is that the river flows out of the highland lake and the mountains, into a fjord-like channel, and then out to sea. With the water in place, I started building up all the mountains, using the river bends to influence where the mountains needed to be. I don't know that it follows the river rules perfectly, but it can't be too far off, eh? Anyway, the mountains were made with the Aldebran Grand Set of brushes, downloaded off the forum, I think from Schwarzkreuz. I have two simultaneous transparent layers, that I've used to layer mountains on top of one another, and then erase the bits that should be 'behind' other mountains. I've merged them together two or three times, creating a new second layer to work with after each merge. Think I'm done with the mountains, but we'll see. In any event, I'm quite pleased with them so far.

    The other important detail is that I've been working wholly in black and white so far. I hope to use a more subtle, watercolor effect on this map, as opposed to the sweeping background colors over noise that I've used so far. We'll see!

  2. #2


    Time for an update, which I shall be calling TnT!

    ### LATEST WIP ###
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    That is, trees and texture! The trees are all my own, and I have to say I'm fairly excited that they've turned out reasonably well. As for the texture, I'd love to hear opinions: too much, or just right? I fear that I may have overdone it in an effort to compensate for the lack of any color. But you tell me.
    Last edited by torstan; 03-04-2013 at 07:20 PM.

  3. #3
    Community Leader Facebook Connected torstan's Avatar
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    Jul 2007


    Quick edit to tweak the latest wip tag. That should help these great wips be picked up.

  4. #4


    I think you overdid the textures a bit

    Specifically, I don't think the mountains and hills should have the texture. It cuts across the edges and lines a bit too much.

  5. #5


    Torstan, thanks, I was wondering why that wasn't quite working. No spaces between the hash tags, got it!

    Maquesh, now that you bring it up, I think you're right. Fortunately it should be pretty easy to go in and clean up under the mountains while leaving the open spaces. That'll be first today, then I think it's time to actually start playing with the river.

  6. #6
    Community Leader Guild Sponsor - Max -'s Avatar
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    Dec 2012


    Don't you have a river issue? On the left side, river should go straight south to the sea instead of going east then south I think. It would be sad that the police river catch you on a river challenge ;-)

  7. #7


    Max, I suppose you're right about that. I was thinking that since it was moving diagonally, it was still moving towards the coast, but since the coast is also slanted diagonally, that would in fact become a problem. Since I didn't notice your post until I have already put in a bit of effort working on the water (and because re-arranging the river would be a complete pain in the behind regardless), I did the only reasonable thing I could think of. I added more hills.

    Hopefully this latest update gets me out of River Jail.

    ### LATEST WIP ###
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    I may need another hill or three to really nail that river into place, as some people may feel like it should still run off to the left instead of threading down through those smaller ranges, but I didn't want to over do it, so for the moment that's where I stand.

    The downside to going back and adding things is that my mountain layer now contains some actual white bits, to hide the river stuff behind it, where as I previously had been working exclusively on a black->transparent scale. I don't THINK that will be a problem, as I'll be merging everything together to get a single black and white layer before I touch anything with actual colors, but there's the principle of it all. Oh wells. (Actually, now that I think about it, my tree brushes have white in them to allow me to stack them easily. So I guess any moral high ground I believed to be lost was never there in the first place? )

    In any event, I've also fixed the texture issue by erasing everything behind the mountains, and added some flowing looking lines along the river and the coasts. The water effect layer is 50% faded to keep it from looking too loud. I had intended to start in on some city and town structures, but then I had to raise some mountains and otherwise right the laws of physics. You understand I'm sure. Hopefully I can get into some buildings tomorrow.

    As always, comments and critiques appreciated!

  8. #8


    This is turning into a really nice map I think the texture looks great now. I'm not a river expert, so I'm not gonna comment about the amount or placement of hills Looks good to me, anyway.

  9. #9


    Well, I spent most of today working on things entirely unrelated to rivers, but that doesn't mean that I don't have something to show for it!

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    Civilization! I've been building and fiddling with these town and city icons for the past few hours. They're inspired by Sapiento's lovely 'gaudy style' map (seen here), and built using the quick tutorial in the same thread. I'm really happy with them overall, though I may yet go back and make more, since I ended up using a few icons twice. I also struggled putting together a castle icon I was really happy with, eventually settling with just the two walled cities along the river. I think if I make the castle icon slightly bigger than the others, that should help give it the sense of importance and majesty that my attempts have been lacking so far. However, that will have to be a job for tomorrow.

  10. #10


    So, today's update doesn't change a whole lot; I made more town/city icons, and used them quite a bit more liberally, really filling in the population. However, while there wasn't a lot of mapping progress being made, I do believe I had a bit of an intellectual breakthrough that is very much related to the challenge's theme of mapping a river. Specifically, the river is what makes this whole map possible/relevant/important. Historically, tribes and civilizations have sprung up and flourished around rivers. Rivers provide not only water to drink and bathe in, but also a means of travelling, which promotes trade and commerce. Rivers set boundaries, and help make areas more defensible. Simply put, a river is the heart of any civilization living around it. If the river were to wither and die, the peoples almost certainly would as well.

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    So. Many small settlements have sprung up between the larger ones all along the lake and river, even crossing over into the 'territory' of that scary wizard up in his tower (don't miss the very important watch tower in that little town). Forts have been constructed to guard the mountain passes into the fertile lake region, including a massive castle spanning the widest of the passes. Towers now look out to sea to spot incoming ships, both to defend against potential raiders and to welcome possible trade partners. The river shapes and defines the purpose of the region.

    I'm just about finished with the actual mapping itself, I think. I need to put in some roads, to aid in travel and trade, but I think that's about it. With that in mind, I've started turning my thoughts towards color. The large open spaces to the southeast were always intended to be open plains, far more barren than the more fertile areas up north. I hope to use color to further indicate the difference between the open plains and the waterways, which ultimately points back to the river itself.

    Philosophical musings aside, I continue to appreciate your feedback!

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