Mandatory Mention of not being a skilled tutorial writer:I might not look like a man half my age but I at least write like one. So bare with me. Here's what we are going to make:
Step One: Grid yourself.
I am going to create a battle map with dimensions of 2000x2000 pixels, but before I do that I am going to make a square grid for it that will be 10x10, so all my elements align well to the grid.
-So I’m going to open a new image with dimensions of 200x200 (1/10th of 2000).
-Make a new layer and use the single row marquee tool then the single column marquee selection along with the paint bucket to fill an “L” with black.
- Click on the eye to make the background hidden.
-Hit Ctl+A to select the whole thing (you can also go to select ⇨all
-Edit ⇨Define pattern and name it gird 200 and click OK.
On to the main image.
-File new and 2000x2000
-Create a new layer then Edit ⇨Fill ⇨Pattern and select the grid you just made. If you want to be able to see it better you can click the Fx button at the bottom of the layer menu and add the stroke effect.
-Remember to name your layers as you go for ease later on.
We now have our grid ready so when we draw elements they will line up nicely and if we are making a battlemap we want the grid on we now have one.
Step 2: Every day I’m texturing.
Making seamless textures is beyond the scope of what I’m doing here so for now go get yourself some tileable textures from CGtextures, or whatever other resource you like best. For this tutorial you’ll want the following textures:
+cement or smooth stone
+moss or grass for tree texture
+water (good one's are extra hard to find)
+any smudgey grunge texture
Textures are worth spending some extra time on, especially if you are going to do more than one map in the same kind of area, so if my method seems a bit tedious feel free to to just pattern fill in each texture you need instead, just like you did your grid.
-2 New layers (under the grid for all your textures you’ll be creating).
-Select top most of the two new layers
-Paint bucket it in with white.
-Fx (at the bottom of the layer tab) Pattern overly and choose your grass texture. You can adjust the scale of the overly till you think the level of detail fits the scale of your map
-Once you have the scale of the pattern where you want it, merge it with the layer below by hitting Ctr+E or going to the layer tab and selecting merge down. This will allow you to edit traits about the layer later on.
New we have a layer but it looks really repetitive due to the number of times the pattern repeats, not to worry we have solutions.
-Copy the Grass layer you just created by either dragging it down to the new layer icon in the layer menu, or going up to layer⇨Duplicate Layer
-now Edit⇨Transform rotate 90 ccw (widdershins always).
-now take your eraser tool and select a soft brush (the round one with 0% hardness works great). Erase spots at random, especial those that look too patterny to you.
-Ctr+E to merge your two grass layers. Better, but still a bit overly patterny.
-Create a layer under your grass layer
-Reselect your grass layer
-Fx pattern overlay again! This time we’ll choose any old grunge texture, and we’ll change the scale to large enough that it doesn’t repeat.
-Then we will mess around with the settings, I went with blend mode multiply, and then reduced the opacity to 52%
-We now merge that down with the blank layer below it Ctr+E
The next two steps aren’t one's I can give you exact numbers for you’ll have to play with them yourself till you get results you like
-Image⇨Adjustments⇨Hue/Saturation (I usually desaturate a bit, but I live in the northwest where we have less direct sunlight so I am biased) or hit Ctr+U
-Image⇨Adjustment⇨Levels you can lighten and darken your image without loss of all the details and making it washed out and make the contrast pop nicely. just play with the sliders till you like it.
We now have our grass layer. Go back up to the top of step two, and repeat the process for your sparse grass layer.
Then your dirt layer.
Your smoother stone layer. And then copy this layer so you have two. You are remembering to name them right?
And finally a layer each for cliffs and Trees. We now have a lot of layers and we can quit! OK not really. Next we want to create a layer mask for every texture layer with the exception of our bottom most dirt layer.
-Layer⇨Layer Mask⇨Hide all or click the layer mask button at the bottom of the layer tab, then fill all your layer masks except the grass with black.
Layer masks are all we will edit from now on, leaving our texture alone under it. Always make sure you have the layer mask selected rather than the texture it is laying over. White=visible Black=hidden for layer masks they will make your life beautiful again.
We are about ready to start adding elements now that we have all our textures in and masked. Before we do make sure you grid is visible so you can align to it reasonably well.
Step 3: Brushing up on brushes.
We are going to need a couple of brushes, a “funky brush”, a “grass brush”, and a “pebble brush”. We’ll start with the funky one.
-under the Brush tab select a messed up shaped brush
-select shape dynamics and turn the angle jitter all the way up. You can also mess with size and roundness gitter, and if you have a tablet (which my cheapy cost only $20 and works fine for this) make control by pen pressure.
-save the brush settings you just made. You can find it later under the brush preset tab.
Now for the pebble brush, which starts as a regular old round hard brush to which I apply the following settings:
Then I save that brush too.
Finally my grass Brush, which is set like this:
OK so now we’ve grown old together and I love you still but its time to move onto the part where we acutally map something out.
Step4: Laying your groundwork
We could really start with any feature, but as the exposed rock faces determine a lot of where the rest of things go lets start with that.
-Choose your funky brush
-select the layer mask for the cliffs layer.
-make the color of your brush white (you can hit D to chose black and white the default colors and x to switch between them for quick layer mask fu)
-Draw a cliff
Then go to your Stone work layer (one of your two smooth stone layers)
-Select layer mask for stone work layer
-Use the selection tool to select some square walls sections that align to the grid reasonably, using the paint bucket to fill the selections with white.
-click Fx and select Bevel and Emboss. One thing to remember is for the blend mode of your highlights unless its shiny chose overlay rather than screen. The texture option will help stonework look rougher choose any rough stone texture or grunge texture and adjust as needed (often I bring the depth of the texture option down). Here’s the settings I used:
Then to help define the outer edges and imitate the ambient shadows along the base of the walls:
-fx outer glow. Then I set blend mode to multiply and chose the color black, this works better than a drop shadow as I can set the technique to “precise” which gives more definition.
Next its on to some loose rock around the walls
-chose your pebble brush
-select white as your color
-select the laye mask for your rubble (the other smooth stone layer)
-Draw on layer mask scattering some rocks around the walls.
Then its time for far too many layer fx.
Good to mess around with all those settings on your own sometime and get a real feel for them rather than taking my word and taste as gospel.
Next we will play with the grass
-select your grass brush
-select the layer mask for your grass layer
-make the foreground color black (which is to say select black as your color, or colour if you are british).
-draw on that layer mask making trails and removing grass from anywhere you want.
-change opacity to 40% (you can just hit 4 on your keyboard to do this also hitting 0 is back to full)
-draw some more making areas of thinner grass
-select the layer mask for you sparse grass
-make sure your brush opacity is set to 100%
-hit x or change your color to white by process of selection.
-draw some sparser grass
-lower opacity to 40% again
-draw some sparser sparser grass (much sparse. wow.)
Time for your trees, which are a lot like your pebble really. If you prefer there are a number or online resources that will allow you to simply drop in higher quality more realistic trees, this method is only really good for creating brush and shrubs.
-select your tree layer
-apply all these layer effects:
Then as we are going to be lazy about it we’ll use a drop shadow for them. its better to draw your own, but sometimes you are in a hurry. Here’s the setting I used:
-Chose your grass brush
-select the layer mask for your tree layer
-chose white as your color (make sure opacity is at 100%)
-draw some trees, being conscientious of the grid (make it very clear weather a space is more or less than half covered by a tree).
Step 5: Devil in the details.
OK so now we have all the elements we wanted in place, time to go back and refine things a bit. First off lets look at those cliffs. There is nothing about them that shows anything about the paly of light in the scene. We already know the direction of the sun from the “global light” setting from all our bevels. So lets add some additional shadows to our cliffs.
-create a new layer above your cliff layer
-hit crt+alt+G or go to layer⇨create layer clipping mask. This make a layer that only shows when its coincides with the layer below it. there should be a little arrow showing you the layer its buddies with.
-Set layer opacity to around 50%
-Set layer style to multiply (not screen)
-select a soft round brush
-make your foreground color black.
-remembering the direction of light, enhance the cracks and shadows of your rock texture
-add some extra shadow at the bottom to make it look like the low point
-when you’re done drawing lower opacity to 22%, we only had it up higher to see what we were doing.
Onto those all to clean walls.
-select your funky brush
-select the layer mask for your stone work
-select your color as black
-draw along the edges causing random messy damage along the walls.
-create a new layer over your stone work
-Ctr+Alt+G to create a layer clipping mask
-select a hard round brush and make it only 2 pixels wide.
Draw some lines where you want the intersections of stones on your wall.
Now for another mashup of layer fx. We’ll use an outer bevel this time with the usual texture setting.
Now for some more fancy damage effects.
-create a new layer
-move it between your line layer and your stone work layer, this should make it a layer clipping mask for the layer also.
-paint bucket the whole layer black.
-hit ctr+F a dozen or so times (this repeats the last filter and will add more detail to your difference clouds so they get finer)
-You’ll want to change your layer style to hard light, and lower opacity a bit (I used 73%)
-now put a layer mask on your “damage” layer and hide the whole thing.
-Select the layer mask for your damage layer
-make your selected color white
-Using your funky brush you can now draw in additional damage wherever you messed up the walls extra. its like magic or something!
-finally to help define the edges of the broken stone we’ll add a layer effect like so:
Step 6: Master of light and shadow
Its time to add some shadows and highlights to this poor flat scene.
-create two new layers
-turn the opacity of each down to around 50% (its good to fiddle)
-Layer style for shadows is Multiply
-Layer style for highlights is overlay
-Select the soft round brush
-Select black as your color (in case you forgot you can just hit D to get default colors)
-keeping in mind the direction of the lighting draw your shadows. If your aren’t sure where they might go, put a temporary drop shadow on a layer to see where the far ends line up and then just draw lines to connect them. If you click a location with your brush hold down shift and then click on a new location it will draw a straight line between your dots. or you can begin drawing and then hold down shift to draw a line that is straight across or straight up and down.
-Select your highlight layer
-chose white as your color
-Draw some highlights near the top of your cliffs where the light would hit them.
-Now turn the opacity down on your brush to 30% and draw some light and shadows on your wall each on the proper layer, it will be subtle but help them look less flat.
Now as its unlikely our terrain is perfectly flat we will plan out the shape of it and where to put shadows and highlights.
-turn down the opacity of your brush to 20% and add the terrain shadows and highlights each on the proper level.
Looks like a finished piece. We could easily dress it up with stock crates barrels or just set the bandits waiting to ambush our heroes behind those walls as they come along the path. But wait, we’ve decided that we want some water because we are gluttons for punishment.
Step 7: Wetting our appetites
We’ll have to make a water layer. We remember that from earlier (which is to say we go back and re-read that part). Strangely we are putting it above our grass layer what madness is this?
- mask the whole layer (create a layer mask and fill it with black)
-select the layer mask
-select white as your color
-using your funky brush draw a stream (we’ll make it go along our flat path as we already added a sense of hight to the rest of the area.
-use a bunch of layer effects, an outer bevel to make it look like the stream is sunk, an inner shadow set with the same color as the dirt to make it look like its receding under water, and an inner glow set to center with multiply to show deeper darker water. Here’s my settings you can play with your own:
Hmm this river needs some rocks. The good news is you can just select your pebble brush, go back to that layer and add some in the stream.
Finally some white water
-create new layer over water layer
-select your grass brush
-make white your color
-draw some foam under each rock, with a little tail if you want the water to look fast flowing.
That’s about it. There is a million more tricks and tips, but with what you’ve learned with custom brushes, layer masks, layer clicking masks, and judicious use of bevel effects you can get a very long ways. I might add more later if people have specific requests.