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Thread: Best way to make zillions of little buildings?

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  1. #1

    Post Best way to make zillions of little buildings?

    I really enjoy some of the great big city maps... Ptolus etc...

    One of the most daunting things though is that all the detail in the map has to be put there in the first place .

    The excerpt is from another Ed Bourelle map and shows what I mean. Zillions of leetle tiny buildings.

    What do people think is the best method for making these?

    I tried making a palette of them and cut\pasting bu they very quickly got all pixelated. I was working at 300dpi.

    Any suggestions for software, method, or magic?

    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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  2. #2
    Guild Journeyer
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Toronto, Canada


    you could try creating a mask (black and white image) concentrating on the pathways than the buildings. here's a quick photoshop test - GIMP will probably have similar things

    1: fill background
    2: draw out streets

    I used a brush to draw the biggest, then keep reducing the brush size for alleys ways etc. also used the circular marquee tool and then stroke white for the curved areas. with Photoshop CS2 and higher you can press shift when using a brush to create striaght lines.

    My example is pretty slap-dash resulting in acute angled walls , whitch while do occur in real life in buildings, might be too extreme. more care at this point for more square structures will make a better looking city similar to the example you have.

    You can also have a brush of a street, turn up the spacing for regular distanced streets - you'll need to adjust the angle as you go.

    3: using 2, I turned it into a mask - putting it in the channels palette and so I could only select the black areas. created a new layer and filled grey.

    on that new layer used the layer FX bevel and drop shadow.

    4:played with filter High pass and Adjust levels.

    it looks like that example uses photocopy or similar. I didnt spend long - about 30 minutes (working out a method, and typing this response inc) Obviously with more care you could get some L, H C shaped buildings.

    If you do use Photoshop, you can also create the foot print of buildings even faster by openeing up the square brushes, and brush options. turn up the spacing , the angle a bit and the size jitter. though with this you can only have rows and collumns of buildings. If you have Painter, I think you can probably do the curves streets with this method. I havent used it much but I know it does have a brush to orientate to the angle of stroke. Coral painter usually has free tryB4 you buys to downloads.

    You can also use Photoshop another way - rather than the square brush, make one detail, high res version of a building ( or half a dozen types) then turn it into a brush with size jitters and you can rotate it etc as mentioned above. your create a hi res version and so you can scale it as a brush without it pixelating and draw with it with spacing turned up. If you can shift click with this brush for a straight lines then you can create blocks pretty quickly.

    hope it helps. I didnt spend too much time on this, so Im sure there may be better ways. for example I'm already thinking - get the Roleplaying City Map Generator to help create the mask and go from there.

    or someone else might have a more simple approach still.

    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by jezelf; 11-06-2008 at 03:05 PM. Reason: added creating a brush from one building bit.

  3. #3
    Community Leader jfrazierjr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Apex, NC USA


    Heh... I am sure YodA will have a GIMP script to do it from a B/W just like the Dungeon generator by the end of the day.
    My Finished Maps
    Works in Progress(or abandoned tests)
    My Tutorials:
    Explanation of Layer Masks in GIMP
    How to create ISO Mountains in GIMP/PS using the Smudge tool
    Unless otherwise stated by me in the post, all work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

  4. #4


    On the Fogdown map, I drew it out by hand in Flash CS/CS2, then imported the vectors into Photoshop CS2 at a pretty high resolution (600dpi). I would strong advise against doing it by hand, unless you have have a lot of time and lot of patience.

    If you look around this forum, I've seen a few people have great success with Campaign Cartographer 3.

    Another trick is, when working in high res files, cut it up, work on the PSD in pieces, then put it all together when they are lower file sized JPEGs.

    Finally, try experimenting with "chunks" of city, and then cut and pasting them in different arrangements. Then go through and cut out the streets.

    I'm not in front of my computer with examples, but I hope that helps.

  5. #5


    I looked at Fogdown. Good Job.

    How did you get the shaping and shadows on the buildings?

    I liked the map but wanted to do one myself. Then my smarter\lazy self asked 'can I avoid some of this work?'

    That brought me here.

    I like the mask thing.

    600 dpi or more seems necessary.


  6. #6


    That's a nice little tutorial, Jezelf. You should cross post it to the tutorials section!

    Bear in mind that in real life, when city space gets compressed, individual buildings tend to develop into blocks containing a number of habitations. The way I see it, making a fantasy city with lots of buildings which looks credible is always going to take a lot of time, particularly if you want to imbue your city with a particular character. I had a play with the Roleplaying city generator and found the results to be pretty blah on their own, and slightly better when played about with an image editor. Unfortunately the image editor won't turn a bad layout into a good one, and it's the layout, density, topography and demographics which are all important factors in making a good city.

    No easy answers from me, I'm afraid.



  7. #7

  8. #8
    Community Leader Facebook Connected torstan's Avatar
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    Jul 2007


    I thought I'd seen it somewhere before. Anyway, this thread has caused me to think about mosaic filters again and here's a slightly morepolished version of the previous fill:
    Click image for larger version. 

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  9. #9


    Torstan - That has real potential.

    Rotating seems to hurt the outline the most. How hard would it be to free up the individual mosaic bits to move around but not rotate? Move them around on a couple of layers and then add the layers for irregular shapes?

    Redstar - I almost took your map and traced the buildings to steal for other maps. Then I felt bad....

    Last edited by Sigurd; 11-07-2008 at 02:24 PM.

  10. #10
    Community Leader Facebook Connected torstan's Avatar
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    Jul 2007


    What do you mean by rotating? I haven't rotated anything.

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