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Thread: [Award Winner] How to create ISO Mountains in GIMP/PS using the Smudge tool

  1. #1
    Community Leader jfrazierjr's Avatar
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    Tutorial [Award Winner] How to create ISO Mountains in GIMP/PS using the Smudge tool

    So.... I have had a few people who really like the ISO mountains I have made in the past and since there is not another tutorial which addresses how to do this style. So, I will take a quick break from my mapping and attempt to help anyone who wishes to try this style a helping hand.

    First, I begin with a new map, in this case, I choose 2000 wide x 1000 high and 150 ppi. Feel free to choose whatever size you wish, but the higher pixels per inch you choose, the better the overall look. However, this also increases the size of the file, both on disk and in RAM and when exported to jpg or png format, so you have determine the trade off that is best for you.

    I begin by creating a color layer as the background(in this case I chose a green), followed by new transparent layer. I choose a 3px fuzzy brush at 1 scale. Then begin drawing a few updside-down V's, but don'ttry to get them too perfect. It's both perfectly ok and even very desirable to have some crookedness to your lines in order to give your mountains some character. Also, for the mountains in the "back" rows, have some of the lines going "down" meet it's neighbor. For hills, have those closest to the mountains be more round, while the ones lower/closest to the foreground to be a lot more flattened. In many of the screenshots below, notice that I am zoomed in to 400% or even 800%.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Next you want to block in some color for your mountains and shadow. Begin by creating a new transparent layer and place it below your outline layer. Next, determine which side you want your shadows to be on, I have determined I want my shadows on the West side. Then choose your colors. In this case, I choose pure black and a medium brown (hex number: 806b50), but feel free to choose whatever colors for primary and shadow you wish. You may like to do two shades of the same color, though I tend to prefer solid black for my shadows. I generally tend to segment the mountain shape roughly in half based on the outline for the particular mountain I am working on, choose which side will be shadow(ie, black) and block in the two colors. Also, I swap brushes after putting the main colors and add a bit or my primary color to the shadows side and a bit of black to my primary color side.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Once you have your color blocked in, its time to switch to the smudge brush. Again, I want to point out that I am VERY(again 400-800%) zoomed in to do this work. I pick a 3-5 px brush with the scale at 1. The most important part is the Rate setting, which controls just how much the smudge pulls color from one area to another. I generally set this to around 40-50%. Any higher than than and you pull to much color at a time. If you have a tablet, this is a perfect place to set the Rate based on brush pressure and practice with a medium to light hand stroke.

    Begin using the smudge brush to pull the colors down, typically dragging at around a 45 degree angle toward the South-West. Note that this is a general rule you will follow around 50% of the time with the other 50% smudging in whatever direction you think will get the desired effects. Also, make sure that you stoke you stroke BEFORE you finish crossing over your outline and into the "light" side of your neighnoring mountain body(or non mountain region as the case may be.)

    What you are trying to get here is to mix around 1/3 solid shadows, 1/3 sold primary color, and 1/3 of a mix between the two. Since you are zoomed in so close of course it will be very pixellated, but thats exactly what you want since you want to be able to see a solid color, a few pixels of progressivly transitioning color followed by the other solid color, ie, a blur of several pixels between the two different solid colors.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Note, and this scale (again, 400-800%, it may not look like much, bbut when you zoom out, it should look very nice(feel free to zoom out... I will show a 100% screenshot in a minute)

    Next, we will block in another mountain with color, and some different "shapes" to the interior:
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Wash, rinse, repeat. Now, go ahead and block in all the color for the entire set of mountains/hills.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    The rest will come shortly as I am out of image space for this post.
    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.

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    Community Leader jfrazierjr's Avatar
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    Note that for the hills, I have very small bits of shadows with lot's of "smudge" so that there are a lot less "lines" of shadow and just slight hints. Also, anywhere that the lines end, either on mountains (note the left and right top mountains where the line just ends), you want to continue pulling down the color with the smudge tool.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    One you have all the inner body of the mountains smudged down, switch over to the outline layer and smudge down a bit of the outlines for any lines which are hanging loose. You may want to lower the rate a bit or if using a tablet, lighten up on the pressure. For these lines, don't just pull straight down in the same direction, but begin pulling down in the same direction as the original line and then "curl" the line a bit as the smudging begins to "fade".
    Click image for larger version. 

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    After a few more touch-ups, here is the final with all the smudging done
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Optionally, if you feel like it, you can select the outline layer and reduce the opacity to make the outlines much fainter. In this case, I went down to around 30% or so:
    Click image for larger version. 

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    I hope this helps anyone who would like some nice ISO mountains, but is a bit hesitant to give it a try. Please remember to rate the thread and post any comments, questions, or examples of your work.
    Last edited by jfrazierjr; 12-17-2008 at 10:35 PM.
    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.

  3. #3
    Guild Journeyer Vandy's Avatar
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    Praise More! More! More!

    Hi, Mr. Frazier.

    I am THOROUGHLY IMPRESSED with this tutorial and eagerly await your continuing it. This is EXACTLY the type of material I've been looking for and it will be of IMMENSE HELP to me as I continue my journey into "Real World Fantasy Map-Making" (my term).

    I have a newbie (I assume) question for you. In the context for which you are using it, what does ISO stand for?

    Again, Mr. Frazier, thank you for this very informative and very useful tutorial.

    Regards,

    Gary
    In the end you will see, you is you and me is me.
    © May 29, 1980

  4. #4
    Community Leader Facebook Connected Steel General's Avatar
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    @Vandy - I beleive ISO is an abbreviation for ISOmetric projection
    My Finished Maps | My Challenge Maps | Ghoraja Juun, my largely stagnated campaign setting.

    Unless otherwise stated by me in the post, all work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.



  5. #5
    Community Leader jfrazierjr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vandy View Post
    Hi, Mr. Frazier.

    I am THOROUGHLY IMPRESSED with this tutorial and eagerly await your continuing it. This is EXACTLY the type of material I've been looking for and it will be of IMMENSE HELP to me as I continue my journey into "Real World Fantasy Map-Making" (my term).

    I have a newbie (I assume) question for you. In the context for which you are using it, what does ISO stand for?

    Again, Mr. Frazier, thank you for this very informative and very useful tutorial.

    Regards,

    Gary

    Thanks for the great praise! Is there anything specific you would like me to do to continue this tutorial? I know I could probably work a bit more on the shape since the bottom edge is rather artificially "flat" across the horizon, but I had not planned to add more to this unless someone has any specific request (other than what I note here, but that's a whole other topic...)

    The general goal of the tutorial was to show GIMP(and PS users since the same tools exist in PS) users how to take two colors (or perhaps more), and using the smudge tool to create interesting (and unique!!!) mountains with a bit of work. Of course... I forgot to mention that this IS WORK.... not something you can sit down and bang out in 5 minutes, however, if you really want "hand drawn" ISO mountains and want them to look individually hand painted, this is the technique to use. I also want to repeat that the colors are not so much as important as using the smudge tool to drag the various colors around to make for interesting looking "ridges" on the mountain slopes.
    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.

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  7. #7

    Praise

    Quote Originally Posted by jfrazierjr View Post
    this IS WORK.... not something you can sit down and bang out in 5 minutes
    I dunno man, I admit they ain't perfect, but I was able to whip out a few mountains wicked fast. Of course, a whole mountain chain is gonna take quite a bit longer...

    Thanks for the tutorial. I just found this place the other day, and I'm digging it.

  8. #8
    Community Leader jfrazierjr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Granfalloon View Post
    I dunno man, I admit they ain't perfect, but I was able to whip out a few mountains wicked fast. Of course, a whole mountain chain is gonna take quite a bit longer...

    Thanks for the tutorial. I just found this place the other day, and I'm digging it.
    Thanks! I am glad you like my tutorial as well as the Guild and hope you stick around and participate a long time. Please remember to rate every tutorial thread you use with 1 to 5 stars so a) new people have an idea of what others think about how well written a tutorial is(rating only shows after 5 people have rated it) and b) the author gets recognition if he can get a 5 start rating(of course, please rate the tuts as you see them!)
    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.

  9. #9
    Guild Journeyer Vandy's Avatar
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    Tutorial ISO Mountain Tutorial as a PDF Document

    Hello, All.

    For anyone who is interested, here is Mr. Frazier's excellent ISO Mountain tutorial as a PDF document.

    Regards,

    Gary

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    In the end you will see, you is you and me is me.
    © May 29, 1980

  10. #10
    Community Leader jfrazierjr's Avatar
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    Thanks Gary! I had meant to get around to this.. but sadly, time is sparse right now..
    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.

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