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Thread: Advice for a Newbie

  1. #1
    Guild Journeyer Alecthar's Avatar
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    Apr 2009

    Question Advice for a Newbie

    I just got in to D&D 4e, but I don't have a local game group to play with, so I do a lot online, either via PbP or MapTools.

    I've recently become interested in doing some mapping, both to create maps for custom campaigns, and to recreate maps from some of the published adventures.

    I'm currently working with just GIMP and any objects I add in Maptools. I've done some browsing on the Tutorials section of this forum, and I'm a little bit overwhelmed by all the information. I decided that it might be best to do a little "learn as you go" and just start trying to make something in GIMP, just to test things out and see what I could do that would look right and what just looked terrible.

    Right now I feel like the stairs and the upper floor look alright, and the columns are serviceable (but I wish I'd made them smaller). The raised sections of the floor (which I had intended to use as pools, of slime/brackish water/etc.) just don't look right to me. I bump mapped them with a couple Gaussian Blurred rectangles, and I just couldn't seem to get it looking quite right.

    So I guess what I'm asking here is: What kind of tips and tricks do you guys have for doing basic stuff like this? Is there an easier way of making stairs than using a ton of gradients? How do you guys make beveled stuff that looks half decent? I'm using a texture for the floor, is there a better/more attractive way?
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  2. #2
    Community Leader NeonKnight's Avatar
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    Aug 2007
    Surrey, Canada, EH!


    Hmmmmm....if only your question was in regards to CC3
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  3. #3
    Community Leader Facebook Connected Steel General's Avatar
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    Jun 2008
    Ft. Wayne, IN


    You've got a good start here.

    For stairs, etc. you could check out the Dundjinni user creation forums. Lot's of great stuff folks have created (and all free). All you need to do is download the appropriate piece(s) (I recommend firefox - for some reason IE downloads the .png as .bmp) and bring them into your GIMP map.

    Have some 'rep' for uploading a map in your very first post *bonk*
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  4. #4


    This is a really good start Alecthar! Make sure you put each set of elements on different layers so they are easy to correct (if you are not already) if your pillars are on a different layer to the rest of the map then it's a snap to delete them and start again without destroying your other work.

    I use photoshop and not Gimp, but many of the basic principles are the same. One huge advantage that photoshop has over Gimp is layerstyles, but if you're not getting photoshop then don't worry about them

    Basic principles:

    1. make sure each element is on its own layer for easy editing.
    2. use layer masks to make your textures more interesting. For example, if you wanted to make the floor texture more interesting then duplicate your floor layer and then texture that with a different texture. Use a layer mask and render clouds on it to get a smooth gradation between the overlying and underlying texture. In mapping, using clouds as layer masks is a really useful trick and one you should use often if you want to get interesting textures.
    3. I think the raised floors look fine. Once you pop some water in them (on it's own layer) and use the cloud / layer mask method to make your water more interesting then it should start looking really good.
    4. Don't use gradients to make stairs, use the drop shadow instead, it's much faster and gives much the same results for this purpose.

    This is looking like a really good start and it sounds to me that you're approaching the methodology really sensibly. Remember to play with every slider and button you see to see what it does....that's how I learned most of the stuff I know.

  5. #5
    Guild Journeyer Alecthar's Avatar
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    Apr 2009


    First of all, thanks for the encouragement and the advice.

    I'm having some trouble getting the Shadow Drop stairs to look right. I'll fiddle with it till it works, though I think I'll end up using some gradients regardless, so that the first step doesn't look so odd.

    I understand the idea behind the cloud masks, but right now I'm having trouble putting things together that don't look like I put some oddly textured fog over something else.

    Edit: I put something else together. I feel like I'm starting to get the hang of dropping shadows and bump mapping a bit. The pool of blood texture needs some work, but overall I think it's pretty serviceable. I tried a little wave filter on some clouded shades of red, I'd love to here about anything I can do to make it look better.
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    Last edited by Alecthar; 05-02-2009 at 11:17 PM.

  6. #6


    If those two pools in the first image are supposed to have bevelled rims like a modern shower tray, you could use the technique I used for my shower tray.

    Cut out the overall pool shape as a separate drawing (you'll import it again later). Take this new pool-only drawing and select a region inside it. Invert your selection, so you have the rim selected, then hit your bevel command. That should give you an internally bevelled rim. Import your rimmed pool back into the original drawing.

    I probably have no more 'flying hours' on Gimp than you, so there may be a better way, but it should work for you.

    I can't believe it - I'm actually giving a tutorial on Gimp!
    Mapping a Traveller ATU.

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    Look for Chit Chat, Sandmann's blog. Enjoy.

  7. #7
    Guild Novice
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Walla Walla, Washington State, USA

    Post Shadow Direction...

    I also have a minor suggestion about the first map.

    Generally speaking, shadows should fall upon the lower ground (because the light source is almost always above and casts the shadow downward). In your map, the shadows lie on the raised portion of the map. This appears--to me at least-- to indicate that the raised portion is on the left (with the pillars), while the right side is the lower side. (Sort of like those pictures that in the negative space look like a young woman, but in the positive space look like an old woman... ). Changing the direction of your gradient (i.e. from solid on the left to solid on the right) and moving the shadows should solve the problem.

    Like I said, it's a relatively minor flaw, but it is worth keeping in mind since you have been working with shadows. I've found that making shadows fall naturally isn't terribly hard and greatly improves the look of a map. Happy mapping!

    EDIT: D'oh! Upon re-reading your first post, it occurred to me that I think you meant the left to be the raised side. My fault... *smacks forehead*
    Last edited by EldritchNumen; 05-07-2009 at 10:15 PM. Reason: Dumb Mistake

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