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Thread: Creating Nameless Bolkenheim - Process and Reflections!

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    Guild Novice danPV's Avatar
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    Jul 2009
    B-town, VT

    Tutorial Creating Nameless Bolkenheim - Process and Reflections!

    Hey everyone! I know I promised this about a month ago, so... here it is! A month late! I recently wrapped it up with the big parts of my composition, but if there are any components of this tutorial you felt should be fleshed out more, feel free to start discussion and we can converse about it here. Luckily I somehow managed to keep this under 10000 words, too.


    PS: I'll cook up a PDF of this later for you all.

    Thumbnail of the full image:

    Link to the original thread:

    I had worked on this piece for about 6 full days, between Thursday, July 2nd and Saturday the 11th. Needless to say, this is probably one of the cleaner images I've managed to produce, and one of the most time consuming. With that, I'll go through my process step by step covering my thoughts and direction, as well as acting as a tutorial for anyone wanting to read this! Though I'm writing this in my Advanced Seminar journal, it will be processed to be viewed on and Let's get started!

    **Day 1: Research.**

    I did a lot of this, primarily because I had no idea how to start a map, nor most of the fundamental components of one., Google searching, and simple asking around of those I know who have experience in this area came in very handy. Basically, thanks to the advent of the internet, I was able to outline the components I would need to see in a _basic_ map:

    1. A legend.
    2. A compass.
    3. A ruler.
    4. Markers to represent the capital, major cities, villages (or towns), and a couple more to represent dungeons and keeps.

    There were many more components I could have added, but the function of this map did not require any more than this. I did however need to figure out how to construct this behemoth. With that, I figured a few things were true: I would need a lot of custom brushes, and I would need a lot of patterns. Photoshop provided the patterns, I provided the brushes. With that, lets move onto actually painting this map.

    **The next step - silhouetting**

    This all starts with Australia. Just a brush, sharp edges and fairly high resolution. I didn't dwell on it too long, I just drew in the form that I felt would make it feel believable.

    While looking at Schley's Safari, I was trying desperately to figure out the fastest way to emulate believable coastline like he did. His method is done by hand and then brought into Photoshop. I too could have just sketched a map quickly in Photoshop, but as I feel about line drawing to begin with, that is a process that has hampered my ability to work fast and effectively in the past. So, this is why I bring in Australia. The silhouette of Australia has all of those interesting little nooks and crevices that was drawing my attention on Schley's map, so why not make a brush out of it? I disabled all brush effects except angle jitter (blow off the charts), assigned my new Australia brush to both brush and eraser tools, and just went nuts. Eventually I came out with a shape I liked:

    This was a lot of push and pull. I didn't even worry about any kind of terrain emplacements like mountains, rivers, valleys, plains, deserts, nothing. The idea is to detach yourself from the goal and to just get an inkblot that feels interesting and complex enough to be believable and aesthetically pleasing. I felt this shape would bode well for hosting all sorts of dynamic direction to give to a party of adventurers.

    **Defining the terrain**

    So Australia was pretty successful at making the land mass as a whole. That's good and dandy. Now it was time to make the rivers. After scouring for any shortcuts that I thought I had missed, I came to the abrupt conclusion that they would probably have to be made by hand. It's a good thing I decided to take the slow and steady route on this part, because as I learned, river placement is utterly dependent on where the weather cycle dumps its water and how that water escapes to the ocean line:

    During this step, I also starting forming the lakes using the australia brush again. After that, I duplicated the layer and started filling it with a solid beige-ish green color, almost like a clay. This acts as the base for the rest of your continent, and the next step will require this base to absorb some of the color beneath. The brush I use is a dirty brush, this one specifically from one of the Nagel series but its fairly quick to make up on your own. Making sure opacity settings are on, I just applied this in a variation of hues all over, making sure I did it within the masked selection of the silhouette. Applied like a quick wash, this basically applies those cool bits and greebles all over the terrain. I then did a pass of burn and dodge to highlight the inland areas and to frame the land.

    The next thing we have to do is to get a stroke going on this continent. I find that using a normal layer stroke is hard to control, and does not produce the crisp effect I wanted. Because of this, I simply duplicated my finished continent, and darkened the bottom copy to an offblack/blue color. Now on the layer above, I Ctrl+Click the layer to select its silhouette, and I contract the selection by a few pixels. After doing this, I use Ctrl+Shift+I to invert the selection and delete the crust. Now the darker layer below shows through, and we are able to simply paint out any inaccuracies ourselves! I was sure to add an outer glow at this point to the "stroke" layer, to have it naturally blend into the color of the water better, and to eventually act as my "shallow" border.
    Last edited by danPV; 08-09-2009 at 03:25 PM. Reason: Note added.

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