[Award Winner] Making Photo-realistic Trees in GIMP: A Mini-Tut
Been a while since my last post; alas, school has kept me busy. In making my map of Eriond a few people asked about the method I used to create my trees. I had used Ascencion's Atlas style tutorial (converted by Gidde into GIMP) to create the map, but had added some slight modifications of my own. One such modification was to use the clouds generated "Hills" layer instead as a "Trees" layer. One problem I found however, was that since these clouds were randomly generated, the resultant trees that they yielded also appeared in random shapes, and in random places within my map, causing me to have to erase unwanted trees, and cut and paste trees in the regions where I wanted them. This made me cranky. Not happy with the original method, I figured that there had to be an easier way. After casting about for a bit for inspiration for a new method, I came upon RobA's "Making Not so Random Coastlines in GIMP" tutorial. Thanks to Rob's brilliance, I got my new method, and here it is: not-so-random photorealistic trees in GIMP (see the .jpgs below for an example of what you should be able to get out of this tutorial).
Thanks to Ascension, Gidde and RobA for much of the inspiration of this method, and to Hohum for beta-testing it for me and providing me with helpful feedback.
EDIT: After two years of minor revisions, I have decided to rewrite an updated version of this tutorial. This updated tutorial now includes some custom patterns which you can find below. To install these, download the folder, unzip it, and save them to the patterns folder of GIMP. Then open or refresh GIMP and they should show up in the patterns dialogue.
Update: A Few Important Details
Thanks Rob! By the way, I just tested out this min-tutorial on a portion of my old Eriond map. Here are a few things that are not mentioned in the tutorial, but that I think would be helpful to point out:
- Forest placement: When I wrote this tutorial, I was not using another map on which to place the forest shapes for these trees, hence, it did not matter where the forests went. However, I assume that anyone using this tutorial will probably already have a map laid out, and will want to be able to view that map when they draw their forest shapes (see Step 1.4.C.). To do be able to view your map as you work, I suggest placing the new layers of this tutorial below your map layers, and setting the layer opacity of your map layers at 60%. That way you will be able to see through your map to the tree layers you are working with below, but also be able to use your map as a guide for placing your forests. Once you have completed all of the trees layers, simply raise these layers to above your map layers, and than restore the opacity of you map layers back to 100%.
- Adding shadows: (Step 2.4.A.) If you do not have the "Layers Effects" plug-in installed within GIMP, you can find it at the GIMP plug-ins registry located at this link. You will need to register (for free) to be able to download this plug-in. Also, for the example below, I increased the size of the drop shadow to 5, the offset distance to 3, and decreased the layer opacity to 50%. For those of you who do not want to deal with downloading the layer effects plug-in (though you owe it to yourself to do so, it rocks!), GIMP 2.6 comes with a Drop Shadow feature (Filter > Light and Shadow > Drop Shadow). However I have not found it to be as easy to use as the Drop Shadow feature of the Layer Effects plug-in.
- Forest Colors: (Step 3) Due to the green background of my map, I found that I had to add extra layers of color to make the trees stand out. In the example below, I duplicated both the Green and the Yellow Color layers (Step 3.1-2), and I set the layer mode of the Green Color duplicate to Multiply rather than Soft Light. Depending on which colors you have used for your map, and for these trees, you may find that you have to do something similar.
With that said, below I have included an example of how the forests of this tutorial might look when applied to an actual map.
Update: Making individual Trees
Hello Again. So there were a couple of things about this tutorial that bothered me, and in talking with at least one other person who had used this tutorial, it seems that he had the same concerns. The first point of concern was that the forests seem to cut off too abruptly. The second problem, related to the first, was the the forests seemed to "hover" above the ground rather than to appear like an integrated part of the landscape. I've recently been experimenting around with a new map and have come up with what I think is a nice solution to both problems. I have created some "Individual Trees" patterns that I have painted underneath the forests (that is, just under the "Tree Bumps" layer). The result seems to be a much more natural looking forest. While at some point I will update the tutorial here to demonstrate how to make your own tree patterns using the method I've discovered, in the mean time I have uploaded three different tree patterns (each of which is a different hue) for anyone to use. Here is what to do:
- Making the Pattern: after unzipping these files you will find that the images are all .png files. To use these as patterns within GIMP (or PS) you need to turn the .png files into .pat files (or, if you are using PS, whatever file is used for patterns), and then save them within the "Patterns" folder of your Gimp. Here's an easy way to do this. Right click on a .png and select "Edit with GIMP" (this will bring the image up in GIMP). Next, click on "File" and then select "Save As". Change the file type from .png to .pat. Click on your own user folder and double click on the "GIMP" folder. Once this opens, scroll down to the "Patterns" folder, double click it and hit Save. Now, close GIMP, and restart it again, and you should find the image has been added to your GIMP patterns.
- Using the Trees Patterns: to paint with a pattern, select the "Clone Tool" and adjust the scale of the brush to about .50 pix. Select "Apply Jitter" and set the amount to 5.00. Under "Source," select "Pattern" and then select one of the tree patterns. Now create a new transparent layer (named "Individual Trees") just below that of the tree bumps layer (see tutorial). Now paint within and and along the edges of the forests (you may find that you need to adjust either the scale of the brush or the amount of jitter to suit your needs). You should see dots of individual tree clumps spring up all over the place. Once you have finished creating the individual trees, simply give the "Individual Trees" layer a drop shadow (see tutorial) and you are done.
Below you will find a couple of "before and after" images showing what a difference painting with these tree patterns can make.