[Award Winner] A medieval town map tutorial in Photoshop
My purpose in this tutorial is to show how to create a Photoshop map of a medieval town containing a great deal of flexibility—meaning it could be either used as a photorealistic map or (with the help of one or more Photoshop filters) an “artistic” map. Above and beyond this, I also tried very hard to streamline the process so the map could be created exceedingly quickly. Flexibility and speed: two cartography goals worth pursuing, I think, if a high degree of quality can be maintained.
I am assuming you know the basics of Photoshop, such as selecting items, layer manipulation, brush use, etc. The most advanced techniques I'll use are layer masks and layer styles--so nothing out of this world. However, if these seem exotic to you I'd suggest you perform a quick Internet search and follow a few simple PS tutorials to become acquainted with the program. :)
The program I’ll use is Photoshop CS2, but I think everything I do works in both older or newer versions as well. For this tutorial I also use an "Rolepalying City Map Generator" program which can be downloaded free of charge from the developer's website (see below)--but you need not utilize this application if you choose to work by hand.
Attached below is the basic map I'll create. At the end of this tutorial I will also show "artistic" variations of this basic image created in mere seconds.
Finally, let me say I am a PS and cartography amateur, completely self-taught in both areas. If you note any suggestions, improvements, or corrections in my work, I would be grateful if you let me know! I write tutorials to teach myself more than for any other purpose, and I'd accept any and all assistance you can kindly offer.
On we go!
II. Importing into & Readying within Photoshop
Now open Photoshop, then File->Open the .bmp file you just saved from the City Map Generator.
Next isolate the map elements. While there are many ways to do this (the most versatile way being in saved Chanels) let's stay simple and direct: choose Select->Color Range, click on the background color, play with the fuzziness to be as exact as possible, then hit "ok." Then, with the “ants marching,” delete the background.
Repeat this Select->Color Range process with the buildings, the river, etc.--although instead of deleting, copy-paste each element into its own, individual layer.
• You'll notice I did not cut & paste the walls or towers: I found in tests it was easier to simply add them manually, later, if I choose to use them at all (for Koppollex I will not be adding walls or towers at all)
When I'm done creating layers for each element, I rename the imported image's layer "Original bmp file," then hide it by poking out the eye. I could, in fact, delete this layer altogether, but I'm a "layer pack rat" and so I save it just in case.
Now I have the exact same image as was imported, except with no background. So below the lowest layer I create a new layer ("background"), then use the paint bucket to fill a new layer with a solid green. [I've pasted a screenshot image, below.]
NOTE: If you decide not to use the Roleplaying City Map Generator, you should basically start with this step: create a "background" layer and fill it, then draw on your roads, buildings, etc., each in its own layer.
III. Touch-Up & Corrections
While the Generator is a really neat program I highly recommend, remember that it is a "dumb machine"--meaning it produces roads that lead nowhere, houses in the middle of streets, odd shapes here and there, etc. So the first true step is to examine the map and "correct" any anomalies by erasing &/or adding elements--each in their respective layers, of course.
In the image below you can see that I added some buildings, roads, and water features, plus erased a few of the same. As the wonderful Guild members here pointed out in a works in progress (WIP) posting I used to quality check the finished map, I could have done much more to this--especially if Koppollex is intended to be a newer, more purposefully designed city--such as either eliminating meandering roads or adding more buildings to give them a purpose, but for my purposes I worked quickly and basically. (By the way, make sure to post your maps in the Guild's WIP forums; you'll get very useful advice!)
The rivers and roads were added with a hard-edged brush of the required size, using the color picker ("eye-dropper") to find the right color. The buildings were added freehand and by dabbing with a square edged brush (see image, below, for how to get to those brushes--and don't worry when it asks you to replace brush sets, you can always get back to the default brushes in the same way).
And by the way, if you want to get really technical &/or plan to do a lot of this sort of thing, I suggest creating a set of custom "building shape" brushes that are rotated, multi-shaped, etc. Creating custom brushes is amazingly quick & easy in Photoshop (do an Internet search & you'll learn how in about 2 minutes.)
VI. Building & Road Improvement
Let's give the buildings some life now. Ctrl-click (or Apple-click) in the “Buildings” layer to select the buildings, then add some random color variations with a small, soft brush; since the buildings are selected you should be able to draw quickly without leaving the lines.
Then apply a couple layer styles: Drop Shadow first, then Bevel & Emboss. [You can see my settings in the image, below. The texture I'm using is simply a pattern I created out of a picture of a brick wall.]
Now copy this "buildings" layer on top of itself. Gaussian Blur the new layer, then drop the opacity way down to reduce the sharp edges slightly.
I also copied the buildings one more time on top of the other two, then set the layer blend mode to "multiply" & played with opacity.
To create eye interest in the roads set the "roads" layer's blending mode to "overlay" and then Gaussian Blur it ever so slightly.
Then run Filter>Texture>Texturizer, with sandstone texture set to the smallest scaling (50%) and verrrrry shallow relief. I also ran Filter>Artistic>Paint daubs on the roads to break the monotony of the sandstone.
Copy this layer on top of the original and set the upper's blending mode to "multiply"; play with the opacity to taste. [see image, below]
With a darker brown I also drew in lines for bridges, which turned out fair.