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Thread: Creating area maps with textures

  1. #1
      mearrin69 is offline
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    Default Creating area maps with textures

    Hi all,
    I've been using textures a lot in my recent maps (see the link in my sig for examples) and I promised I'd start putting together a tutorial on some of the techniques I've been using. Since it seems unlikely that I will actually complete a document in the near-term I figured that I should start a thread and just post to it as I get time. Hopefully, when I've got enough material I can put together a more formal document with step-by-step instructions in PDF format. I'll upload that here when the time comes. So, without further delay:

    Creating area maps with textures
    a WiP tutorial by mearrin69

    I'm a big fan of artistic, hand-painted maps but they take a lot of time and skill. Some maps, maybe all maps, can be created in another, more-rapid style: using textures derived from photos (or algorithmically, if you have access to Genetica or similar). This tutorial will explore some techniques for using textures to build area maps. I used Adobe Photoshop CS4 to create the images used in this tutorial but the methods should translate fairly well to other versions of Photoshop and (I hope) to any reasonably advanced image editing package.

    Texture library
    One thing you'll need is a texture library. There are a lot of sources for textures (including your own digital camera!) out there. Here are a couple of which I'm familiar:
    http://www.imageafter.com - This is my main source of images for textures. The site features tons of photographs that can be turned into seamless texture maps (there's a tutorial around here showing you how to do that, so I won't go into it here). There are no restrictions on these images, other than regarding redistribution (but check for yourself because I'm not a lawyer).
    http://www.spiralgraphics.biz/ - The makers of Genetica (an algorithmic texture generation tool) have a free library of textures available for download, along with their free viewer. Some of these are good (especially the terrain textures) and some are cartoony. All are seamless, saving that step.

    The Base Map
    The techniques I've been using relies on creating "base" layers over which textures are applied. I tend to separate my drawing into groups of layers related to function (ground, buildings, vegatation, adjustments, etc.) - see screen capture. I suspect most everyone has a similar organization scheme, but include mine here for completeness. Most of these groups will contain a base layer of some kind that will serve two primary purposes: 1) as a selection short-cut (just Ctrl-click the thumbnail in the Layers palette) and 2) as a foundation upon which to add textures and layer styles. In the attached photo, you can see the main base layers of my House of the Four Winds battlemap. I have made each of these a distinct color. The ground is grey, bushes are light green and trees dark green, buildings are pinkish red, walls are black, and the roofs of the wall towers are dark red.

    There are lots of ways to create this base map - as long as you end up with organized layers containing some nice hard-edged shapes representing your final map objects (soft-edged shapes have a place too but we'll get to that later). This base map was created by taking a blown-up snip from my Haibianr city map, over which I used the selection and fill tools to draw in the buildings and a dynamic brush to scribble in trees and bushes. My Brushy, Kansas entry for the August mapping challenge started as a map generated by the RPG Citymap Generator, which output a bitmap image that I then cleaned up and separated into layers. For Argria (a WiP city map created for the CWBP) I used Adobe Illustrator to create the building shapes and then Placed layers from that drawing into Photoshop. I did the same with my Docks of Haibianr area map, working in Illustrator over a snip from my larger city map.

    Next time: Laying the groundwork...
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Creating area maps with textures-hotfw-colored-layers.jpg   Creating area maps with textures-layers.png  
    Last edited by mearrin69; 08-28-2010 at 01:05 PM.

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      RjBeals is offline
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    so far makes sense. I notice a lot of people import illustrator into photoshop, but recent versions of photoshop have pretty robust path editing tools. If I need some vector art in a map, I normally just use the Photoshop pen tool. Any reasons you (or others) lean towards illustrator? I'm assuming you are more comfortable with illustrator, and probably use it for other projects. But just curious.

    I'm excited for the tutorial on applying those awesome patterns you use, like the shingles on the roof tops. And how you create your shadows (layer styles? brush them in?) Do you use certain types of layer styles frequently? yada yada....

    But great work on the tutorial. It's always nice to get a peek at some other methods.
    Last edited by RobA; 09-01-2010 at 11:07 AM.

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      mearrin69 is offline
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    Heya. I use Illustrator from time to time mainly because I don't know how to use the Photoshop path tools very well...I really should learn. I think for most reasonable tasks the PS tools should hold up...but for something like Argria I have a hard time imagining doing that in PS instead of Illustrator, though I imagine it could be done. I'll have to count the buildings in that map someday. I expect there are 1,000+ and many times that number of individual shapes were used to make them, using the Pathfinding tool to merge, cut, etc. to get the final building shapes. I don't use Illustrator all that much but have mocked up, for instance, In Design templates using it and have used it for creating business cards and so on.

    I'll definitely get to the textures and shadows in the tutorial. Just got to find some time! Little swamped with end-of-month work stuff and have been battling a sinus infection. Hopefully it won't be too disconcerting with me posting bits and pieces as I get the time and inclination.
    M

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      tilt is offline
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    I don't want to hijack the thread but I just wanna answer RjBeals on his Illustrator question. Yes Photoshop has good path tools, but the don't compare to what you can do with illustrator, illustrator has many more options especially in CS5 where you now can manipulate the with of the line you draw so its thicker in some places. But everytime a new version comes out the other programs inherit a bit more bringing all programs closer together. In my opinon, work the with programs you're comfortable with
    regs tilt
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      mearrin69 is offline
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    Hijack away. I'm going to compile the bits into a PDF when done anyway.

    I didn't know that about CS5, sounds like a really neat feature. Unfortunately I bought CS4 right before they announced the new version.
    M

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    yeah.. I'm thinking about buying it... if I get enough new clients on the tradeshow next weekend - I might
    regs tilt
    :: My art on Deviant Art :: My mapping blog tilts fantasy maps :: My work Catapult - Perry & Gehrke - EasyTruckIT ::
    :: Finished Maps :: WIP Cartographia - Breakwater -Market -Lands of Twilight -Battle City :: Competion maps Iron Giant ::
    :: FREE Tiles - Compasses :: Other Taking a commision - Copyright & Creative Commons ::
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    Guild Master Gracious Donor Midgardsormr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RjBeals View Post
    Any reasons you (or others) lean towards illustrator?
    For me, object management is much easier in Illustrator, and the Pen tool is easier to use. I don't know if they've fixed it in CS5, but as of CS4 you can't use the spacebar to reposition an anchor point that you just dropped. I use that feature constantly in Illustrator and After Effects, and it plain annoys me that it isn't present in Photoshop.
    Bryan Ray, visual effects artist
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      Sapiento is offline
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    Interesting tut, mearrin69. I don't make many area maps, but working with textures is a good way to create great effects. Can't wait to see the next step.

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      mearrin69 is offline
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    Turning back to this and getting ready to post the next section tomorrow. In the meantime I wanted to provide a "base map" you can use if you want to follow along with the tutorial.

    I used RPG Citymap Generator to create a small town with no trees (they just make a mess). Once I found one that I sort of liked I zoomed in and panned around until I found a nice area and exported that as a bitmap by clicking the Export selection as image(s)... button at the bottom of the map display window. In the Image Export dialog I clicked the Colors button and made the Street Outline color white (for ease of selection, you'll see why later) then clicked the Take This Time button to use those settings just this once. The exported image is below.

    Then I opened it in Photoshop and turned buildings, roads, and water portions of the image into separate layers. I did this by picking the color of the item in the image and then choosing Select->Color Range... and using the Sampled Colors option with a Fuzziness of 0. Then I created a new layer and filled with the selected color. For the background I just selected the background color and filled a layer at the bottom of the layer stack with it. Then I deleted the original image layer.

    With all of the items on separate layers I could play with composition a bit. I didn't like where all of the buildings had ended up so I used the selection tools (mainly Lasso) to grab buildings and move them around within their layer. The process is: 1) select an area, 2) press the V key or pick the black arrow selection tool, 3) move the selection to the desired area. If you press the Alt key before you move the selection it will be duplicated instead...which can be handy if you need more buildings. Edit: I added a capture, so you don't have to download it to see how I've rearranged things.

    So now we have a PSD file (in the attached ZIP) containing base layers for land, water, buildings, and roads. We'll see shortly how to use those layers.
    M
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Creating area maps with textures-base-map.jpg   Creating area maps with textures-camwt-01.jpg  
    Attached Files Attached Files
    Last edited by mearrin69; 09-13-2010 at 12:37 AM.

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      mearrin69 is offline
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    Okay, here's a little more. Hope this isn't too disjointed...and I apologize for any flow issues and editorial problems. I'll make the final all nice and seamless.

    Laying the groundwork
    Now let's get the ground looking a little more like real terrain. Open the file "CAMwT_01.psd" in Photoshop and take a look around. In the layer stack you'll see a layer called "land - base" - it's nothing special, just a grey square at this point, but it'll form the base of our terrain texture. Let's put that layer into its own group. Click the folder icon at the bottom of the Layers palette and name the new group "land" then click on the "land - base" layer and drag it into the new group.

    Now let's get a textured base going; we won't see much of it in the final map but it'll give us something to work from. Click on the Paint Bucket tool in the tools palette and change its mode to Pattern then select an appropriate earthy texture. It's best if you choose one large enough that you don't have much repetition, but not so large that it seems out of scale with your map. Then make sure you have the "land - base" layer selected and click in the drawing window to fill that layer with your texture. (see attached image)

    Now we can start laying other textures over this base layer to build up our terrain. You can certainly just use the Pattern Stamp or similar tool to paint right into the layer but I prefer to have a lot of flexibility in this process so I use multiple layers with the Pattern Overlay layer style containing textures for the various types of terrain. Painting into a layer this way acts like a mask, exposing the chosen texture wherever you have made brush strokes. Having different textures in separate layers also lets you pull off some other neat layer style tricks later on.

    Add a new layer and call it "dirt" or something similar. Then either double-click the layer to open the Layer Style dialog or click on the layer style icon (it looks like an "fx") at the bottom of the layers palette and select the Pattern Overlay layer style. Select another earthy texture from the Pattern drop-down and press the OK button. Now you can paint into your new layer with any brush tools you care to use. For this layer I'd use a large, soft brush and turn down opacity and flow. Don't worry: if you mess up you can always just clear out the layer and start over. (see attached image)

    Next, create a new layer called "sandy" and follow the same steps as with the previous layer. This time, choose a sandy texture and begin painting. In the image, I have hidden both the road and water layers to show what's going on underneath. We won't use the road layer except as a guide because the lines are too straight and the water layer, with a more refined shoreline, will end up showing some of the textured land below it. You can see how I've begun creating a roadbed and a lake bottom with the painting so far. (see attached image)

    From here we'll add some grassy and brushy textures to indicate some low plant life. In the image below I have added a few more layers - there's a little texture repetition but we'll try to take care of that at a later stage. Note the "shrubby" layer includes layer styles providing a slight bevel and a drop shadow. You should try out a mix of textures and experiment with layer styles and blend modes to see what interesting effects you can come up with for your map. (see attached image)

    As you work your way up, adding more layers of texture, the goal should be to obscure any regularity. You want to try to break up any large regular areas of the underlying texture while making sure not to add any noticeable repetition to the layer you're working on. Also, as you build up the layers you can always go back in to an existing layer and lay down more texture. If you have a variety of "natural media" brushes give them all a try to see what works best. Finally, if some of your textures don't work well together because of coloration or brightness you can always add an adjustment layer or, when you're sure that you are done with the layer, flatten and then use the Image->Adjustments tools to get it all looking smooth.

    Next up: water!
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Creating area maps with textures-ltg_01.png   Creating area maps with textures-ltg_02.png   Creating area maps with textures-ltg_03.png   Creating area maps with textures-ltg_04.png  
    Last edited by mearrin69; 09-13-2010 at 12:38 AM.

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