[Award Winner] Mosaic Tile Map in Photoshop (& GIMP)
In this tutorial I will demonstrate the basic steps for creating a realistic mosaic tile image in Photoshop. Specifically, of course, the image I am interested in creating is a map. (See this map as a reference.) GIMP users: scroll to the second page of this tutorial and you will find the adjustments needed to make such a map as well (posted by the incomparable RobA).
I consider this a medium difficulty task, and I therefore recommend a beginning PS user follows some basic tutorials on basic PS concepts/processes either before or while using my tutorial. Just do a web search--there are thousands of helps out there for the beginning Photoshopper! (Or check out this thread!)
I will in most cases give pull-down menu commands instead of shortcuts, mainly because they are easier to write! Go ahead and use shortcut keys and buttons if you know how! Oh, and I am currently using Photoshop CS3, but I believe this will work in any CS version--and possibly in older versions as well. I also am a PC user, so you Mac-ies out there will have to remember that when I say "ctrl" you need to "cmd"--or whatever it is you do! ;)
(Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I must also admit I found some rudiments of the process described below in a recent little article in Photoshop Creative (issue 30)--although adapted and adjusted to my maniacal purposes, of course!)
If you have any questions or comments (or improvements!), feel free to chime in or add comments after the tutorial is complete! Here we go!
STEP ONE: CREATING TILES
Although Photoshop has a mosaic filter, the results are far too regular and stale for my tastes. So instead I will create a custom brush in order to "paint on" tiles. So first open a new PS document of the default size and resolution, then choose the Polygonal Lasso tool. Draw a 4 sided polygon slightly out of square. Fill this shape with black. [see image 1]
With the polygon still selected (the "ants marching") go Edit>Define Brush Preset. Give the brush a name, & click OK. You can then delete and to deselect (ctrl-D) the polygon.
Now open Window>Brushes, select your newly-defined brush (it will probably be the last shown), and set the following:
- Brush Tip Shape: Diameter 20 px, spacing 130%
- Shape Dynamics: Size Jitter 20%, Size Jitter Control="Off", Angle Jitter 2%, Angle Jitter Control="Direction"
- Scattering: Scatter 15%
- Color Dynamics: Foreground/Background Jitter 100%
Now you can click the fly-out menu and select New Brush Preset to save that brush [see image 2]. (If you wish, you can also delete the original tile you saved)
Note that you should adjust the brush settings to your preference. Those that I list above will give a somewhat unrefined, ragged look to the map--which fits the archaic style I plan to emulate. If you are creating a refined, polished look, then definitely reduce the jitters and dynamics closer to 0% so your tiles lay perfectly straight!
And that's it! Now when you stroke with this brush you create tiles of slightly varying size and rotation that mix the foreground & background colors [in the second attached image you can see examples of the one I just made!]
NEXT UP: Beginning your map
STEP FIVE: Borderlines & Inserts
I want to now finish up tiling the map. This could take either much time or be rather brief, depending upon how intricate I want my final image to appear. I think I will only insert borderlines and one mini picture on this map, but on your map you could go into great detail, inserting mountains, rivers, multiple images, etc. using the exact same methods.
First I use the Paint Bucket Tool to change the Background layer's white to a tan/taupe color to simulate grout. This will help make my white tiles stand out.
Then, I put a layer mask (revealing all) over my Land layer. I'll use this in a minute to hide overlaps.
Now I create a new layer on top called Borderlines, then switch to the Paths menu where I create a new work path. Using the Freeform Pen Tool I draw in my borderlines. Then I choose my tile brush and click contrasting foreground/background colors. I click "Stroke path with brush" and my borderlines are now tiled.
But I need to get rid of overlapping tiles. So I switch back to the layers window & ctl-click the thumb in my Borderlines layer, thereby selecting the tiles I just created. Now Select>Modify>Expand by 2 or so pixels. Finally, in the Land layer mask I fill the selection with black in the layer mask, thus hiding the land tiles and giving a grout line beside my borderlines. [see image 1]
I'll follow a similar process (simplified) for an inserted mosaic picture. I found a picture of a Roman ship from a simple web search, so I copy-pasted that into my PS document, but you could also draw free hand. In a new layer on top of all other layers I draw the ship with my tile brush, using various color combos and tile sizes. Then I delete the pattern pic, and in the layer mask for the sea I simply paint with a hard edged brush in black to blot out the overlapping tiles. It's as simple as that. [see Image 2]
STEP EIGHT: Final Details
Okay, so now my anal-retentive side comes out, as I tweak ad nauseum to get this map up to snuff.
First in the Tiles layer I select the Eraser Tool and a medium sized (10 px), hard-edged brush, set to 10% flow, then trace around any hard, overly-crisp edges or other places I think could use some wear and tear. I then do this same with a larger brush and 20% fill, even tearing out a few spots to simulate ruin.
For some large scale erosion, I choose a fuzzy brush, a charcoal brush, or a splatter brush, and draw around with the Eraser Tool set to 10-20%. I usually do this is "sweeps" of light erasing, scraping away at the tiles, constantly zooming in and out to check both views so I don't get carried away in any one spot. [see Image 1]
Now when all the wear and tear is exactly how I like it, I save again under a different name, then Layer>Merge Visible. I then copy the layer with map twice by dragging it to the Create New Layer button at the bottom of the layers palette.
The middle map layer I switch to Multiply layer blending mode, play around with the Gaussian blur (about 2 px), then lower the opacity to taste (40% or so).
On the top map layer I run Filter>Render>Lighting Effects, and put wide, soft a spotlight on the upper left corner, playing with the settings as fits my eye. This layer I set to Soft Light blending mode.
Final tweaks are adding any Layer>New Adjustment Layers (such as color balance, brightness/contrast, and Hue/Saturation). I am a persistent fiddler, so this takes some time, and I won't tell you my settings because I have never been consistent at this point, choosing to leave things be only when the overall effect strikes my eye as correct. In general I can say I drop saturation and lightness down, since this seems more believable, and I do anything I can to kill neon colors.
I also added a few very light strokes of dark & light browns with various art brushes. Just for.
Image 2 contains my end result. I hope you found this tutorial was useful, interesting, or both. If you have any questions or refinements please go ahead and post them in this thread. Oh, and be sure to post your own mosaic maps here in the Guild so we can all admire your technique, too!