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Thread: [Award Winner] Assorted tips and tricks

  1. #11
      ravells is offline
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    I am seriously loving this thread! Thanks for posting, Jon!

  2. #12
      maxsdaddy is offline
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    I was searching for the right superlative, but couldn't find one that did the trick so I'll just say THANKS! I hope your lunchtime gets longer.

  3. #13
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    Default Turning a map into an aged paper handout

    Thanks guys!

    Today it's a quick and easy tip for turning a map into an aged paper handout - which is really a mini discussion on using blend modes in Photoshop or Gimp.

    First of all you need a good paper texture. There are thousands of these free on the internet. As always, www.cgtextures.com is a good bet, under Paper->Plain. You can also find hundreds of paper textures on deviantArt.com (just search for "paper texture"). With this in hand it's a quick hop to a pretty map:

    [Award Winner] Assorted tips and tricks-howtomakeanagedpapermap.jpg

    (as always you can download this fullsize, or download the psd here)

    1. Take the original map - here we have a simple 3 colour map with a couple of locations marked with crosses. It's useful, but not that atmospheric.
    2. Add a parchment background as a layer behind the map. You won't see it initially (the white background blocks it out) so change the blend mode to multiply. This only darkens, so the white background will disappear. Drop the opacity of the layer to 50% to give a light watercolour look.
    3. The 50% multiply layer is a little washed out, and we want to darken the lines and bump up the colours. To do this, duplicate the layer and set the blend mode to colour burn. This will boost the colours and burn in the dark lines - and once again the white is transparent for this blend mode.. I've set it to 70% opacity.

    Play with the opacity of the two blend modes to get a look that you like. You can also use colour and saturation blend modes with this to build up a nice effect. And just like that you have an aged paper hand out. Much easier than tea staining or baking a hand drawn map, and with less chance of setting fire to the oven.

    This originally appeared on G+ here.
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  4. #14
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    Default Castle Defence - a classic gatehouse

    Today, a lunchtime tip that's entirely software (and edition!) agnostic - a simple design for a castle gatehouse.

    Castles are built for more than one reason - people live there, guards are stationed there and often they are political power centers for the region. But first and foremost they are built to keep people out. The weak point in any castle is it's front door, and a number of techniques were perfecte over the years to make sure that someone trying to attack a castle would have a hard time of it. Now attackers might not be as obvious as a massed army at the gates - unsavoury people sneak in too. This gatehouse design was used in many places - including Linlithgow Palace, the palace I grew up beside and spent a lot of time in.

    [Award Winner] Assorted tips and tricks-guardhouse.jpg

    1. Visitors approach from the south (in this diagram). The outer gate is large and heavy, and often opens onto a moat that's crossed on a drawbridge.
    2. Once inside, the doors are closed behind (often from a mechanism operated from the guard room).
    3. Progress forwards is barred by a portcullis, and a set of heavy doors. This allows the inner doors to be opened safely so someone can talk to the visitors, without allowing them access to the castle
    4. Guards on either side can target visitors through arrow slits.
    5. More guards are perched above and can target visitors with ranged weapons, or that classic defence of boiling oil.

    This provides a robust defence mechanism against invaders, but it's far from full-proof. Linlithgow Palace was taken by a small group of determined soldiers using a simple ruse with a hay cart. The farmer drove his cart with fresh grain up to the palace. The guards opened the portcullis to let him in. He stopped the cart under the portcullis, and armed soldiers burst out from under the hay. The portcullis was dropped, but the cart jammed it open, and provided an open front door for the extra troops waiting in hiding outside. Soldiers poured in and the Palace was taken with relative ease.

    For a game with fantasy elements, you'll want to station some form of caster at the front gate, with some easy divination magic. The murder holes make the perfect vantage point for a sorcerer, and the confined space is just built for flaming spheres. This originally appeared here on G+.
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  5. #15
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    Default Drawing Isometric Dungeons

    There are some classic isometric dungeon maps out there, particularly those of castle ravenloft - the original David Sutherland maps inspired the styles of all maps of that castle that have come since. It's also a style beloved of computer games, most notably the Diablo series.

    Creating an isometric map is actually pretty easy.

    [Award Winner] Assorted tips and tricks-isometricdungeons.jpg

    • First draw out your floor plan as if it were top down. Place lines for all the elements on the ground - walls, doors, outlines of pit traps. I draw these lines on a separate layer from the grid as it keeps everything organised.
    • Make it isometric! Rotate the map 45 degrees. Then you shrink the map vertically by 57.7%.
    • The great thing about isometric maps are the vertical details you can throw in there. Find every corner, and draw a vertical line to show wall edges. Focus on the edges that don't obscure details further away. Here I've added the most detail where the detail doesn't overlap the actual floorplan. Fill in the blank space with sketched stone texture, add in illustrated doors, throw in some lines to show the rough stone in natural stone tunnels and give the viewer an idea of just how deep the spiked pit trap is. Again, I add these details on a separate layer to make it easy to erase mistakes without rubbing out the floor lines.


    Remember that the primary goal of the map is to show the floorplan and allow for easy use for a GM. The extra detail that an isometric map provides can really sell the setting of a map, but it's also easy to obscure important features.

    This originally appeared on G+ here.
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  6. #16
      Lukc is offline
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    I really like this one on isometrics, and your example is also very neatly illustrated. However, a question pops to mind - why compress to 57.7% of the original vertical height?

    Edit: Ahh, ok - a bit of wikipedification. An isometric projection is quite specific. Other, similar projections with different angles are other parallel projections. Isometric basically has the x and y axes at 30° from the horizontal, so a cube looks like a perfect hexagon with 120° interior angles.
    Last edited by Lukc; 01-11-2012 at 01:37 PM.

  7. #17
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    Precisely And to get a 30 degree angle you need to take shrink the vertical dimension to tan(30)=0.577 of the horizontal.
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  8. #18
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    Default Quick and Easy Dungeons using Grids

    This one's quite specific for photoshop, but can be adapted to Gimp (and I've added some gimp tips throughout).

    It's a neat tool that often lies buried in Photoshop's preferences panel that allows you to turn on a grid that you can snap to. This is perfect for quick dungeon floorplans on the fly. Combined with layer effects and blend modes (a future mini-tute) this can give you great looking maps really quickly.

    [Award Winner] Assorted tips and tricks-grids2.jpg

    • There are a few steps to turning the grid on at the right scale.
      • Make sure that you have your image file set the correct scale. Here I'm creating a map at 100 pixels per square, so I set the resolution to 100dpi.
      • Open up Preferences and go to the settings for Guides, Grids and Slices. In here set the grid to 1 inch, and add in the number of subdivisions you want. When sticking to drawing features that take up full 5' squares you can set the subdivisions to 1. If you want to draw some smaller detail, like a 1' thick wall, then set it to 5 - to get a grid line every foot.
      • This should now give you a grid on your map. You can show/hide it with ctrl/cmd + ' . You can also toggle the snap to grid behavious using shift + ctrl/cmd + ; This also toggles snapping to guides.
      • Note for Gimp Users - there's a plugin here by RobA that allows you to create a grid of guides that will do the same job.
    • With the snap to grid on, you can create a new layer, and use the rectangular select tool and Fill (option + delete or cmd/ctrl + delete for foreground/background fill) to quickly lay in your dungeon layout.
    • Using that as a base, you can use blend modes and layer styles to build a pretty dungeon (or Gimp users can use this plugin, again by RobA, to generate a pretty dungeon map from their basic layout)

    This tip originally appeared on Google+ here.
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  9. #19
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    Default Using Layer Effects and Blend Modes to create quick dungeons

    Last week I posted a short tutorial on using grids in Photoshop to create a quick dungeon map (see above). The last panel of that tutorial showed a dungeon map with some layer effects added to give it a little pop. Today I'm going through the layer effects I used to show how it's done.

    A note of caution on layer modes - they can easily be over used and if you turn them all the way up to 11 then they'll scream their presence to anyone looking at your map. Bang them in at full opacity, then dial them down to create a more integrated effect.

    [Award Winner] Assorted tips and tricks-layereffects.jpg

    1. After last week's tutorial you should have a nice floorplan for your dungeon map. First find a nice neutral background with some slight textural variation to it. Paper and stone textures are good for this (try http://cgtextures.com). I've placed the floorplan on a new layer and changed it's colour to light blue ( #868ba6 for those that want to reproduce this in PS or Gimp). You can change the colour of a floorplan by locking the transparency of the layer (first of the four Lock options at the top of the Layers panel) and then fill with a colour (Edit->Fill, or option/Alt + delete to fill wth the foreground colour.

    Finally I've set the blend mode of the layer to colour burn. Notice how the texture of the layer behind is clearly visible? The colour and tone difference separate the walls cleanly from the background, but the texture keeps the whole thing unified.

    2. Here's the map with a couple of layer effects added. To access the layer effects panel double click the layer in the Layers window, or with the layer selected go to Layer->Layer Style->Blending Options... Here I've added a 2px stroke in black at 100% opacity to clearly delineate the walls (they are important after all).

    I've also added a black outer glow with a blend mode of overlay and an opacity of 75%. Notice how the walls now separate from the floors and you get a sense of depth.

    3. The shadows aren't quite deep enough, but rather than bump up the outer glow I add a drop shadow with no offset (offset drop shadows imply directional light, and I don't want that impression inside a dungeon - light sources should be in the rooms, not outside shining across the map). The drop shadow here is dark brown and has a blend mode of color burn with 75% opacity. That gives some great over saturated shadows and really dark nooks and crannies.

    Finally I've added an inner glow. This highlights the edges of the wall, and contrasts with the dark shadows. I've used an inner glow in white with a blend mode of overlay, 40% opacity and a size of 50px (half a square).


    I this case I've avoided using any Normal, multiply or screen blend modes (other than for the stroke). These modes mask the underlying texture, whereas the overlay and colour burn blend modes combine with it. I want the texture to unify the layout and provide some visual variation throughout the map.

    Play around with the different options. Inner glow, outer glow, drop shadow and inner shadow give you lots of options for creating edge effects around an area. Once you've found something you like, click the New Style... button in the layer effects palette and give it a name. Now you can apply this layer style to any future selection by going to the Styles item on the left hand list and finding it again.

    These skills don't just work for dungeon layouts, but also for text effects, logo design and much more. It's really worth the time to dig in and get to know the layer effects panel.

    For Gimp users, there aren't any layer modes. However if you have a floorplan you have a selection. This selection then allows you to use filters such as drop shadow, which mean you can replicate all the effects here very easily by a combination of layers. You can also use Stroke Selection to create the stroke in step 2.
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  10. #20
      jfrazierjr is offline
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    There is also a layerfx plug in available via http://registry.gimp.org/node/186. Note that the Python version has some nice additional features that are not possible in the "normal plugin" version, but if on windows, you have to do some extra work to get Python set up to work with GIMP.
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