How to create a ripple texture using the clouds filter
Today Iím going to cover how to create a rippling water pattern in Photoshop using the clouds filter. This is a little technical, but itíll become clear why weíre doing this over the next few days.
As light hits the waves on the surface of the sea itís distorted and that creates a pattern of light and dark across the sea-bed thatís very distinctive. We can replicated this pattern in photoshop with relatively little trouble, but there will be some new concepts so Iíll take it step by step.
1. In a new document, create a new layer, make sure the colours are set to black and white, and run Filter->Render->Clouds. This creates an automated collection of noise with a characteristic scale Ė you can see the overall pattern of dark and lights across the panel above. Note that youíll get a subtly different pattern every time you run the Render->Clouds filter.
2. Run Filter->Render->Difference Clouds. This will give you a pattern like the one below. This still doesnít look much like a wave pattern, but bear with me.
3. Invert the layer (Image->Adjustments->Invert or command/ctrl + I).
4. Adjust the levels on the layer Ė itís currently very light and we need a wider range of lights and darks for it to be useful. To do this either go to Image->Adjustments->LevelsÖ or add a new adjustment layer. Iíve taken a screenshot of the levels panel after Iíve tinkered with it to get what Iím after.
5. Now weíre getting somewhere. Finally I stretch the layer Ė in this case horizontally by arond 200-250%, depending on what looks good. Now I agree that this might not look that exciting right now, but tomorrow Iíll be showing you how to use this to turn any map into an underwater sunken vista.
Iíve also uploaded one of my own ripple textures here: Ripples | Fantastic Maps
The file is CC-BY-NC licensed, so if you want to use the ripples in a commercial product youíll have to follow the tutorial and make your own :)
There's a slightly longer version of this tutorial posted over on the blog: Using clouds to create ripples | Fantastic Maps along with an archive of previous tutorials here: Tips and Tricks | Fantastic Maps
How to turn a map into an underwater landscape
1. Starting map
I'm going to take an existing battlemap and turn it into an underwater ruin. Here's the map I'll be using - a simple ruin from this Ruined Library map pack (Fantastic Maps: The Ruined Library - Rite Publishing | Fantastic Maps | Tabletop Essentials | RPGNow.com). Ruins work well as they can easily be the remains of a unfortunate city subjected to an Atlantean cataclysm.
2. Add a colour layer
The first problem is that the map is definitely not the right colour. We need to desaturate the map, and add an over-all blue cast to the map. I create a new layer above the map and fill it with a grey blue (#3e526a to be precise). It's not too saturated, so it'll do both jobs at once. I set the layer blend mode to Color, and set the opacity to 75%. For more on blend modes, see this post: Lunchtime Tips: Blend Modes | Fantastic Maps
3. Add an overlay layer
Note that you can still see colour variation in the map - that's because we set the colour layer to 75% rather than 100%. You don't want to wash out all the prior colours. The map looks a bit like a moonscape rather than an underwater map. To bump up the blues a bit I duplicate the colour layer, set the blend mode to Overlay instead of Color.
4. Adding Ripples
So we could leave it there, but I want to add some ripples to the map. As light hits the waves on the surface it is distorted and that creates a pattern of light and dark across the sea-bed that's quite distinctive. Yesterday I covered how to create a ripple pattern (Using clouds to create ripples | Fantastic Maps). You can follow those steps, or just download one of my ripple files here: Ripples | Fantastic Maps (note the file is CC-BY-NC licensed, so if you want to use the ripples in a commercial product you'll have to follow the tutorial and make your own!).
I select a large region of the ripples texture and paste it into my working map - it will show up as a new layer. Once there, use the transform tools (ctrl/command - T or Edit->Free Transform) to spin it round and make sure it covers the whole image. Add a color layer above it, find a nice blue and merge down so that the black parts of the texture are now a good sea-blue color. Finally I set the blend mode to Multiply and drop the opacity right down to 30%.
5. More Ripples!
You can immediately see the difference that the ripple pattern makes to the map. I like this so much, I'll do it again. The second layer is coloured with a greener blue to add some colour variation to the map, and it's been rotated so that the ripples aren't going in quite the same direction.
6 And we're done! The ripples give a convincing under-the-sea feel to a map that started off as an arid blasted desert ruin.
Please share, and comment if you have problems or have suggestions for future posts. You can find previous tips under #fmtips or over on the tutorials section of the blog: Tips and Tricks | Fantastic Maps