Cliffs and canyons are things I have trouble with. Thank you for the insight! I think there are many that will find this useful.
So I was asked a while ago about different cliff mapping styles. Today I thought I'd break the hiatus of the last couple of weeks with a few different styles of cliffs. It's not really a tutorial, just a breakdown of a couple of the styles I've used for different maps.
1. Classic cliffs
This is a symbolic style - a very abstract representation of a cliff. It's used a lot on current maps. The advantage is that is clearly designates the cliff, shows where the edge is, and indicates which side is the top and which the bottom. The downside is that it's not particularly illustrative. These are great for abstracted regional scale maps and old school dungeon maps.
2. Illustrative cliffs
Here we have the opposite approach. The cliff is drawn to give some impression of how it would look from above. You tend not to see the vertical lines in the cliff. Instead you see all the ledges as you look down. Where the edges are close together you can see that it's steep, where they are more spread out you can see a more gradual rise. Throw in some fallen rocks at the bottom - all cliffs have them - and some lines showing the smaller rubble that's run off from the cliff. This is a good style for battlemaps, where you might want to give an indication of different routes up the cliff, but bad for regional maps where the scale makes this style inappropriate.
3. A compromise
Finally we have a style that acts as a compromise. The edge of the cliff is clearly shown. The structure of the cliff is indicated by the perpendicular lines. I've added more structure and variation. This gives a more illustrative feel to the style in 1. without sacrificing clarity. I've found this works well on world or regional scale maps where you need to indicate a cliff, and have it blend in with a more illustrative style.
Thanks And thanks for the rep.
Cliffs are a staple of fantasy maps. I was actually pretty surprised when I started going back through and noticing how many of my maps have them in.
Following my quick run down of how to draw cliffs here's an equally quick one for drawing cliffs on isometric maps.
1. Draw the top of the cliff. Make the horizontal variations in the line larger than the vertical variations. This will sell the cliff as being viewed side on.
2. Draw the vertical edges. These should come down from every 'wiggle' in your cliff top line. Give them different lengths and allow your hand to wiggle a little giving them some jitter.
3. Add some ground lines for the base of the cliff. These represent the run off of debris from the cliff and give the cliff a well defined base. Just like a figure drawing needs a floor and feet to ground it, a cliff needs a base to settle it into the map. Add a few lines around the top to suggest the lie of the land around the top of the cliff and allow the top to blend into the map.
That's it! Would it be useful to follow this with a rundown of how to colour this up?
Awesome! I would very much like to learn how to color in general. I've been using your maptools objects in my map and I love the way you color them all.
No problem. It's actually very similar in steps to the colouring I did on the iso dungeon earlier in this thread, but I'll happily do a couple more different examples.
Holy cow this thread is awesome! Repped, rated and very much appreciated!
Blend modes are a wonderful feature of Photoshop, and also appear in many other programs, including Gimp. Here's a few I use regularly. I've taken the same styles o text and shown how they appear using the different blend modes. Further down, you can see the effect of using a selection of different gradients and setting them to the relevant blend mode.
This is a great blend mode for making an image look integrated into the background texture. Using overlay gradually shifts the tone and colour of the background texture. In the case of the text, you can see that it takes more than one overlay layer stacked up to get text that's dark enough - but once it gets there it a thick saturated brown that fits well with the colour scheme of the parchment. In contrast, even with one layer of overlay, the light letters are almost white. This is because the starting texture is very light.
Overlay tends to increase the saturation of the background texture - so when we have colour gradients set to overlay you can see the colours remain highly saturated.
50% grey set to overlay will produce no effect at all. It will be indistinguishable from a transparent area on the overlay layer.
Soft light is similar in many ways to overlay, but tends to be much less saturated. You can see this difference in the letters of SOFT, and also in the gradients. I tend to play with both of these on a map, to see what gives the nicer result.
Soft light and overlay layers are a good way to give the impression of watercolour washes on a map, as they allow so much of the background colour and texture to shine through.
Colour burn is a very different beast. Firstly - like all 'burn' modes - it will only ever darken your image. White is effectively transparent when set to colour burn as you can see from the gradients at the bottom.
Colour burn darkens the background image, has a high saturation and gives vibrant colours. As with overlay and soft light, it takes the background colour as it's starting point and transforms it. So even in the solid blue on the bottom gradient, you can still see the parchment texture, and you can see that the colour is greener than the actual blue - the effect of the background's colour.
Colour burn gives great results if you want to grunge up a parchment background. Get some splatter brushes and some low to mid saturation colours (like the low saturation red on COLOUR) and go wild. You'll have a bloodstained muddy parchment in no time.
Multiply is a different beast yet again. Where the previous three blend modes combine with the background texture, multiply masks it. Multiply takes the brightness of a colour and turns it into transparency. So light colours like yellow, white or light blue will be transparent, where darker colours are more opaque. For dark colours, none of the background will show through. Multiply is a great way of laying a black and white image over a parchment. Se the layer to multiply and voila - the white is gone, leaving only the black lines.
I hope that's useful and gives you some ideas on how to use blend modes in your mapmaking and art work. They might look mysterious to start with, but play around with them and you'll soon find they give wonderful and surprising results.
Thanks Torstan - that's brilliantly useful. I always wondered what Soft Light and Multiply did.
@Jacktannery - you're welcome! Glad it helps.
Today - grasslands.
Grasslands are tricky to map. They're large empty open expanses. But if you just flood fill an area with light green it'll stand out like a sore thumb against your beautifully rendered mountains and lovingly painted rivers and forests. The colour is tough too - you want it to be a light green without being fluorescent.
I've found that the following works well for grasslands:
1. Lay in the base colour
• Take two shades of mid-green and turn on colour jitter with Foreground/Background jitter set to 100% - this'll give you a nice varying green, which helps to break up the monotonous uniformity of a green expanse.
• Use a large grungy brush and set it to low opacity (20-30%?) and block in your grassland. This should give you something that looks a little like 1 in the attached image. This is a little dark, and a little solid green for my liking - I like to let the background texture bleed through.
2. Play with some blend modes
• Duplicate the layer
• Set the bottom layer to 10% with Normal blend mode
• Set the top layer to 100% Overlay.
(if that makes no sense, see yesterday's post on Blend Modes)
- that should give you a nice mid green colour with some good colour variation, that should look something like 2 above. Honestly, you can leave it at that, and it'll look fine. But if you want to switch it up a bit more:
3. Add some detail
• Create a new layer over the top and set the blend mode to Overlay. First block in a dark blue with roughly 10-20% opacity. Use horizontal strokes - this will help to reinforce the isometric perspective of your map.
• Now go over the same layer with a very light yellow (almost white) also with horizontal strokes, and again at low opacity
- this should give you some nice light/dark variation in your grassland without breaking anything.
• Finally finish it off with a few dark green grass tufts scattered around using a thin brush (2-3 pixels, or 5 px if you're using a pressure sensitive stylus).
If you'd like to check out the psd file for this, you can get it here: http://jrsandbox.com/Maps/Mini-Tutes.../Grassland.psd