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Thread: Create realistic Forests for regional Maps in Photoshop

  1. #1
      DonDozone is offline
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    Tutorial Create realistic Forests for regional Maps in Photoshop

    I've been working on a regional map for our own fantasy-RPG. When I was trying to figure out how to create a good looking forests, I came upon this technique that I want to share with you:

    Here is a picture how some forests made with this technique look like:
    Create realistic Forests for regional Maps in Photoshop-forest1.png
    Create realistic Forests for regional Maps in Photoshop-forest2.png

    First of all, I want to give lots of credits to pasis, who gave me a lot of ideas for my maps! Thank you very much!

    I've taken many ideas from his awesome tutorials Terrain creation guide and Bumpmaps in Photoshop.

    So, finally to my mountains:

    (I'm no native English speaker, so bear with me )

    I start of with a plain color-layer containing the base color of the later forest (in my case I choose #3c6719).

    Above that, add a layer with blending mode "overlay" and a fill it with 50% grey (Layer -> New -> Layer.. -> Choose "overlay" and checkbox "Fill with neutral color".)
    Apply the filter "Add Noise". You can play around with the values, here are mine:
    Create realistic Forests for regional Maps in Photoshop-addnoise.png
    Decrease the opacity of this layer a little to around 80%

    Now the trick is to add more structure to the forests:
    Copy the noise layer, and add it as a channel. (In CS5 you click on the "Channels" tab and click "new channel" and paste the contents). Your result should look like:
    Create realistic Forests for regional Maps in Photoshop-channels.png

    Back to the layers add yet another layer with "overlay" and "50% grey" as explained above. Select the filter "Lightning Effects" (under "Render"). Here again you can play with the values, the goal is to achieve something that results in a approximately 50%-grey image. The important values are:
    - Light: Diffuse
    - Relief channel: Alpha 1 (or the name you have given your newly created channel)
    - Height: Very low approximately 5-8
    - You have to adjust the direction and intensity of the light in the left image. Here are the values I used:
    Create realistic Forests for regional Maps in Photoshop-lightning.png

    To add even more structure, add another layer on top with mode "multiply" and apply the filter "clouds" (Be sure to have the colors of foreground and background to black & white, the shortcut is "D"). Lower the opacity of this layer to around 20%

    And done! This is the structure you can now use for the forests! How do you paint them?
    Easy:
    Create a layer with mode "overlay" and add the texture as a smartobject and cut mask.
    Create realistic Forests for regional Maps in Photoshop-wlad.png

    The trick, that you paint the forests with the brush "Dry Brush" from the default brushes set:
    Create realistic Forests for regional Maps in Photoshop-brushes.png
    Now, paint the forests with very small strokes and you get the nice effect of the forest fading out and blending to its surroundings. Last step is to add the layer effects suggested by pasis:
    Create realistic Forests for regional Maps in Photoshop-schlagschatten.png
    Create realistic Forests for regional Maps in Photoshop-relief.png

    Addition from Midgardsormr:
    If you would like to smooth the texture a bit, apply a Gaussian Blur to the smart object with a very low radius. About .7 looks good on my test document. Since it's going on a smart object, the blur will become a smart filter, which can be altered later on if you want to tweak it.
    This tutorial was somewhat created in a hurry, so if you have any questions regarding the techniques described here, please tell me and I will refine this tutorial.

    Happy new year!
    Last edited by DonDozone; 01-03-2013 at 10:23 AM. Reason: Incorporated suggestions of Midgardsormr
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  2. #2
      lostatsea is offline
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    Looks nice ! I'll have to try this . Thanks for the post!
    "Aye The skies be clear , the seas be calm and the winds be with us .....

    ARGH!! but the damn compass be broken!! "

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  3. #3
    Guild Master Gracious Donor Midgardsormr's Avatar
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    Fantastic! A very nice-looking result, easy to accomplish, and non-destructive. Furthermore, it' in my favorite tutorial style, with inline images, which I find very easy to follow.

    I do have some refinements to suggest. First, the brush you've pointed out is in the default brushes set, and in the English edition of PS it's called Dry Brush.

    Before you create the clouds layer, reset your colors to black and white (D). The clouds will be based on your foreground and background colors, and if you're still using the green from your base layer, it will reduce the contrast of the clouds.

    If you would like to smooth the texture a bit, apply a Gaussian Blur to the smart object with a very low radius. About .7 looks good on my test document. Since it's going on a smart object, the blur will become a smart filter, which can be altered later on if you want to tweak it.

    If you are using a lightmap of some kind to define your terrain, you can probably get away with turning off the clouds. Since it's a smart object, this is as simple as right-clicking the texture layer, choosing "edit contents" and turning off the layer. When you save, the source map will be updated automatically, and if you decide you want the clouds back, you can edit it again to turn them back on. Also, you can adjust the blending or color of the texture layers at any time with this same method, so you don't necessarily need to choose the best values from the very start.

    I think I like this technique better than the one I developed earlier. Five stars and rep from me! Great job!
    Bryan Ray, visual effects artist
    http://www.bryanray.name

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      arsheesh is offline
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    Huh, your first post and it's a tutorial! Well welcome to the Guild Don, and thanks for contributing. I like the way your forests turned out. I'll have to go through this technique some time and see if I can duplicate or roughly approximate it in GIMP.

    Cheers,
    -Arsheesh

  5. #5
      DonDozone is offline
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    Thank you guys for the kind welcome And thanks Midgardsormr for the suggestions, I've put them into the tutorial.

  6. #6
    mol
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    Woa, your map looks great man!!! : P

    How do you achieve that grassland texture? Looks very good! : P

  7. #7
      DonDozone is offline
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    Hi there, mol

    Well, the the grassland texture is stitched together from satellite picture from NASA. They have the awesome Blue Marble project, where you can download picture of the whole earth with a resolution of up to 86,400 x 43,200 pixels. There you can find almost every type of terrain to copy. For the grasland i use mostly parts from central Africa & India. (Another link for these picture is the NASA Earthobservatory). The collection of NASA satellite images gives you a lot of inspiration. Just look through their collection and you'll see.

    If you take a look around the collection of NASA satellite images, you can find many awesome textures you can use. I didn't make seamless textures, but in fact I took many small patches and copied them together. Here are some examples of terrains I used in some of my previous Maps:
    Create realistic Forests for regional Maps in Photoshop-terrains.jpg

    In this particular case, I made some additional steps, so that the whole texture looks like it is in a bigger scale:
    Create realistic Forests for regional Maps in Photoshop-steps.jpg
    1.: The plain texture stitched together from the satellite image
    2.: Apply lighting and tweak the color.
    3.: Add 2 layers on top, both with opacity 20% and mode "overlay". Apply the filter "Add noise" to the first one and "clouds" to the second.
    4.: On top a pattern-layer with blending mode "multiply" and opacity 50%. The pattern I chose is under stone patterns and may be called something like "structured tile" and is just below the "light marmor" (sorry, I have the german PS, I don't know, what it is called in English).

    Does that answer your question? If not, I can write a more detailed version

    Cheers, Don.
    Last edited by DonDozone; 01-05-2013 at 10:16 AM.
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  8. #8
    mol
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    Yep, that certainly answers the question! Great work man!

    Thanks a lot for sharing! : D

    (Sorry for not answering before )

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    So i can create the "texture?" not a problem but then i get lost and i have no idea how to do or what any of the below means....

    Quote Originally Posted by DonDozone View Post
    And done! This is the structure you can now use for the forests! How do you paint them?
    Easy:
    Create a layer with mode "overlay" and add the texture as a smartobject and cut mask.
    I'm just having a hard time figuring this out and i have been trying to for a few hours now so help someone please!
    Current W.I.P's: Latest Map: All Finished Maps:
    The Province of Urne The Kingdom of Ashen Finished Maps

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      Revock is offline
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    You hold control key and click on each of the layers you want in the smart object in the layers tab to select multiple layers then, * in CS2* creating smart objects is under "Layer"-->"Smart Objects"-->"Group into New Smart Object" If you have a newer version of PS i wouldn't know but its probably similar. Then with the smart-object above the overlay layer, select the smart-object layer, "Layer"--> "Create Clipping Mask".
    Last edited by Revock; 07-17-2013 at 06:32 AM.
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