Creating Realistic Coastlines in Pixelmator
Hello everyone. This is actually my first time posting here, but after all the work I did, I was hoping to spare someone the time and agony I went through. These instructions are specifically for Pixelmator on the Mac. I posted them on my personal blog at Creating Coastlines for Maps in Pixelmator | -rks, but I've copied a rough version of them here.
If there are details or information missing, please let me know. I pride myself on my tutorials (I used to write this kind of stuff for a living), but I find myself guilty of often missing things.
I hope it helps!
Section 1: The Pieces
- Drag and drop desired “background” image into Pixelmator and label this as “Land” for the sake of simplicity.
- I like to do parchment-style backgrounds as it makes the
- Click the box to the right of Land to deactivate the layer.
- Create a new layer by pressing the + button in the bottom right hand corner of the layers window. Name this layer “Coast.”
Section 2: The Coasts
- Click “Brush” icon in your tools window and use an Artistic brush to draw the islands/coastline.
- Play with different kinds of brushes, though I found the Artistic brushes very effective. Make sure to add a little scatter to them. The idea is that there are no clean edges. Jitter as you draw, you don’t want them too even.
- To access the different brush sets, click the Gear icon within the Brushes Window.
- I prefer to keep the Blending set to normal, but feel free to adjust it as you see fit. Dissolve tends to be a little too pixilated for me.
- Make sure you do it in short strokes. Not only is it easier on your computer, but if you make a mistake, you have to redo less.
- Use a large brush for “smoother” sections of the coast and then use a smaller diameter brush for the finer detail. Add some outcroppings and bays, depending of course on the landscape you want.
- Try not to leave any large gaps inland as it can throw off the next step. I recommend doing lakes and rivers by hand in a separate layer.
Section 3: The Selections
- Once you are happy with your coastlines, use the paint selection tool to select the area inside of the painted section.
- Switch the mode to “Add to Selection” (top left of the screen, two solid boxes on top of each other) and select any other section of any islands.
- Click on the “Erase” command and change the brush style to something large and solid.
- Go to Edit > Invert Selection and then erase everything around the coastlines, so you don’t have any stuff left over.
- Go to Edit > Invert Selection again and then erase what’s inside the landmasses.
- Now you should just have a large selection on an empty background image.
- Make sure you don’t have any “holes” in the landscape, otherwise you may have to go back and reselect them with the paint selection tool.
- Select both the Land and Coast layer.
- Right click the selection and choose “Add Mask”
Group both layers and name them (“On’onar League” “Athlon Sea Commonwealth” “Western Reaches,” etc) to make things easier to identify.
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