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Thread: Battlemaps in Photoshop

  1. #1
      madcowchef is offline
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    Tutorial Battlemaps in Photoshop

    Mandatory Mention of not being a skilled tutorial writer:I might not look like a man half my age but I at least write like one. So bare with me. Here's what we are going to make:
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tutorialmap.jpg

    Step One: Grid yourself.
    I am going to create a battle map with dimensions of 2000x2000 pixels, but before I do that I am going to make a square grid for it that will be 10x10, so all my elements align well to the grid.
    -So I’m going to open a new image with dimensions of 200x200 (1/10th of 2000).
    -Make a new layer and use the single row marquee tool then the single column marquee selection along with the paint bucket to fill an “L” with black.
    - Click on the eye to make the background hidden.
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut1.jpg
    -Hit Ctl+A to select the whole thing (you can also go to select ⇨all
    -Edit ⇨Define pattern and name it gird 200 and click OK.

    On to the main image.
    -File new and 2000x2000
    -Create a new layer then Edit ⇨Fill ⇨Pattern and select the grid you just made. If you want to be able to see it better you can click the Fx button at the bottom of the layer menu and add the stroke effect.
    -Remember to name your layers as you go for ease later on.
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut2.jpg

    We now have our grid ready so when we draw elements they will line up nicely and if we are making a battlemap we want the grid on we now have one.

    Step 2: Every day I’m texturing.
    Making seamless textures is beyond the scope of what I’m doing here so for now go get yourself some tileable textures from CGtextures, or whatever other resource you like best. For this tutorial you’ll want the following textures:
    +sparse grass
    +cement or smooth stone
    +Rough stone
    +moss or grass for tree texture
    +water (good one's are extra hard to find)
    +any smudgey grunge texture
    Textures are worth spending some extra time on, especially if you are going to do more than one map in the same kind of area, so if my method seems a bit tedious feel free to to just pattern fill in each texture you need instead, just like you did your grid.

    -2 New layers (under the grid for all your textures you’ll be creating).
    -Select top most of the two new layers
    -Paint bucket it in with white.
    -Fx (at the bottom of the layer tab) Pattern overly and choose your grass texture. You can adjust the scale of the overly till you think the level of detail fits the scale of your map
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut3.jpg
    -Once you have the scale of the pattern where you want it, merge it with the layer below by hitting Ctr+E or going to the layer tab and selecting merge down. This will allow you to edit traits about the layer later on.

    New we have a layer but it looks really repetitive due to the number of times the pattern repeats, not to worry we have solutions.

    -Copy the Grass layer you just created by either dragging it down to the new layer icon in the layer menu, or going up to layer⇨Duplicate Layer
    -now Edit⇨Transform rotate 90 ccw (widdershins always).
    -now take your eraser tool and select a soft brush (the round one with 0% hardness works great). Erase spots at random, especial those that look too patterny to you.
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut4.jpg
    -Ctr+E to merge your two grass layers. Better, but still a bit overly patterny.
    -Create a layer under your grass layer
    -Reselect your grass layer
    -Fx pattern overlay again! This time we’ll choose any old grunge texture, and we’ll change the scale to large enough that it doesn’t repeat.
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut5.jpg

    -Then we will mess around with the settings, I went with blend mode multiply, and then reduced the opacity to 52%
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut6.jpg

    -We now merge that down with the blank layer below it Ctr+E

    The next two steps aren’t one's I can give you exact numbers for you’ll have to play with them yourself till you get results you like
    -Image⇨Adjustments⇨Hue/Saturation (I usually desaturate a bit, but I live in the northwest where we have less direct sunlight so I am biased) or hit Ctr+U
    -Image⇨Adjustment⇨Levels you can lighten and darken your image without loss of all the details and making it washed out and make the contrast pop nicely. just play with the sliders till you like it.
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut7.jpg

    We now have our grass layer. Go back up to the top of step two, and repeat the process for your sparse grass layer.
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut8.jpg

    Then your dirt layer.
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut9.jpg

    Your smoother stone layer. And then copy this layer so you have two. You are remembering to name them right?
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut10.jpg

    And finally a layer each for cliffs and Trees. We now have a lot of layers and we can quit! OK not really. Next we want to create a layer mask for every texture layer with the exception of our bottom most dirt layer.
    -Layer⇨Layer Mask⇨Hide all or click the layer mask button at the bottom of the layer tab, then fill all your layer masks except the grass with black.
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut11.jpg

    Layer masks are all we will edit from now on, leaving our texture alone under it. Always make sure you have the layer mask selected rather than the texture it is laying over. White=visible Black=hidden for layer masks they will make your life beautiful again.

    We are about ready to start adding elements now that we have all our textures in and masked. Before we do make sure you grid is visible so you can align to it reasonably well.

    Step 3: Brushing up on brushes.
    We are going to need a couple of brushes, a “funky brush”, a “grass brush”, and a “pebble brush”. We’ll start with the funky one.
    -under the Brush tab select a messed up shaped brush
    -select shape dynamics and turn the angle jitter all the way up. You can also mess with size and roundness gitter, and if you have a tablet (which my cheapy cost only $20 and works fine for this) make control by pen pressure.
    -save the brush settings you just made. You can find it later under the brush preset tab.
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut12.jpg

    Now for the pebble brush, which starts as a regular old round hard brush to which I apply the following settings:
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut13.jpg
    Then I save that brush too.

    Finally my grass Brush, which is set like this:
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut14.jpg
    OK so now we’ve grown old together and I love you still but its time to move onto the part where we acutally map something out.

    Step4: Laying your groundwork
    We could really start with any feature, but as the exposed rock faces determine a lot of where the rest of things go lets start with that.
    -Choose your funky brush
    -select the layer mask for the cliffs layer.
    -make the color of your brush white (you can hit D to chose black and white the default colors and x to switch between them for quick layer mask fu)
    -Draw a cliff
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut15.jpg

    Then go to your Stone work layer (one of your two smooth stone layers)
    -Select layer mask for stone work layer
    -Use the selection tool to select some square walls sections that align to the grid reasonably, using the paint bucket to fill the selections with white.
    -click Fx and select Bevel and Emboss. One thing to remember is for the blend mode of your highlights unless its shiny chose overlay rather than screen. The texture option will help stonework look rougher choose any rough stone texture or grunge texture and adjust as needed (often I bring the depth of the texture option down). Here’s the settings I used:
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut17.jpg

    Then to help define the outer edges and imitate the ambient shadows along the base of the walls:
    -fx outer glow. Then I set blend mode to multiply and chose the color black, this works better than a drop shadow as I can set the technique to “precise” which gives more definition.
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut18.jpg

    Next its on to some loose rock around the walls
    -chose your pebble brush
    -select white as your color
    -select the laye mask for your rubble (the other smooth stone layer)
    -Draw on layer mask scattering some rocks around the walls.

    Then its time for far too many layer fx.
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut19.jpg
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut20.jpg

    Good to mess around with all those settings on your own sometime and get a real feel for them rather than taking my word and taste as gospel.

    Next we will play with the grass
    -select your grass brush
    -select the layer mask for your grass layer
    -make the foreground color black (which is to say select black as your color, or colour if you are british).
    -draw on that layer mask making trails and removing grass from anywhere you want.
    -change opacity to 40% (you can just hit 4 on your keyboard to do this also hitting 0 is back to full)
    -draw some more making areas of thinner grass

    -select the layer mask for you sparse grass
    -make sure your brush opacity is set to 100%
    -hit x or change your color to white by process of selection.
    -draw some sparser grass
    -lower opacity to 40% again
    -draw some sparser sparser grass (much sparse. wow.)
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut21.jpg

    Time for your trees, which are a lot like your pebble really. If you prefer there are a number or online resources that will allow you to simply drop in higher quality more realistic trees, this method is only really good for creating brush and shrubs.
    -select your tree layer
    -apply all these layer effects:
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut22.jpg

    Then as we are going to be lazy about it we’ll use a drop shadow for them. its better to draw your own, but sometimes you are in a hurry. Here’s the setting I used:
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut23.jpg

    -Chose your grass brush
    -select the layer mask for your tree layer
    -chose white as your color (make sure opacity is at 100%)
    -draw some trees, being conscientious of the grid (make it very clear weather a space is more or less than half covered by a tree).

    Step 5: Devil in the details.
    OK so now we have all the elements we wanted in place, time to go back and refine things a bit. First off lets look at those cliffs. There is nothing about them that shows anything about the paly of light in the scene. We already know the direction of the sun from the “global light” setting from all our bevels. So lets add some additional shadows to our cliffs.
    -create a new layer above your cliff layer
    -hit crt+alt+G or go to layer⇨create layer clipping mask. This make a layer that only shows when its coincides with the layer below it. there should be a little arrow showing you the layer its buddies with.
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut24.jpg
    -Set layer opacity to around 50%
    -Set layer style to multiply (not screen)
    -select a soft round brush
    -make your foreground color black.
    -remembering the direction of light, enhance the cracks and shadows of your rock texture
    -add some extra shadow at the bottom to make it look like the low point
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut25.jpg
    -when you’re done drawing lower opacity to 22%, we only had it up higher to see what we were doing.

    Onto those all to clean walls.
    -select your funky brush
    -select the layer mask for your stone work
    -select your color as black
    -draw along the edges causing random messy damage along the walls.

    -create a new layer over your stone work
    -Ctr+Alt+G to create a layer clipping mask
    -select a hard round brush and make it only 2 pixels wide.
    Draw some lines where you want the intersections of stones on your wall.
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut26.jpg
    Now for another mashup of layer fx. We’ll use an outer bevel this time with the usual texture setting.
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut27.jpg
    Now for some more fancy damage effects.
    -create a new layer
    -move it between your line layer and your stone work layer, this should make it a layer clipping mask for the layer also.
    -paint bucket the whole layer black.
    -Filter⇨Render⇨Difference Clouds
    -hit ctr+F a dozen or so times (this repeats the last filter and will add more detail to your difference clouds so they get finer)
    -You’ll want to change your layer style to hard light, and lower opacity a bit (I used 73%)
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut28.jpg
    -now put a layer mask on your “damage” layer and hide the whole thing.
    -Select the layer mask for your damage layer
    -make your selected color white
    -Using your funky brush you can now draw in additional damage wherever you messed up the walls extra. its like magic or something!
    -finally to help define the edges of the broken stone we’ll add a layer effect like so:
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut29.jpg

    Step 6: Master of light and shadow

    Its time to add some shadows and highlights to this poor flat scene.
    -create two new layers
    -turn the opacity of each down to around 50% (its good to fiddle)
    -Layer style for shadows is Multiply
    -Layer style for highlights is overlay
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut30.jpg
    -Select the soft round brush
    -Select black as your color (in case you forgot you can just hit D to get default colors)
    -keeping in mind the direction of the lighting draw your shadows. If your aren’t sure where they might go, put a temporary drop shadow on a layer to see where the far ends line up and then just draw lines to connect them. If you click a location with your brush hold down shift and then click on a new location it will draw a straight line between your dots. or you can begin drawing and then hold down shift to draw a line that is straight across or straight up and down.
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut31.jpg

    -Select your highlight layer
    -chose white as your color
    -Draw some highlights near the top of your cliffs where the light would hit them.
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut32.jpg
    -Now turn the opacity down on your brush to 30% and draw some light and shadows on your wall each on the proper layer, it will be subtle but help them look less flat.
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut33.jpg

    Now as its unlikely our terrain is perfectly flat we will plan out the shape of it and where to put shadows and highlights.
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut34.jpg
    -turn down the opacity of your brush to 20% and add the terrain shadows and highlights each on the proper level.
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut35.jpg

    Looks like a finished piece. We could easily dress it up with stock crates barrels or just set the bandits waiting to ambush our heroes behind those walls as they come along the path. But wait, we’ve decided that we want some water because we are gluttons for punishment.

    Step 7: Wetting our appetites

    We’ll have to make a water layer. We remember that from earlier (which is to say we go back and re-read that part). Strangely we are putting it above our grass layer what madness is this?
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut36.jpg

    - mask the whole layer (create a layer mask and fill it with black)
    -select the layer mask
    -select white as your color
    -using your funky brush draw a stream (we’ll make it go along our flat path as we already added a sense of hight to the rest of the area.
    -use a bunch of layer effects, an outer bevel to make it look like the stream is sunk, an inner shadow set with the same color as the dirt to make it look like its receding under water, and an inner glow set to center with multiply to show deeper darker water. Here’s my settings you can play with your own:
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut37.jpg

    Hmm this river needs some rocks. The good news is you can just select your pebble brush, go back to that layer and add some in the stream.
    Finally some white water
    -create new layer over water layer
    -select your grass brush
    -make white your color
    -draw some foam under each rock, with a little tail if you want the water to look fast flowing.
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tut38.jpg

    That’s about it. There is a million more tricks and tips, but with what you’ve learned with custom brushes, layer masks, layer clicking masks, and judicious use of bevel effects you can get a very long ways. I might add more later if people have specific requests.
    Last edited by madcowchef; 05-09-2014 at 08:39 PM.

  2. #2
    Professional Artist Facebook Connected Schwarzkreuz's Avatar
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    Its clear and understandable. I am sure many users will find this usefull.

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      madcowchef is offline
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    Underwater Stones: There’s no need for your river rocks to feel so all alone
    -First off we need to copy our rubble layer by either dragging it down to the new layer button on the layer tab or going to layer⇨Duplicate layer with it selected.
    -move it beneath the foam layer but over the water layer.
    -Ctr+a to select the whole thing
    -select the layer mask
    -either use the paint bucket to fill the layer mask with black, or hit delete with black and your background color.
    -now select white as your foreground color
    -select your pebble brush
    -draw some stones in your river.
    -now you’ll change the opacity and the fill. Fill affects the visibility of elements that aren’t layer effects, whereas opacity affects everything. as light and shadow show better in water than other traits we’ll lower the fill as well as the opacity. Here’s the settings I used:
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tutb1.jpg
    The same technique could be used for anything else you want to submerge, bodies, boats you name it. For deeper objects you could use some filter⇨Distort⇨ripple to show distortion of the image coming through the water.

  4. #4
      ajb47 is offline
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    Great! I'm sure this will help me out a lot. Thanks for this. I hope to spend a lot of time this week making battle maps.

  5. #5
    Professional Artist Facebook Connected Schwarzkreuz's Avatar
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    I always wonder when I see long year members with low postings suddenly reappear to post a small comment

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      ajb47 is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schwarzkreuz View Post
    I always wonder when I see long year members with low postings suddenly reappear to post a small comment
    It's because when I first got on the internet waaaaay back in 1992 and the place was still using Usenet, I was one of those who actually read those Netiquette articles. Lurk and browse to get a feel for the place before posting. Also, my interest in maps and mapping ebbs and flows. Also also, it took me awhile to actually get a program for making maps electronically, and I still like to draw them by hand sometimes (been doing that since I was 12 and I'm now 47, so...)

    So, mostly, a lack of anything useful to say on my part. Just listening and learning what I could.

  7. #7
      madcowchef is offline
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    Stone Magic: Inscriptions and glowy bits.
    We decided that those walls at the top of the hill are from a magic tower that clearly suffered one of those frequent magical accidents so we are going to add some more magical stone work.
    -first we draw in a stone circle on our stone work layer, roughing up the edges with our funky brush like we did before.
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tutb2.jpg

    -We have an image with appropriate permissions for our use of some magic symbol, in this case a protective pentagram we want to use so we copy it on over.
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tutb3.jpg
    -Add it to the stack with the other clipping masks on our stone work layer ctr+alt+g
    -Place it above our brick line layer
    -Ctr+E to merge down
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tutb4.jpg

    We know have an inscribed stone, fancy. But we decide that isn’t quite what we want, we need something more glowy and magicy! We want the inscription but we need it to glow so we want it on its own layer.
    -Ctr+Z to unmerge
    -move it to the top of your layer clipping mask stack
    -Ctr+Alt+G removes it from your layer clipping mask stack.
    -Select your brick line layer
    -Right click on the Fx symbol in the layer Tab⇨copy layer style
    -Select your pentagram layer right click on the far right side⇨paste layer style.

    -Back to where we started, but now its time to add some glow. We want to to be blue so we’ll do a color overlay, we want some inner glow for the bright center part, and we want some outer glow to light up the area with fancy blue glowing light. Here’s the settings I chose:
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tutb5.jpg
    -go back to the damage layer and use our funky brush to damage the edges of the stone circle just like we did the walls.
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tutb6.jpg
    That glow looks like it should be banishing more shadows, we can do that.
    -select your master shadow layer
    -with a big soft brush well just delete some of the shadows around the circle (I had to use the select tool to show how big a soft brush I was using)
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tutb7.jpg

    Now we have a flat circle of protection as a slab, but what if we want some obelisk? We could search for a map element that looks like what we want, but lets just make our own.
    -Select your stone work layer
    -select a square and use the paint bucket to fill it with white (optionally with white selected as your background color you can just hit delete)
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tutb8.jpg

    -Select your funky brush
    -select black as your foreground color (in case you’ve forgotten hitting D will bring back black and white as your default colors and you can hit X to switch between them)
    -Rough up the outside to make the square look imperfect.
    -Now on the Shadow and highlight template draw in your light and shadow on it. The top part of the image shows my plan of how the light will fall
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tutb9.jpg

    Not bad but not deep enough a shadow for what we want. Lets use the same method we used on the cliff to deepen it.
    -Create a new layer
    -Ctr+Alt+G to create a layer clipping mask
    -We could go to Fx in the layer tab and copy the layer style for the extra shadows on the cliff, by right clicking, or just set the layer style to multiply, and take opacity down to 22%.
    -Select a soft brush
    -Draw some more shadows
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tutb10.jpg

    We want some fancy glowing script on this one too.
    -Select your glow layer (the same one you used for your glowing protective circle
    -With a small hard brush make some squiggles on the side of your pillar
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tutb11.jpg
    Lookin’ good, lets just add shadows the same way we did for making our walls by drawing them in on our master shadow layer, then we will use the eraser to remove them closest to our glowing script, same as we did for our magic circle.
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tutb12.jpg

    We could leave it at that and have some pretty fancy stuff, but lets get extra fancy and pick up the glow on the vertical surfaces near our glowing objects.
    -hold down Ctr while clicking on the layer mask for your stone work. this will select only the active parts of your layer mask (the white visible stuff). This assures we don’t draw on the wrong part
    -Chose the color of your glowing magic stuff for your foreground color.
    -select your master highlight layer.
    -select a soft brush
    -turn brush opacity to 30% (you can just hit 3 on your keyboard to do this)
    -Draw a bit of blue glow onto the surfaces nearest to the light. It will be subtle but help carry the color and create a convincing illusion of our light sources emitting light.
    Battlemaps in Photoshop-tutb13.jpg

  8. #8
      ajb47 is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by madcowchef View Post
    I might add more later if people have specific requests.
    My only request, after being the one who seems to have nudged you into doing a tutorial or three, would be for trees that don't look like hedges, like in the map I posted in the other thread. Is it simply a matter of picking a certain pattern? Because there are a lot of patterns on, and really, others that can be found just by doing a google search for seamless tree pattern or tile. And most of those seem great for the overland or regional map forests, but may not be fine for the scale of a battle map.

    Now, just because that's my only request doesn't mean I wouldn't like to learn all your secrets.

  9. #9
      ajb47 is offline
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    Alright, maybe not my only request. Interiors would be useful, too, when you can get to them. I don't mean to sound like, "Gimme more! Gimme more!", but I like the whole learning to fish part (Right? Give a man a fish -- teach a man to fish).

    Thanks again for doing this.

  10. #10
      madcowchef is offline
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    You are most free to ask for anything. It helps me spend my time making tutorials that will actually be useful to folks which is much more fun and productive. I make no guarantees I'm capable of giving useful help on some subjects though (bogie should do one on placing items in rooms, his clutter work is superior). For trees there is always insertable map elements (those pre made or pre rendered ones you can find on many sites), or using a combination of a texture and hand drawing your light and shadows to give it depth and interest, but my standard technique is shrubs. For really big trees sometimes its more appropriate to to just do the bases, the trunk that is, as the upper part of the tree isn't down were it can get in the way of an encounter. When you say interiors do you mean the interiors of buildings? Give me an example and I might be able to tailor my help towards it.

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