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Thread: Wite_Lance's Guide to Wagon Ruts in Photoshop

  1. #1
      wite_lance is offline
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    Tutorial Wite_Lance's Guide to Wagon Ruts in Photoshop

    Hey folks,

    I'm a 6 month lurker of the site, now making my first posts (my other post being a Science Fantasy map in the sci-fi/modern maps section). One thing I noticed in all that time was that no one seemed to have a guide to making wagon ruts that I could find, so I figured I'd share my technique for wagon trails in photoshop. I'll be demonstrating with a battle map I'm going to be adding some other things to later.

    Edit: This was originally intended for a fantasy/medieval type track, however as pointed out by Xplan (who linked a video below that is really useful on historical road design) and my own musings on cart building before a standard measure it's unlikely this would have been used before the 1700's-1800's. Even then horseless carriages didn't start use before the early 1900's, so a center track for animals (or a blanket between the two ruts) is likely needed.

    Sorry if it's a bit messy, it's my first time writing a tutorial. Any suggestions are welcome.

    Skills you must have in photoshop to use this tutorial:
    • Ability to layer and style your layer
    • An understanding of paths


    Resources Utilized:
    • Phtoshop
    • Grass texture
    • Dirt Texture
    Textures in this tutorial came from CG Textures

    Step 1
    Prep: Make the file you want to put the wagon ruts on. This is a 1400 x 1050 @ 70 DPI canvas w/ a layer styled grass overlay, a second layer blending on overlay at 40% transparency with some hue jittered brush strokes greenish yellow(technique borrowed from this thread, though I'm not stroking paths yet), and finished with a blending overlay at 20% transparency of a rendered cloud. (I named mine 'Grass Base', 'Grass Flavor 1', and 'Grass Flavor 2', respectively)
    Wite_Lance's Guide to Wagon Ruts in Photoshop-grass-field.jpg

    Step 1: Now we make a new layer (I called mine 'Wagon Tracks'), make our first rut path using the pen tool, and stroke the path 2-3 times.
    • For this as it's a battle mat on a 70px x 70px scale I used a hard round brush; 25 px in size, 50% spacing, 50% size jitter, and 3 strokes.
    If there's an easier way of getting a nice irregularly sized stroke it might just be beyond my self taught photoshop skills... suggestions welcome.
    Wite_Lance's Guide to Wagon Ruts in Photoshop-wagon-encounter-1.jpg

    Step 2: From here we want to use the path select [black arrow] tool to move the path where you want the other rut, however many pixels your 'average cart size' distance works out (meaning I'm winging this one, but I'm sure there's a math/magical formulae). Once the path is where you want the 2nd rut, stroke 2-3 more times. (when you're done make sure you click off the path, you'll need it again later)
    Wite_Lance's Guide to Wagon Ruts in Photoshop-wagon-encounter-2.jpg

    Step 3: Now we start having fun with layer styles. Here's what I used, in the order I applied them:
    • Pattern Overlay (Dirt) - Scaled for my map
    • Outer Glow - Color to approximate the dirt, blend mode darken, size approximately the same as your brush earlier.
    • Inner Glow - Something close to the shade of my grass
    • Inner Shadow - Blending Soft light, leave the light on global or adjust to your working angle. Adjust Distance and size until you find the right 'depth' to match the inner glow.
    • Color Overlay - Blending Overlay, 10% transparency. I'll sample the color from one of the lighter patches of grass.
    For adding a turn see Step 3 (optional) below.
    Wite_Lance's Guide to Wagon Ruts in Photoshop-wagon-encounter-3.jpg

    For smaller maps (like the map I posted in this thread we're done. However as you can see in the last image, when we're dealing with much larger ruts, it still looks kinda ugly. To solve this we can borrow Torstan's technique again... but doubled over. Steps 4A and 4B can be done in either order.

    Step 4A:
    • Make a new layer (I named mine 'Wagon Flavor external') - Blending overlay @40% transparency
    • Sample a patch of dirt.
    • Switch to a grungy brush. Adjust size to approximately 1.5 times your wagon rut brush. Have a touch of size jitter, scatter @ 300%, count jitter @ 100%, Hue Jitter at 10%, brightness Jitter @ 25%.
    • Cmd/Ctrl click your wagon ruts base layer (this should select everything in that layer)
    • Cmd/Ctrl Shift I - this should invert your selection
    • Switch to the path select [black arrow] tool
    • Stroke Path (if it didn't stroke as you expect, undo and adjust your scattering or stroke again as appropriate)
    • Move the path to the other rut
    • Stroke again
    Wite_Lance's Guide to Wagon Ruts in Photoshop-wagon-encounter-4a.jpg

    Step 4B:Almost done...
    • Make a new layer (I named mine 'Wagon Flavor internall') - Blending overlay @40% transparency
    • Sample a patch of grass.
    • Switch to a grungy brush. Adjust size to approximately 1.5 times your wagon rut brush. Have a touch of size jitter, scatter @ 300%, count jitter @ 100%, Hue Jitter at 10%, brightness Jitter @ 25%.
    • Cmd/Ctrl click your wagon ruts base layer (this should select everything in that layer)
    • Switch to the path select [black arrow] tool
    • Stroke Path (if it didn't stroke as you expect, undo and adjust your scattering or stroke again as appropriate)
    • Move the path to the other rut
    • Stroke again
    Wite_Lance's Guide to Wagon Ruts in Photoshop-wagon-encounter-4b.jpg

    You should now have something that resembles this:
    Wite_Lance's Guide to Wagon Ruts in Photoshop-wagon-encounter-5.jpg

    Add trees, foliage, carts from there. When I finish this map I'll add it on to my post.

    Suggestions on improving this technique are also welcome.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Wite_Lance's Guide to Wagon Ruts in Photoshop-wagon-encounter-3.jpg   Wite_Lance's Guide to Wagon Ruts in Photoshop-wagon-encounter-4.jpg  
    Last edited by wite_lance; 08-19-2014 at 03:10 PM. Reason: correcting historical facts

  2. #2
      xpian is offline
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    I'm not an expert on this, but I've heard that two-rut roads, especially on dirt or grass, are a fairly modern thing. Wagon roads had more even wear, because the trampling of the horse or oxen in the middle would wear that part down quite a bit. I know there are ancient Roman stone roads with twin ruts found in cities, but I think those may have been engineered to be there. In any case, here is a YouTube video of a guy talking about such things, and how bad two-rut roads look in period dramas... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ds0...F99D743DDB5026

  3. #3
      wite_lance is offline
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    An expert you might not be but you raise some interesting points, and your video mentioned something I hadn't thought of (boundary fences) in addition to the center of the road receiving the most wear. I also remember hearing somewhere about the ruts in roman roads, but I thought there was something odd about their spacing.

    When I loaded the estate map into the VTT and was setting a scale (after this post) I was considering cart sizes, and how cart makers wouldn't necessarily have used the same size carts. I'll edit this slightly later today to reflect it's usability for a more modern setting (anything Oregon trail days onward) and rework my plan of attack on roads on my maps.

    Edit: I've modified the historical facts in the blurb at the top during lunch. Going to have to come back and re-work this on a day off though.
    Last edited by wite_lance; 08-19-2014 at 03:11 PM.

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