Mapping in Paint.NET - a basic tutorial
Sorry for the delays, but this took quite a while to write, check, adjust, and so forth. Without further ado:
I consider this to be a basic tutorial, mainly because I'm a novice player-arounder-with-mapping, but I've really enjoyed the results I've gotten from this technique. I've blatantly ripped ahem, I mean, admiringly learned from and incorporated techniques found on the forums, especially the one regarding making Not-So-Random-Coastlines, as well as the color palette from the Artistic Regional Map.
About the Tweak Alerts
As I've been writing, I've found places where it might be fun to experiment and do something a little differently than what I've described. I haven't yet tried very many of these "tweaks" and can't guarantee you'll get anything pretty. On the other hand, I can't guarantee something like that even if you do follow my steps, as I'm fairly sure I've mostly been getting lucky up till now.
Stage 0 Seriously, people
This tutorial is written for use with the current version of Paint.NET, which as of this writing is v. 3.36. Several of the effects I'm using are "plugins" created by users and do not come standard with the basic PDN download. You're certainly welcome to translate this tut to fit your own software, heaven knows I do that all the time, but if you want to use the instructions as written, you kinda need to have the appropriate toys to play with.
Download the following:
Paint.NET v. 3.36 (older versions are not supported and plugins may not work)
Also, read this thread for instructions on how to install the effects. It's pretty easy.
Stage 3.5 - ocean texture
Stage 3.5 Ocean texture
Yeah, the ocean operates a little differently from the other layers. There are fewer steps in setting up the texture, mainly because we can't use any masking until later or the sea will look weird.
Go back to the very bottom layer of clouds, and hide everything else. (Even if you're experimenting with what layers to use, your ocean has to be made from the lowest "elevation" layer.)
Duplicate once only we're not making a mask yet and ignore the bottom layer.
On this second layer, Effects > Stylize > Engrave/Emboss
I like to keep the same pixel width as I use in the land, and while I usually use Emboss as I did on the land, I occasionally find that Engraving the sea, looks better. Try it both ways to see which you like. You could also adjust the pixel width to diminish the differences in ocean depth and give a smoother, more "surface"-like appearance.
In the layers window, select Layer Properties. Change the Blend Mode to Overlay.
For the impatient: Since so much of what you're doing is repeated on each layer, you could choose to lump each action together: duplicate everything, rename everything, run the Emboss on everything, run the Threshold and Alpha Mask on everything, and then merge everything. The Repeat Effect command, CTRL-F, would become your friend for quite a lot of these steps.