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Thread: My Thracioth map walk-thru (Photoshop)

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      pyrandon is offline
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    Tutorial My Thracioth map walk-thru (Photoshop)

    I love tutorials.

    I love reading them because I learn new skills, and I love writing them because I learn how much I don't know. (Plus, they help crutch my horrible memory.)

    So, being in an adventurous mood, I'm going to go out on a limb by posting a work in process of a new map...just for fun. I'll describe my steps, posting as I go.

    I hope this helps some of you at least a tad with your own mapping endeavors, and I selfishly hope my fumbling about likewise helps me improve my cartography. You can help me in that, too, if you will: please please please let me know if you have comments, suggestions, questions, or if you spot any errors! I can use all the help I can get.

    One last comment: I'm making this as I go, and I'm a complete amateur, so I will make mistakes. In fact, the map may not turn out at all. I don't know. Let me apologize in advance for that. There are sweet, professional map makers here at The Guild; check out their websites (listed in the "Reference Material" threads) & email them if you want really good advice. I'm a noob. (And a knob.)

    MY ARTISTIC WEAPON OF CHOICE:
    I'm using Photoshop CS2 for this map, because 1) I do not foresee the need for vector art, and 2) I like Photoshop for "quick work" such as this. (The GIMP, CorelDraw, etc. are each acceptable counterparts, but I'm afraid I don't know those programs.)

    I'm also a PC user; Mac-kies usually only need to OPT-click, etc., otherwise I believe processes are the same.

    I'm also assuming at least a very minor level of Photoshop proficiency; if you don't know how to create new layers, select using the marquee tool, or switch tools, then you may get a tad lost. (Do some on-line tutorials, perhaps, to get your feet wet first.)

    On we go...
    Don
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    STEP ONE: SETUP / SKETCH

    I start by opening a new file in Photoshop. Since I have no end product in mind, size doesn't really matter much, so I'll just choose 8.5" x 11" (2200 x 1650 px), and a 200 pixel/inch resolution.

    Now I create a new layer called "Sketch" and there, with any brush (set at 25% flow), I just start sketching some ideas. I have a Wacom drawing tablet, so this is pretty easy, although a mouse woks too--as does a hand sketch later scanned in.

    I think I'll make a fantasy map. (*sketch sketch sketch*) As I go I see I've made an island/continent with mountains that somehow appear in the shape of a dragon's tail. Neat! I'll use that. (*sketch sketch sketch*) In fact, just for fun, what if I made this an artistic map with an artistic dragon drawn next to it? (*sketch sketch sketch*) Okay, what if the dragon is more of a serpent/"wyrm" that is holding a frame of the map. Now that's neat! Much like medieval maps with angels holding the world...although not as holy.

    (NOTE: If this dragon distracts you, and you're thinking "I don't want a frame around my map!"--Just ignore that part of the following tutorial. The actual mapmaking process will stand alone, too.)

    Attached is my first sketch of "Thracioth," including the frame & the dragon. I think I'll name the dragon "Rob," after all my friends of that moniker on this site.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails My Thracioth map walk-thru (Photoshop)-thracioth1_sketch_201.jpg  
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    STEP TWO: COLOR PALETTE SKETCHES

    Next I like to at least get a vague idea of my color scheme. I could skip this part, but since I'm lousy at color-coordination (you guys should see the way I dress, for pity's sake!) I want to play around a bit now when it is still just "play."

    I create a new layer called "sketch colors" and choose out some light colors to throw next to one another to see if they are friendly and will play nice. I erase a lot here & don't even try to be neat; this is just for later reference. (see image below).

    One thing I personally do is find two to three colors that will dominate all others; in this case it will be green (dragon/sea), brown (land), and gold (frame). Most every color on the map will be derivatives of these three.


    Once I feel fairly confident with the general color scheme, I also add a "sketch background color" layer & play with background colors. I'm not sure how much I like the darker brown, but it works well enough for now. (The image I attached of this also includes my desktop, just in case anyone wants to see that, too.)

    SAVE YOUR WORK! Save often, & every once in awhile save under a different file name. (Voice of experience here! Save so often you feel ashamed for being this cowardly!)
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails My Thracioth map walk-thru (Photoshop)-thracioth3_color_sketch_screen_167.jpg   My Thracioth map walk-thru (Photoshop)-thracioth2_color_sketch_113.jpg  
    Don
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    STEP THREE: LAND HO!

    I'll start the map by hiding the two color layers I created (background & color sketch), and then turning the opacity of my Sketch layer down to about 20% so as not to distract my work.

    I could make the land in many ways, the most useful being creating & saving a "path", which gives maximum flexibility later on; but using the vector tools in Photoshop is tricky & I want this tutorial to be completely straightforward, so for I'll go plain-Jane here The method below was how I made my first maps in PS, and it was easy, and it worked just fine.

    Create a new layer on top of all others called "Land." In that layer, using the base color I chose for the land, I outline the islands with a medium sized brush (around 5px), & then color them in. (See image below).

    Next I use the magic wand to select anywhere on the colored landmasses; the "marching ants" should appear around the islands. Leave them marching for a minute.

    I now create a new layer on top called "Land Outlines", & I choose black as the foreground color. Then in that layer I Edit>Stroke, choosing about 4 px. wide, centered, 100% opacity, & normal blending. BAM! The islands are outlined. Nice, eh? (see image below)

    WATER LINES
    But let's add one more fun detail: fancy-schmancy water lines. While my ants are still a-marching from my last action, I create a new layer called "Water Lines", then Select>Modify>Expand about 4 px. The ants should now surround the islands. Now I Edit>Stroke just as before, but this time at 1 px.

    I do this Expand / Stroke action again and again, each time expanding more. When all done, I Select>Deselect (or, Ctrl-D), which "turns off" the ants.

    But I think I'll go just one step further: in both the Land Outlines and the Water Lines layers, I Filter>Distort>Ripple at about 115 - 125%. Why? Mainly because I like the variations in the line widths this gives. You don't need to do it at all. A downside is that it may require some touch-up of the land &/or the lines themselves, though; but worth it, I think! (see image below)

    Note that there are plenty of other options to create line variations; another nice one is to select the "Dissolve" layer style (from the pull-down menu just under the "Layers" tab), which gives a cool "fuzzy" look.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails My Thracioth map walk-thru (Photoshop)-thracioth6_water_lines_screen_182.jpg   My Thracioth map walk-thru (Photoshop)-thracioth5_land2_459.jpg   My Thracioth map walk-thru (Photoshop)-thracioth4_land1_103.jpg  
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    I hesitate to interrupt your train of posts with a reply, but I just wanted to say that I'm really looking forward to seeing how this goes.

    Your efforts are tireless, Don!

    cheers!

    Ravs

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    Quote Originally Posted by ravells
    I hesitate to interrupt your train of posts with a reply, but I just wanted to say that I'm really looking forward to seeing how this goes.
    No, no, no interruption at all. I want my fellow Guildies' input! Let me know what you like/don't like/would like to see. I'm just making this up as I go along!

    Thanks for the compliment, though, Ravs. I really appreciate it.
    Don
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    STEP FOUR: WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE... (pt. 1)

    Next let's add the water. Were I just creating a "standard" map, without any sort of fancy-schmancy frame (or if I were intending to just add a simple frame later in the process), I would just select a color & fill with the paintbucket tool. But my map frame has that curved top, so I want to select that area to fill first.

    The first attachment, below, shows an instructional image. It's easy:
    1. With the Elliptical Marquee Tool, I drew an ellipse with a top half matching my frame's arc.
    2. Then I clicked the "add to selection" option
    3. Finally, I switched to the Rectangular Marquee Tool & drew out the straight edges of the frame. After I was done, the entire frame was selected as a solid area. (Cue the "Oooooohhs!")

    Leaving the ants marching around the selected area, I create a "Water Base Color" layer below the Land layer; then I used the paintbucket tool to fill the selection with my dominant water color.

    Before deselcting the ants, I created a new layer on top called "Map Frame" & Edit>Stroke the selection in black, with a 5 px. line. This is for later use.

    Then I Select>Deselect to get rid of the ants. (see image below)
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails My Thracioth map walk-thru (Photoshop)-thracioth7_water_base_color_163.jpg   My Thracioth map walk-thru (Photoshop)-thracioth7_water_border_611.jpg  
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    STEP FOUR: WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE... (pt. 2)

    The base water color is nice but bland. I want to add some eye-interest.

    First I create a new layer directly above the Water Base Color layer called something like "Add Water Color 1". (I could just draw my colors right onto my Base Water Color, but I like the option to adjust, fade, play, or even delete things; a new layer is the easiest way to do that.)

    In my new layer I use a wide, fuzzy-edged brush to draw around the islands. I choose a blue-green that is lighter than my base color, but coordinating with it.

    (Advice: I'm poor at color coordination, so I usually use the PS color swatch when I can, for then I can use all colors in the same columns [see image below]. Either that or I ask my wife, who has a much more artistic eye than I!)

    I draw quickly & rather sloppily, making wide arcs around the islands. (Plus a few marks outside the area, just for variety.)

    Next I create a new layer ("Add Water Color 2") & do the same, except with a lighter color & with a smaller brush.

    I do it one more time with my brightest blue & only thin lines around the island borders. (see image below)

    I then Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur each of these layers at about 10px.

    I save my file again since I'm going to do a "destructive" technique, meaning the last few steps will go bye-bye, & what if I want to go back?

    Now starting at my top Add Water Color Layer I Layer>Merge Down (or Ctrl-E) each of these layers until all are merged into Base Water Color.

    Then I Filter>Artistic>Sponge the Water Base Color. I play with the settings in that filter, until I like what I see (Brush Size 10, Definition 2, Smoothness 12). I then reapplied the sponge 3 times. (see image below)
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails My Thracioth map walk-thru (Photoshop)-thracioth9_water_colors2_348.jpg   My Thracioth map walk-thru (Photoshop)-thracioth8_water_colors1_345.jpg   My Thracioth map walk-thru (Photoshop)-color_swatch_advice_349.jpg  
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    STEP FIVE: GIMME AN L! GIMME AN AND!

    I want to create color variations for the land now much as I did for the water, but with one difference: the land colorations must also carry some suggestion of elevation as well, so I have to be slightly more careful. That being said, I still need not be overly careful, for as with the water the colorization is mainly for artistic purposes.

    I create a new layer between the Land & Land Outlines layers; I name it "Land Color Adds1" and choose my darkest brown from the swatches. I will then paint the area for the mountains with a wide, fuzzy brush. (I moved up my Sketch layer to help me remember where the mountains could go, too.)

    Then my new "Land Color Adds2" layer contains the next lighter color, representing hills; "Land Color Adds3" contains various color variations for no other purpose than variation, which I variously slap around.

    Just as with the water, I Layer>Merge Down each Color Add layer into the actual Land layer, then Filter>Artistic>Sponge about 5-6 times (my settings: Brush Size 0, Definition 2, Smoothness 15).

    Attached is my result.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails My Thracioth map walk-thru (Photoshop)-thracioth10_land_colors_151.jpg  
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    STEP SIX: CLIMB EVERY MOUNTAIN

    I just created the base colors for our mountains & hills; now I will draw them in. The look I'm favoring here is a "hand-drawn" style, and it's pretty straightforward.

    First, I create a "Mountains" layer above my Land layer. Then, starting at the bottom of the map & working up, I draw in the mountain ranges with a thin, black brush. Yes, I do this exactly like 5th graders draw their mountains: upside-down Vees!--although every one is unique in some way: either shallower, steeper, or double-peaked, etc. (See image below.) I'm liking the mountains for these islands--maybe this island is some kind of dragon-lair haven, matching the theme of Rob the Dragon in the frame; I think I'll make Thracioth a mountainpalooza!

    When all mountains are down, I go back and add detail lines. I do this by hand in a slightly thinner & lighter brush than before. Scribbling & dashing is all that's really required here. You could even add a few details like volcanoes, plateaus, and chasms. (see image below)

    Finally, let's make those mountains stand out a little. I create a new layer named "Mountain Colors" just below my Mountains layer. Then, with a medium-sized, fuzzy brush set at about 35% opacity, I do three things:

    1. Trace the outside of each mountain "vee" with a medium-dark brown; this makes each mountain "pop out" from the others.
    2. Color the right side of each mountain peak with a dark brown, to simulate shadows
    3. Highlight the left side of each peak with a whitish-brown to simulate the sunlight's reflection.

    Below is the image of that process completed.

    I also Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur the Mountain Colors layer at only about 1 px, just to soften it a pinch.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails My Thracioth map walk-thru (Photoshop)-thracioth11_mountains3_740.jpg   My Thracioth map walk-thru (Photoshop)-thracioth11_mountains2_136.jpg   My Thracioth map walk-thru (Photoshop)-thracioth11_mountains1_205.jpg  
    Don
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