First thing’s first; this tutorial is written mainly to remind myself of the steps I go through when making a map…much of this will sound like a lecture but it’s how I work and what I’m thinking, my steps might not be perfect and my observations might be incorrect. Next, look at a GLOBE of the earth not a flat map, this is because a flat map will distort things near the poles to make them look larger than they really are (Greenland looks huge on a flat map).
Get the proportions of landmass to ocean roughly in your mind (our earth is 70% water, I think) and take some measurements if you want to by using a piece of string then holding the string up to a ruler. For this tutorial I’m going to do a small continent (2000 X 2000). 1. To get maximum detail I set my resolution way up there at 300-600. The size of the image will give us 1 pixel = 1 mile thus 2000 miles high and wide and the resolution is only for print purposes.
I could do this at 100 dpi but if I printed the map it would be larger and then most printers cannot handle much beyond 300 dpi so if you intend to print your map then go with 300 dpi. If your system cannot handle these dimensions without chugging it’s guts out then cut the size in half, this will give you 1 pixel = 2 miles, still not too shabby, eh? If your system can handle this then try a higher image size, this will give you 1 pixel = ? ile, or ? mile or whatever. Or try doing a full earth (the earth is roughly 25,000 miles in circumference around the equator and slightly less from pole to pole so it wouldn’t roll very well due to this beer-belly but for simplicity’s sake I use 12,500 so use 25,000 X 12,500). This image size really makes my pc chug so I just make a bunch of continents and at the end make one big composition. . Background information: look at some topography maps or Google earth maps of mountain ranges, swamps, beaches, deserts, rivers, lakes, forests, canyons, arctic poles, or any other geologic phenomena you want in your map so that you have an idea of what to shoot for (take a look at those volcanoes in Hawaii). Personally, I use FlashEarth. om because the Google maps are too distorted, splotchy, and incomplete and it takes up a huge amount of memory on my computer. 3. Initial thoughts: cold near the poles, hot around the equator so I plan to eventually have a gradient from white at top to gray to brownish (tundra) to ochre-green (plains) to green to dark green (tropics) to pale yellow-orange (deserts). You could put your poles around the equator if your planet is tilted over on it’s side but eviations too far from earth-like are too hard to wrap your brain around, even for fantasy…this is true for sunrise as well and what most people don’t realize is that by putting in more than one moon the tides get totally messed up as well as how long a day is and a year (without our single moon our days would be much shorter and our year so the life forms on our planet would be totally different). 4. So let’s get to work then… Foreground black, background white, Filter > render > clouds. 5. [pic] 6. Duplicate this layer. . Create a new layer and Edit > fill = 50% gray. Set the layer’s mode to hard mix and change the name to “base”. 8. The hard mix will change the look of things to straight black and white with no grays. Click back on the background copy layer and grab a large brush (not pencil) with an opacity of 10%. I use the various big airbrushes. With white I brush in extra land and with black I brush in extra water. What you want to keep in mind is that we do not want any land near any edge of the screen by at least 50-100 pixels.
Land that goes off the side will never get completed since the clouds layer doesn’t extend beyond the edge so if we were to make a new image with new clouds they would never line up (unless you have certain third party plug-ins that make tile-able clouds). If you want icecaps across the top or bottom then that is fine but make sure to leave 50-100 pixels between the icecap and major landmasses. If you have some islands somewhere you don’t want them use the black, if you want to put some in then use the white.
Another thing to keep in mind is to not have the islands and such create a “square” of landmasses so be sure to try to make things random and irregular. Lastly, cover up some lakes since at this scale not too many would really be visible…but that is pure preference. When happy, copy the background copy layer, click on the base layer and merge down. 9. [pic] 10. Select > Color range = black. Set the fuzziness slider up to 200. Create a new layer. Select > Modify > Expand = 1.
Use the paint bucket tool to fill in the selection of the ocean. Deselect then merge down. What this step does is to remove a whole boatload of extraneous white pixels around our landmasses that can be very tedious and time consuming to paint over. However, it also puts some regularity and “blockiness” into our coasts so let’s fix that. 11. Filter > Pixelate > Crystallize = 6. Filter > Pixelate > Crystallize = 3. Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast = set the contrast up to 100.
Now our coasts are all irregular again. 12. Next zoom in to at least 200% and start checking our coastlines and islands to make sure that there are not any lakes too close to the ocean because natural erosion would have taken care of this and moved the ocean in to fill this area creating a bay. Use a 5 pixel hard round pencil and blot out the lakes and tweak the coast but avoid over-tweaking the coast or else you will lose bays and harbors and hooks (like Massachusetts) and boot-heels (like Italy).
Use white to add land and black to add water. What I do is zoom to 200 or 300% and start in the top left corner and scan across, making tweaks as I go, and when I get to the other side move down and scan back across until I have reached the bottom. Also look for long straight lines or large right angles and round these off. Be careful to make sure you leave a few large lakes and don’t cover over all of the little lakes, especially if you want some place like Minnesota “land of 10,000 lakes”.
Where you know there will be desert or plains then go ahead and cover these areas pretty well but not completely since lakes in the desert will act as oases and all lakes visible at this resolution are at least 1 mile so there will likely be a village of some sort nearby (if you’re using some other resolution then use your judgment). This process can take a while but if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it right.
This is also the time to add any unique features like a skull island or an island in a lake for which to place a magnificent castle. Don’t do any major terra forming but instead tweak what is already there. 13. Copy this layer (base copy) then go back and fill in all of the lakes. 14. Select > color range (use black with fuzziness 200), hit delete, then deselect and hide the layer. Click on the base layer and repeat then hide the base layer as well. 15. Click on the Background copy layer and rename it to “ocean”. 6. Copy this layer then rename the new layer to “reef”. 17. Filter > render > difference clouds. Repeat. 18. Copy the layer and rename it “hills”. 19. Copy the hills layer and rename it to “mountains”. 20. [pic] 21. You may think that now is the time to add any canyons, escarpments, meteor craters, volcanoes, or other such phenomena but I do not. I do these things on other layers so I’ll cover this in a separate mini tutorial or “tutlet” as I call it.
If you’ve run through this tutorial numerous times and are comfortable with it then go ahead and feel free to experiment. I use small pencils for cracks and canyons and small brushes for adding erosion in the mountains. 22. Filter > render > lighting effects. What we have is one large spotlight covering the whole image coming in from the lower right (in the northern hemisphere the sun passes somewhat to the south…this is important to my main job as a stained glass artist so we need to know where the sun is in relation to a window).
Settings are: intensity 25, focus 100, gloss –100, material 100, exposure 0, ambience 8, texture channel is red, white is high is checked, and height is set to 100. 23. [pic] 24. If we set the intensity, exposure, or ambience too high everything becomes brighter and therefore higher and looks more like a plateau and if we set them too low our mountains become more like hills. Here is what we have. 25. [pic] 26. Let’s do the hills now so hide the mountains layer and click on the hills layer.
Filter > noise > add noise = 5%, gaussian, monochromatic. We are going to run a lighting effects filter in the next step and this added noise will give us lots and lots of little hills (in French little hills translates to petite cotes or something like that – I’m a lil rusty on my French but this is where we get the word petticoat). 27. Next we are going to do another lighting effects but for some reason Photoshop randomly breaks during lighting effects so save your document now…just in case. 28. Filter > render > lighting effects.
What we have here are 5 omni lights, one in the center and one in each corner, the settings are the same for all: intensity 6, gloss –100, material 100, exposure 0, ambience 8, texture channel is red, white is high is checked and height is 100. This gives our land a little bumpiness and looks like any other realistic stone tutorial out there. 29. [pic] 30. Hide the hills layer and click on the ocean layer. Copy it and then rename the new layer to “land”. Move the land layer up to just below the hills layer and then hit ctrl-f. This runs the same lighting effects filter as in step 27. 31. Hide the land layer and click on the reef layer.
Hit ctrl-f to run the same lighting effects then click on the land layer. 32. Control-click on the base layer (in the layer palette) then Select > Inverse then hit delete then deselect. We now have our main landmasses all textured up and ready to live. NOTE: using Photoshop CS3 and later versions you’ll have to ctrl-click on the thumbnail image in the layer palette rather than just the layer itself so remember this for later on. ? 33. So let’s bring this world to life. Add a layer style, this consists of a gradient overlay reversed, mode is hard light, opacity is 100%, style is linear aligned with layer, angle is 90, scale is 100%.
The colors in the gradient are as follows: Color 1 at 5% is pure white – FFFFFF (rgb 255, 255, 255), color 2 at 15% is a green ochre – 555A41 (rgb 85, 90, 65), color 3 at 25% is a darker green ochre – 293415 (rgb 41, 52, 21), color 4 at 55% is a dark green – 242810 (rgb 36, 40, 16), color 5 at 65% is a darker green – 121C03 (rgb 18, 28, 3), color 6 at 70% is a very dark green – 0D1501 (rgb 13, 21, 1), color 7 at 80% is a sage green – 383B17 (rgb 56, 59, 23), color 8 at 90% is a light taupe – DAC094 (rgb 218, 192, 148) and color 9 at 100% is a creamy – F0E6BE (rgb 240, 230, 190).
There is also an outer glow: mode is screen, opacity is 25%, noise is 0, color is light blue – 40C8FF (rgb 64, 200, 255), technique is softer, spread is 0, size is 35, contour is normal (linear), range is 50%, jitter is 0. Much better now, eh? 34. [pic] 35. [pic] 36. [pic] 37. Here is what I have so far. 38. [pic] 39. If you want your desert at the top (when doing a southern hemisphere continent), then unclick the “reverse” on the gradient on the land layer. Pay no attention to that blue ring it will be useful later but for now let’s give our whales a place to swim. 0. Click on the ocean layer and hide the reef layer. Image > adjustments > gradient map. Color 1 at 0% is a dark bluish-teal – 000A32 (rgb 0, 10, 50), color 2 at 40% is a grayish blue-teal – 32528C (rgb 50, 82, 140), color 3 at 60% is a grayish teal – 4F809F (rgb 79, 128, 159), and color 4 at 80% is an aqua – 80BCCD (rgb 128, 188, 205). Depending on your monitor’s gamma, white point or color setup these colors might seem awkward so change them to suit yourself. What we see here is pretty cool.
That’s why we paid no attention to that blue ring in the previous step, it gives us a hint of shallow sea around the land. 41. [pic] 42. Control-click on the base layer. Select > modify > expand = 40. Select > feather = 40. Select > inverse. Create a new layer and change the foreground color to a dark blue, I use 000A32 (rgb 0, 10, 50). Fill, deselect, and rename the layer to “cover”. This covers up all of that light blue and restricts the light blue to coastal regions. 43. Click on the mountains layer. Reset colors to foreground black.
Select > color range = black with a fuzziness of 200. Hit delete and deselect. Control-click on the base layer. Select > modify > contract = 20. Select > feather = 20. Select > inverse. Hit delete then deselect. This cuts our mountains back away from our coasts. On the layers menu, where it says normal, change that to hard light then apply a layer style by clicking that cursive f surrounded by a black circle. We will have a color overlay of 5A461E (rgb 90, 70, 30), the mode is soft light at 100%. We also have an inner bevel, chisel soft, size 3 and direction up.
Our continent has suddenly sprouted a million mountains but not to worry, we’ll fix that later. 44. Hide the mountains layer and click on the hills layer. Select > color range, choose black and set fuzziness to 150. Hit delete and deselect. Control-click on the base layer, select > modify > contract = 10, select > feather = 10, select > inverse, delete and deselect. The first part of this step deletes all the darker parts of the layer and the second part deletes hills hovering over the ocean. 45. These are going to be our broad foothills leading up into the mountains. Add a layer style.
First, there is a color overlay: mode is soft light, opacity is 100%, color is a brown with a hint of green – 5A461E (rgb 90, 70, 30). Second there is a bevel and emboss: style is emboss, technique is chisel soft, depth is 100%, direction is up, size is 3, soften is 0, shading angle is 120, shading altitude is 30, gloss contour is linear, highlight mode is a white screen at 50%, and shadow mode is a black multiply at 50%. Lastly, change the layer’s mode to soft light at 50% opacity. 46. Doesn’t look like much unless you zoom in to 100% or more. Now those are some awesome looking hills.
If the hills are too pronounced in an area where you want plains or deserts use a large eraser set to airbrush with a very low flow and erase some hills but don’t get carried away just yet. 47. [pic] 48. Click on the lasso tool and up at the top where it says feather set that to 20 px. Click back on the mountains layer. Now we have to decide where our mountain ranges will finally be. If there is a place where I don’t want mountains, I lasso around the area (staying as much as possible in the green land area) then drag that area to a place where I do want mountains then deselect.
The feathering on the lasso tool allows us to cut sections that are fuzzy and not crisp so that way we do not have to go back and blur or erase the area where a selection was cut. Try to only cut the taller mountains and leave some of the lower ones in place as they add flavor. You can rotate your selections to fit if you want but not by a whole lot (no more than 30 degrees or so) because the lighting effects will have put a shadow on the backside of our mountains. You can also manipulate them a bit in the edit > transform > scale menu but I almost never do.
When done we need to make sure that none of our mountains are floating in the ocean or over lakes so ctrl-click the base layer, select > modify > contract = 20, select > feather = 20, select > inverse, delete, then deselect. Erase some mountains with a large soft eraser set to brush (I use airbrush 100 pixels with a flow of 10%) and erase some bits you don’t want. I always leave some mountains down in the desert to add flavor (the brown color overlay really makes things pop). 49. It’s okay to leave a few mountains around lakes but don’t get crazy, I only know of one Crater Lake (in Oregon I think).
Keep in mind that mountains are formed by plate tectonics. They are generally found in 3 places: a) near an edge of a plate where a land plate is colliding with an ocean plate (Rockies and Andes), b) as the spine of a continent where 2 land plates have collided (Himalayas and Alps), or c) volcanic ridges formed by 2 ocean plates colliding (Hawaii) or separating (Iceland). Leave some stray mountains to add flavor like the Black Hills and the Smokey Mountains. If you can’t see your mountains in the desert or ice don’t worry, the mountains add some exture but you could always erase ‘em if ya want. Pay special attention to erase mountains that seem too close to the ocean unless you want some fjords. Zoom out and check your work often and remember to erase in order to have some flat plains or swamp areas. Don’t erase anything on the hills layer just yet but do zoom in and have a closer look. Because our mountains and hills come from the same cloud rendering our hills stay near the original mountains, if we use different clouds for different layers then our hills will be in areas nowhere near the mountains.
If we have moved a bunch of mountains around then we might need to lasso some hills and drag them into place as well. 50. [pic] 51. Click on the reef layer. Image > adjustments > gradient map. What we use here is a 5 color gradient from ocean blue to surf whitecaps. Color 1 set at position 0 is 000A32 (rgb 0, 10, 50). Color 2 set at position 25 is 0C3219 (rgb 12, 50, 25). Color 3 at position 50 is 7DC8AF (rgb 125, 200, 175). Color 4 at position 75 is B4F0FA (rgb 180, 240, 250). Color 5 at position 100 is E6F0FA (rgb 230, 240, 250). 52.
Kind of crazy looking so let’s fix that; control-click on the base layer, select > modify > expand 40, select > feather 40, select > inverse, delete then deselect. If you have too much of the bright aqua, like in a bay, use a soft airbrush eraser 53. [pic] 54. Very important, control-click on the base copy layer then delete and deselect. This removes reefs from the inland lakes and lets the ocean layer show through with its bluer blues. I like my lakes to be darker still so I create a new layer and rename it to “lakes”. Put the lakes layer just above the land layer.
Control-click on the base copy layer and fill with the same blue then deselect. This fills the entire landmass and lakes area with blue. Control-click on the base layer and hit delete then deselect. This removes the blue from the land leaving only blue lakes. The outer glow on the land layer would brighten our lakes if the lakes layer was under the land layer so that’s why we put it above. I don’t like my lakes to look so pristine blue so I will add a layer style of color overlay with a dark teal color code 001D20 (rgb 0, 29, 32) and the mode is hard light.
Then I add an inner glow of a slightly lighter dark teal color code 004032 (rgb 0, 64, 50) and the mode is normal. Then I reduce the fill to 0. The first of these 2 teals will be used for rivers later on. 55. We’re looking pretty good don’t you think? But there’s something missing, it all looks too perfect. Let’s add some splotchiness to break up all of that green. Click on the land layer and make a new layer then rename it “adjust 1”. Control-click on the base layer. Change the foreground color to black and change the background color to something yellowish like F0DC82 (rgb 240, 220, 130).
Filter > render > clouds. Set the layer blending mode to soft light and opacity to around 50%. Ah, looks kind of mossy. I like it. You can experiment with the colors used here but anything too light looks more like snow and anything too bright looks too splotchy. This step adds some brown to our plains, amber to our deserts, and darkens our tundra. Do not deselect yet. 56. Make a new layer and rename it to “adjust 2”. Here we can make all of the color tweaks we want. I use a reddish-brown, dark green, ochre green, black, white, gray, amber, and a light tan. Use a large airbrush with a flow of 10% and zoom out.
Use the black to darken in places where you want forests and around lakes and really darken the areas where you want swamps (don’t forget to darken the valleys a little bit). Use a dark green to cover up some desert. Use the yellowish to extend your deserts or lighten up the plains areas. Use a smaller airbrush with gray or white and paint a little extra color to make your mountains extra cold or use a dark green or black to make the mountains extra lush and tropical or use the reddish-brown to make the mountains extra hostile (great in desert or tundra areas for making Mordor).
Use the airbrush with white to extend your permafrost areas and a gray to extend the tundra. The jet stream on our earth flows west to east. It frequently bends and dips going north to south or south to north and only rarely east to west. These winds carry rain that will get blocked by mountains. Therefore, rain tends to pile up on western sides of mountains so make these areas a little extra greener with green or black. The eastern sides, therefore, miss out on some rain so make these areas a little more arid with a yellow, light tan, light gray, or reddish-brown.
Don’t forget to work on the islands, check for unwanted mountains and deserts and I usually color them up with some green. When happy deselect. 57. [pic] 58. What I have done is lightened up the plains with an ochre green and with the yellowish. Put some forests in around the western sides of my mountains as well as a swamp with the black. Extended my permafrost a bit south, extended my grass onto the desert a bit and put some white on my mountaintops. Then added a bit of spot rust in my desert mountains with the reddish-brown. Nothing too major just some minor tweaking of what’s already there. 59.
Next copy the background, rename it “big hills”, and move this layer to just below the mountains layer. Reset colors to black and white. Filter > sketch > bas-relief. Detail is 15 and smoothness is 1 and light is from bottom right. This gives us a faux lighting effects but with more peaks and points and ridges and such, kind of looks like the old Q-Bert game. Select > color range = use black with fuzziness 175, delete then deselect. This deletes the darker tones. Control-click on the base layer, select > modify > contract = 20, select > feather = 20, select > inverse, delete then deselect.
This keeps the big hills just on land. Filter > blur > gaussian blur = . 5. Next, zoom in to 100% and look at an area where the mountains meet the plains. Control-click on the mountains layer, select > modify > expand = anything you want but I use 80, select > feather = same as the expansion so for me it’s 80, select > inverse, delete then deselect. This keeps our big hills from going anywhere except near mountains. Change the layer’s fill to 0. Add a layer style of bevel and emboss. Emboss, up, smooth, size is 3, change the highlight mode to screen 25% and shadow mode to color burn 25%.
Use a large soft eraser (I use airbrush 100 pixels with a flow of 10%) and erase some extra big hills if you want. This gives us some bigger hills leading up into our mountains. Set this layer’s opacity at 50% 60. Now, let’s add some crunchiness to the mountains so click on the background layer and copy it. Rename it to oh, I dunno, “crunch”…I’m working as I write ?. Put this layer between the big hills and mountains layers. Filter > sketch > bas-relief = same as last step. Select > color range = use black with fuzziness of 200, delete then deselect.
Control-click the mountains layer, select > modify > expand = 40, select > feather = 40, select > inverse, delete, and deselect. Set the layer’s blending mode to linear light. This step combines with our mountains’ hard light mode and color overlay to really put more into Mordor or gives us a place to put the Drow. This step also tends to mess up the desert mountains so I erase there. Set the layer at 33% opacity. Lastly, add a layer style of bevel/emboss: emboss, chisel soft, up, size of 3, highlight mode is color dodge at 50% opacity, and shadow mode is color burn at 50% opacity. 61.
If you’re happy so far, it’s now time to erase on the hills layer. I usually just follow the same process as in the previous step but this time I do the expansion 3 times. This results in small hills graduating into big hills, which then grow into mountains. Our land layer did get a lighting effects filter so it should have some texture as well. Now this looks much more natural with crunch than without. You might want to play around with the layer blending mode, opacity, or layer styles on the crunch layer. 62. [pic] 63. Now we’re going to add in a continental shelf to tweak our green reefs. Click on the reef layer and copy it.
Rename it to “shelf”, set the blend mode back to normal and change the opacity to 100%. Image > adjustments > desaturate. Change the mode to color dodge and the opacity to 80%. Control-click on the base copy layer and select > modify > expand = 10 then select > feather = 10. Select > inverse then delete and deselect. This lightens up the heavy greenish feel of the reef but for those who feel the need to micromanage you can go and erase on the reef layer with small brushes. If you like you can add a layer style of bevel/emboss with either an emboss or outer bevel that is set to chisel soft.
This will give you that sloping edge that you commonly see in some topographical maps but in order to get that then make sure to not feather before deleting. I don’t use the bevel but I have experimented with it and got some fairly decent results but nothing that knocked my socks off. 64. [pic] 65. My skull lake in the desert looks kind of dark so let’s fix that. Click on the lakes layer and create a new layer and rename it to oh “lake adjust”. Control-click on the base layer, then use the eyedropper tool to pick up some color from around our reefs and airbrush some lighter color that makes the desert lake look more suitable.
This should also be done in permafrost areas. 66. Next we need to rough up our ocean a bit so copy the background layer and rename it to “waves”. Move it to the very top of the stack and reset the colors to black and white. Filter > sketch > bas-relief as before. Select > color range = black with a fuzziness of 175 then delete and deselect. Control-click on the base copy layer then select > modify > expand = 20, select > feather = 20, delete and deselect. Set the fill to 0% and add a layer style of color overlay of a dark teal color code 001420 (rgb 0, 20, 32).
This gives us a hint of waves and a bit of greenish tint to the oceans. Lastly, move this layer directly under the land layer. 67. [pic] 68. We can call this done for now if we want and start putting in other things like borders and cities. If you’re going to forego the rivers then skip ahead to step 80. The reason we leave the base layer is so that when we start drawing borders, we don’t want to draw them into the sea or cover up lakes so we can always ctrl-click on the base layer to load it’s selection. 69. If you’re going on with rivers let me warn ya…. hey are a huge, major, colossal pain in the buttockal region. 70. Try to avoid the urge to start putting in every river as I will often put in way too many and this will take hours upon hours. Keep in mind our image size/scale here of 1 pixel = 1 mile. Most rivers would not even be visible (like 99% of them). Only a handful of our rivers would be seen (Amazon, Nile, Mississippi, Yangtze). Notice anything about these? One per continent roughly. You may think that something like the Danube or the Missouri would be seen but I live in St. Louis and the Missouri is only about ? ile wide thus not visible at this resolution. As for most of the European rivers, I can’t really tell from the pictures I’ve seen but accounting for the scale of buildings most seem about as wide as the Missouri. Of course the Amazon is about 3 miles wide near the delta but the rest of it isn’t nearly as wide. Then again, floods happen and it’s your world so do what you like but remember if you have a 5 mile wide river (5 pixels) then its branches are going to be big as well, like 3 miles, and further branches are going to be 1 mile so you will end up laying in rivers for days and days (trust me I’ve been there). 1. If you absolutely want some rivers, here’s how we do it. First, click on the mountains layer then control-click the base layer (this will keep us from drawing out into the ocean), make a new layer and rename it “layout”. Use a fat pencil (that you can see when zoomed out) to layout some basic shapes while trying to follow the lay of the land. Use our same dark teal 001920 (rgb 0, 25, 32). For this tutorial I am just going to do one river system as I don’t want to sit here for the next few hours drawing squiggly lines. 72. [pic] 73.
Create a new layer and rename it to rivers, then use a tiny pencil of 1 pixel (since 1 pixel = 1 mile you only need major rivers and make sure the brush tip spacing is set as low as possible…it’s on the brushes tab in the first submenu there) and zoom in to 200 or 300%. When you start drawing, hide the layout layer so it doesn’t block your view and unhide it if you get lost (erase the layout river as you go along), try to follow the darker areas since these are lower and more lush. If you want to make your job here easier then mark out some continental divides that will force rivers on the east to all empty into an eastern sea (for example).
Start with the longest river first since other rivers will feed into it and use some logic to figure out which rivers belong tied to the main river and which rivers belong on their own with their own tributaries, start with the delta and work upstream a ways then switch to the mountains and work downstream a ways eventually tying them together, don’t add too many tributaries up near the mountains, since we’re working with 1 pixel = 1 mile most tributaries wouldn’t be visible as they’re usually just streams and creeks and such feeding down to the plains where they merge to form larger and larger branches.
Also try to tie in some of the lakes, especially the large ones. 74. Try to follow the lay of the land because all of those awesome hills will have rivers flow between them and not over them, try to think of the path of least resistance ‘cuz that’s what water does from high to low.
Try to make the rivers meander a lot (think snake-like as straight rivers don’t look real, the closer you zoom in the better it will look but the longer it will take), put at least a fork or 2 in the river, if you want something like the Amazon use a 2 or 3 pixel pencil from the delta up to the first fork, rivers generally flow toward the equator due to the earth’s spin but there are exceptions, just don’t make too many exceptions unless the coast is close, add deltas and swamp waters. 75. [pic] 76. Hey, well whaddaya know, it sorta looks like my home town right there here all those rivers meet (heh heh) with a big river that flows into a swampy delta just waiting for a hurricane. When finally done, delete the layout layer. 77. To make the rivers pop and blend in with the ocean along the continental shelf and lakes, zoom in and use the eyedropper to pick up a color along the shelf, use a large airbrush with a flow of 100%, then control-click on the rivers layer. Make a new layer named “deltas” then single click to spray the area around where the river and ocean meet and do this around lakes and such too. Deselect when done.
If you don’t like the color of your rivers then apply a layer style of color overlay, gradient overlay, or change the blending options. 78. [pic] 79. If you want some additional lakes then grab one of your favorite cloud brushes but make sure you are in pencil mode and use the dark teal and make a new layer and rename it “more lakes”. Make a click and you have a lake but now you have to change to a new clouds brush for a new lake or else they all look the same. If you don’t have any clouds brushes then use the 1 pixel pencil and sketch some in by hand. 0. As much as I warned you about avoiding rivers this next warning is ten times more important. DO NOT try to put in some lush river valleys! I have yet to find a way to do this that isn’t absolutely hideous or absolutely invisible. You can try playing with an outer glow, a drop shadow, a gradient stroke, bevel and emboss, an airbrush, stroking a path, gaussian blurring, blending modes, or anything else. The bottom line is this: what looks good at 100% zoom looks like a giant gash when zoomed out and what looks good zoomed out is invisible at 100% zoom.
This why I told you to follow the lay of the land and go through dark areas. The problem with layer styles is that they go out into the ocean as well. 81. If you forgot to add volcanoes or canyons or the like you can always delete everything between the land layer and the base layer and start over by copying the background and putting it above the land layer and repeating the necessary steps. Yes, you do have to redo the rivers and lakes and deltas because when we render the difference clouds the mountains will be in new places (remember what I said about not putting in rivers? . The other option is to create a new document of any size but with the same resolution, make your fancy geology (clouds, noise, difference clouds, difference clouds, airbrush tweaks, delete the black colors), render the lighting effects, cut it out and then paste above the mountains layer, erase or smudge any sharp edges, then merge it down onto the mountains layer. This is also handy if your mountain ranges look kind of skinny and wimpy, we make more mountains and paste ‘em in and therefore bulk up our ranges. 82.
As far as beaches are concerned, don’t try to put ‘em in, it just outlines everything and since 1 pixel = 1 mile any beach would be at least 1 mile wide which is freakin huge, seriously, if you have never been to a beach the largest I have seen are a few hundred yards at most at low tide, this is why we have the continental shelf (to hint at beaches); if you are doing something where the scale of 1 pixel = 10 feet then it might be okay but at a scale of 1 pixel = 100 feet you get back to that outlined look again, not to mention that you have to either erase the beaches up in the cold areas or apply a gradient overlay of brown or gray. 3. For those of a mind to do some last minute terra forming by putting islands into the lakes, use the 1 pixel pencil on the land layer. 84. Lastly, if you want some clouds, storms, or hurricanes then put a new layer on top of everything, reset the foreground and background to black and white, filter > render > clouds then select > color range use black and fuzziness 200 then delete and deselect, erase parts you don’t want and apply any sort of distortions you want for hurricanes, jet streams, etc and erase a bunch of clouds so you can actually see the map.
I haven’t had any knock out results with adding clouds yet so I don’t have too many suggestions. You can also add whirlpools and currents in the ocean this way as long as you change the blending mode to something like overlay or soft light. 85. It’s at this point where I usually change my mind about the color of my ocean, rivers, or lakes. Click on the ocean layer and make a new layer. Control-click on the base layer.
Select > modify > expand = 50. Select > feather = 50. Select > inverse. Pick a different color then fill and deselect. I’ll probably change my mind about this color at least 2 more times so I just add a layer style of color overlay. At this point, you could have as many as 20 layers or as few as 5 (for this tut I have 19) but it doesn’t really matter as long as it looks right or good to you. 86.
When finally done and happy, save the document as “continent 1” or something (this is so that we always have an original to come back to) then merge all of the layers (except for the base layer and base copy layer) and save as something like “continent 1 flat”. If you want to add things like borders and cities and trade routes then make sure to work on the flat image and not the original because every layer adds chunks of memory for the computer to handle.
By keeping the base layer we retain the ability to delete borders that run off into the ocean and lakes. 87. This map looks pretty fantastic and I spend a lot of time just staring at my maps and fantasizing about orc raiding parties coming down from the mountains and Vikings raiding coastal towns and what’s going on at the village fair and deciding where I would place towns and roads. Then I get into economic systems and socio-political factions and races and magic then suddenly I’ve lost a month somewhere. Here’s my final. 88. [pic]