Abominable Snowmen

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Organized Play Member. 238 posts (393 including aliases). No reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 2 aliases.


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Excellent tutorial Laithoron - I've never done them that way before (I fill a normal layer with the pattern). Good tip.

Klaus - those are looking great, I particularly love the iso map. That's awesome.

Sorry for the silence guys, things have been manic. More to come son hopefully. In the meantime - any chance of an ENnie vote for your neighborhood cartographer? I'm up for Lands of Ice and Fire.

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A couple more up today:

A simple guide to labeling maps
Gimp guide to placing icons on a map

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A couple recently:

First - a post on using a map as an aid to worldbuilding, and my process for quick and dirty worldbuilding

Second - a quick pen and ink guide to drawing iso-mountains

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Hey guys - you're welcome! I'm glad they're coming in handy. And yes, a lot of the work in mapping is figuring out a symbol set that tells a story quickly and clearly.

Today - in honour of all the old-school posts floating around - three different line art wall styles for dungeons.

And some tips on drawing featured buildings - in this case an Inn, a Temple and a Castle.

Old fashioned coastline today.

Today - how to use mountains to define the scale of a map (and a look at hw to draw mountain ranges rather than individual mountains) as well as a quick discussion of the difference depicting forest and jungle

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Yep, CC3 is powerful, but it can be a bit of a faff at times.

Today - a different method - using dynamic brushes to lay in buildings.

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Today - how to use the pen tool to draw buildings in photoshop or gimp

A quick change of tack - as well as tutorials I create commercial map packs, and right now they're on sale!

Last day for my GM's Day Sale - map packs (almost) all $1!

Includes (but is not limited to):
• Pirate Ships
• Crystalline cave
• Sunken river
• Lave filled dragon's lair
• Customisable pirate isle
• Hill-top keep (thumbnail below)
• A Dragon locked in ice
• Snowbound stockade with subterranean dungeon
• City locations carved into a glacier

The sale runs until 5pm EST tomorrow. Surprising your players has never been so cheap!

Each map pack comes with:
• high res jpg - with and without grid (mostly, there are a couple that are only gridded)
• maptool files
• printable multipage pdf in A4 and Letter size, colour and printer friendly greyscale
• many also have individual .png elements that can be re-used.

Don't worry - normal tutorial service will be resumed shortly.

Very nice! That's a fantastic tool.

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Here's a quickie - how to draw swamps.

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There are a few already - but I'll see what else I can pull together. There's this monster Gimp tutorial I created on battlemaps. That might be handy?

I'm putting together a list of future tutorials, and I'm taking suggestions. Any requests?

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Today - how to design a town

Today, a very quick one on rivers.

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The video only has straight lines. I'll put a proper path tutorial on the slate in the near future. I'm hearing a lot of people having some concerns with that.

Given it's a snow day I thought I'd get a little caught up with my tutorials. Here's a long one on how to create icons in photoshop, and it comes with an accompanying video, and a free ship icon!

Quick one this morning - Grids in Photoshop

There are some larger previews on the blog for this one.

Thanks Megan for the great review!

Thanks for the review! And for the suggestion of a more modular warehouse :)

And a video on how to draw/colour flagstones.

Yes, Mike's got some truly lovely work.

I've added a couple of video tutorials to the list now:
How to draw water video tutorial
How to draw mountains video tutorial

A quick one for a Saturday afternoon - how to draw water on battlemaps.

This week:

How to create a ripple texture
How to turn a map into an underwater landscape

And both together come in video form!

Mark - I feel your pain with Gimp - it's not an easy program to pick up at all. There are some conventions in graphics software that takes some getting your head around.

I was asked a while ago to create a tutorial on creating a battlemap from scratch in Gimp and I tried to make it as clear and exhaustive as possible. This *should* be accessible to someone who's never used Gimp before, but if you have questions, send me a note at jonathan@fantasticmaps.com and I'll help out.

Drawing a battlemap in Gimp

And as for paper - there's really nothing wrong with paper and pens at all. I usually sketch my battlemaps on paper first and then take it into gimp/photoshop because I game using avirtual tabletop - so I need digital maps.

YellowDingo - great map tutes! I love the Google Maps tips :)

The realistic coastlines tutorial now also comes as a video!

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It's been a while, but my site's back up and a couple of new tutorials have been added.

Converting a Phone Photo to Digital Line Art
Drawing Realistic Coastlines

And lots of previews up today on io9

Hey there - that looks like a fun dungeon. What did you create it with?

Also today: How To Draw Forest and some news.

Had a couple of questions I've responded to this week. So:

A quick explanation of Blend Modes
How to draw grasslands

@Lathorion: That's very cute. I'll have to try that out. That should even be able to print to file (on a Mac) as a super quick way of creating multi-page pdfs. I'll have a tinker with that and see.

@Aberzombie: I know the feeling of having to keep that stuff to yourself. Thankfully my players don't browse the Cartographer's Guild so I can post most of my stuff before we play. Always interested to check out things if you're up for sharing them by email? jonathan@fantasticmaps.com Otherwise I'll definitely look forward to seeing them when you've played through the game after PaizoCon.

Oh, and a very short tutorial on drawing isometric cliffs.

That's a fantastic idea! I'd never have thought of that, but will definitely be doing it from now on!

Very nice - love the crown symbols. And the x at the bottom is perfect for pirate maps.

Some thoughts on cliffs styles posted today:

Three different cliff styles for RPG Maps

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That's a really neat trick. Thanks for posting that!

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That looks great! Sorry for the delayed response - I've been travelling over the last few weeks.

You can free rotate in maptool by the way - you need to hold down shift and control and that lets you smoothly rotate by scrolling the mouse wheel. You should post that upon the CG if you haven't already - it's definitely worth showing off.

After a little bit of downtime last week I've got back to collating some tips. Today - how to draw isometric mountains.

:) A program that does full geophysical tectonic modeling might be a bit specialised for generally available software! But I'd love to hear about it if you find some.

The height map certainly shows why the rivers had the heavy shadows on them - they're the same tone as the sea, so you're telling the program that when you hit the edge of a river you drop from whatever elevation you're at to a canyon that goes all the way down to sea level. I'd definitely recommend adding the rivers in by hand at the end rather than relying on the height map for that. Thanks for sharing the works in progress.

In other news - all of last week's posts on trees and grunge brushes are up on the blog today.

Looks really good. Could you post the raw heightmap? I'd love to see what your starting point was.

With the rivers, I've found that going from a very light blue at the source down to the sea colour at the coast works well to pul them out of the background. From the air, rivers reflect the sunlight, and can look like ribbons of silver. That helps give them some contrast and make them easy to read.

Love the stacked textures - that's working very nicely.

That's a great walk through of how to use a texture - and the end result looks great!

One thought on the map - I'd recommend easing the heightmap variation on the rivers a little. At the moment they look like they're running through chasms. The darkest shdows should be cast by your mountains, and the lightest shadows by things that are almost flat - like rivers.

I love the gradiated heightmap colours. I really should work through that tutorial to see how it works properly. Thanks a lot for taking the time to write up a tutorial on it!

In other news - a new mini-tute on drawing trees is up today on G+ and facebook.

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No matter how good you are at designing, you're always going to tend to fall back on a set of layouts for combat encounters. There are a couple of map libraries that you can check out, but I'd recommend the Wizards Map a Week archive from the 3.5 days. It's a treasure trove of maps.

Not all are high resolution, and not all are available without tags, but they do all have different encounter layouts, and you get to pick the brains of other designers for your combat encounters.

For designing your own encounter areas, think of how you want the combat to flow, and then design the area around that. So, if you want it to be an ambush, then you're going to need cover and an area that restricts player movement. Traditional areas are gullys and cuttings with the ambushers on the ridge and the PCs in the gully. A rock fall can block their forward and backward movement. If your players are good at spotting ambush terrain, then reward them. They should be able to sneak around their ambushers and catch them out. Then you have a fun combat on the cliff top beside the gully!

If you have a combat with an opponent that's vulnerable in melee, give them terrain to protect them - like a stream, a fallen tree, a cliff, difficult terrain, or a river of lava. That switches things up from just placing them behind two mindless brutes with lots of hit points.

Think about how the terrain can be dynamic. Have treacherous ground that can be set to slide by dislodging a boulder, piles of barrels that - if struck just right - will collapse on a hapless foe, pools of oil that force acrobatics checks and make PCs flat footed for enemy rogues to sneak attack. Then make sure that your enemies make use of the terrain - particularly if it's their home environment. As soon as players see enemies using terrain agains them, they'll start using the terrain to their advantage too. Higher ground, slippery areas, movement hampering difficult terrain - it can all be just as effective as a wall if ice spell, if used correctly. With more dynamic terrain, you'll get more dynamic combat environments.

My guess would be to do this as a two step process. Use a black and white gradient map to select the band of the height map that you want to represent with the texture - one gradient for each type of terrain. Then create 5 or 6 images that have the different terain areas in white and the otehr areas in black. This can be used as a mask over the texture to make sure that the texture only hits those areas of the height map that are the correct height.

That's a rough guess, but I'd have to walk through it to see if it's possible in practice. However I am pretty sure that photoshop won't take gradients of texture maps (sadly). On the other hand, I'm really not the best person to ask about 3D techniques as I've only scratched the surface on 3D work in photoshop, and definitely not used it to produce anything for publication yet.

You're also welcome to fire over sketches to me at jonathan@fantasticmaps.com. I'm happy to provide advice if you're stuck on something.

And I threw an example map up on the G+ page to illustrate the idea.

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@Aberzombie - Any software that allows you to collate pngs into a single document will allow you to create a map - and powerpoint actually does that surprisingly well. I know I used to crate posters (not for mapping) using powerpoint. However powerpoint suffers when you have lots of objects, and (I think) lacks the means to group sets of items easily to show/hide. That might not be the case as I've not used it for a while.

@DeathQuaker - You're absolutely right. I know I said 'start with the streets' but that was a little disengenuous. You need to know where the streets are going to and from so you do need to know the locations of major landmarks first. So I think it's better to say - start with the important tactical terrain. Rivers and hills. You don't need to pin them down precisely and render them up beautifully, but you do need to know where they are.

Power centers are almost always on top of a hill as they started off small, and needed to be in the best place to stave off attack. Or they'll be in a bend in a river, so that they're defended on 2 or 3 sides by water. If a city can be beside the water it will be, and again as the city started small, the power center and the old town will be at the waterside. So you need to know where the rivers/coastline and hills are.

Once you've got that, you know where the old town is. All main roads to other cities will lead to the power center, because that's where they started. They'll follow the contours of the land and will be constrained by where they cross rivers. Draw these in, and feel free to put in wiggles and kinks - roads don't necessarily go straight.

Now you start creating the rest of the city. The old town normally has a wall around it - again from the history of being attacked. You need to decide on whether the newer wider city has walls around it too. Walls restrict the passage of major roads - so they're important.

So now you should have:
1. Rivers and hills
2. Power center
3. Walls on the old town (and newer town)
4. Major roads from the center to the outside world

At this point, pick some major locations that people are going to need to get to/from. Some ideas:
• Docks
• Market
• Granaries
• Arcane University
• Temple district/center of worship
• Barracks
• Secondary power center (parliament/royal residence).

It's also worth pencilling in the different demographics of the quarters of he city now as well such as:
• Rich merchant/nobles
• Artisans
• Slums
• Warehouses

The major locations will work as focal points for your roads - people need to get there, so large roads will come off them like spokes off a wheel. Again, don't make them rod straight, allow them to have kinks and doglegs in them - but make sure they go in one clear direction. If there needs to be a road from the barracks to the palace and from the Barracks to the city gates, make sure it's clear that it does - but still remember that roads also go round places, and are designed to leave roughly rectangular spaces for building houses.

Now you should have a spider's web of main roads and you need to fill in the big irregular spaces with little roads to define the different districts. This is where the demographic of an area comes in. Slums are unplanned and ungoverned, so roads go where they need to , not where they should. let your pen wander and lay in a messy labyrinth of twisting alleyways.

On the other hand, merchants and nobles live in large houses with land around them on straight tree lined avenues. Place straight(ish) or gently curving roads in these areas, with lots of space for mansions. Grids look good for this too, and quickly give off a sense of ordered planning. Middle class areas are similar, but with smaller areas between roads, or with tenements, and more alleyways. Keep the roads to straight lines and sharp angles here too to retain a contrast with the slums.

Now you should have a reasonably clear city plan - and you've defined it by drawing the roads. I hope that does the trick?

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The blog's been updated with the most recent tips from last week - how to colour a dungeon map and how to remove labels from maps - which should both work in Gimp and Photoshop. Today on G+ and facebook - some thoughts on uses and abuses of different tree styles on battlemaps.

Jason - I'm glad you liked it! I guess you ran across that on the CG, where I've been lurking around for a couple of years. If you hang around there too long you can't help but pick up tips and tricks.

pipedreamsam - You should definitely check out the Cartographer's Guild, it's a great place that will absolutely help you out with maps for your games.

In other news, today's tip more of a walkthrough of my method for colouring a map once the linework is done - on Google+ and facebook.

This might also come in handy: how to remove labels from published maps

- though I know Paizo is excellent at keeping labels on separate layers, if you're using third party material this can be very handy.

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Thanks guys! I'm glad you're finding them useful.

Deathquaker - you're in luck. This week the posts have been about map scaling:
How to resize maps for printing or for vtts.
Slicing up large maps into pages for printing at home

And yes, you're right about CC3. I created an overland and a Dungeon style for it - but I personally mostly use Photoshop for my work.

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