A selection of ground
Now that we have a flat, somewhat "mappy"
looking land mass it is time to make it look like something
proper. Time for textures! Depending on what kind of map you
want to make, you should try to find something that matches your
ideas in terms of textures: earth, sand, rocks, dirt, cracks,
ice etc. - Fortunately there are a couple of textures already
included in the following package, which we've put together for
you - along with a plethora of elements that will come in handy
later on. So make sure to download the follow file for a start:
This should suffice for a start to get something going, but
always keep your eye out for more good textures. Here are some
suggestions where you can get them for free:
Now open your Map Elements file and have a look around. Again,
layers are named properly, so that you know what you get if you
show and hide a layer. First, pay attention to the layers at the
bottom of the layers list (Black, White, Land and Sea). These
are example backgrounds. You can use them to see how elements
look if you place them in front of an entirely black background,
a white one (good to see problematic outlines/transitions etc.)
or how effective they are if there's textured land behind, or
The various layers are meant to be seen separetely in
combination with a background layer, so only activate one at a
time, then move on to the next. Check out all the layers and see
what they have to offer. The layers at the bottom show map
elements like buildings, mountains, cliffs, and at the top there
are texture layers with grass, dirt, stone, and so on. These will
be our main interest for now.
Expanding your Resources
A couple of Santharian
sitting on their own layers, waiting
to find their way onto a map.
Expanding your repertoire on resources is crucial. Whenever you
find something that looks great on a map, you should go ahead
and add it to your resources, so that you can easily access it
the next time you need it. Always make sure to place the new
texture on its own layer and name the layer, so that you can
identify what's behind it at first glance.
Textures aren't always ready made to perfectly fit your needs,
though. They might be too large, too dark, too light, and you
probably cannot just use them as a continuous pattern (like
tiles put together, often seen in games), because the edges
don't match. Some adjustments can be easily made, though:
- Reducing texture size
If a texture is too large, paste it on its own layer. Select the
Selection Rectangle (M) and mark it as a whole (Ctrl+A), then
right-click and select Free Transform, then pull one of the
edges towards the center. Confirm with ENTER and you've reduced
the size of the texture to hopefully serve your needs better.
Just be careful not to actually enlarge a texture, because it
loses details that way.
- Adjust your texture
Another way to alter your texture is to adjust it in various
ways affecting the look. Try the Image
--> Adjustments menu. There you can alter e.g.
Levels which often help with greyscale textures
the way we use it and make things look nicer and crisper. Play
around with these settings in case a texture still needs a bif
of a touch up.
- Texture patterns
Texture patterns can only be used if the texture is actually
made for exactly that purpose. You will find a lot of such
pattern textures used in games,
e.g. to make continuous brick walls or cover the whole ground
with grass. If you've got such a texture, make sure to make it a
Here's how you do it: Open the texture file, use the
Rectangle (M) and mark it as a whole (Ctrl+A), then open the
Edit menu and click on
"Define Pattern...". Name the pattern and
save it. Now add a new layer on your Map Elements file and
select the Fill Bucket. In the options of the Fill Bucket you
can then specify whether you want to fill an area with the
foreground color or a pattern. Select the latter and specify the
new pattern, then fill the whole layer with it. Et voilą -
you've got yourself a seemlessly filled layer!
Pattern textures are the ones you can use most efficiently, so
whenever you find something great, expand your resources with
Now on to actually putting a texture on your map.
Open your map file and the Map Elements file. At your map make
sure that you are on the Landmass layer, so that you clearly see
what shape you'd like to texturize. In the example below it's a
Select the shape with the Freehand
Lasso tool (L), ideally with a
feather setting of, say, 5 - this ensures that the
transitions at the borders will be soft, fading out towards the
actual line you've drawn. The feather setting needs to be
applied before you do the selection by the way. Also
remember: You don't actually need to select it all at once.
Select a portion, then hold down SHIFT
to add another selection, or Alt
to remove a piece of the selection. Finally you should see
something like the second picture shown below.
Leave your map for a moment and look at the Map Elements. Make
only that one layer visible where you'd like to use the texture,
e.g. a mud texture. Put the Map Elements window right next to
your map window, then make sure Lasso is still selected. Move
your mouse over the selection you've made (indicated by a
selection symbol), left-click on the selection, but don't let go
of the mouse button. Instead, move the whole selection now to
the second window, on top of the texture layer. The result:
You've moved just your selection, maintaining the shape of the
Now copy what
you've selected in the texture layer, easily done by pressing
Ctrl+C. Return to your map
and paste the whole thing, done with
Ctrl+V. Note that the initial selection is
still there, so if you insert what you've copied into the
clipboard now, the texture shows up exactly at the spot you've
selected. - There are still two things wrong, though. The
texture looks too strong and crude. And the outlines of the
peninsula aren't visible. This shouldn't bother you.
Check the layers list, and on top you see some options for the
currently selected layer. See the
Opacity field there? Go for it and reduce the value
somewhat until you like the result. The new texture now merges
with the background and doesn't look anymore as if it was just
pasted on it.
The second thing you should do is to make the outlines visible
again. To see the actual outlines you might want to reduce the
opacity even more temporarily, so that the lines shine through clearly. Then
grab your Lasso tool, once again ideally with a
setting, and select the parts you'd like to remove. Hit
Delete and get them out of
the way, and your texture will eventually look nicely embedded
in the shape you wanted it to be. - Alternatively you could try
next time to copy already with a smaller feather size, but then
the transitions won't look as good. But it depends on what you
want to achieve, so feel free to play around with settings!
In order to
keep your work organized look for the layer you want to harbour
your newly added texture (I'd suggest Textures,
then join the layers as described in the Working with
Layers chapter. Please make sure that the Textures Layer is the
first one you select when you join the layers, so that you keep
its name. Also you should be aware that once you join the
layers, the texture stays as it looks now, in the opacity you've
defined, but how much opacity you reduced gets lost and you
won't be able to increase that value anymore later. It's part of
another layer once you've joined it and this
layer has its own opacity settings.
Very well, you've applied your first texture to your map! The
great thing is that the texture is on its own layer, separate
from the Landmass layer behind it - and you can change it
anytime you like later on. The same applies to further layers
you're about to add: You can add further textures and elements
and it all stays independent from each other, allowing you free
Applying a Sea Texture
Textures don't necessarily have to be added to landmasses only,
they work just as fine at the already ripple-effect altered sea.
Such textures are great to show shallow areas around the
outlines of the landmass, which makes e.g. an isle look embedded
realistically into its surroundings, as it rarely happens that
there's deep sea in direct vicinity - the land usually just
fades into the sea. Like this:
is put on top of the Sea layer to represent shallow areas.
You do pretty
much the same as in the land texture example above: Take a
texture which you think fits the bill of representing shore
(e.g. a stone or dirt texture) and select the area with a
feather selection - the more you'd like to have the land fade
into the sea, the larger the selection should be. Then decrease
layer opacity. At a sea texture opacity of the overlaying
texture is usually very low, so that the sea level dominates the
composition. Nevertheless, even with a barely visible ground
texture you make things look much better and realistic.
Surround your landmasses with such textures, then merge the
layers as you're used to with the
Textures, Bottom layer, and enjoy the new look.
To get a more
complex look on your map, you should add more and more textures.
Not too many in the tiny areas (they should extend somewhat to
have an impact), but enough at least to add to the diversity.
Basically you always start with the main look and feel of an
area and cover it mostly with, say, grass. This is placed in the
Textures, Bottom layer. Feel free not to
cover a whole area at once with the same texture, but do it in
various steps, each time using a different
opacity. That way you can make
an area lush with grass, and another area covered only
marginally (see the first picture to the left below), which
gives the impression that the texture fades out.
Coastlines however rarely feature grass, instead they are
characterized by being sandy, rocky, craggy etc. Therefore in the
example below the textures for the coast area first were omitted
intentionally, then you can see a cracked earth texture added in
these areas. This texture was merged with the
Textures, Main layer, so that
it lies above the main one. Before it was joined with this layer
we of course reduced opacity of the cracked earth additions once
again, so that the grassy background still shines through at the
transitional parts. Should you want to try something different
later, just hide the Textures, Main
layer, and try another approach with a different texture.
The second textures layer can also be used to make a texture
more prominent (added with increased opacity) or to add just a
transitionary layer. Example: If you've surrounded your little
isle with just slightly visible land textures placed in the sea,
but want to have areas which are extremely shallow or are
rockier, Textures, Main is
the layer to go. The selected area could also include parts of
the landmass and parts of the sea, and that way putting a
half-transparent texture on that layer makes the ideal
There's also a third
texture layer in the tutorial map, which is called
Textures, Top. You might
have guessed that textures on this layer go on top of all
others. Yep, they do. This is useful if you first cover an area with grass,
then add e.g. a swamp texture, and finally you'd like to still
have certain spots within the swamp where grass dominates.
Rather than making a hole in the swamp texture to let the
original grass texture shine through, it's more efficient to put the
grass on a top layer. That way it is also easier to remove it
again if necessary.
Besides, the third layer is great to cover other map elements with a
texture. For example to make hills look grassier. See the last
picture above - here you see bare hills in the center of the
image, while the lower hills are covered with a grass texture,
thanks to Textures, Top.
Before we move on to using map elements, here's another thing
that has to do with textures: Streets. On your tutorial map you
have a layer named Streets. You'll notice a special symbol
next to it on the right side, indicating that a style was
applied to this layer. If you click on the arrow next to the
symbol you will actually see what kind of styles are currently active.
Right-click on the layer and select
Layer Style in the context
menu to see details. One important style applied to the
layer is a texture, which affects everything you draw on it.
with and without the applied Streets layer style
this: First change your foreground colour to black. Then pick
the Pencil (Shift+B) tool,
it's a sub-tool in the Brushes menu (click on Brushes, keep the
button pressed and the sub-menu will appear). The Pencil tool
has hard edges, so that's better for our purpose. Now choose a
brush size of, say, 5 and draw your streets. As you'll see, what
you draw aren't actually black lines, but cobblestone streets,
thanks to the texture at work here!
You can delete the layer style by the way if you like by right-clicking on
the layer and select Remove Layer Style. Then you'll see the
actual black lines you drew. You can also copy a style used
somewhere else. Take the Elements file for example, look for the
Streets layer, right-click on it, and select
Copy Layer Style. Now return to
your drawn black lines and apply the style by selecting the
layer, right-click on it and select
Paste Layer Style. Layer styles are cool things and
will make sure later that e.g. the texts you use at the maps all
look the same. For now it suffices to know the basics on how
to apply them.