THE SANTHARIAN MAPS TUTORIAL
CHAPTER IX: LAYERS, ONCE AGAIN

WORKING WITH LAYERS - LAYING THE GROUNDWORK




WORKING WITH LAYERS

 

Layers
Understanding Map Layers
If you've made it through the various tutorial chapters and your own drawn maps also look more or less like the ones presented on the tutorial pages, then congratulations for making it that far! You've mastered the worst things already and now have reached the real fun part: applying textures and using map elements! While there's still a good deal to learn, working with textures and map elements is more a craft of combining and rearranging things that already are available - and once you get the knack of it, I'm sure you'll enjoy it very much. The results will add lots of details to your maps and they'll truly come alive!

So where do we start? This time I suggest to begin with having a look at an actually completed map, which I've provided for downloading. Here it is:

Tutorial Map on Textures and Layers (1.99 MB)

Unzip the map and open it with Photoshop. Like what you see? Well, you're about to make such a map yourself - and while it might be time consuming it isn't as difficult as it looks.

One of the most important things when doing complex maps is to keep your layers in order. Therefore: Go and explore the tutorial map a bit. Have a look at the layers of the map, and click on the various eye icons to the very left of the layer section to show and hide a layer. You'll notice parts of the map disappear and reappear - each particular design element has its own layer.
Go from the top down at the layers list and hide one after the other layer. Note that layers are also properly named. All these things are essential, because the more complicated the map, the more important it is to know on which layer you have to add or change something. Otherwise you'll soon get lost. Trust me on that.

Here's a short, basic explanation of the layers, which I've conventiently included as a screenshot (just ignore the German texts on top):

Basic Layers: Sea & Landmass
The Sea layer on the very bottom of the layers contains the water. Or more precisely: Water and rough landmasses, treated with an ocean ripple effect. Hide all the other layers to find out how this one looks like when it stands on its own. More on that layer further down.

The Landmass layer contains the actually drawn landmasses, isles and such, but with nothing else on it. Just the plain shapes, only with a bit of work on the borders, smearing them horizontally inwards, so that the lines aren't really separators, but become part of the shape. If you've followed the tutorial so far, you've learned how to do that in the Coastlines chapter.

Textures Layers
You'll find several layers in the layers list (three to be precise) of the example map with the name Textures on it. Textures are like tapestries, carpets or tiles you use to decorate your walls or floors in a room. As far as map making is concerned, textures cover the basic areas defining the structure of the landmass - whether it's grassy, rocky, sandy etc. A rough Textures;, Bottom should follow the Landmass layer to give a clear indication of what kind of land we're dealing with.

Sometimes the basic, say, grass texture is not enough and you need to put up another texture on top. This is done in the second texture layer, called Textures, Main. Should there be mountains or hills on the map, these would be placed on the Mountains, Bottom textures layer. However, if the shape of these hills is fine, but you need to make sure that they are grassy, this would be a case for Textures, Top, which was placed above the Mountains, Bottom layer.

Buildings Layers
Similar to the Textures layers you also have three Buildings layers. The reason for this is to be able to place structures in front of each other without actually joining them on a layer. If you have e.g. a tower at the back of a village, you'd put the village houses on a Buildings, Main layer and the tower on a Buildings layer further down, like Buildings, Bottom. That way the houses appear in front of the tower and you can always move houses or tower later should you choose to do so - and the elements won't interfere with each other.

Other Layers: Streets, Trees, Rivers, Bridges, Mine Entrances, Cliffs etc.
Everything else worth having its own layer should have it. Like trees, or streets. It just helps tremendously to have everything related to trees or rivers right at hand when you need to do alterations. The layers in the example map are of course just suggestions - you can have as many other layers as you like.

Working with Layers
Knowing how to show, hide and rename a layer is a must, and you've figured these things out already following the past chapters of this tutorial. Remember: Don't stray from the path of naming your layers and keep in mind to put elements only at the layer they belong to!
 

Regular size
Zoomed in

A map part in regular size and zoomed in.

Zooming In/Out and Moving Around (Ctrl and +, Ctrl and -, SPACE)
You also should know that in order to work on a detailed map you need to be very close to the action. Therefore: Zoom in whenever you need to have a closer look (Ctrl and +), which is most of the time, as you need to place textures and element precisely. Zoom out (Ctrl and -) again to view how the result looks in the actual size of the map.

By the way: When you zoom in on a section of the map you might find it tedious to use the scrollbars to move to another part of the map. Well, tell you what: Forget those scrollbars! Simply press the SPACE bar instead and your mouse cursor will change to a hand symbol. Now you can pull that part of the map towards you, where you want to work on. - Neat, eh?

Full View (TAB, F)
To get the whole experience of the map on your screen you can easily get rid of all the toolboxes, layer windows etc. by simply pressing TAB on your keyboard. And if that is not enough, press "F" to show the map in full screen mode (and "F" again to get back in regular mode). Once in fullscreen mode zoom in and out to really get a grip on where you're working.

Note: If you're in fullscreen mode you won't see scrollbars anymore to the right or the bottom of your screen. Make use of the SPACE bar then (see above, Zooming In/Out and Moving Around).
 

The Move Tool
Selecting a Layer (Move Tool / Ctrl + Left-Click on Map)
Oftentimes it is necessary to get exactly to a specific layer, e.g. where a tree was placed. It helps to know the layer's name, so you can select it from the layers list directly. But this is not always possible, because whether a texture is on Texture Layer 1, 2 or 3 you cannot know for sure. Therefore you need to know how to get to a layer by pointing at something at the map.

One way to do it is to
choose the Move Tool from the toolbox (see screenshot to the right) and right-click on the map element - you will see a list of layers in the context menu where the spot you specified is not empty, and this includes all layers, even those that are currently covered by the topmost layer. Select the one layer you want, and there you go!

There's also an alternative, even faster way to do this: You can move your mouse cursor over the map and left-click on a spot - the appropriate layer will be selected in your layers list. Combine this method with zooming in on the map in order not to accidentally click on an object/texture you don't really want to and thus end up on a wrong layer.
 

Joining Layers
Joining Layers (Ctrl+E)
There's another thing you need to learn by heart that is crucial to keep your layers in order, and that is how to join layers.

Say you want to add a new layer (e.g. by selecting the following in the menu: Layer --> New... --> Layer) and want to draw something on it. By the way: If you know that the layer is only temporary and eventually won't surivive on its own, you also don't need to name it properly. As once you're satisfied with the result of your layer's work you'd like to join it with another layer where it really belongs, in this case the Trees layer. To do this, first select the Trees layer, then click on the box next to the visibility box of your new layer, so that a chain symbol appears. The two layers are now linked. Finally press Ctrl+E, which joins linked layers.

Note that only the Trees layer exists now and that the contents of both layers have merged. The important thing is that the layer still is called Trees, which is only the case if you selected this layer first. So make sure to always do that, otherwise you'll lose the names of your layers!

Joining layers is something you'll do over and over in the process of map making. If you e.g. copy and paste some trees, Photoshop creates a new layer, which you will then have to join again properly in order to have it all nicely arranged on the Trees layer. So better get used to that technique.

And that's all for now you need to know about layers - well done, you've learned the basics! Let's move on to the really cool stuff - making an own textured map!
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LAYING THE GROUNDWORK

 

Before we can start with textured maps the basic preconditions need to be met. With other words: The floor needs to be there before you can put a carpet on it. In terms of map making this means: The two basic layers have to be prepared: the Sea Layer and the Landmass Layer. How to make sea and land was covered from a technical standpoint already in the previous chapters, but the important thing is now to do it properly with layers, so that we have more flexibility later on.

The Sea Layer
Make sure that the whole area of your map is covered with water first, then sketch the areas of the landmasses the way it is described in Chapter III - Land in Sight. Do not draw any outlines of the isles yet. Make sure this happens on the same layer. Once that is done select Filter --> Distort --> Ocean Ripple from the menu. This will make the whole map look like it is under water, like at the first picture to the left. If you do the Ocean Ripple effect that way, you make sure that there are no unnecessary distortions, which might happen if you draw the actual outlines on the same layer.
 

The Oceans Ripples layer, the Landmass layer, and finally
what you see if you have both layers visible.

The Landmass Layer
Ok, now is the time to continue with the outlines of the actual isles. Do this on an own layer, fill the area in between with your paint bucket and follow the basic tutorial from Chapter IV. The final result should be an own layer with just the landmasses on it, see the picture at the center above.

If you show both layers now you'll see e.g. an island which sits in the ocean, surrounded by ocean ripples. The area around the island doesn't appear as deep as the area further off, as the ocean ripples effect took care of making the land look like it blends realistically into the sea.
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 Date of last edit 3rd Frozen Rivers 1671 a.S.

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