World Workshop

The World Workshop – Major Cities and Terrain Colors

So, ten minutes after writing a post on how I won’t be posting much for the next few weeks, here I am writing a new post. What can I say? I’m tired and worn out and, though it does take concentration, mapping soothes me. I doubt I’ll be finished with this post for a few days yet, but we’ll see. (Edit: Obviously I was right.)

Where we left off last time: three major landmasses, a few smaller ones, and murky "water." Click to see an enlarged copy.
Where we left off last time. Click to see an enlarged copy.

So, when I left off last time I’d created an outline of our new setting: three major landmasses, a few smaller ones, and some murky “water” (that will look better later on, I swear). I mentioned having intentionally creating a couple landmasses to somewhat resemble other objects – enough so to account for them having interesting names, but not so much that they look fake.

Now, before I get into the next steps of mapping, I want to discuss cities. There are three major cities in the region – “major” in the sense that every other city, tribe, clan, or kingdom is defined by its relationship (or lack of a relationship) with those three. I haven’t decided on any names yet, so for now I’ll just refer to them as City A, B, and C.

City A is the largest and wealthiest city in the region, and is in the north-west of the largest landmass (the big one on the right). One of the two major powers, City A is inland, but there’s another allied port city not far away. The port city is effectively ruled by City A – and in another couple centuries, assuming both cities continue to grow, they’ll likely merge into one massive metropolis. A mercantile society, in City A the wealthy are the ruling class. Money and power don’t influence one another – they’re the same thing. I’m not positive on cultural influences yet, but City A is definitely the closest thing to a “melting pot” in the entire region – so long as they have coin, men and women of any ethnicity are typically welcome.

City B, meanwhile, is the third most populated and second-wealthiest city is the area. The undisputed power on “Cock Island” (that snake-shaped landmass in the top-left that I really need to rename), City B is a port city on the east of the peninsula. I’m not entirely sure how politics is going to work here, but it’ll be different from City A – I’m thinking some sort of theocratic system. I’m not positive on the details yet, but they’re definitely a less tolerant society. Not evil, just a little more rigid about their culture – and a little more inclined to defend it proactively, if you get my drift.

City C, meanwhile, is not on one of the three major landmasses. Instead it exists on the large island between Cities A and B. City C is more your traditional monarchy, though without the “divine right” overtones. City B is all about being fingered by the gods to take the lead – this king takes his authority through slightly more secular, “I’m six moves ahead of you on the chessboard and I have an army” methods. City C is also only a major power because of its precarious relationship with the other two – who fought a war that ended about twenty years ago, on City C’s island. I happen to like the idea of a crafty, politically scheming king (or queen, I haven’t decided yet) who is constantly playing a balancing game between these two major powers, all to maintain his own neutrality and his own independent rule.

There are also two other important cities of note. New A is the second-most populated city in the region, is a port city in the north-eastern corner of last major landmass in the bottom left of the map, and is (unsurprisingly) a subject of City A, which founded it. And lastly there’s Io’Rasvim – which, translated from Draconic, means Treasure of Io. One of the original seven city-states that formed the ancient (and long-fallen) dragonborn Empire of Arkhosia, Io’Rasvim is a ruin – surrounded by mystery and rumor, whispered of but never visited. I’ll discuss it in depths some other time – I mainly mention it because I like that name, and don’t want to forget it. Perhaps you’ve already assumed this, but Io’Rasvim can be found on the “claw” island.

Alright, now that I have a better idea of what’s going on where (at least the broad strokes), I head back to the map to add some more details. So far I’ve got just a broad idea of where the landmasses are – today I’ll be adding some coloration to define different terrain types (plains and grasslands and desert).

Also, before I start, I would be remiss if I didn’t give credit where it is due – I’m creating these maps using a method derived from Ascension’s Atlas tutorial over at the Cartographer’s Guild. He’s a genius, and I’m just lucky he’s willing to share. 90% of this method is his, if not more so.

Picking up where we left off last time, grid (highlight), grid and base should all be hidden, the other layers should be visible. Duplicate ocean twice – name the new layers hills and land (from top to bottom, your layers should go: base, hills, land, ocean). Hide hills and start working in land, then Filter -> Render -> Lighting Effects. This brings up a panel that lets you control a bunch of lighting settings. Set the Style to Omni (make sure “On” is checked), Intensity to 6, Matte to -100, Material to 100, Exposure to 0, Ambience to 8, Texture Channel to Red (make sure “White is high” is checked), and Height to 100. Then drag the radius of the light source out so it is as wide as the entire map is. Lastly, you’re going to create four more light sources, each one of the same size and using the same settings as the first. Place one on each corner of the map, and one in the center (if you’re not grokking the written instructions, check out the screenshot) and then hit OK.

Word to the wise, the larger your map is, the more memory this takes. It took my computer almost two minutes to apply the effect after I hit OK – I strongly recommend saving both before and after you apply a major effect. Trust me, if your system crashes you’ll be glad you did.

Alright, now keep land as the active layer, and then ctrl-click on base (the little preview pane on the left, not the name itself) to select all your landmasses. Invert the selection (Shift-Ctrl-I) so the water is selected, then delete and deselect. Now we’ll add some coloration with Layer -> Layer Style -> Gradient Overlay. Set the angle to 120 degrees, the blend mode to “hard light,” the opacity to 100%, and then click on the gradient color (the actual color, not the drop-down arrow to the right of it) to bring up the gradient editor. An ordinary gradient transitions evenly from one color to another. We’re changing that by creating four points of transition (called a “stop”). Each stop is represented by the little color-arrow on the bottom of the gradient, and you add new ones just by clicking the finger pointer anywhere in the area. The stops should have the following settings:

  1. Color: Papyrus (RGB: 240, 230, 190). Position: 5%.
  2. Color: Dark flesh (RGB: 218, 192, 148). Position: 25%.
  3. Color: Olive Green (RGB: 64, 80, 24). Position: 60%.
  4. Color: Olive Green (RGB: 64, 80, 24). Position: 100%.
Some terrain coloration makes the regions of our map more distinct, giving us an idea of what sort of places these landmasses are. Click to see an enlarged copy.
Some terrain coloration makes the regions of our map more distinct, giving us an idea of what sort of places these landmasses are. Click to see an enlarged copy.

Hit OK, which will close the gradient editor, and then jump to Outer Glow in the panel on the left. Leave the blend mode on “screen,” reduce the opacity to 25%, change the color to a light blue (RGB: 64, 200, 255), and set the size to 45px. Hit OK, and you can see the results on the right.

Just a quick note about that gradient overlay – if I were mapping an entire world, instead of doing an in-depth mapping of a region, I’d have left the angle at 90 degrees – maintaining a strict North <–> South terrain transition. I’d have also added a 5th stop using the color white, to represent the arctic regions in the far north. So, if you’re following along and trying to map a whole world? Now you now.

So, we’ve got some basic terrain definition and coloration set up. Next time I’ll toss in some hills and mountains. See you then.