The basis for most of my maps area three dimensional virtual model of the landscape that I cover using image based textures. The process of creating this is far from straight forward and requires multiple steps using different tools.

I've done my best to try and keep this presentation free from weird technological terms and the complexity of some of the steps, so here is a simplified version to give you a good first glimpse into the world of virtual terrain creation.

I use more than a dozen different tools often with a large overlap both in features and age. New applications is something I'm always look for, and tr y to learn to keep ahead. Old applications are kept often long after there are a new better one around, the consistency of results often demands it. For example i used a version of Bryce 3D from 1998 until 2014 too keep the last bits of the Flanaess map consistent in looks with the first parts created back in 1998.

The new generations Greyhawk maps are kept in the waiting room for very much the same room. World Machine have been my main tool since 2011 and still is, but a new generation tools led by GAEA is gearing up to be ready to take its place. Two key features are still missing in GAEA, rivers and a robust support for really large terrains. The tool I choose to go with might be something I have to stick with for a decade or more so it needs to be a wise choice. Hopefully I will have enough information soon to make that decision and start work properly!

Here is a slide showing my main tools.

Let's get into the world of 3D terrain creation. The example for this is going to be the Kingdom of Lothmar map I'm currently working on for Griffonlore Games. It's going to be part of their next Kickstarter, and here is a work in progress snapshot of the map.

The process begins with visual programming in World Machine to set up fractals and output data for the landscape.

Noded curves are used to place coastlines, highlands, lakes and rivers.

A primitive 3D preview is also available to give you a better view of the lands you're working on.

After creating the landscape its time to export the data from World Machine in the form of images. Here is an example of the height map that shows the distribution of elevation if the form of shades of grey.

You need a texture and for this project most of it will be created in Photoshop using masks, so a single simple texture to start with have to suffice. For other projects I have created up to ten different textures to merge and blend afterwards in Photoshop.

Masks are very useful to make texture editing in Photoshop faster easier and more precise. Below is a water mask.

and a slope mask

For top down maps you need to have a shadow map, it will give you the 3d look.

A elevation coded map is also making editing easier.

When you work in Photoshop you create a myriad of layers and masks that can get quite complicated.

Masks with added signal colors give you an great visual work environment, like for elevation seen here...

or a combination of elevation and flow mask seen here..

Editing done, it's time to merge the layers down to the more essential ones for the final map. First the basic water color, which in this case is a simple blue.

The edited texture..

Water depth..

and snow cover..

and add shading using the multiply blend mode to make the shadows darken the landscape...

to lighten up the image you need to add an adjustment layer and increase the brightness..

and the terrain is now ready for text labels and symbols!

This is what it looks like in 3D:

The rest of my seminar recap will be in Part 4!

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