Tutorial: How to do a quick campaign map. Part I: Background

Hi there,

here is the first part of my tutorial on how to make campaign maps with the computer.

Dome time ago I did a map for our 40k campaign.
I decided to do it with vector graphics because then it would be possible to rescale the map at any time. Secondly, I decided to work as much as possible with layers to ensure that certain elements on the map can be (re)moved/added or changed easily, this was very important since the map is going to be updated every campaign round.

Today I decided to give a very quick tutorial on how to do such a map. This tutorial will of course not cover all the details but it should introduce the main steps. It is divided into several articles.

Before I start, I would really like to emphasis, that I have absolutely no experience with graphics, graphic software or design. People having this skills, will probably notice this directly. This tutorial is only supposed to show how I did it some time ago.

First of all, what you need:
  • vector graphic software. I used the open source software INKSCAPE, advantage here is, it is for free, powerful and platform independent, meaning it runs under Linux, Windows, Mac OS,...
  • 'normal' graphic software. This will only be used for manipulating the background. I used GIMP, which is also an free open source software.
  • some pattern or background pictures. For example: the space background and the planet in my map. But also for the icons (which are not included in the tutorial)
Let us begin with the only non-vector- graphic part, the bitmap part:


I am sure that this part could also be done with inkscape with some more knowledge then I have, but I wanted to use certain effects that I could only do with gimp. The idea is, to have a background (e.g. space) cover this with a transparent colour filter/layer, add the actual map background (e.g. the planet) and put a grid on it.
So what we need is a background picture and some map background.

Ok, not being able to completely reproduce the original map in this tutorial, lets start over again.

Start Gimp and create a new file (File -> New). Let us for this example choose a map in the format of 800x600 px, by choosing 800x600 in the template box. At this point I may warn you, that at the beginning Gimp is very strange to use, but since we are only working a little bit with it , we should survive it.

For this specific example I did choose a space picture as background. So now open your background file (File -> Open), usually your background picture is not of the same size as your map is going to be, thus we have to rescale it. For this choose the Scale Layer command (Layer -> Scale Layer) and add manually the size of the map (in pixel).In our example 800 x 600.
Make sure you deactivate the little chain symbol right to the selected size or otherwise the program will force you to scale the image in a certain ratio.

Now copy the hole image (Select -> Copy). Select your previously created new mapfile and paste the background as a new layer (Select -> Paste As -> New Layer)
(Of course you can just rescale your background image and then work in that file directly, this is absolutely fine)

Now if you activate the layer panel or dialog by hitting CTRL+L (Windows -> Dockable Dialogs -> Layers) you will see the new layer.

You can now give it a new name like backgruund or what ever. Now the idea of this layers is, that we will construct everything else on top of this 'space' or background layer (as I will call it now). You can delete the original white background layer by selecting it and clicking on the trash-can.

Now let us add some layer that will act as an 'colour filter', in the original map this would be the red part, pulling the focus away from the space background to the objects in the foreground.
To this end, choose a base colour you would prefer, e.g. green. Do this by clicking on the Foreground/Background colour selecting icon in the left toolbox (the black and white box connect with an arrow)

and select the preferred colour

Add a new layer (shift+crtl+N or Layer -> New Layer) and choose foreground or background for layer filling type, depending on which of the both colours you changed in the previous step.

Now don't panic, your whole screen should look green, but this is only because the new layer is placed over the background layer and since it is not transparent yet, nothing is shining through.

Now select the new layer in the layer dialog by clicking on it and change its opacity to the preferred value.

You will see the background shining through. If you have managed to get a successful result (sometimes changing the layer colour to something more bright helps) we will continue with the frame for our actual map.

For this we need again some exterior files, you can choose an actual map, some picture or in my case a picture of some planet. There are even very good tutorials on the internet on how to do them on your own like this. But we will restrict ourselves on taking an existing picture. For this you can simply google "planet" and take one of the first pictures you like. For this tutorial I took the finished planet picture from the above tutorial.

Now open this file and as done with the background, copy the picture and paste it into your map as a new layer.  Now this picture comes with a lot of black around the planet but we will not worry about this fact during this tutorial. You could avoid it for example by pasting only a selected area from that planet picture into your map.

Your map should like like this.

Now scale down the new layer (lets call it planet layer) to a size you like. Do this by simply selecting the Scaling Tool from your toolbox and drag the planet layer to the desired size.

and maybe move it a little bit around

Ok, the two last steps for this part of the tutorial is putting a grind on the planet layer as well as some shadow.

First the grid, to make it look more like a real space map. Select the planet layer, and click on Filters -> Render -> Pattern -> Grid. What follows is trying out what looks best, you can always go back with the Undo button an redo it. First you have to select a colour for your grid, lets take e.g. a bright grey. You can do this by clicking on the colour buttons on the bottom of the dialog. Notice that there are 3 (actually 2 independent) so in general all your grid lines do not have to have same colour! Next you can play around with the settings like width, spacing and offset for the horizontal line , vertical line and the intersection. This is basically a matter of taste. I would also suggest to change the alpha value ( the transparency of your grid lines when selecting the color) of the colour when selecting it.

When you found the settings you like most, your map could look like this

(notice, I had to reduce the alpha even more)

So we are nearly finished, last steps are just cosmetics. E.g. we can add a drop shadow by selecting Filter -> Light & Shadow -> Drop Shadow, but this is just a matter of taste. If you do so you will notice that Gimp will automatically create a new layer for the shadow, below the planet layer. For this example I also added a gradient flare (Filters -> Light & Shadow -> Gradient Flare: Classic) and lens flare  (Filters -> Light & Shadow -> Lens Flare) but again this is of course not mandatory.

Just play around with the different filters and test some of them, things like supernova can look pretty cool too. Also adding a frame by hand could look very cool but for the purpose of this tutorial this should be enough.

So we have finished our background and so far not used any vector graphics, these will enter in the second part of the tutorial. Hopefully this weekend.

As always do not hesitate to ask me for further details!

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Blogger Col. Corbane said...

Excellent tutorial mate, can't wait for the next part.

2/12/10 22:35  

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