Cheats guide to making simple outline maps in Photoshop

Please note: There are some excellent and very professional cartographers out there producing great maps for games, this article is not designed to create a map to compete with them, it is for someone who wants to quickly put together a simple map that they can use during a RP campaign with minimal struggle.

Producing professional looking campaign maps can be very tricky, takes a lot of practice and time, however, if you’re just looking for a quick map that will enable you to get playing your game quickly then this guide should help you.

This article assumes you have access to Photoshop and basic ability to use it (although the principles should be transferable to other graphic programs like GIMP).

  1. Open a new screen
    Start up your graphics program and open a new image.1
  2. Colour in the water on your map
    Choose a colour to represent the water on you map and then fill the whole screen in that colour (you can switch to the fill option by pressing G on your keyboard in Photoshop). It’s generally best if you go for a mid-range blue colour.2
  3. Download some landmass brushes
    This is where you’ll really save a lot of time, instead of drawing your landmasses by hand or laboriously creating them using the Photoshop freehand tool, look online for a set of brushes that are ready made landmasses.I recommend land brushes by Bonvanello: http://bonvanello.deviantart.com/art/Land-Brushes-307837333

    Download the brush file to your computer, then select the brush tool (or press B in Photoshop).

    Click on the option to change your brush size and then on the small arrow at the side (as shown on the screenshot below).

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    Select load brushes and then navigate to where you saved the landmass brush file.
    If you scroll down the brushes available to you, you should now see the various island shapes available.

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  4. Create a new layer for the land
    You can do this by clicking on the add new layer button in Photoshop.6
  5. On the new layer put down landmasses in a different colour (I’m going to use white), re-sizing and rotating brushes until you’re happy with them7
  6. Making sure you still have your land layer selected, double click to the right of the layer name (as shown in the image below)8
  7. You will see the following menu appear9
  8. Select Outer Glow, this will create an area of colour around your landmasses, you can change the colour to a lighter blue than your sea and mess around with the different settingsThe settings I’ve used are shown below.

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    This creates the area of shallow water around the coasts of your landmasses.

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  9. So there you are a simple map ready for you to sketch on and fill in as your campaign progresses. If you want to give your landmasses a little more definition then you can use the Stroke effect to add an outline and the Inner Glow effect to give them a bit more of a 3D look.12
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    So there you are, using this method it’s possible to create a basic outline map for an RPG in about ten minutes or so (quicker once you’ve had a bit of practice).

     

Call of the Wyld Hunt: One-shot Changeling game

Actual play video of our one-shot Changeling: the Lost game where a group of escapees from Arcadia go to extreme (and sometimes terminal) lengths to reclaim the lives that were stolen from them: