(NEW) Galactic Mapping with Photoshop Tutorial Series (March 2017)

 

Tutorial Orientation and Starting The Map

ORIENTATION 
Hey gang! In this tutorial series, you will learn some advanced mapping skills for Photoshop and 3D modelling to create a stellar - no, an INTERSTELLAR - sci-fi map. 

This tutorial is aimed at people who wish to learn commercial-grade sci-fi mapping techniques. Rather than running through every single minute of the mapping process - which took the better part of a day - the tutorial demonstrates just the key techniques and skills at each stage of the map-making process. We also discuss the importance of workflow for creating mapping assets (in this case, planets) that can be used for different purposes in game publishing. Thus, this tutorial is not just about the map... but tips it's hat to game publishing more broadly.

Of course, since this is a Photoshop tutorial, you will need access to Photoshop! However, it is possible to apply the techniques shown in this tutorial with open-source products such as GIMP.  But for my workflow, I stick within the Adobe eco$ystem.

IN THIS VIDEO
The tutorial starts with an overview of the map we are creating.   It is a galactic-level map for the High-Space RPG by Patrick Taylor and myself.  

This video then covers:

  • setting up the mapping environment for print-ready output
  • adding and sizing a guide layer
  • using groups to organise your work
  • using photoshop layers to allow individual movement of map items
  • adding shapes (space sectors) 
  • applying special effects to all shapes at once, using group-level 'blending options'

 
Downloads (You can use this as a starting point for your own maps.)
Download: Finished Map
Download: Galactic Background
 

Planet Creation

ORIENTATION 
And now for something completely different! 

In this long (sorry) lesson, we delve into creating 3D models of planets using the specialist tool "Grand Designs".  If you do not need to create planets of your own, then you can skip this tutorial and just move on the the next.

IN THESE VIDEOS
This tutorial is just a little under 20min long. Why so long?  It's because we go through an new software package - called Greand Design bit-by-bit.  It's a lot of detail, but once you understand how it hangs together, you'll be knocking out planets of your own in just seconds. 

Game Design Workflow
But first, we consider WHY you'd want to go to the extra trouble of making 3D planet renders, when you could just use symbol sets.  

If you are creating an entire game product, the it's important that all the little details work together. Planets on the map need to look like planets in the books, or even animations. So starting with 3D planet mapping makes sense, as you can render out your worlds to meet many different artistic demands.

Creating a Collection of Planets
We then explore 'presets' in Grand Design, and load in some prepared planets for the High-Space RPG for SavageWorld. I've added a link to this preset file below. Download it and then add it to THIS folder on your computer:

C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\Grand Designer\Media\Presets

(Assuming you installed steam on your c: drive. If not, change the letter as needed.)

Creating a Living Planet
Next comes a discussion of many of the settings in this very, very feature laden application. Everything - from water to clouds to forests to cities - is tweaked.

Output
Finally, we render out our planet for use on our galactic map. 

BONUS
I've rendered out and trimmed up all of the major planets in the High-Space setting as PNG files for use in your own maps. You can grab them in the links below. Yah!


And here's a sample video render of one of our planets. Yah!

 
 

Tutorial Orientation and Starting The Map

ORIENTATION 
Now it's time for something easy!  Adding planets to your map!

IN THIS VIDEO
Armed with a collection of planets (ideally, ones you made yourself), it's time to populate your galaxy!

This part of our tutorial is super simple and quite short. You will simply INSERT LINKED PNG files of your planets onto your map.