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Thread: Map Making Tutorial using Photoshop

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    United Kingdom

    Default Map Making Tutorial using Photoshop

    Welcome to mapmaking 101 with me, your host, King Kill.

    This tutorial will show you my (foolproof) method of creating great-looking maps in Photoshop that are absolutely suitable for use in MapTool or OpenRPG. I will assume that you have at least passing knowledge of Photoshop but every step of the way will be explained for beginners. You should end up with this:


    Before we start allow me to remind you to SAVE CONSTANTLY and to save every step of the way in Photoshop's own .PSD or .PDD format! There is no frustration like several hours being lost when your PC fudges up.

    First off, start up your Photoshop and create a new image. (File -> New or Ctrl-N) Set the starting image to be only 1 pixel high and wide for each square you intend to have in your dungeon. I generaly find that 100x100 will suffice to start as this can always be altered later.

    Picture 1

    Make a new layer called "Template" (Layer -> New -> Layer or ctrl-shift-N) and select it.

    Zoom right in so that the picture fits the screen and you can see your canvas. Now, select the pencil tool by holding the left-mouse button down on the paintbrush until a menu appears and the pencil is selectable.

    Picture 2

    Select 100% red as your colour and map out the corridors of your dungeon, 1 pixel at a time. Generally a good rule of thumb is to keep corridors 2 squares wide at all times, although this is a matter of taste.

    Picture 3

    Now, switch to 100% blue and do the same for the rooms in your dungeon. You can flick between drawing rooms and corridors until you are content with your layout.

    Picture 4

    Click the eye icon next to the background layer to hide it from view then, in the Template layer, remove all white space from around your rooms with the Magic Wand tool, making sure that Tolerance is set to 0.

    Picture 5

    Making sure that the Template layer is selected, duplicate it (Layer -> Duplicate Layer) and name the new layer "Wall Mask". Click-drag the new layer to make sure it is in between the Background and Template layers. In the layers window select the Template layer and set it's opacity to 30%.

    Picture 6

    Select the Wall Mask layer and fill all the blank space in black using the Paint Bucket tool. Then, selecting each room and piece of corridor at a time, remove the rooms with the Magic Wand tool.

    Picture 7

    Resize the image to exactly 4 times it's current size in all directions (Image -> Image Size or Ctrl+ALt+I) manking VERY SURE to select that the resample be done as "Nearest Neighbour" not Bicubic.

    Picture 8

    select the Template layer and, select the Magic Wand tool. Now, shift-click all the blue rooms then cut them (Edit -> Cut or Ctrl-X). Select your Wall Mask layer and paste these rooms in (Edit -> Paste or ctrl-v), making sure to line them up exactly to where they were on the Template layer. This should create a new layer that we will get rid of when the time comes.

    Picture 9
    Picture 10

    Using the Rectangular Marquee tool hollow out your rooms, leaving 1 pixel on each side and bordering on Corridors. (Select the rectangular area inside each room and simply hit Delete.

    Picture 11

    Make a 4 or 8 pixel-wide gap for each door you wish to include. Make sure that all wall lengths are divisible by 4 and that gaps for doors do not ruin this rule, or they will not line up properly with your grid. This is VERY IMPORTANT.

    You can leave an extra pixel of wall on either side of a double door, if you wish, as it allows you to add doors in MapTool later and be certain that they will line up well with the walls (otherwise you could have gaps between the sides of your closed door and nearby wall - it's realy not important and is only for a slightly better look in a MapTool game).

    If you're having trouble measuring wall length simply draw on this layer with another colour and erase it afterwards.

    If you decide to use the rubber at any point in this process make sure it is turned off of Paintbrush mode and onto Pencil.

    Picture 12

    Go around each room with the Paint Bucket tool, turning each of these blue outlines black.

    Picture 13

    Click on Layer 1 then ctrl-click on Wall Mask to select them both. Right-click and select Merge Layers to tidy up. If Photoshop changes the name to "Layer 1" change it back to "Wall Mask".

    We're going to resize our image again and here's where your memory starts getting eaten up. (Image -> Image Size or Ctrl+Alt+I) and resize it now to 10 times it's current size making sure, once again, that the resample is set to Nearest Neighbour and not Bicubic.

    Picture 14

    Create a new layer (Layer -> New -> Layer or ctrl+alt+N) and name it "Floor A". Drag it and make sure it is between the Background and Wall Mask layers. Now, click the eye icon on all other layers to hide them temporarily. Click-and-drag whatever image you want to use for the corridor floor to Photoshop and it will open in a new document. I'll be using this one:

    Tile A

    Resize this new image to be square (Image -> Image Size or Ctrl+Alt+I), with each side being divisible by 40.

    Picture 15

    Select the whole thing (Select -> All or ctrl+a) and copy it (Edit -> copy or ctrl+c). Close this document without saving and go back to your main map. Paste the tile into the top-left corner of your Floor A layer.

    Picture 16

    Now, repeatedly select all (ctrl+a), copy (ctrl+c), paste (ctrl+v) then right-click the newly made layer and select "Merge Down" over and over, moving the tiles to evenly cover the layer in a uniform pattern until you get this:

    Picture 17

    Click the eye icon to hide this layer away out of sight and repeat the process with a Floor B layer and another tile of your choosing. I'll be using this one:

    Tile B

    Use the Magic Wand too to select all the black areas on the Wall Mask layer. Select the Floor A layer and press delete. Select everything but the red areas in the Template layer with the magic wand, select the Floor B layer and press delete. You should now have your two floor layers shaped only around your hallways and rooms.

    Picture 18

    Now, to recap - you should have the following layers in the following order: Template, Wall Mask, Floor B (Your corridors), Floor A (Your rooms) and your unused Background. You can now delete your Template layer (Right-click on it and select Delete).

    Select your mask layer and hide all others for now. Use the Paint Bucket tool to make the walls of your dungeon a suitable colour, such as drab brown or grey.

    Select your Wall Mask layer and apply the Accentuated Edges filter (Filters -> Brush Strokes -> Accentuated Edges) with the settings at 9, 20, 1 to give your dungeon a nice black border.

    Picture 19

    Apply the Patchwork filter (Filters -> Textures -> Patchwork) to apply the stoney effect to your dungeon with the settings at Square size 4 and relief at between 4 and 8.
    Finally, trim your Dungeon down to size (Image -> Trim) and save it in both .PSD and .jpg formats (save it in .jpg at the highest quality or use .PNG if you prefer.)

    Ta-da! It's nothing spectacular but it'll get you through those cold, lonely nights.

    Wondering why it doesn't look as good as a King Kill original, yet? All that will be covered in my masterclass, coming soon, in which I will cover room lighting and all the little effects you can get Photoshop to do for you to make your work look like a professional map.

    I need to find a place to host my very large finished map (It's about 2 megs and Imageshack has a 1.5meg limit) and I'll definately post a link here ASAP.
    The man of knowledge must be able not only to love his enemies but also to hate his friends. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Daytona Beach, FL
    Blog Entries


    Nice tutorial, I even learned few new tricks from it. I'll look forward to part two and if you need a place to host the large map, I can manage it here, just email the map to me or upload it yourself to the DMs folder on TW.
    Check out my eBook called How to GameMaster Online available on !

    Let the Good Times Roll ! Drop in the Chatroom and say hi.

  3. #3


    Interesting, looks pretty good, but I have to wonder, if you plan on using it in MapTool, why don't you use the stamp tool in MT and create dungeons on the fly with it?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    United Kingdom


    You're left with two choices with MapTool - either have the floor as a layer of tiles and put the walls as a stamp over the top or, my preferred way, make the whole map including floors allowing you to dynamically light each room and make it look prettier.

    If you can't be bothered or simply don't want to render lighting effects in each room then go the first way, simply making your map as I described above but without the floor layers and stamping it over an Unbounded Map of whatever tile you want to use for the floor.

    It is, of course, also an option to make each room seperately and stamp them in individually if you want. This is definately a good option if you haven't got a ton of RAM to make large maps like this all in one go.
    The man of knowledge must be able not only to love his enemies but also to hate his friends. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

  5. #5
    TotemChakra Guest

    Default Re: Map Making Tutorial using Photoshop

    This is truly something great. I shall try using it, seeing I'm learning to use PhotoShop 7.0 and this might give me a few tricks and tips. 83

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    United Kingdom

    Default Re: Map Making Tutorial using Photoshop

    Well, my thanks for the interest. The tutorial does introduce you into some quite obscure Photoshop tools but also, please remember, that I wrote this a year ago and the information within is slowly becoming outdated.

    I'd also like to note that the current build of MapTool can build a much less memory-intensive map that looks almost as good in about 1/3 the time and, in honesty, that is how I make my maps now.

    For someone looking so see the ins-and-outs of Photoshop and make a map along the way this will hopefully be of some use to you , though.

    Hrm... Looking back I remember the fine saturday morning I spent making this tutorial. Thanks for digging it up again - it brings back some fond memories of my new (at the time) campaign.
    The man of knowledge must be able not only to love his enemies but also to hate his friends. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche


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