Understanding Map Layers
If you've made it through the various tutorial chapters and your
own drawn maps also look more or less like the ones presented on
the tutorial pages, then congratulations for making it that far!
You've mastered the worst things already and now have reached
the real fun part: applying textures and using map elements! While there's
still a good deal to learn, working with textures and map
elements is more a craft of combining and rearranging things
that already are available - and once you get the knack of it,
I'm sure you'll enjoy it very much. The results will add lots of
details to your maps and they'll truly come alive!
So where do we start? This time I suggest to begin with having a
look at an actually completed map, which I've provided for
downloading. Here it is:
Tutorial Map on Textures
and Layers (1.99 MB)
Unzip the map and open it with Photoshop. Like what you see?
Well, you're about to make such a map yourself - and while it
might be time consuming it isn't as difficult as it looks.
One of the most important things when doing complex maps is to
keep your layers in order. Therefore: Go and explore the
tutorial map a bit. Have a look at the layers of the map, and
click on the various eye icons to the very left of the layer
section to show and hide a layer. You'll notice parts of the map
disappear and reappear - each particular design element has its
Go from the top down at the layers list and hide one after the
other layer. Note that layers are also properly named. All these things are
essential, because the more complicated the map, the more
important it is to know on which layer you have to add or change
something. Otherwise you'll soon get lost. Trust me on that.
Here's a short, basic explanation of the layers, which I've
conventiently included as a screenshot (just ignore the German
texts on top):
Basic Layers: Sea &
The Sea layer on the very bottom of the layers contains the water.
Or more precisely: Water and rough landmasses, treated with an
ocean ripple effect. Hide all the other layers to find out how
this one looks like when it stands on its own. More on that layer further down.
The Landmass layer contains the actually drawn landmasses, isles and
such, but with nothing else on it. Just the plain shapes, only
with a bit of work on the borders, smearing them horizontally
inwards, so that the lines aren't really separators, but become
part of the shape. If you've followed the tutorial so far,
you've learned how to do that in the
You'll find several layers in the layers list (three to be
precise) of the example map with the name Textures on it. Textures are like
tapestries, carpets or tiles you use to decorate your walls or floors in a room.
As far as map making is concerned, textures cover the basic areas defining the
structure of the landmass - whether it's grassy, rocky, sandy etc. A rough
should follow the Landmass layer to give a clear indication of what kind of land
we're dealing with.
Sometimes the basic, say, grass texture is not enough and you need to put up
another texture on top. This is done in the second texture layer, called
Textures, Main. Should there be mountains or hills on
the map, these would be placed on the Mountains, Bottom textures layer.
However, if the shape of these hills is fine, but you need to make sure that
they are grassy, this would be a case for Textures, Top, which
above the Mountains, Bottom layer.
Similar to the Textures layers you also have three Buildings layers. The reason
for this is to be able to place structures in front of each other without
actually joining them on a layer. If you have e.g. a tower at the back of a
village, you'd put the village houses on a Buildings,
Main layer and the tower on a
Buildings layer further down, like Buildings, Bottom. That way the houses appear in front of the tower
and you can always move houses or tower later should you choose to do so - and
the elements won't interfere with each other.
Other Layers: Streets, Trees, Rivers,
Bridges, Mine Entrances, Cliffs etc.
Everything else worth having its own layer should have it. Like trees, or
It just helps tremendously to have everything related to trees or rivers right
at hand when you need to do alterations. The layers in the example map are of
course just suggestions - you can have as many other layers as you like.
Working with Layers
Knowing how to show, hide and rename a layer is a must, and
you've figured these things out already following the past
chapters of this tutorial. Remember: Don't stray from the path
of naming your layers and keep in mind to put elements only at
the layer they belong to!
Zooming In/Out and Moving Around (Ctrl
and +, Ctrl and -, SPACE)
map part in regular size and zoomed in.
You also should know that in order to work on a detailed map you
need to be very close to the action. Therefore:
you need to have a closer look (Ctrl
and +), which is most of the time, as
you need to place textures and element precisely.
Zoom out (Ctrl
and -) again
to view how the result looks in the actual size of the map.
By the way: When you zoom in on a section of the map you might
find it tedious to use the scrollbars to move to another part of
the map. Well, tell you what: Forget those scrollbars! Simply
press the SPACE bar instead and your mouse cursor will change to
a hand symbol. Now you can pull that part of the map towards
you, where you want to work on. - Neat, eh?
Full View (TAB, F)
To get the whole experience of the map on your screen you can
easily get rid of all the toolboxes, layer windows etc. by
simply pressing TAB on your keyboard. And if that is not enough,
press "F" to show the map in full screen mode (and
"F" again to
get back in regular mode). Once in fullscreen mode zoom in and
out to really get a grip on where you're working.
Note: If you're in fullscreen mode you won't see scrollbars
anymore to the right or the bottom of your screen. Make use of
the SPACE bar then (see above, Zooming In/Out and Moving
Selecting a Layer (Move Tool / Ctrl +
Left-Click on Map)
Oftentimes it is necessary to get exactly to a specific layer,
e.g. where a tree was placed. It helps to know the layer's name,
so you can select it from the layers list directly. But this is
not always possible, because whether a texture is on
Layer 1, 2 or 3 you cannot know for sure. Therefore you need to
know how to get to a layer by pointing at something at the map.
One way to do it is to
choose the Move Tool from the toolbox (see screenshot to the
right) and right-click on the map element - you will see a list
of layers in the context menu where the spot you specified is
not empty, and this includes all layers, even those that are
currently covered by the topmost layer. Select the one layer you want, and
there you go!
There's also an alternative, even faster way to do this: You can
move your mouse cursor over the map and left-click
on a spot - the appropriate layer will be selected in your layers list. Combine
this method with zooming in on the map in order not to
accidentally click on an object/texture you don't really want to
and thus end up on a wrong layer.
There's another thing you need to learn by heart that is crucial
to keep your layers in order, and that is how to join layers.
Say you want to add a new layer (e.g. by selecting the following
in the menu: Layer --> New... --> Layer) and want to draw
something on it. By the way: If you know that the layer is only
temporary and eventually won't surivive on its own, you also
don't need to name it properly. As once you're satisfied with
the result of your layer's work you'd like to join it with
another layer where it really belongs, in this case the
layer. To do this, first select the
Trees layer, then
click on the box next to the visibility box of your new layer,
so that a chain symbol appears. The two layers are now linked.
Finally press Ctrl+E, which joins linked layers.
Note that only the Trees layer exists now and that the contents
of both layers have merged. The important thing is that the
layer still is called Trees, which is only the case if you
selected this layer first. So make sure to always do that,
otherwise you'll lose the names of your layers!
Joining layers is something you'll do over and over in the
process of map making. If you e.g. copy and paste some trees,
Photoshop creates a new layer, which you will then have to join
again properly in order to have it all nicely arranged on the
Trees layer. So better get used to that technique.
And that's all for now you need to know about layers - well done, you've learned the basics! Let's move on to the really cool stuff -
making an own textured map!