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Thread: Cloud City (final name TBD!)

  1. #1
    Guild Expert Facebook Connected Caenwyr's Avatar
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    Default Cloud City (final name TBD!)

    Hey all! So I'm currently on a train taking me from Frankfurt, Germany back to Brussels, Belgium. My train is terribly delayed. These past few hours I've seen a few pretty dark sides of humanity that I wont bore you with. Luckily I had my trusty old mapping laptop with me so I went completely wild on a new map. This time I started from a beautiful clunky cloud I had photographed a few months back and has been laying dormant (but not forgotten!) until now.

    The image below is not the original - I tweaked it a bit to make a more secluded bay - but all of the elements come from the same image. There's some rather obvious cloning artefacts but don't worry about those, I'll only be using (i) the layout and (ii) the darkest parts of the image for the bump shading of the ocean floor.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    OK. With this said, I went ahead and drew in the coastlines.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Initially I wanted to go for a mostly handdrawn style, but then I discovered just how delicate and detailed the texture of the ocean (the semi-clouded sky) really was. So! I decided to hand-create the terrain for the landmasses, pulled it through Wilbur and combined it with a greyscale version of the sky image to create a bump map.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    A few tweaks, a little toying with Lighting Effects and some self-made gradients later and this is the current result:
    Click image for larger version. 

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    And now, the real task begins: Now I need to start adding a city! Or several? I'm not even sure in which style I'm gonna do it, or even in which time the place is gonna be based! All of that is for a next update.
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  2. #2
    Guild Journeyer Revock's Avatar
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    That looks awesome.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for showing us the process !

  4. #4
    Guild Expert Facebook Connected Caenwyr's Avatar
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    Okay, here's the next update. I spent a few hours guestimating where the city would have its roots and how it would expand. This is in no way the final version, but rather a quick animation. I also have a version with roads if anyone's interested!

    Click image for larger version. 

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  5. #5
    Community Leader Kellerica's Avatar
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    Damn, this city is going to be massive!

    I'm really impressed with the height map you put together. I've wanted to try my hand at that and Wilbur for ages, but it always seems to go a little too much over my heard... Really impressive, and I love shape of the coastline!
    Last edited by Kellerica; 12-03-2022 at 08:40 AM.
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  6. #6
    Guild Expert Facebook Connected Caenwyr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kellerica View Post
    I'm really impressed with the height map you put together. I've wanted to try my hand at that and Wilbur for ages, but it always seems to go a little too much over my heard...
    Well, I feel exactly the same. Wilbur is beyond me, yet I can't stop fiddling with it. It's like a dance-off with Terpsichore (the Greek Goddess of dance), and me with my two left feet! She completely outclasses me but I can't help but come back for more.

    Anyway, I had another pretty little dance with Wilbur because I felt, as so many cartographers do, that my map just wasn't big enough. So I blew it up by a factor of 2 (in each dimension, so now it's 4 times as large) and Wilburred it a bit more to get rid of the inevitable artefacts. Managed to get some more believable rivers and streams too, the Gods be thanked -- and especially Terpsichore.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    I still have to toy with the colouring scheme a little bit but this terrain is a good start to begin working in the different housing blocks for realzies. But that'll be for a future update!
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  7. #7
    Guild Expert Facebook Connected Caenwyr's Avatar
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    The first houses! Yay! Nowhere near the area covered in stage 1 of that animation above yet, but it should give you an idea of how this piece is gonna look.

    I'm a bit worried that the houses might look higher than the mountains (which obviously isn't what I'm after). What is your opinion on that? I might need to tone down the shading on the houses to make sure they appear substantially less "elevated" than the terrain they're in. I mean, these mountains are at least a few hundred meters tall, especially in the NW, and the houses are closer to a dozen maybe?

    Alternatively, I'm playing with the idea of redoing the bump shading with the houses added (in practice I would add an additional layer set to "add" with a greyscale value equivalent to the buildings' height) thus turning my DEM into a DSM. But boy howdy, is this gonna take a lot of time, especially if I want each of my houses to have a different height value. Then again, not sure if that would be necessary at this scale, except maybe for the "monument" type of buildings. Having all the houses at the same height wouldn't do much harm I think. I'll give it a whir!

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Also, I just realized that this map might be in the wrong sub. Now that my terrain work is done (which is mostly "regional"-style mapping), I should probably move it to Town/City mapping. Should I start a new thread or can it be moved there in its entirety?
    Last edited by Caenwyr; 12-16-2022 at 07:36 AM.
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  8. #8
    Guild Expert Facebook Connected Caenwyr's Avatar
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    Update: incorporating the houses in the bump file is possible... But it's not something for the faint of heart. So many tweaks to do! I had to:

    • reopen the terrain DEM file I created in Wilbur;
    • create a separate layer named "houses" filled with a uniform grey value of #050505 (equivalent to 2%, assuming the houses are roughly 1/50th as high as the highest terrain peak in the image);
    • apply the houses mask to that layer (a simple copy-paste from the other file);
    • set the blending mode for that layer to "Add";
    • then go to channels, copy the blue channel and rename the new channel "BUMP terrain + houses";
    • create another layer called "BUMP houses" filled with a uniform grey value of #7F7F7F (equivalent to 50%);
    • then go [Filter > Render > Lighting Effects] and apply the "BUMP terrain + houses" channel with a height of 10, which would turn the 50% grey layer into a new bump shaded layer.
    • With that done, I set the Blending Mode of the "BUMP houses" layer to overlay;
    • then I added an Gradient Map adjustment layer above the "houses" layer (and below the "BUMP houses" layer), applying my previously employed gradient map;
    • but since this would render the houses in the same colour as the terrain of their elevation, I copied my "orange houses" layer from the other file and pasted it above the "houses" layer.
    • I originally also moved the "roads" layer (with the speckled grey roads) right beneath the "orange houses" layer, but since my entire "land terrain" group had a mask removing the land terrain over the seas and rivers, my bridges became invisible so I ultimately moved the roads layer all the way to the top, masked out the "orange houses" (which was initially not necessary since the "roads" layer was below the "orange houses" layer).


    Yeesh!

    Oh, but I'm not finished. Because with all that done, I discovered that:
    • the houses all appeared flat instead of sporting peaked roofs... so I re-added a faint Bevel & Emboss layer style to the "orange houses" layer (not very elegant but okay);
    • my file had suddenly ballooned to an almost unmanageable size;
    • tiny terrain features like gullies now appeared on the orange roofs. Elevated, but still very much there. Which meant I would have to blur the "BUMP terrain + houses" layer but only in the regions exactly covered by the footprints of the houses. Which would inevitably erase some of the interesting features around the edges. Aaarghh!!


    It was ultimately this last issue that drove me to complete desparation. So I left it off the update below. Here's the result of all of the above steps:

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	2022.12.16 - Cloud City (2).jpg 
Views:	25 
Size:	6.93 MB 
ID:	134851

    In theory it should look better than the version from my previous post, at the very least the relative height difference between buildings and terrain should be closer to the mark... But considering the amount of tweaking involved I think I'll just fake it with layer effects instead from now on out. That would look something like this:

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	2022.12.16 - Cloud City (3).jpg 
Views:	27 
Size:	9.43 MB 
ID:	134852

    So. What do you guys think: which version looks best? And if you prefer the truly bumped version, do you think it's worth all the extra hassle?
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by Caenwyr; 12-16-2022 at 08:59 AM.
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  9. #9
    Guild Journeyer Guild Sponsor Turambar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Caenwyr View Post
    Update: incorporating the houses in the bump file is possible... But it's not something for the faint of heart. So many tweaks to do! I had to:

    • reopen the terrain DEM file I created in Wilbur;
    • create a separate layer named "houses" filled with a uniform grey value of #050505 (equivalent to 2%, assuming the houses are roughly 1/50th as high as the highest terrain peak in the image);
    • apply the houses mask to that layer (a simple copy-paste from the other file);
    • set the blending mode for that layer to "Add";
    • then go to channels, copy the blue channel and rename the new channel "BUMP terrain + houses";
    • create another layer called "BUMP houses" filled with a uniform grey value of #7F7F7F (equivalent to 50%);
    • then go [Filter > Render > Lighting Effects] and apply the "BUMP terrain + houses" channel with a height of 10, which would turn the 50% grey layer into a new bump shaded layer.
    • With that done, I set the Blending Mode of the "BUMP houses" layer to overlay;
    • then I added an Gradient Map adjustment layer above the "houses" layer (and below the "BUMP houses" layer), applying my previously employed gradient map;
    • but since this would render the houses in the same colour as the terrain of their elevation, I copied my "orange houses" layer from the other file and pasted it above the "houses" layer.
    • I originally also moved the "roads" layer (with the speckled grey roads) right beneath the "orange houses" layer, but since my entire "land terrain" group had a mask removing the land terrain over the seas and rivers, my bridges became invisible so I ultimately moved the roads layer all the way to the top, masked out the "orange houses" (which was initially not necessary since the "roads" layer was below the "orange houses" layer).


    Yeesh!

    Oh, but I'm not finished. Because with all that done, I discovered that:
    • the houses all appeared flat instead of sporting peaked roofs... so I re-added a faint Bevel & Emboss layer style to the "orange houses" layer (not very elegant but okay);
    • my file had suddenly ballooned to an almost unmanageable size;
    • tiny terrain features like gullies now appeared on the orange roofs. Elevated, but still very much there. Which meant I would have to blur the "BUMP terrain + houses" layer but only in the regions exactly covered by the footprints of the houses. Which would inevitably erase some of the interesting features around the edges. Aaarghh!!


    It was ultimately this last issue that drove me to complete desparation. So I left it off the update below. Here's the result of all of the above steps:

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	2022.12.16 - Cloud City (2).jpg 
Views:	25 
Size:	6.93 MB 
ID:	134851

    In theory it should look better than the version from my previous post, at the very least the relative height difference between buildings and terrain should be closer to the mark... But considering the amount of tweaking involved I think I'll just fake it with layer effects instead from now on out. That would look something like this:

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	2022.12.16 - Cloud City (3).jpg 
Views:	27 
Size:	9.43 MB 
ID:	134852

    So. What do you guys think: which version looks best? And if you prefer the truly bumped version, do you think it's worth all the extra hassle?
    I hate to say this, given all the effort the "true" bump version took, but I think the easier method actually also looks a lot better in my opinion. Primarily because the roofs are more clean cut and look like they are separate rather than attached to the terrain.

  10. #10
    Professional Artist Tiana's Avatar
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    I like the 'easier' version better too. I like the A/B test though, good to see how both techniques look.

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