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How to Create an Old-World Map in Photoshop

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Read Time: 4 min

Ever wondered how it feels like to be a cartographer? Wonder no more! With this tutorial you'll be able to make a unique customizable map quickly. Starting from scratch, you'll make an old-looking map fit for a treasure hunter! Now lets begin. Arghhhh!

Step 1

Open Photoshop, and create a new document. Then making sure your brush's foreground is black and the background is white, create a Cloud Render (Filter > Render > Clouds).

A basic cloud renderA basic cloud renderA basic cloud render

Step 2

Then Posterize the image (Image > Adjustments > Posterize), and choose a level of 2. Congratulations! You've just created your landmass in 2 easy steps. I've also renamed this layer "landmass" for tidiness.

Using postarize to create landmassesUsing postarize to create landmassesUsing postarize to create landmasses

Step 3

Then using the Magic Wand Tool (W), click on a white area and delete it. Make sure that you've unchecked Contiguous in the wand's option and set the Tolerance to 0 so that it will select everything white.

The landmassThe landmassThe landmass

Step 4

Now to create the background. I began by hiding the landmass for an easier view and creating a layer below it. Then I chose the Paint Bucket Tool (K) and filled it with a dark brown. Here I chose #5C4D2B.

Creating the backgroundCreating the backgroundCreating the background

Step 5

Now to add some life into the background. With the Gradient Tool (G) and light brown (#AB9E67), I created a light spot in the canvas. Don't forget to set your Gradient Tool to a Radial Gradient.

A light in the cornerA light in the cornerA light in the corner

Step 6

Now that we are done with the basic background, turn back on the landmass layer. I've also changed the landmass from black to a dark brown (#2A2415). To do so, just Ctrl-click the picture of the layer in the layer palette and fill it (Edit > Fill).

with the landmasswith the landmasswith the landmass

Step 7

Using Photoshop's built-in shapes, I then created a compass in the corner with a grayish brown (#7E735B) in a new layer. To find this shape, choose the Custom Shape Tool (U) and find the compass. If you can't find it try clicking the small arrow on the right of the box and choosing All Elements and Shapes. Don't forget to press Shift when you are drawing it so that it will expand to scale.

Adding a compassAdding a compassAdding a compass

Step 8

Create another new layer above the compass layer. Now make some white stripes across your canvas. To do this use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) and create a long rectangle stretching from the top to the bottom. Then fill it with white (#FFFFFF) (Edit > Fill). Do as many as needed until the end of the canvas. Try to space them as evenly as possible.

White stripesWhite stripesWhite stripes

Step 9

Now distort (Image > Transform > Distort) the stripes into a ray of light. To distort, move the corner "nodes" of the box into something close to a triangle (it should still have 4 points). Then rotate the stripes into the corner. Make sure to bleed it out. Then using a big fat soft round Eraser (E), erase the end of the stripes to make the light fade.

warped stripeswarped stripeswarped stripes

Step 10

Now to blend it in with the picture, change the layer style to Soft Light and the Opacity to around 5%.

Lowering the opacity of the lightLowering the opacity of the lightLowering the opacity of the light

Step 11

Create a layer above the light layer and create another cloud. This time instead of using black and white, use a dark and a light brown.

Create another cloud layerCreate another cloud layerCreate another cloud layer

Step 12

Next set the new cloud layer you've just created to Color Dodge with a 42% Opacity to make some texture and light.

Change the layer settingsChange the layer settingsChange the layer settings

Step 13

Now we'll create the grid. First minimize your map document and create a new document. Make sure that you select transparent for the background (Under Contents, tick Transparent). For this tutorial, I created a big grid with 100x100px, but whatever size you want will work. Now using the Pencil Tool (N) set at 1px, draw a line on the right and bottom side. Then select everything (Ctrl+A) and turn it into a pattern (Edit > Define Pattern).

creating the grid

Step 14

Now with the new pattern you've created, paint a grid on a new layer. To do so, choose the Paint Bucket Tool (K) then for the fill choose Pattern rather than the foreground. Then when you open the dialog box for the pattern, your pattern should be there. Then to make the grid more subtle, change the opacity to 10%.

Place a grid on the documentPlace a grid on the documentPlace a grid on the document

Step 15

We can now add more of an Old-World feel by darkening the corners. To do this, create a new layer then use a big fat black Brush (B) and brush evenly across the corner. Remember to only paint on the opposite side of our ray of light. Then change the opacity of the new layer to somewhere around 80% to make it more subtle. You may choose to stop here to gain this kind of map effect. Or you can follow the next step to intensify the effect.

Create a dark shadow in the cornerCreate a dark shadow in the cornerCreate a dark shadow in the corner

Step 16

Now for the optional final step. Merge all layers (Ctrl+Shift+E) and apply a Grain Filter (Filter > Texture > Grain). Choose Speckle for the type of grain. You may modify the grain's intensity and contract as you wish. Here I chose 35 for the intensity and 68 for the contrast. Congratulations! You have just finished your first map from scratch.

Your finished mapYour finished mapYour finished map

Step 17

Results of the tutorial may vary, and you can alter it to suit your needs or preference. I hope you've found this tutorial useful. Good luck and happy shopping.

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