It's a bit of a long one today for the lunchtime mapping tip. We're doing mountains.

After I put together a post about drawing hills, I had a request to do the same for mountains. Here's a walk through of my process. For this, you need any piece of software that allows you to use layer blend modes, specifically overlay. I know these appear in Photoshop and Gimp, and I'm pretty certain they're available in others too. It also helps if you have a tablet, but this can be done using a mouse with a low brush opacity to build up the shadows gradually.

I build up mountains in 5 steps over a textured brown background. I find http://cgtextures.com great for good backgrounds, or you can use the one I've attached here (last of the three images attached). I've provided it CC-BY-NC licensed so that you can use it for any non-commercial purpose.

Okay, onto the mapping!

1. Draw the ridge line for your mountains. Mountains form in lines and create ranges spanning long distances, and help to form natural dividing lines for countries. Don't make it too straight. If your hand shakes whilst you're drawing this it's a good thing.
2. Add in the lines for the mountain ridges that come down from the ridge line. These should bunch up near peaks and help the viewer see where the mountain tops are. They spread out as they get further from the ridge where the ground becomes flatter and easier to navigate. This part just takes a little time and practice to get it looking good.
3. Create a new layer and set its blend mode to overlay. Take a large-ish circular brush and either set its opacity to pressure sensitive (if using a tablet) or low opacity (if using a mouse). Now, with the colour set to black or very dark blue block in the shadow on the SE side of the mountains. Always start a stroke at or near the ridge line and draw away from the ridge. That will result in the most overlapping strokes being beside the ridge. This means the darkest regions are beside the ridge, and also you'll get lots of details around the ridge. Now pick a few region on the SW side of the ridge that would be in shade and block those in too. Switch to white, and do the same for highlights on the NW side.
4. Create another layer and once again set it to overlay. Reduce the size of your brush by at least 50% and repeat the process. This time you're looking for the drakest shadows and the brightest highlights to give some detail and definition. Focus on mountain peaks and the top of the ridge line.
5. Create a final layer, and set it's mode to colour. Using a large fuzzy brush, and pure grey, turn the peaks of the mountains grey. Then using the same fuzzy brush, lay in some verdant green around the base. You can also go back to your first overlay layer here and spread the shadows and highlights into the surrounding plains to blend the mountains in with the background.

The biggest leap of faith here is trusting that you can be fairly loose on your overlay layers and it will some out fine. The second image attached provides a quick look at what my overlay layers look like as normal layers on a grey background. You can see that the brush strokes aren't that careful, but when they are combined into the overlay layers, they look just fine.

You can download the .psd of this mountain test here: http://thulaan.com/Downloads/Mountains.psd
I believe this will be of particular interest to +Keith J Davies and +Greg Christopher who were asking about mountains.
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