Trees Layer

Printed Maps: The Farmstead Part 2 – Layer by Layer

The Farmstead map is finished. It took a while but we’re pleased with the result and I learned some new tricks along the way, which is always fun (more on that later). Since I teased the layout of the map in part 1, I thought it might be fun to go through the finished map bit by bit and write about each part like a DVD commentary track. So let’s dive right in at the bottom layer of the map:

Dirt Layer

Dirt Layer
Dirt Layer

At the bottom of the whole thing is the dirt layer. I made, remade and tweaked this layer about a half a dozen times before I was happy enough with it to move on. The biggest challenge with this layer was the tiling of the texture. Because the map is so large, even the biggest texture I had showed up as a neatly-arranged grid. That just wouldn’t do so I started looking for ways to hide it. Eventually, I settled on a technique that I first figured out for the grass layer and it seems to have worked out pretty well.

Grass Layer

Grass Layer
Grass Layer

Speaking of the grass layer… This one gave me the same troubles as the dirt layer with added headache of being visible over most of the map; at least the dirt layer was mostly hidden behind the grass layer. So, how to fix the tiling problem? I tried a few things such as tinkering with edges of the tile a bit; playing with transparency and using two layers of tiles offset from each other to mask the edges. In the end, I found a technique that did a fantastic job of getting rid of the grid pattern entirely.

What I did was to shrink the selection of the tile by about 100px and feathered the selection back outwards by the same amount. That gave me semi-transparent edges that ran into each other. The second part of the trick was to make GIMP automatically rotate the texture brush ever time it was applied. It took a bit of digging and some experimentation to get it right but, the results were worth it (boy do I wish I’d figured that out before I did the tree layer).

As soon as I saw how nicely that worked out, I went back and rebuilt the dirt texture (again) the same way. Between the grass and dirt layers, you can start to see the farm emerging. I made the paths around the area by simply erasing some of the grass to reveal the dirt layer below.

Dirt & Gravel Texture Layers

Dirt Texture Layers
Dirt Texture Layers

As pleased as I was with the results of the dirt layer, I felt there needed to be greater variety in different areas of the map. I applied a semi-transparent texture with some pebbles and twigs to the dirt paths around the farm and a similar gravel texture to the dirt road along the eastern edge of the map. I left the basic dirt as-is for areas where the dirt would be clear of debris such as inside the foundation of the house.

House Foundation Layer

House Foundation Layer
House Foundation Layer

Next up I added the foundation for the farmhouse. This was built purely with tiles from the GMC Art Kit by Raymond Gaustadnes. It looks fantastic and I’m very pleased. The only tweaking needed here was the storm cellar doors; there is no storm cellar door tile so I used a trap door tile and skewed the perspective to create the illusion of doors. Over top of that, I added a set of stairs and, combined with the context of the placement it made for a pretty good illusion.

Barn Layers

Barn Wall Layer
Barn Wall Layer

The barn is built in several layers. First up was the outside wall to which, everything else is anchored. The tiles I used for the barn walls are a bit tricky. There are two tiles for each straight portion and four tiles to make up each corner; and there are a lot of them. I got so caught up in laying all of the tiles that the first time through I didn’t even realize I hadn’t left any gaps for doors, d’oh!

Barn Doors Layers
Barn Doors Layers

After that little blunder was fixed, I went ahead and added some doors. This required a bit of stretching and erasing since these doors were never meant to be for a barn but in the end, they give the right impression I think.

Barn Stalls & Hay Layers
Barn Stalls & Hay Layers

After the doors came the stalls which are made from multiple tiles each similarly to the outer walls. Once those were in place and the spacing finalized, I added some straw to the barn floor. The tiles for the straw were a bit on the grey side so I added some golden tinting over top of the tiles to give it a better look.

Hay Field Layer

Hay Field Layer
Hay Field Layer

I agonized over this feature for over a week. We really wanted to include the edge of a crop field and a hay field seemed like the way to go since we have a variety of hay accessories to go with the farm map. But wow, getting a texture that was suitable was a pain in the neck. Eventually, I just had to make one up from scratch.

The Garden and Stone Wall Layers

Stone Walls & Garden Layers
Stone Walls & Garden Layers

After fighting with the hayfield I gave myself a break with something easy. I cartoonified some vegetable plants, arranged them in rows and called it a garden. I added a small, decorative wall around the garden and since I was doing the wall, I added a larger stone fence between the road and the house. I threw in a couple of gates, and a gap where a wagon or truck might pull in and called it done.

The Irrigation Pond Layer

Irrigation Pond Layer
Irrigation Pond Layer

What’s a farm without a pond? This was a simple addition; there was a tile in the set big enough to make a pond for the farm so that’s what I went with. The only real decision I had to make was whether to use the version with the stone banks or not. I chose to use the stone since I wanted to give the impression that the pond was artificial and that seemed like a good way to do it.

Originally, I had planned to include a windmill / water pump beside the pond but after some discussion we decided to leave that out and just make up a model for it instead.

Animal Enclosure Layers

Animal Enclosure Layers
Animal Enclosure Layers

You can’t have an old fashioned farmstead and not include some small animals! For our purposes, we’ve made space for a chicken coop and a pig pen. These were fairly easy pieces to add; the chicken coop is just a small, pitched roof and the pig pen is simply a single, sloped roof covering a lean-to style enclosure. But you’ve been keeping up with the blog, so you already knew that right?

Some Finishing Touches

Fire Pit Layer
Fire Pit Layer

The last few layers are just some little touches to make the map come to life. First up, I added a fire pit behind the barn. It’s normal practice to burn brush on a farm and it also makes a place for the kids to hang out and roast marshmallows.

Stones Layer
Stones Layer

Next, I added some stones. This was another new trick I learned (out of necessity) in GIMP. The tile kit I used contains many stones but instead of placing each one individually (even with random rotation turned on) it would have taken a while. So instead I learned how to make a brush with multiple images that will lay down a different one each time it’s activated. Combined with the random rotation and random size options this let me lay down all of the stones in short order.

Since a farm would be mostly cleared of stones, I only left a few, mostly larger ones within the fence and pushed most of them out front to where they’d have been removed from both the farm and the road.

Trees Layer
Trees Layer

Lastly, the area around the house needs a windbreak and the map edges need some additional elements for interest so here I added trees. I actually added this layer fairly early on in the process before I found the random rotation and multi-image brush solutions. In other words, each was placed, scaled and rotated by hand. This was an unfun exercise but one that led me to look for and find better ways to do things.

So that’s the finished map. We ran into a minor setback when we tried to print it so action shots will have to wait for another update. Stay tuned to see progress on the terrain elements we’re devising to stand atop this map and in the meantime, here’s a quick sneak peek at our next map, the Lonely Road.

Lonely Road Sneak Peek
Lonely Road Sneak Peek

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