Mapping tips on how to draw hills on a map

How to draw hills on a top down map

Today – how to draw simple hills with photoshop or Gimp. This works best for large scale maps, like world maps or regional maps, where you have a lot of terrain to cover.

  1. Lay in the shadows with a large fuzzy brush. In photoshop or the Gimp I’d suggest doing this on a layer with the blend mode set to overlay.
  2. Lay in the highlights with a slightly smaller fuzzy brush. Avoid sharp edges. You want hills to be rolling, and in contrast to the sharp peaks of a mountain range. Again, here I’ve done this on an overlay layer.
  3. Add colour (here I’m a layer with the blend mode set to colour) and leave the hills slightly browner than the flat plains. That helps to differentiate them – and means that even with subtle light and shade they’ll be easy to read at a glance.

A couple of other things to keep in mind:

  • Lay in the rivers first. As rivers drain the water out of hills, they will determine where the hills should go.
  • Less is more when it comes to shadows and highlights here. Your mountains should have the darkest shadows. Make sure that your hill shadows are quite a bit more subtle.

I hope that’s useful, chip in if there’s a particular topic you’d like to see covered!

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