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Your Conworld in 3D: A Bryce Tutorial

Author: Kemp Sparky

Tools Needed

* Bryce

* Paint Program

* Map


Have you ever gotten the urge to take that nice 2D map you made for your fantasy world and make it 3D? Or maybe you just want your Bryce landscape to follow those mountain ridges and shorelines you crafted so carefully. Maybe you even want to make a landscape from a book, like Tolkien's Middle Earth, or McCaffrey's Pern. Well, then, this is the tutorial for you!


Step 1 - Separating the Ocean from Landmasses

Step 1A: First, open the map in your paint program. I'll be using Aetherius, the Island of the Gods, from my own Conworld of Middangeard.


Step 1B: Select the part of your map that represents the ocean (yes, I realize that can be more easily said than done, depending on your map and your paint program). Turn that part of the map black. You'll also want to get rid of anything you won't need. That means the map key and the reef for this example.


Step1C: Invert your selection and copy. Paste this twice, you should have two layers of the map. Give your map's edges a wide enough berth that nothing will find itself cut short in the next step (and make sure it's square!).


Step 1D: Turn the top layer white copy this layer.

Step 1E: Blur it until you have a nice, gradual grayscale edge around the coastline, and paste the original white layer on top of it. Now, if you imported this into Bryce as a terrain map, you'd have your coasts. But we're after more than that.


Step 2 - Detailing your Terrain Map

Step 2A: Before we go any further, you'll need to decide what resolution you're using. Are you doing this for a bird's eye view 3D map, or a landscape. If you're using it for a landscape, you might want to use gigantic or planetary resolution depending on the square mileage of your map (watch out, these eat memory.) In that case, you might want to consider doing only a small portion of your map. For a 3D map, I like to use massive, but you could go smaller or larger, just depends on how much detail you want out of it. Resize what you've got so far to match the resolution you'll need.

Step 2B: Because mountains are going to be the highest features of the landscape, and water the lowest, we need to turn this base layer grey. Turn it to around 50%.


Step 2C: Now, remember that second landmass layer before the whiteness steps? Bring that back to the top. This is for reference as to where the features of the island are. You could paint over it to make the details, or if you're not that confident painting them yourself, you could open pre-made terrain maps and paste them in.

Step 2D: Now that you've got a few terrain maps and a guideline, begin to paste mountainous shapes over the mountains marked on your map. As you can see in the image below, I used mostly the same terrain map, and didn't take much care in placement–you should take your time! I'm trying to write a tutorial here! Regardless, your map should now look similar to mine at this time.



Step 2E: We've got mountains now, it's time for Bryce! Not quite yet. Remember your rivers and lakes? Well, you're going to need to paint your rivers (on a new layer), so bring your original landmass layer back to the top and paint your rivers and lakes black. Copy the layer with your lakes and rivers on it, and paste it, blur it for a nice Gaussian edge, and save your work. You're done in your paint program for now, but don't worry, we'll be coming back.


Step 3 - Into Bryce

Step 3A: Open a new document, I'd set it to max recommended resolution to begin with, create a new terrain, and a new water plane. Click the “E” that appears beside the selected terrain. Once the terrain editor has loaded, click the “pictures” tab in the editing tools window. Click the word “load” above the first square in the window that appears. Navigate to your recently saved terrain map, and open it. Now click the word “copy” beneath the square that now depicts a thumbnail of your map. Click “paste” under the second square. Under the third square, there is a triangle. Click the triangle and a list of functions appears. Choose one of these, I used “subtract, ” but you may wish to use a different function. Click “Apply” to see a preview of your work. You may wish to play around with the tools found under the elevation tab to improve your terrain. If anything goes wrong you can always go back to the “Pictures” tab and hit “Apply” to start anew. Click the big check mark to go back to the main preview screen. Reposition your terrain if necessary until only the areas you want above water can be seen above the water plane. Change the materials of your terrain and water plane if you want, I used “greenery” for my island, and hit the render button.



Step 3B: Hey, I've been gypped! I've got deserts, and scrubland, and rocky mountains… it's all green! Well, how do we remedy this? Back to the paint program. Put your original landmass layer back on top. Now, paint anything that isn't desert black. That's most of my map. Make the part that IS the desert, white. Save your transparency map as something like “DesertTrans.”


Step 3C: Back to Bryce. Duplicate the terrain (select terrain, Ctrl+D) select the new terrain and click the “M” to open the material editor. Pick a nice, desert material, I used Desert 1. Click on one of the empty circles next to “Transparency” in the material editor (#1). Now click on the triangle in the upper right corner (#2) and select “Blend Transparency.” Now go down to the box that appeared when you clicked the blue button for Transparency, it should be at the bottom of the list of boxes on the right. Click on the “P” on the bottom of the box (#3) and then hit the pink button above it. The pink button takes you to the picture editor. Click the black circle above the picture of the DaVinci guy, it'll ask you if you're sure you want to delete, click “delete.” Now, above the second box, click “Load, ” and navigate to your desert trans map. Click the check and the bottom right corner which takes you back to the material editor. click the check in the material editor to get back to the main preview window. Now you have to move the desert terrain above the base terrain, so you can see it. Click the “A” to get to Object Attributes, and change its position along the “Y” coordinates slightly. I changed mine from 29.70 to 29.72. Now when you render, you'll see the desert patch where you put it. Not exactly my ideal material, but you get the idea. Now do the same for all the other different areas of your map.



Step 4 - Final Touches

You can add a bit of shine to your map by adding buildings, cities, bridges, and extra details to the terrain map. Just have fun with it, and watch it evolve into a cool addition to your rpg, fansite, book, or whatever you want it for!