How to GIMP

Several topics concerned with making and using maps as a GM

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How to GIMP

Postby GhostEcho » 14 Jul 2010, 18:01

Edited 2014-4-10. No new information, and still no pictures. I still prefer GIMP to Paint.net for in-game maps - Paint.net has a number of auto-options that you have to keep track of, otherwise it will end up smooshing your colors and sometimes boundaries around a bit. I would recommend using Paint.net for basic map creation, if possible: having actual drawing tools gives it a big advantage there.

I noticed sroca's Paint.NET tutorial, and since I use GIMP fairly regularly, I've provided instructions here for that program. This guide is currently text-only and likely to remain so, but GIMP's UI is fairly easy to navigate.

You can download GIMP at http://www.gimp.org

GIMP runs on Windows, Mac, and most Linux distributions. It's actually designed as an open-source alternative to comprehensive image-editing programs such as Photoshop, so finding your way around can be a little more complicated than Paint.net if all you want to do is draw. The Windows and Linux distributions are both slightly more full-featured (last time I checked, which was 2012) than the Macintosh port.

Prologue: Map-making

If you're running a standard game, there are lots of maps available - skip this step. If you're running a known variant game, you can probably find a previous GM who has the map. If you're running a new variant, or just want to have a map that looks exactly the way you want it - you'll have to do this.

You'll need to find a blank (preferably black and white) outline map of the area you want to run your game on. There are several options here, but you'll probably be able to find what you want with a Google (or other search engine) image search.

Your map should be somewhere between 600-1200 pixels wide when you're done with it (unless you're doing a world-scale diplomacy variant, where it will need to be either bigger or much bigger) for good clarity, so look for an image this large or larger. At all costs do not download a map smaller than you want your finished map to be. Images scale down much better than they scale up. When you find a suitable map, right click (Mac laptop: command-click) and save as.

The easiest maps to work with are ones intentionally made for Diplomacy games - even if you need to change some of the territories on the game area, you already have a basic grid to work from. The next easiest are accurate maps, either historical or modern, for the same reason. Next are blank outline maps.

Hardest to work from are fantasy/novel maps, which have far far more detail than you need for a Diplomacy game and are a pain to clean up. Only try to use these if you're insane or truly committed. I have three fantasy projects, none of which have gotten more than halfway through the clean-up stage. If you want to run a fantasy game, or your own abstract map, my personal recommendation would be to draw or trace it out freehand on paper first, scan it, and work on it. Drawing on a computer is another possibility but you need actual talent (in my humble opinion) to make this look as good as a hand-drawn, computer-edited map.

Chapter 1: Editing

If your map doesn't have layers to start, or you need to change the territories, you'll need to do this. Skip this step if your map already matches the variant you want to run. As above, this drawing stage in the editing may be easier done in Paint.net or a similar drawing program, but I've left the instructions here for those of you with only GIMP to work in.

First: Always get rid of the old territory names. As you get experience you'll find out when you want to do this step, but start by always doing it first. You'll add your own later in a new layer.

After that, you'll need to edit the territories.

The hardest part is creating territory boundaries. The easiest way to do this is to use straight lines, like the classic PlayDip map. For a straight line, select the pencil tool and the width of brush you want. Click once for the start of the line, hold shift, and click wherever you want the end of the line to be. You're done.

If you need a curved line (for an ocean boundary or something), it's less intuitive, but still fairly simple. Unlike most drawing programs, GIMP has no curved line tool. I don't know why. Instead, find the path tool. It should be a pen nib on your toolbox window; or you can go to the Tools menu, where the Path tool is the first thing under the sub-menus; or you can hit B. Once you have the tool up, make sure "Design" is selected, and then mark the end points of the boundary. Then drag the line that shows up around until you have the curve you want. Go back to your toolbox, and on the bottom menu hit "stroke path". A dialog box will come up with options: select the width and other options you want and hit "Stroke". You're done.

Now.

If you want to get more complicated, that's really your problem, but here's how I do it in GIMP:

I prefer to use the thinnest possible brush for territory lines. It keeps the map much cleaner (imo) and allows for both a slightly smaller map overall, and more space for units/names on any map. If you do this, you'll have to waste a couple hours cutting any lines you're leaving on your map down to size, as many mapmakers prefer wider boundary lines.

So. Figure out where you're drawing your boundary line.

Now, In GIMP, you'll have several windows open, one of which is a toolbox. Select the paintbrush icon, and find the smallest circle brush (should be 1 pixel). Leaving the default pressure and darkness and all that alone, sketch the basic line of the boundary. You'll get a series of dots along the line, but mostly unconnected. Now select the pencil, and fill in the missing bits adding any zigs and zags you want. This is time-consuming, but will make your map look about 500% better if you do it right.

Chapter 2: Color

This is the easy bit. Select the background (map) layer in the layer box. In your toolbox, select the paint can. Choose the color you want in the paint box dialog, and click on the territory you want to paint. If you've done everything right, that territory, and only that territory, should now be that color.

Once territories start changing hands it will be easiest if you used a colormap (Windows menu -> Colormap). To do this, index your image (Image -> Mode -> Indexed). In the dialog that comes up, you'll want to select a maximum number of colors to index which is equal to, or not much greater than, Black+white+land color+sea color+all country colors. If you write a larger number of colors in that dialog, GIMP will attempt to shade your image for you, which is a pain.

Once your image is indexed, to add a color (and store it for later use), hit the + sign on the colormap window. You can then select it whenever you want it.

You can also use the color picker tool, which - as long as your image is indexed - will always pick up the same color to shade with.

However, many image formats can't be saved in indexed form, meaning you will have to re-index them every time you want to work with them. So, if you can't, or don't want to use a colormap, the colors you use regularly should stay in the color history of the color selection dialog that comes up when you click the color boxes in the toolbox window. To be on the safe side, though, note down the HTML notation for all your country and units colors - it will save you trying to recreate That Exact Shade of Orange.

Chapter 3: Names

In GIMP, select the text tool. It's a big letter A in your toolbox, Text on your Tools menu, or hit T on the keyboard to bring it up. Click the area you want to write on, write what you want to write in the dialog box, and hit close. This will create a new layer with the text in it. Use your arrow keys to adjust the location to exactly where you want it.

Tips: You'll find you prefer some font and style or other. I tend to use Arial Bold, in a size to suit the map.
You'll have to decide how much of the province names you want to write out. I almost always stick to the three-letter abbreviations.
If you need to move a province's name after you've gone on: select the layer in the layers window. You can then move it around with mouse or arrow keys.

When you've made all your names, you'll have as many text layers as you have provinces. Right click and hit merge down, starting from the top, to reduce this to one layer. Do not merge the text layer into the background (map) layer. If you find you need to move a name later, you can select the area containing the name in your merged names layer.

If at any point in all this, you messed up, hit ctrl-Z (command-Z on the Mac). If you need to change a province name after you've merged the text layer: make sure you have the text layer selected in the layer box. On your image, select the name that needs changing, go to the Edit menu, and hit Cut. Now recreate that name with a new text layer and merge down.

Chapter 4: Units

When I make a map, I often just use boxes to indicate units in imitation of the classic block pieces. If you want to get fancier than this, the easiest way to do it is to PM one or more of the DVFG GMs and ask for their units sets.

If you have something else in mind, though, you can do it like this:

Find whatever unit indicator you wanted to use, and save the image file to your computer. Note what size it is. If you need to make it smaller or larger to fit your map, resize it first (as with the maps themselves, things size down better than they size up).

In GIMP, create new (File -> New), and set the new image to the size of your unit. Now, open the Advanced Options tab, and under Fill With, select "Transparency". Carefully select the unit in its original file, copy it over, and erase anything extraneous. Save this file.

In your map, create a new layer. In the layers windows, right-click on the list of layers and select "New Layer".

Now go back to your saved file of your unit image, select it (Edit->Select All, or ctrl-A), and copy (Edit->Copy, or ctrl-C). Now go to your map, make sure you're new layer is selected, and paste (Edit -> Paste, or ctrl-P). Drag the unit to wherever you need it. You may have to "anchor" the pasted image - either right-click on it and hit anchor; go to the layer box (where the pasted image will be displayed as its own layer) and right-click, select "anchor layer"; or there will be a little anchor icon in the bottom right which you can hit to anchor it.

Repeat as many times as you need so you have all the units on the map.

After a movement or build phase, go to your units layer, select and cut the units which moved. Then open your unit icon image that you saved, and copy and paste in the units you need in their new positions.

Notes:
It's easiest if you color the unit icon for each country before you copy and paste that country's units.
If you have more than one kind of unit, it's best to keep a separate image file for each kind of unit. Or you can make your image file bigger, keep all the icons you use "on one piece of paper" as it were, and select as needed.
Many GMs have a file with several different unit sets, some of them pre-colored.
Some GMs recommend keeping a retreat layer on your map as well as the standard unit layer, so that you can put dislodged units "under" the victorious ones.

Chapter 5: Finishing Up - Extra Notes

I always save the map for myself in GIMP's native .xcf image format, because this will store all the information - layers, colormap, etc - and some web formats won't.
When saving your map for the internet, you have several options, but none handle normal layers well. As a result, you'll have to flatten your image (or use the animation option for a .gif). Make sure to use save as when you save for the internet, and to save your base image separately, otherwise your original image may lose its layers, and that gets ugly.
Last edited by GhostEcho on 10 Apr 2014, 23:44, edited 1 time in total.
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"I'm not panicking, I'm watching you panic. It's more entertaining." - Elli Quinn
"[Diplomacy:] No dice or chance. Just calculated insincerity." - Counter Trap
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Re: How to GIMP

Postby unfunfunt » 14 Jul 2010, 18:27

Thanks, this is great. I'd just like to point out that a better way to retain the same colour from session to session is with the "colour picker tool", which looks like an eyedropper. Click on the colour you want to duplicate, and this will put the colour in your current colour field so that you can you use it.
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Re: How to GIMP

Postby GhostEcho » 14 Jul 2010, 20:01

Ah, I forgot about that one, but you're quite right. I almost always use a color map so I had to pull up the program to figure out what else to do, and just wrote down the first thing I found.
"When you absolutely don't know what to do any more, then it's time to panic." - Johann van der Wiel
"I'm not panicking, I'm watching you panic. It's more entertaining." - Elli Quinn
"[Diplomacy:] No dice or chance. Just calculated insincerity." - Counter Trap
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Re: How to GIMP

Postby TheCraw » 14 Jul 2010, 21:47

Chapter 6: Or, just use Adobe Photoshop. :D
Last edited by TheCraw on 15 Jul 2010, 18:56, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How to GIMP

Postby an49 » 14 Jul 2010, 21:52

TheCraw wrote:Chapter 6: Or, just use Adobie Photoshop. :D


LOOL yup but gimp and Paint are free
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Re: How to GIMP

Postby unfunfunt » 15 Jul 2010, 11:39

TheCraw wrote:Chapter 6: Or, just use Adobie Photoshop. :D


Chapter 7: Or, just spell adobe right.
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Re: How to GIMP

Postby TheCraw » 15 Jul 2010, 18:57

unfunfunt wrote:Chapter 7: Or, just spell adobe right.

Chapter 8: or just go back and fix it. :evil:
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Re: How to GIMP

Postby iShine » 21 Jul 2010, 00:56

awesome job, ghost. We should get this stickied.
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Re: How to GIMP

Postby Ceebs » 21 Jul 2010, 04:17

I enjoyed using this tutorial. Big ups to its creator, GhostEcho. I'm now ready to GM my first forum game, The Great Lakes--that is, if it gets enough interest from players around here...
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Re: How to GIMP

Postby iShine » 23 Jul 2010, 20:40

Ghost, PM sroca to get this stickied.
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