[FT3] Recreating an Existing Map

FT is amazing at creating random maps but I wanted to recreate an existing map and still have the beautiful detail that FT3 puts into the random ones.

It took a while to figure out how to do that so I wrote up the process in a new tutorial.

Note that if you already have a FT3 map and want to add a continent or island, this method will work for that as well.


  • 2 months later
  • THIS is fantastic. I will give a try and will come back to tell how it comes.
  • 3 months later
  • I read the article, and the process still requires that I repaint the landmass, including different altitudes.
    I want to import an image and have that turned into land and features based on color value.

    As I recall, in the old Fractal Terrains there was a way to import an image, which then
    became altitude values.
    Is this just impossible?

  • jslaytonjslayton Moderator, ProFantasy Mapmaker
    Is Image Overlays>>Color to Altitude Conversion what you're looking for?
  • I have tried "Image Overlays>>Color to Altitude Conversion."
    This seems like the right tool, but it isn't working for me.

    As a test, I create a map in FT3 using established color contour values,
    and export as bmp or jpg 3000 pixel horz res.
    I import it as an overlay into a new world.
    I create or load the acf file with same color= altitude info derived
    from the overlay, and press"generate."

    Doesn't give expected results.
    I'm expecting the new map to look like the old, which is same as the overlay.

    I've tried various methods and color:
    -- use standard grey scales, 4 for sea and 9 for land,
    -- use non-grey colors in case grey is the problem,
    -- create custom color sets for altitudes with more "steps" for higher detailed contours, such a 7 steps for the sea and 14 steps for land.
    -- setting each color to "none" "contour" and combinations of these in the color picking/settings box, along with varying numbers for Roughness.
    -- using blended and hard color (no blend) source/overlay maps.

    Some of the above gives no results at all or just giant blotches and/or
    world spanning lines like the old fractal methods; and only 1 or two elevations.

    The best has been loosely recognizable as the overlay, but unusable with
    contours that do not follow the overlap, and great loss of detail.
    The generated map doesn't retain more than (estimate) 10% of original map info.

    I will try more options in the color settings panel, and more colors for the input overlay image.
    If there is another way I'd like to know.
    It is listed as one of the prime features on FT 3 info page.

  • jslaytonjslayton Moderator, ProFantasy Mapmaker
    Have you tried data from a source other than FT? FT doesn't necessarily output a uniform color across a whole area, and the color to altitude tool wants a single physical RGB value.

    Do you have an example of what you're getting vs. what you're expecting?
  • I use no blending or shading in the map used to create the overlap;
    and "Intensity = None" to eliminate any 3D mapping texture color issues.

    It is 4 color for sea and 9 for land; all pure single physical RGB value as far as I know.

    I will also try making something very simple in a paint program and see if that makes any difference,
    and also check in a paint program that colors are "a single physical RGB value."
    Good to try something simple and abstract.

    I'll post some pics by tomorrow showing steps 1-2-3.

  • 7 days later
  • Just a quick update from my particular situation.
    After some considerable trial and error, I was able to come up with a methodology to import an existing paper,
    hand drawn map into FT using the menu item "Image Overlay –> Color to Altitude Versions" process.

    I started to write up a tutorial, but it was getting bigger and bigger, and after several days of working on it,
    I may end up trying to make a video tutorial instead.

    Conceptually, it's fairly straightforward.
    However there are a number of steps and concepts to understand, and it's also good to understand how to save the color code ".acf" files. More about that later

    Here's some information and tips, some of which may be obvious to some users, but maybe not everyone.

    First off, Fractal Terrains 3 assumes you are making an entire spherical globe map.

    While that may not seem important, it means that if you import a section of a map, such as Europe,
    FT is going to assume that the left and right sections wrap around the globe and connect.

    So if you have deep sea on your left, and high mountains on the right, FT will end up trying to blend or
    merge the two together, which means the left and right sides of your maps may have a lot of discrepancy compared to the import or source map.

    Also, the top and bottom of the map will be North and South Poles, which again,
    if you are not coming from a complete globe map, may not be what you are expecting.

    I'm guessing that a lot of people will be bringing in hand-drawn maps, which are not particularly accurate
    "complete globe" representations, so this issue above may explain and help with puzzling initial results.

    Controlling altitude range:
    The easiest way to control, or later edit, the highest and lowest altitudes in the world is to go back
    to the "World Settings" box, which is normally associated with controlling fractal world creation.

    You might be tempted to change altitudes through one of the global math tools, but if all you want to do is
    adjust the highest high, and tallest peak, use the "World Settings" box, and go to the "Primary" tab.
    Besides controlling the circumference or size of the map [world], you can set "Highest Peak" and "Lowest Depth" here.

    I initially ran into problems importing maps, where even though I was careful about color coding,
    used pure un-blended colors, and so on, t... he imported map had only partial resemblance to the
    color overlay or source map, and the new map in FT was at best a very rough.

    I found that by going to the "World Settings" box, and going to the "Editing" tab, I could dramatically
    increase the accuracy of the conversion by changing "Editing Size" to "Custom" and setting the number to something fairly large, like 5000.

    Also, as mentioned in other tutorials, put a check by the "Allow Pre-Scale Offset Editing."

    While the setting uses more memory, the accuracy of the new imported map change from virtually
    unusable to almost a perfect copy. I was also happy to see that FT did a good job of blending the different altitudes.

    Because I was bringing in a map that was smaller than an entire earth sphere, I initially set the circumference
    too much smaller than the normal 25,000 miles. However, [and I need to do a little more testing on this], I found that this led to a lot of problems.
    FT works best with big worlds. My solution was to simply multiply all my skills by 10, so instead of a map of 2000 miles,
    I made it a circumference of 20,000, and that was a good solution and seemed to cure a lot of other peculiar issues I was having.
    I just divide all distances by 10 and that works for me considering the benefits of using FT.

    FT does a good job of interpolating altitude values:
    Initially, since I was using only 9 individual pure colors to define altitudes, I was concerned about a
    stairstep effect or terracing in the imported map. But FT did a very good job of giving me sloping altitudes from one altitude level to the next.

    It was a great place to start, and that concern about stair step import was not an issue.

    If you're importing a map from a scan, color digital photograph, or other source, watch out for compression artifacts,
    such as can happen with low-quality jpg images. If you are going to import a hand-drawn map, such as
    from a game you have been creating, I strongly suggest you use a flatbed scanner and save to some lossless format, like tif or bmp.

    "bmp" files became my default, since FT reads those directly, and so does just about every other paint program.

    Prepare your digital imaging in a paint program:
    The conversion process in FT is straightforward and makes sense once you understand everything,
    but it doesn't magically produce results you would expect if you don't give it the proper information.

    Using some sort of paint program, such as Photoshop, is almost always a necessity.
    You need to get your different altitudes set [mapped or defined] to exactly one precise color.
    You can't have a range of blues or a gradation and expect that to magically come in as altitudes.

    I found that using the various selection tools, including the "Magic Wand" in Photoshop along with a big brush
    to paint individual colors, was very effective and efficient way to take an existing digital color map
    and turn it into something with the colors representing altitudes.

    If you are lucky, your source map for the conversion to FT will already have nice bold, different single colors f
    rom one altitude to the next. However, keep in mind that FT wants very precise single colors.
    A lot of print maps that use dpi to fake the eye into thinking something is one gray or color is (or may) completely fail on conversion.

    My best advice is to use the paint program selection tool to select areas of similar altitude,
    then either use the "paint bucket" or a gigantic digital paint brush to paint that area to absolutely ensure it's one solid, unbroken color.

    Once you get your basic altitudes figured out and painted, you can go in later and start adding details,
    different altitudes, and otherwise touch up and edit the source map so it will import properly into FT.

    Another good trick was using a selected area in a paint program, and applying a big fat blur to it.
    If your source image has painted mountains, rivers, or other features, you might find that blurring everything
    to one color, then painting over it either helps in the selection process, or just gets rid of small, strange artifacts,
    and the new source map for the color conversion will work better.

    They key time saver is to use digital automatic selection tools to select nearly identical areas
    rather than hand re-paint the whole map.

    If you haven't looked at this much, look at the "World Coloring" control box,
    which is on the FT Main menu, just to the right of the "World Settings" box.

    This box also has many tabs, and one of them shows you a long list of possible coloring schemes [title "Select Coloring Scheme"].
    The list includes many different possibilities, including various "Campaign Cartographer" schemes, just a range of grays,
    shades of reds [Martian], a range of only blues, and other combinations, all of which apply to the entire surface of the globe, sea and land.

    You can also choose whether your map is "blended" and/or "shaded," and if you have 3-D shading,
    which is controlled by the "intensity" tab and the "shadows" slider.

    There are several things to learn from this.

    First, you should immediately understand that colors and the 3-D shading/shadow effects are purely for
    you as the user, and mean nothing in themselves. While humans may intuitively expect oceans to be blue
    and shadows indicate 3-D and height, FT's import process makes no such assumptions, and can't tell the dark or black of a shadow from some other feature.

    Second, while 3-D shadows, and blended colors look appealing to the eye, FT needs a very limited range of specifically chosen, pure colors.

    To see what your import map should look like for import, start FT and look at any map.
    Turn off all the "Lighting and Color" Controls," specifically :
    Shadows = none [on the Intensity tab]
    Blended and Shaded [all 4] off for both land and sea on the "Altitude" tab.

    While a map like this is stark, it does have clearly defined boundaries and single colors representing each range of altitudes.
    Zoom into an area and look at the precise color banding.
    You want something like this on your import map.

    Applying coloring schemes to your map:

    Still on the "Lighting in Color" control box, under the tab "Select Coloring Scheme" there are quite
    a number of choices available. You can preview in the box what each one will look like by clicking on the name.

    Before doing that, it might be a good idea to save your current coloring set up using the "Save"
    key near the bottom of this control box, as a custom name, such as "My default colors."

    Just previewing the colors does not actually apply them to the map.
    If you find a color scheme that you like, or just want to see how it looks on the map itself, you need
    to select it, such as selecting "CC22" in the list,
    then press the button at the bottom "Load".
    Then press the "Apply" button.

    Until you do these three steps, a new color scheme will not be applied to your map.
    While this may seem like several steps, it's a pretty good safety feature to keep from accidentally applying some unwanted color scheme.

    I'll add more information here later depending on people's response, or lack thereof.
  • 3 months later
  • Here i find exactly the subject i need, but i don't understand everything. First because I'm french, twice because i'm new in FT
    Well, first of all, i think i can understand that Moe propose an easier way that the tutorial linked on the top of the page. Easier because it would not be (still if i understand well) necessary to redraw the continents and, most of all, because it's possible to import layers for altitude, climats , types of terrains ... Did I understand well ?

    That would be great if you could return in this subject and try to help me to do so.

    I quickly tell about my case. Before knowing FT I've drawn my game world with photoshop. This world is big in two sense. In pixels, it is about 14 000 x 7000 and, in kilometers (thank you FT for the possibility to change miles by kilometers) it's 80 000 (the exact double of earth). For the moment i only use FT for import overlays, changing projections and center, and then export in jpeg, but i would like to have this world redrawn on FT ... and later with CC for parts of the world.
    This world is ok to be imported as a world in FT ... ok with the poles and latitudes and ok with "right and left jonction" except that I can see a small dark line in the jonction, that i can draw off with photoshop when i export images.
    Each type of terrain has , in Photoshop, his own layer (forest, swamps, deserts, steppes, mountains, plains, and of course lands and seas)
    Mountains and seas has several layers for each level of altitudes and deepness. Five for mountains and four for seas if i remember well.

    Well, what would be fantastic for me - and surely the only way to do what i wanna do in less than months i'll need to understand alone - is that you help me to remake my world on FT, steps by steps , first getting the good properties of the world and twice import layers to define lands and seas i imagine, before continuing in adding terrains, climats altitude , deapness of seas and so on

    Of course, Moe, I read what you call the "small update of your situation" but I understood about half ...

    Well, now I just wait and hope for your helps.
  • 2 years later
  • Im making a small map of a town.. problem is now.. i want the town area bigger.. but CC3 wont let me expand the border.. how do i do this???
  • Posted By: jes722Im making a small map of a town.. problem is now.. i want the town area bigger.. but CC3 wont let me expand the border.. how do i do this???
    The easiest method is really to create a new map and copy the the old parts over using the clipboard. Just open two instances of CC3, one with the new larger map and one with the old map. Then use ctrl-c, ctrl-v to copy the old town into the new map. Make sure to hide any sheets parts that you don't want copied over, like the background and border.
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