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How to create contour lines to show elevation in a map?

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Firstly, my apologies if this has been asked before but I have searched through the forum using various terms and come up with nothing - possibly because 'contour' has another common meaning in paint.net.


I am creating some land and star maps for a roleplaying game and wish to add contour lines to both types of map - examples of what I am trying to do can be seen here and here . Basically, background contour lines to add a bit of extra character to maps.


I have tried a number of ways to add the contour lines and none of them have worked well. Drawing each line is not only time-consuming but I am finding it very hard to make each line have a similar shape to its neighbour - e.g. if I am trying to draw a series of curved lines next to each other to indicate a slope, each line is so different from those on either side of it that it doesn't look like a series of contours at all.


I have tried using various tools in paint.net to create the desired effect but none have quite worked. E.g. I have rendered clouds, used a Gaussian Blur at 20, posterized at 15, then used Stylize> Outline to generate an image that looks like contour lines. But the lines are understandably random, based off the rendered clouds, and I would prefer a way to create contour lines where I can at least vaguely control their position, size etc.


One option might be to draw an initial line in one layer, create a new layer, copy and past the initial line into the new layer, reposition it and change its shape as appropriate, then create another new layer, copy and paste the second line into that layer, reposition it and change its shape as appropriate, etc, etc and then merge the layers down once I have enough lines. But is there a quicker way?


Can anyone suggest a technique or plug-in(s) that could help with this? I'd be really grateful for any ideas you can give me.









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How about something like this:

Start out drawing your basic shape. I used a paint brush of size 200 and followed up with a large blur:


Then, use Adjustments > Curves:


Hope this gives you ideas.

Pro tip: Look for a Curves+ plugin and use that instead.

(Click the thumbnails for larger images.)

Click to play:
Download: BoltBait's Plugin Pack | CodeLab | and how about a Computer Dominos Game

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Contour - in my pack, no separate thread. Puts lines on things of equal tone value (B + G + R). So, valleys dark, mountains light = contour lines around hills, like a map ... hence the name? :P :lol: ;) :roll: :/

Link for pack in sig.


Red ochre Plugin pack.............. Diabolical Drawings ................Real Paintings



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To add to what Red ochre said, generate some smooth Effects>Render>Clouds. Then run Effects>Artistic>Contour with the gap and contour color set to "solid color." For the other controls, the defaults will work, but you might want to experiment for the best effect,  Follow Contour with Effects>Stylize>Outline, probably with a Thickness of 1, and with an Intensity between 50 and 100. If you want white lines on black, apply Adjustments>Invert Colors. You may want to generate the image at twice the final size, add some slight blur (like 2 pixel Gaussian) to smooth out the lines, then resize to 50%.


There may be better approaches, but that should work.

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Thank you all for responding so quickly, I really appreciate it. Your advice is just what I was looking for.


Red Ochre, that's a great plugin pack, thank you. And apologies for missing it in my previous searches - my only excuse is that I had a two year-old 'helping' me  :)

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