Worldbuilding #4 — Ocean, Continents, Lakes, and Islands

worldbuilding logo2Welcome to another edition of the Madness Worldbuilding series. By this point, we have a basic map. Doesn’t seem like much. While I am excited by the promise it has, I think we need to add a little colour to it.

In this tutorial, we are going to do some steps that are necessary for later steps, which you’ll be glad we did. These elements will help us to clearly define the Oceans, the Continents, Lakes, and Islands.


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It might seem odd that we are going the step of defining what things are. We clearly have islands, lakes, oceans, and continents. You can easily see them. All land is white and all water is black… or is it? Try zooming in on the shoreline of one your continents. Or look at the pic below.


As you can see, there are shades of grey. 20, 30, maybe 50 shades. Who knows. This occurs when we do resizing. Now when we start trying to fill in the lands, there will be an outline of this grey colour, making our maps look poorly done. So, we need to fix these borders so everything is just two colours, before we add any more in.

Now there is a choice to make here, whether you want to have more land or more ocean. The benefit to having more ocean, or turning that gray border into black, is that your land will appear more jagged. The down side will be that your islands get smaller. Some of your islands are already pretty small.

The alternative is to make the land bigger, or making the grey line white. The added benefit is that your land will be bigger, including islands. The downside being that the very edge will be more rounded.

This tutorial will use the latter; making our land bigger.

When you open your map, you should only have 1 layer. If not, click on the top layer and click merge down in the Layers box. Keep doing that until you have only one layer.



1. Click on Properties of this layer and change the name to: DO NOT CHANGE.

As you can tell, this will never change. This is in case we mess up down the line, we can always refer back to this. Many layers it the future will be similar to this, but named: Do Not Delete (or DND).

2. Click duplicate layer button 2 times.
a. The second layer, change name to Define Lake – DND
b. First layer, or top layer, change name to World Base – DND
c. In order from top to bottom:

  1. World Base – DND
  2. Define Lake – DND
We have a slight problem with our current map. Look at some of the lakes. They feed into the ocean. If we color in our ocean, the lakes will be filled in too. Now you can choose them to be part of the ocean, or define them as lakes. In this tutorial, we are going to separate them as lakes from the oceans.

3. Uncheck DO NOT CHANGE and World Base – DND Layer.
a. Make sure that Define Lake – DND is check and selected in blue

If we have another layer selected in blue, even though it is unchecked, all the stuff we do will be for that layer. It doesn’t seem like a big deal now, but later tutorials, it’ll be a big deal and is a pain to fix. So it is good practice to get into now. Double check the layer you want to edit is in blue.

b. Make sure white is set to your primary color
c. Select the Pencil tool
d. Up top, set line width to 2
e. Go to each place the lakes meet the ocean and draw a line to separate it.

See diagram below. You’ll have to do this quite a number of times, so go to each continent and island and move around the shore. Do the same with larger islands.

closing lakes

This is good to do, as you will get a better feel for the land. Hell, you might find a good vacation spot. Now this is not a permanent change, and won’t use this for our final design, it just helps us with the next few steps and possibly some ones in the future. Do not delete this layer ever.

4. Go to World Base – DND
a. Check World Base – DND, uncheck Define Lake – DND
b. Set magic wand to Global (leave everything else default)
c. Select the white land

This will select all land, including island.

d. Change the colour of your Primary Color to F4A460

In the Color dialogue box, you will see a button that says More >>


Click the More button, and you will now see a series of boxes on the right hand side. First 3 are labeled R, G, B. Now you can enter these in if you choose.

R: 244
G: 164
B: 96

Or Hex F4A460 (Sandy Brown)

ColorHarmonies.Effect.PDN Colors RGB input

e. Click on the window (usually the top bar of the program itself will do), then hit BACKSPACE, then ESC
f. Now, zoom in on one of the big islands.

You will see a lot of light grey, dark grey, light black (sounds weird, but yes, that is a color), and white.

g. Set the Tolerance for Magic wand to 20, with it still set to Global.

We set the Tolerance so low because if it is too high, it may select the whole continent rather than what we want it to select.

h. Select the non-black specs and non sandy brown specs.

You won’t be able to select all at once, but when you do select them, hit back space and go onto the next set. Be sure to scan other islands and continents to get them all.

5. Click on Define Lake – DND again

You don’t need to check the box again.

a. Select the magic wand, and set it to contiguous

We want to make sure we only select the ocean and nothing else.

b. Select the black ocean

The black ocean is highlighted while the lakes are not.

c. Check and Select World Base – DND
e. Set Primary Color to 004A7F

There is no official name for this colour

f. Click on the blue bar on the top of the window
g. Hit BACKSPACE, this ESC

This fills in the ocean

If you did this correctly, the black overlaps with the the blue

if you did it right

6. Create a new layer
a. Change name: Lakes – DND
b. Make sure it is the top most layer
c. Click on World Base – DND
d. Click Magic Wand Tool
e. Set to Global

We can leave the Tolerance at 20

f. Click on a black lake

Now all black colors will be selected

g. Go to the Lakes – DND layer
h. Set Primary color to hex: 0094FF
i. Select blue bar
j. Hit BACKSPACE, then hit ESC

Congratulations, if you did it correctly, you should have this below:

Why did we make Lakes a separate layer?

Namely because if we need to edit Lakes later, it is easier to edit them from just the lakes rather than try to capture them from a whole image. If that doesn’t make sense, it will make sense in later lessons. It also helps in case we make a mistake. We want as many layers as we can get starting out.

That does it for this issue of worldbuilding. Next article will be adding dept to our ocean and texture to our land. What you see now will be gone very soon.

If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or concerns; please post them below.


Help Keep This Site Running

This site is a great achievement for me, but due to being unable to work, I may not be able to keep this site running. With your help, I might be able to.

I need $125 by October 30th, 2017. Anything you can give will help.

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