Worldbuilding #6b – Shallow Water Advanced

WB IconWelcome to another edition of the Worldbuilding series. This is my 10th official article. I don’t consider Fixing a Mistake to be an official article as it only applies to those who have been following along since I first started this, and any new comer, it won’t apply to them.

This article is finish up series 6 of the Map Making phase, showing you advanced techniques for doing Shallow Water. If you did Advanced Beaches, this will come very easy for you.

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Still no fun facts about shallow water that affect world building. Except of course that with shallow water, it is easier to travel by boat along shallow water, as the tends to be calmer, thanks to reefs. Plus, there is a lot of life in shallow water versus the deep ocean.

With Beaches, we had to think of our world in two ways, Ocean and Lakes. With Shallow Water, we must think of our world in two ways, Continents and Islands. Start off, click on Ocean/Beach and create 3 Layers. With the 3 layers, name them in this order:

Island Base


1. Turn off all layers, except: Land Start, Deep Water, World Base, and Continent/SW

Your lakes will appear black, don’t worry about that.

2. Go to Deep Water layer
a. Set Primary colour to 00FFFF
b. Set Transparency to 50
c. With Magic Wand, click on the Land with Shift+Mouse1

This will select all the land including islands

d. Go to layer Continent/SW
e. Press Backspace
f. If continents and islands are still selected, press ESCAPE to deselect (always do this)

3. Effect->Blur->Gaussian Blur
a. Set Width to 175
b. Press OK

Now, due to the contrast of the blues, you will see an effect, though due to the transparency, it will be barely visible. From here, add 25 to Transparency and subtract 15 from Width. It should be as follows:

1. 50T; 175W
2. 75T; 160W
3. 100T; 145W
4. 125T; 130W
5. 150T; 115W
6. 175T; 100W
7. 200T; 85W
8. 225T; 70W
9. 250T; 55W
10. 255T; 40W

Select the land one more time like all the other times from Deep Water layer, then go to Continent/SW and press DELETE.

Now, with Beaches, we wanted Width as close to 0 as possible, since it is the very edge of the coastline that is mostly sand and as we go inland, it becomes less sandy. Shallow water, we want our final result for width between 25 – 50. We want shallow water to be thick… not too thick though.

shallow water continent

While this zoom in looks nice, the whole map looks radiated. It definitely contrasts with the Deep water, in a bad way. We’ll fix at the end of the tutorial.


Like the lakes in the Advanced Beach tutorial, the Islands during this process don’t have enough splash as I call it. Many islands appear without shallow water. That is normal. Now, you can leave it this way if you choose, but I’m going to show you how to do the Islands.

1. Set Primary color to 000000
a. Make Island Base/SW Visible
b. Go to Deep Water, select the Land (Shift+Mouse1)
c. Go to Island Base/SW
d. Press Backspace

Everything is now Black. With magic wand, select your big continents one by one and press DELETE. Then do the same with the medium size and small land masses. It’s your discretion which ones you leave, but mostly you want small islands and large islands. Basically anything from Hawaii up to the size of the UK.

2. Uncheck Island Base
a. Set Primary color to 00FFFF
b. Click on Island Base layer (don’t check it)
c. With magic wand, Shift+Mouse1 click on an island

You will notice now only your islands are selected and not your continents. Neat trick huh?

3. Turn on Island/SW
a. Be sure Island/SW layer is selected in blue
b. Hit Backspace
c. Do Gaussian Blur 200

Same thing as before, +20 on Transparency, -10 on Width. When you get to 200 Transparency, increase by 10, until 250, then by 5.

T: 20; W: 200
T: 40; W: 190
T: 60; W: 180
T: 80; W: 170
T: 100; W: 160
T: 120; W: 150
T: 140; W: 140
T: 160; W: 130
T: 180; W: 120
T: 200; W: 110
T: 210; W: 100
T: 220; W: 90
T: 230; W: 80
T: 240; W: 70
T: 250; W: 60
T: 255; W: 50

Select the land from Deep Water layer, then go to Island/SW and press DELETE.

Not all the Islands have shallow water, but many do. Some Islands have affected the shallow water around them. Compare the picture below with the one I posted earlier.

shallow water continent island

Now to deal with the radiation look to the map.

1. Move Island Base layer all the way to the bottom of the list (with the down arrow)

We may need this again, it is nice to have.

2. Duplicate layer for Continent/SW and Island/SW

3. Merge Continent/SW and Island SW
a. Name this new layer: Shallow Water Advanced
b. Uncheck Continent/SW and Island SW

4. Go to Adjustment->Transparency
a. For fun, set it to +50

Here, you will see how much of the map we have actually affected. With all the transparency of our steps, we don’t notice how much change we’ve made.

b. Our magic number for this step is somewhere between -25 to -50. Your choice.

This takes away some of the brightness of it without taking away the contrast with the other blue. It also becomes more transparent, so whatever Deep Water was, is now part of this layer. You can turn on all your layers now.

Congratulations, you have now created dynamic beach and shallow water. This is something you should really play around with to find what is best for you. Every map will be different, there is no one right way to do it.

Next Tutorial should be deserts. Exciting stuff, because once we have deserts, then we have mountains, and with mountains we have forests, and then rivers. It all falls together like dominoes.

Here is a look at what I have with my map. Please post what you have done, I like to see what others are doing.

Worldbuilding 6b

If you have any questions, concerns, suggestions, or anything else you would like to say, leave it in the post down below.

Advanced Beaches

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