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How Can I Map Patterns to Grayscale Ranges Automatically?

Feb 14, 2013 10:06 PM

Tags: #layers #grayscale #gradient #terrain #patternfill #heightmap

Scenario: I am using Photoshop to design aerial maps of cities and countries for an RPG that run. Terrain is created by painting a heightmap and then applying textures to various ranges of greyscale like so:

  • Black = Water
  • Dk. Gray = Sand
  • Med Gray = Grass
  • Lt Gray = Scrub
  • White = Rock




Problem: Right now, in order in order to apply the textures to each specific grayscale band, I have to use Select-> Color Range, and manually make a separate Clipping Mask for each individual texture. While this achieves the desired look, it is time-consuming and does not allow me to simply paint on the heightmap layer and see the various textures fade into view the way they might in UnrealEd, Bryce, etc. I can add an Adjustment Layer with a custom Gradient Map over the heightmap to represent the correct colors (like on a relief map), but what I would really like to do is assign Patterns to the various Color Stops.


Failing that, would there be some way to create individual Pattern Fill layers that each show up for only a specified grayscale range? I can manage this for a single texture by using a Selective Color Adjustment Layer, but the problem is that these look at all layers below them instead of the bottom-most one. (If it matters, I'm using CS3 right now, but hope to upgrade within the next month or two.)


Thanks in advance for any insight.

  • Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 14, 2013 11:30 PM   in reply to Larathiel

    The best I can currently think of is a combination of Smart Object instances and Blend If-settings (Blending Options from the Layers Panels fly-put menu).

    This would naturally only update when saving the SO of the »heightmap«, though.




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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 15, 2013 12:22 AM   in reply to Larathiel

    I don’t think one could Clipping Mask Layers to Groups in CS3, so what I showed would probably not work for you.

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 15, 2013 1:03 AM   in reply to Larathiel

    unless newer versions of Photoshop support direct editing of Smart Objects

    No, Smart Objects need to be updated by saving them.


    although I'm not sure if this version can support multiple instances of the same object.

    Files in CS3 can hold multiple instances of a Smart Object.


    1. The patterns do not fade smoothly from one to the other like when I manually create overlapping semi-transparent Clipping Masks from the heightmap.

    One can split the Blend If-handles by alt-click-dragging them.


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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 15, 2013 3:39 AM   in reply to Larathiel

    There might be another option that really offers different drawbacks.

    One could use the CMY-channels in a CMYK file to hold the content of the original RGB-channels and use the Blend If-limitations based on the Black instead of the Gray (Composite) Channel, so that one could paint with black on the lowermost layer. (The topmost Layer could be an Adjustment Layer that hides black.)

    The preview colors would be quite a bit off, but getting the CMY channels over to an RGB-file at the end could be automated.

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 15, 2013 2:15 PM   in reply to Larathiel

    Larathiel wrote:


    Do you see this same behavior when trying to directly use a Smart Object as a Clipping Mask without first putting it inside of a Group?


    Yes, the same happens in CS6 when the transparency of the clipping layer (SO layer in your case) is created by Blend-If.


    I have an alternative for you to try in CS3. For each type of terrain, put a heightmap SO layer with Blend-If condition inside a group layer, and give the group layer a Layer Style Pattern Overlay. All groups have the default Pass Through blending mode (Normal mode should be OK, too) and the SOs have Normal blending mode.





    The Blend-If of the heightmap SO inside the trees group:





    The Pattern Overlay of the trees group:



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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 15, 2013 2:32 PM   in reply to Larathiel

    When the trial is installed and running, go to Help > Updates and bring it up to date. There have been many fixes since the initial v13.0 which is in the trial installer.

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  • Noel Carboni
    23,523 posts
    Dec 23, 2006
    Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 15, 2013 4:20 PM   in reply to conroy

    I always have to wonder, why does Adobe not update the main installer for the product after making updates?  Does anyone really need 13.0.0?



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