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Make a Map Island in Photoshop

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Make a Map Island in Photoshop

Photoshop tutorial

As Photoshop is one of our most popular training subjects here at New Horizons Ireland, we thought we would put together this tutorial for our students and others to enjoy.

Get your map

First things first, we need our map or aerial photo. I got mine using google earth, this allows you to get different angles rather just the overhead view you get in Google maps. If you don't already have google maps, you can download it for free here. When in Google earth, simply use the search bar to find your location and use the tools to pan around until you get the desired location and angle. I recommend not zooming in too close to the area you want as we a need a margin around the outside to allow us cut out our map. Then either use the Google Earth tools to download a snapshot or simple take a screen grab.

Once we have our image from Google Earth, we can open a new document in Photoshop by hitting Ctrl & N. If you choose 'clipboard' from the preset menu in the new document dialouge box, it will automatically match the dimensions of your copied screen shot. If you saved your map image rather than copied, then just open your saved image in Photoshop.

Cut it out

Once we have our map in Photoshop, we now need to cut the desired area. I recommend a rectangular shape that roughly follows the roofs and roads in your map. I used the Polygonal Marquee which allows you to click on one corner of your building and click again on the next corner to trace a straight line between. If you encounter a curved line, simply use shorter clicks in order to achieve a curve shape. Continue this method all the way around until you have achieved your rough overall rectangle shape. If you ever need need to start over, hit Ctrl & D to deselect and start over with the marquee tool to make a new selection.

Mask out the excess

Once you have your rectangle marked out with the marquee tool, hit the mask button at the bottom of the layers panel which will hide everything except the area you have marqueed.

Add Depth

Now in order to add depth to the map, we want to create a new layer to add our new shape to. To create a new layer below your current layer, hold the Ctrl key and hit the new layer button at the bottom of the layers panel. Holding the Ctrl key ensures the new layer is below. I used the Polygonal Marquee tool again to mark out a shape on he new layer. I then used the eyedropper tool to pick a colour that roughly match the layer above. I then selected Edit > Fill > Foreground colour to fill the marqueed shape with that colour. I also added an inner shadow to add more depth by choosing Layer>Layer Style> Inner shadow. Play with the distance, choke and size of the inner shadow until you get the desired effect.


While we are playing with shadows, we may as well add drop show to the map layer, by clicking on the map layer in the layers panel, then selecting Layer>Layer Style>Drop shadow. Again play with distance, choke and size until you get a suitable shadow.

Background Colour

Now we will add some a gradient colour to the background. To achieve this, click on your bottom layer, hold Ctrl and click the new layer button to create a new layer on the bottom. Once clicked into this new layer, select the gradient tool and choose appropriate foreground and background colour for your gradient. I chose sky blue and white to give a sky effect. Then with the gradient tool in radial mode, click where you would like the white (the sun) to go and drag out a short distance. The distance you drag out and realise the mouse button will determine the size of your sun. So try it several times until you are happy with it.

And that's it. If you're happy with the result go to File>Save For Web and choose your format and size to save your image. I recommend jpeg file format and a width of 900px as this should be sufficient for sharing online. If you would like to be able to come back a edit your image again at a later date, then you need to save a photoshop file by clicking File>Save As, then name your file, choose a folder and save it as a PSD file.

In my image I added labels by using the line tool on a new layer and then used the type tool to add text. I also added Hue/Saturation and Levels adjustment layers above the map layer to adjust the colour and contrast of the map image.

Share Your Images

Feel free to send us your own map images on Twitter @NewHorizonsIRL or Facebook at

View all our Adobe courses here

/ Author: Liam Phelan / Number of views: 3580 / Comments: 0 /

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