Creating the Illusion of Elevation in Wonderdraft

Last updated on August 20, 2023

When I started working on my map of Stilben for my Settlements of Tal’Dorei project, I decided I wanted to create the illusion of elevation. I wanted lower wards near the coast and a higher and dryer area where the more affluent would reside. A two-tiered city fit the description in the Critical Role Tal’Dorei Campaign Guide and the illustration in Vox Machina Origins.

The problem is that Wonderdraft wasn’t really designed for small scale maps and does not have a feature to show changes in elevation. It does come with cliff symbols, but I wanted to show a more natural slope. I started experimenting with different techniques and eventually created this image.

Creating the illusion of elevation in Wonderdraft.

How to add the illusion of elevation.

The map is obviously still a work in progress, but I was quite happy with how it came out. To create this illusion of elevation, I did the following:

  1. Once the general shape of the landmass was created, I filled it with my base color. For Stilben, a city in a swamp, I chose a sickly yellow-green color, but this will work with any color.
  2. To create the illusion of lower terrain, I increased the opacity of the color to make it darker. I created a line marking the boundary between the upper and lower parts of the city.
  3. With my boundary, or slope, defined, I then filled in the low terrain with the same color.
  4. The next step was to add a new color. I chose a muted green and applied a very light coat to the top tier and a darker coat to the lower tier.
  5. At this point, I could have stopped, but I wanted more definition. I switched to a dark brown and then went over the slope multiple times to make it darker and blend it in.

If time permits, I will make a tutorial video and post it to my channel. Until then, I hope you find this useful.

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MrFarland Written by:

Don Farland lives in central Pennsylvania with his loving wife and Bruno, a quirky, jumpy cat too damn cute for his own good.