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Natural/Outdoor Shapes/Objects/etc...

Started by markem, February 22, 2011, 04:50:55 PM

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Is there anyone who has (or is) making naturally occurring shapes such as hills, mountains, rivers, etc...  I create maps for D&D and other games and I use Visio a lot but the shapes I have found and use (like I bought Campaign Cartograher 3, City Designer 3, Dungeon Designer 3, and a lot more) do not give me the uniqueness I need.  I'm looking at creating some macros to do the job (and have been reading many sites and books on VBA) but before I go off and develop my own software - I'm checking to see 1)If there are easy ways to do this already known, 2)Any macros that might already be around, and 3)Any software already available.

Thanks in advance for any help you can give.  :-)



its heresy but sketchup....I by far prefer visio to sketchup...unfortunately, there are certain things Visio just cant do.

Download free version....learn the tool (not trivia...definitely a different UI mindset)....make your shapes....export in a variety of formats....insert in visio.
(there are lots of things sketchup cant do that visio does real well).

Its tailored for that specific problem

markem  But thanks for the suggestion.   :)  I've tried Google Sketch-up and it would be the wrong tool for the job.  Visio is the right tool (or even if I just wrote a program in FreeBasic, C/C++, and so forth) but Visio has VBA built in to it and I could use VBA to write a program (or programs) to do this.  I was wondering if anyone has ever done this before with Visio and if so - where are they?  This isn't for super realistic items.  If you go to and look at what all they have in their map gallery you can see the types of objects I'm dealing with.  I imported a lot of these images into Visio but there are thousands of them.  CC3 doesn't allow you to program it but Visio does.  (One of the truly unique things about Visio actually.)  So what I am looking at is probably just sitting down and writing a set of routines that will generate unique (ie: random) images for me each time I either click on a map or maybe define the area and then do a best fit algorithm to fit the items into the defined area.  (Think forests, hills, and mountains.)  I've done maps in the past for several people and the only problem I've ever had with Visio is that when you get hundreds of small images all on a map then Visio (2003 version here) redraws itself several times before it is updated.  (Don't know why that happens - it just does.)

So like I said - I'm asking if anyone has ever done anything like this in the past and maybe has a set of routines to sell/use.  If not I guess I will have to sit down and see about programming something.   :)

Thanks again! :)


suffice it to say that I was incredibly restrained on my views of sketchup!!! ;)

I only got dragged into sketchup because the HW guys love to do photo "realistic" of platforms under development
poked at it.....given the stability problems and odd UI....was not impressed (can tell it was not really thought thru).

Sorry to digress!!!


So, are you inserting drawings into Visio, and then, somehow randomizing them, or are you taking Visio shapes that you've created, and then randomizing them?

To get an idea of the latter, all done in the shapesheet, check out these posts:

Indexed Shapes: More Wacky Hand-drawn-looking Visio Shapes
Audio Speakers: the wacky version

The first post references a work done by VisioGuy about randomizing shapes.

Visio 2019 Pro


Hey WapperDude!  :-)  Thanks Vojo for clearing that up.  :-)

WapperDude: There is a great example on one of the hundreds of pages I have been to - to look at the VBA code used to create things.  The nearest one to what I want to do is the one that creates a grid from scratch doing the line draws.  What I want to do is to create an image from scratch but to create a river by drawing a line (like if you use the ball point pen) and making the line grow or shrink upon command (like maybe a dialog that I can increase or decrease the width of the line I'm drawing (ie: the river - so it can get bigger as I move towards the sea).  It would also be nice to be able to create lakes here and there but just being able to draw a river easily would be nice.  The images at that I've bought via CC3 et al are nice but I'm thinking of a modified sine curve (or maybe I should say bell curve) to generate unique images rather than rotating images.

However!  I most definitely will check out the indexed shapes and audio speakers stuff.  It might fill my need.  :-)


Here is a sample of what I am dealing with presently.  :-)  Note that the river looks chunky.


And here is a tavern I created.  Both of these are in Visio rather than Campaign Cartographer 3 simply because I can use Visio better than I can CC3.  :-)


Ok.  I have figured out how to draw rivers.  You use the ball point pen.  Set up some styles (I called them River_0.5, _1.0, etc... to represent how wide the stretch of river was going to be).  Because I allowed my hand to wiggle a bit (by using the mouse instead of a drawing tablet) I got the necessary natural look. ;D

Thanks for the suggestions.  Even though I haven't used them - they got me to thinking along different tracks.  I can now do it by hand and will see about writing macros to help me do this later.  Thanks again! :)


Ok!  There is an easy way to make shadows under things without having to do a lot of work for it.  For all of the tables in the tavern scene I took the original image of the table and chairs, copy/pasted it and then went into Format->Pictures.  Change the brightness to zero and transparency depending upon your needs.  Change the order of the two images, slip the shadow under the original image, adjust for where the light is coming from, and you are done.  A good idea is to have two images that are the same only have one that is really low quality for the shadow.  You can make this in PhotoShop and then import it into Visio.

Why use the original image?  If the original image already has transparent areas (like the table and chairs are already transparent in the gaps between the chairs), then the shadow will look exactly like the original image.  Visio has distortion capabilities as well as the ability to simply adjust some basic things.  But most importantly - if you create the mask it retains those transparent areas.  So the shadow actually looks as though it came from the original image.  That's how I got all of those tables to look like they have shadows and the shadows look like they actually came from the table and chairs.  Enjoy!  :-)


I thought about it for a while and thought I would bring this up.  You say you use Google Sketch.  Let me recommend POV-Ray and Moray.  POV-Ray (The Persistent of Vision Raytracer) is free and is just as good as Pixar's Renderman and many other such programs.  Find and dowload Moray.  Moray used to be a program written and kept up by a guy in Germany until he decided he couldn't do it anymore.  It is an excellent 3D program and, although not quite as easy to use as Sketch, you can use it to create very realistic looking images and animations.  Not only that, but POV-Ray comes with a very impressive set of pre-defined textures ranging from marble, wood, glass, and even yellow snow.  If you are trying to make realistic images in Visio - it is THE place/program to go to to get pre-made materials.  Just boot up Moray, make a flat plate, and then tell Moray to let you put a texture onto the plate.  A great interface comes up so you can see what the texture will be like.  Be ware though - it does have a fairly steep learning curve for first time users.  I've used them for years and there are still things I'm trying to figure out.  However, with that said - you only need to learn a few things to get some stunning results out of Moray/POV-Ray.  Both are open source and so you can always download and play around with the code as well.

Later!  ;D

PS: I don't seem to have mentioned it above, but Moray works with POV-Ray.  So you have to download/install both of them.  POV-Ray first, then Moray.



Well, although what I came up with works - it still doesn't look as realistic as I'd like for it to be.  I've been playing around with various line patterns, line endings, and I just can't seem to get what I would like.  The best that I can do is to make three different patterns.  An opening pattern (like an arrow head), a line pattern (like a slice out of a river), and an ending pattern (like the first pattern but starting at the size of the middle pattern).  This gives a somewhat nice layout but there isn't any way to take a long line (created via the pen tool and then doing a Convert to Geometry on it) and have lumps in the line so it looks as though the river changes size.  Growing larger, then smaller, then larger again and so forth.  Ideas are welcome if you have any.  :-)


I was a work the other day and we were hosting some training.  At lunch I went in to have lunch with our customers and got to see their logo.  It was fairly simple and I was told someone who used to work at Disney corporation had created it.  Then I was a bit appalled.  "Surely," I thought to myself, "Someone who had worked at such a distinguished art institute as the Disney Corporation would have done something a bit fancier!"  So I sat down and designed them a new logo which they liked quite a bit.  I'm attaching it.  Here is my reasoning behind why I did what I did:

The logo is a grey diamond shape with Mercury/Hermes racing across it.  His figure is almost completely black.  This is because Mercury ran so fast he was just a blur.  So instead of having an easily seen figure, the figure here is almost solid black.  In his hand is his Caduceus.  Mercury's Caduceus glowed like the sun because it contained most of this power.  So it is a golden color and shines brightly.  The thin lines represent Mercury's speed.  His shadow rests on the diamond itself and makes the logo look 3D.  My thoughts on the image is that what I saw, in my head, was a wall plaque with the figure of Mercury done in wrought iron.  Which is black.  His Caduceus is made out of brass and the figure is held off of the grey diamond by some kind of a rod that you can't see.  Thus, when the sun shines onto the figure - it casts the shadow onto the grey diamond and it would look just like the logo.

Let me know what you think.  :-)

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