Making New House Symbols in CC3+ by Sue Daniel – Part 1

Software required:
Campaign Cartographer 3 Plus (CC3+) with the City Designer 3 (CD3) add-on
A bitmap editor (The GIMP v 2.10 is used in this tutorial, but any editor will suffice)

You can download a zip folder of the three files that comprise the template for this tutorial called
“House Builder (basic)” used in this tutorial from here.

Download part 1 of “Making New Houses in CC3+” in pdf-format.

How CD3 house symbols work

Whenever we paste a house symbol into a map what we are actually pasting is a very flat image that probably looks a lot like this one.

CD3 symbols do not have roof shading. There are no ‘dark sides’ or ‘light sides’ in these flat-packed roof images, yet they appear on the map fully shaded the instant the symbol is pasted in the CC3 environment. So how is this happening?

CC3+ obtains information about the pitch and facing direction for each part of the roof by reading the colour coded message in a second file stored in the same location as the image, but which is never shown in the CC3+ environment. This second file has the same name as the image file, but with a “_map” suffix.

We need to make both types of file for our new house symbol, so to distinguish between them I will call them the image file and the map file respectively.

And here (below) is the symbol House 01 arranged in CC3 to show how the shading changes with the rotation of the building – all calculated by CC3 using the information contained in the map file, and adjusted to take account of the global sun setting and the rotation of the symbol.

Map file basics

The RGB colour palette, which is a universal palette, is the basis on which everything you see on your screen is produced in the three primary colours of light. It allocates 256 separate shades to each of the three components, red, green and blue, on a scale of zero to 255. When all three colours are zero all you see is black on the screen (a total absence of light). 255 red is brilliant red, 255 blue is brilliant blue, 255 green is brilliant green. All three set to 255 make white.

Map files make use of the red and blue parts of the RGB palette to hold information about the pitch (blue), and the direction in which the roof is facing (red) in the original un-rotated symbol. When you are creating the map file for your house later in this tutorial the map file colours will be provided for you in the palette, so all you need to remember about the colour coding system CC3+ uses to interpret map files is this:

Red = the direction the roof is facing (a range of 0 red to 255 red, where 0 is the total absence of red, and 255 is the full presence of red)

Blue = the pitch or steepness of the slope (ranging from Blue = 128 to Blue = 255, where 255 is flat, and 128 is vertical)

When these two colours are combined in varying proportions the visual effect is that of a range of blue, pink and purple tones. To show this more clearly here is the map file for a dome (below) showing how the blue deepens towards the edge as the pitch becomes steeper, and how the red records the direction the slope is facing, even when that slope is very nearly perfectly flat and bright blue at the peak of the dome.

Drawing the image file

Download the House Builder (basic) zip from the link on the title page and unzip it in:


Open CC3 and click File/New. Pick the Cities category with decide settings myself checked. House Builder (basic) should appear at the bottom of the list of templates and have an image similar to the one on the title page of this tutorial. You can make it as large or as small as you wish just as long as it is big enough to accommodate two scale drawings of your new house with a reasonable space around it for working. Default size is fine if you aren’t sure.

1. Make a plan

Make sure you are on the —HOUSE PLAN— sheet and the IMAGE FILE OBJECTS layer. Select the 10’ grid 10 snap, turn on Snap, and start to outline the roof elements of your new house in simple rectangles and polygons. You don’t have to make exactly the same house as me, but to make use of the multiple levels provided in the sheet structure of the template for the purposes of learning how they all work together, you will need to have at least 2 distinct levels to the roof design.

The scale of the drawing is 1 map unit = 1 foot. Try to draw your house plan to scale, since the new symbol will be exactly the same size as your drawing. I have labelled my plan to show my thinking, but you don’t have to do this.

If this looks a bit complicated with all its angled lines, remember the angles are all at 45, which is the angle you get if you join two pieces of roof that are exactly the same pitch at right angles to one another. Use the snap grid to make sure that you move as many snap points horizontally as you do vertically.

2. Block in the roof parts

Turn sheet effects OFF. Choose a texture for your roof from the range available in the template and switch to the IMAGE ROOF – level 1 sheet. Ensure the line width is set to zero, pick either the rectangle tool or the polygon tool from the left hand tool bar and draw the parts of your roof that form the lowest level of your design.

Notice how I have overlapped the awning so that it will disappear under the main roof parts. This is an overlap of just 1’ (1 map unit), and will ensure there is no chance of any unsightly gaps appearing in the final image. You don’t have to do this, but if later you are using roof textures with a jagged edge (as I have done for some of my own symbols) this overlap becomes important, so it’s a good habit to get into.

Next, change the sheet to IMAGE ROOF – level 2, and block in the parts of the roof that are the second level of your plan. Do not be tempted to draw both halves of the roof with the same polygon. Draw each half as a separate polygon or you will not be able to align the fills properly.

Complete the blocking in of the roof parts by switching to IMAGE ROOF – level 3 and drawing at least one of the dormer windows and any other part on that level that isn’t identical to the dormer window you have already drawn. If you have several identical parts in your drawing as there are in the example, you can clone the finished part at the end of the drawing to save some time and effort.

In this screen shot I have hidden the first two roof levels to show clearly the two elements of the third level I drew. All the rest of the dormer windows can be copied from the one once we have finished drawing that one.

3. Align the fills

Turn Snap off and Sheet Effects on. This will give each section a dark glow around the edge and make locating the edges of all the parts of the roof easier to find. Show all the sheets, but hide the —HOUSE PLAN– sheet.

Right click the Polygon tool on the left hand side toolbar, and pick Shaded Polygon (Angle by Edge) from the dropdown menu. Click each of the roof parts at their lowest edge. You should end up with something that looks a bit like this:

While this has aligned the direction of the roof textures, it has also given us unwanted shading within the image file. It looks pretty, but if you turn this into a symbol the roof shading will not respond to changes in symbol rotation or global sun position, and will also look a bit strange if you compound the effect by using a map file with it. To put this right press ESC once and type “EDITSHADING” on your keyboard. The word should appear in the command line at the bottom of the window. Press ENTER, and click one of the newly shaded polygons of the roof. Ignore all but the Shade Only Copy check box in the dialog that appears. Make sure it is checked and click ok.

Do this for all the roof parts.

By now you will have noticed that the roof texture looks a bit dull and dark compared to the original. This is because there is an Adjust Hue/Saturation sheet effect in operation on all the roof sheets to counteract the slight bleaching effect that arises when using a map file with a house symbol. Most of the CD3 house symbols are similarly darkened. This is most obvious if you open the folder containing the Bitmap A Gothic graphics files (not the catalogue but the actual folder) and compare the tone and colour of those buildings with the corresponding Gothic roof texture available in the CD3 roof textures.

Its ok to turn these darkening sheet effects off as long as you bear in mind that the resulting symbol may not match any shaded polygon houses you construct within the map using the same roof texture, or the buildings created by the House command in that texture.

4. Add the roof ridges, chimney pots, and the separation shadows

Hide all the sheets, then reveal the —HOUSE PLAN— sheet and IMAGE RIDGE – level 1, IMAGE RIDGE – level 2, and IMAGE RIDGE – level 3. Make whichever level you want to draw a roof ridge on the active level.

Change the fill to solid and pick a pale colour that will suit as the colour of your roof ridges. Try to make this colour slightly paler than the roof texture is (without the sheet effects on), and also not as brightly coloured as the roof. Instead of choosing pink for my own roof, I have chosen a pale tan colour – colour number 41 in the template palette.

Change the grid to the 1’ grid 4 snap and zoom in far enough that you can see to draw a ridge along the join line between the two halves of the roof in question that is 6” wide (two snaps apart on the current snap grid). Do this for all the ridges on the appropriate level IMAGE RIDGE sheet, remembering that you only have to do the ridge on the one dormer window where you have already drawn the roof. Where you have a ridge that ends in a point on the spine of a dormer window roof, sharpen the end of the ridge to follow the shape of the point. The snap grid should provide convenient points to do this.

Whatever colour you used as the ridge colour, I recommend using colour 43 or something very similar to draw the chimneys. Make CHIMNEY the active sheet, and draw chimney stacks where you think they should be. Mine are about 3’ square in section. I wouldn’t recommend doing them any larger than this unless you have a row of chimneys stuck together. I have one single chimney and one double chimney.

Make the CHIMNEY – pot sheet active, set the line width value to 6”, pick colour 45 or similar, and draw a smaller rectangle one grid click inside the outside edge of the chimney stack.

With all the sheets showing and effects on you should have something like this (below).

Depending on how observant you are you may have noticed that I wasn’t being entirely truthful about there being no shading in the image file. There is, and you can see it in the images at the beginning of the tutorial. There are very slight shadows at the front edge of each dormer window, and over the inner edge of the awning to separate the levels of the roof where there is a significant height difference between the two edges.

Set line width back to zero, pick black as the colour, make ***Separation shadow 1-2 the active sheet, and draw a rectangle of black just inside the extent of the second roof level wherever it overhangs the first roof level, extending it for a couple of clicks of the snap grid beyond the end of that overhang area. When the screen refreshes the effects on that sheet produce the slight shading you can see in the finished image file at the start of the tutorial.

Now focus on the one dormer window you have drawn, switch active sheet to ***Separation shadow 2-3 and draw a black ellipse under the front of the dormer window, like this.

If you haven’t used the ellipse tool before right click the circle tool on the right and pick Ellipse, then click once in the middle of where you want the ellipse to be, then at one of the ends, then at the front edge of the window. If you have been drawing everything using the snap grid the 1’ grid 4 snap should provide convenient points for all these actions.

Now you are ready to copy the dormer window into all its other positions. The best way to do this is to hide the —HOUSE PLAN— sheet, copy all the parts of the dormer window once onto the map beside the house so that you have a copy that isn’t tangled up with anything else, then turn the —HOUSE PLAN— back on again so that you can see where the other dormer windows should be pasted. Copy the new dormer window back onto the house in all the relevant positions. Holding the SHIFT key down and moving the mouse will rotate the paste image.

Once you have done this there is no further purpose for the plan you drew because all its parts have been turned into bits of house. So hide all the other sheets and delete the plan drawing (not the sheet) to make sure it doesn’t accidentally interfere at the rendering stage. You should now have something like this.

Delete the spare dormer window. Set the fill to hollow and make RENDER AREA the active sheet. Draw a rectangle around the outside of the whole house, leaving a 1’ gap at the closest point on each side. Label the house with its intended symbol name, and use the distance tool (from the info menu) to measure the distance along each of the sides. Multiply the distance by 40 and label the sides with the result of this sum.

Part 2 of this tutorial will cover drawing the “_map” file necessary to create the roof shading. Stay tuned!

About the author: Sue Daniel is active as a cartographer and artist both on the ProFantasy community forum and the Cartographer’s Guild. There, she has won 1 Lite Challenge and 3 Main Challenges, and just recently one of the annual Atlas Awards for most creative map in 2017. She has produced many beautiful art assets for CC3+ (such as the “Sue’s Parchments” Annual issue) and mapping in general that are free to use for anyone.

8 Responses to “Making New House Symbols in CC3+ by Sue Daniel – Part 1”

  1. Excellent start! I look forward to the next part. I noticed that this example only dealt with *flat* roof surfaces. Will you be describing how to deal with *curved* roof surfaces as well? If not in this tutorial then another? I liked your Cartographer’s Annual “City Domes” and am interested in creating symbols with curved roofs for straight sections and partial domes (for apses and corners). I would also like to know how to handle towers that are significantly higher than the roof surface below.

  2. Thank you, Dalton 🙂 This tutorial and its second part cover the very basics of generating regular pitched rooftops, though other types of rooftop are all quite possible. This basic tutorial provides the groundwork on which to base further tutorials as required.

    Split level rooftops where the difference in level is very great, such as in the case of a tower that is several storeys taller than its building, are more easily defined using shadow effects between separate sheets within CC3.

  3. Would this require separate image/map files for each level in the symbol definition with sheets forced by the images’ line styles?

  4. I’m not sure I’m following you, Dalton, but lofty towers are far better done as entirely separate shaded symbols and placed on a separate sheet of their own so that they can cast shadows over the lower buildings.

  5. I’m thinking more of the bell towers/steeples of a church which would be an integral part of the structure. One of the symbol options (SYMINFO) is “Convert Line Style names to Sheets” which allows different parts of a symbol to be placed on separate sheets. I’d create two image/map file pairs (one pair for the lower structure and one for the towers) and combine them in one symbol definition. I’m assuming the _map files will remain linked to the main images. One of the problems I foresee is that tower shadows cast on the church’s roof should be shorter than the ones cast on the ground. There is also the problem of overlapping tower/wall shadows on the ground. (There is always the “shadow sheet” kluge you can apply to the *final* version of a map, but I find the inelegant. 😉 )

  6. Wow! I think you are talking about things that are way ahead of my level of understanding there, Dalton. I really can’t say if that would work or not, but I do agree that the shadows might be a problem unless you separated each level with glows instead of shadows – the way that levels are separated in some of the standard PF symbols, but in the actual artwork instead.

  7. Hi Sue! I had a chance to sit down with this and draw a multi-level roof in needed for a DD map I made. Your directions were easy to follow and cleared up a few mistakes I was making when I played around a little with this on my own. I assume in the next part you’ll want us to export the plan to GIMP and do some object fills for the shading map. I could be wrong , but that’s my guess and I’m sticking to it. lol Thanks again for doing this. It has helped me alot.

  8. Thank you, Duane 🙂

    The second part covers how to make the map file in CC3 itself. GIMP is only used to turn the background transparent – the only part of this that isn’t yet possible in CC3.