Shore and Ocean Effects for Overland Maps – Part 1: Edge Striping

The Shore and Ocean Effects for Overland Maps article series covers a range of techniques that can be used to modify the appearance of the open water in an overland map to make it work in greater harmony with the rest of the map.

The example map, the Allaluna-Meloa Isles, was created using the Mike Schley overland style that comes with CC3.  Links to the different versions of this map have been included in this article for you to examine at your leisure.

The Blue Expanse

No matter how good your overland map is there may be one very large part of it that you aren’t really seeing because you are usually looking at the mountains and the rivers, or the forests and the deserts.  But there it is right in front of you – that vast expanse of blue wallpaper – the oceans of your world.

The water in a world map or an island map may take up more than half the available space, so it’s appearance can have a profound effect on your map. The wonderful thing is that if you are making a CC3 map this doesn’t have to be a huge problem requiring hundreds of hours work to put right.  A CC3 mapper won’t have to do much more than add a few extra sheet effects to make the water do its work.

Naming your oceans

Whether you always do it, or if you only bother with it when the mood takes you, the naming of your oceans is far more important than you might think. Imagine what a landmass would look like if you put everything on it bar the mountains, or if you decided you really didn’t like trees that day and left them out of the map.  It would look odd, to say the least, but it would also look far less interesting as a map.

The same is true of oceans.  If you don’t bother to name them the people looking at your maps will only ever see the sea as some inconsequential blue wallpaper that just happens to be the background of your map.

Naming the oceans doesn’t have to take more than a few minutes.  The names don’t have to be magnificent, or ones that have never been seen before, and there’s no rule to say that you have to name more than one or two of them.

Try adding a new TEXT OCEAN sheet just below the BACKGROUND sheet in the Sheets and Effects dialog and adding a Blend Mode sheet effect to it.  Name your oceans on that sheet and adjust the Blend Mode settings until the ocean names become a subtle but noticeable part of the ocean.  Don’t try to emphasis the text on this sheet with shadows and glows.  The idea is that the names are part of the water – legible, but fainter than the land labels.

Adding oceanic features

Most but not all styles contain a small range of symbols that can be used to enhance the appearance of the map by placing things of interest in the open waters.  If, after you have named a few of your oceans there are still some wide open spaces, consider adding a carefully placed feature, like a sea monster or a ship.  Don’t go overboard and add too many.

Other things you can add, and actually need to add, are a compass and a scale bar.  These usually look a lot better if they are set against a backdrop of ocean.

Some styles come with inbuilt navigation lines.  Use them if they are there.

Resolving contrast issues

Here is a half desaturated sample of the example map before anything was done to the oceans and shores.  The only difference between the colour portion and any map that you might draw with the Mike Schley style straight out of the box is that I have tweaked the sheet effects of the land sheets according to my personal taste and duplicated them to allow overlapping land features to blend.  I have also added several colour changing effects where I prefer the colours to be a few shades darker than the default. However, the ocean remains untouched.

The grey portion of this map shows a shocking lack of tonal contrast.  This is usually a warning sign that the visual impact of the original colour image might be low.  Please do not confuse this with the beauty of the design, which is about the shapes and arrangements of your map.  A lack of tonal contrast just means that on a webpage among lots of other similarly beautiful maps yours won’t necessarily be the one that catches the eye, even if it’s right next to the very same map done with higher contrast than your own version.  Contrast is the secret weapon used by many very successful artists, and its not just about what colours you use.  It’s also about this hidden contrast of grey tones.

By adjusting the land fills to make them darker because I like them that way, I have inadvertently wrecked the natural contrast of this beautiful style.  So what do I do about it?

Adjusting the hue, saturation and lightness of a thing

Since I’ve got the land just how I want it, I’m going to change the sea.

Add an Adjust Hue/Saturation sheet effect to the BACKGROUND sheet.  We are going to use this to modify the appearance of the ocean so that there is a better contrast between the land and the sea.


Hue works a bit like an invisible colour clock (right) with a single imaginary hand pointing to the current hue of the texture.  This hand can be moved in either direction by increasing or decreasing the number.  Positive numbers will shift the hue clockwise, and negative numbers will shift the hue anticlockwise.  In the example map I wanted a colder blue, so I have moved the invisible hand 7 points clockwise from cyan towards deep blue, or from about 06.35 to about 06.40 on the colour clock.


Lightness is nice and straightforward, and is usually the second control I adjust, even though it is at the bottom of the box.  Positive numbers make the colour paler and negative numbers make it darker; here by -30 points.  There is a curious side effect of adjusting the Lightness, and that is that it tends to alter the saturation.  This is why I always do the saturation last.


Saturation is about how much grey there is in the colour.  If you look at the strip on the right you will see that one end of it is red and the other is completely grey.  This grey is the grey that the red would appear in a black and white photograph.  So what we have here is a saturation scale with the fully saturated colour on the right and its desaturated grey counterpart on the left.

The Saturation variable of this effect is set so that positive numbers decrease the saturation towards grey, while negative numbers increase it towards red (or whichever colour you are working with).  The saturation of the ocean after I applied the lightness adjustment above was too bright – too blue, so I decreased the glare of the colour (added some grey into it, if you like) by putting 10 in the Saturation box.

Now the ocean is darker the land is already starting to stand out more impressively, so even though the ocean still doesn’t look all that interesting we have made a big improvement to the map just by changing the ocean to make it either markedly lighter or darker than the land.

Edge Striping on the COASTLINE sheet

Edge striping the coast looks like it involves a lot of drawing, but it is as easy as adding a single sheet effect.

Open the Sheets and Effects dialog and select the COASTLINE sheet.  Move it up the list of sheets until it is just above the LAND sheet.  Hide all the other sheets and ok. Using the Change Properties tool change the line width of all the coastline objects to zero.  This will make them fill out with their default colour – blue.  The coastline will no longer be visible when all the sheets are shown, but that doesn’t matter.  We only want it to be there so that we can add the edge striping effect to it while leaving the LAND sheet free to bear its own sheet effects.

If you are one of the mappers who normally deletes the COASTLINE sheet, don’t worry.  Create a new sheet called COASTLINE just above the LAND sheet in the list of sheets, and make a copy of all the land masses on the LAND sheet to the new COASTLINE sheet.  Once you’ve done that, hide all but the new COASTLINE sheet and use change properties to change the fill to a solid colour of your choice.  It doesn’t matter what colour, since these polygons will be entirely hidden by the LAND polygons.

If you are using a different style that doesn’t have a coastline sheet, just add a new one in the same way that I described above.

Now that we all have the same COASTLINE sheet, reopen the Sheets and Effects dialog and add an Edge Striping sheet effect to it.  This won’t do anything to change your map until you have selected an Edge Image Map to use as the pattern for the striping.  Edit the effect and click the three little dots to the right of the Edge Image Map text box then locate an edge striping image to use in your map.  These are located in the @Profantasy\CC3Plus\Filters\Images folder where they should be easy to identify as the images that look like little horizontal strips with several vertical stripes on them.

In the example map I used a modified version of an Edge Image Map created specially for the example map by Remy Monsen.  Both files are available for download on the links below and should be placed in the @Profantasy\CC3Plus\Filters\Images folder before you attempt to use them.

Striping – Blue RM.png
Striping – Double blue SD.png

If none of the edge image maps suit your taste you can make your own Edge Image Map by opening one of the existing ones in a bitmap editor like the GIMP and adjusting it there.  Remember to export it to a new filename so that you don’t accidentally overwrite the original file.

Once you have selected an Edge Image Map file consider the rest of the dialog;

  • The Size option controls the width of the effect from the shore, so in this example the effect extends 35 map units out from the shore.
  • The Blur option controls how blurred the effect is.  Keep this as small as possible.
  • The Effect Units are set to Map Units in this example
  • The striping is placed Outside the polygon.

Remember to click Apply at regular intervals to check the result while you tune the effect to your liking.

LAND sheet effects

What you do with your LAND sheet effects depends very much on what you have already done with the BACKGROUND and COASTLINE sheets.  Since I never assume that anyone has done everything exactly the same way as I did it, these are just general ideas for you to try out.

Try a Bevel sheet effect to make the land look as if it is standing proud of the water.  Be careful to keep this effect as weak as you can while still being able to see it.  Too much bevel looks worse than none at all. These (above) are the effects and settings used in the example map, where the Bevel is followed by an Outer Glow that mimics the missing coastline and visually anchors the edge striping to the land, and a simple white Glow that brightens the inner shore area..

FCW file

I have provided the FCW file of the example used above so that you can examine these effects and tweak them as you wish.  You can copy the effects to your own maps, but remember that you will have to download the edge striping files linked above in the Edge Striping section and put them in the right folder to see the full effects.

Download the example FCW file.

Alternative Glow Effects

Have you ever thought of combining a whole series of glow effects?  In the image below I have used a set of Outer Glow sheet effects to crudely mimic the edge striping effect, which you can see is switched off.  Each new Outer Glow starts at the outer edge of the previous effect, so you can use them to build up a series of glows – in this case, alternative dark and light blue Outer Glows.  The curious side effect of using the Outer Glow this unintended way is that the overall opacity of the set is controlled by the opacity of the final glow, but only as long as the opacities of all the preceding glows is less than 100% but more than 0%.

I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial, and that you are able to use it to enhance your oceans.

Have fun!



One Response to “Shore and Ocean Effects for Overland Maps – Part 1: Edge Striping”

  1. Awesome tutorial Sue, thank you very much for writing it! I learned several things that I intend to start using!