Modding Guides

Make smooth & pretty maps, quickly

Written by: freelance

This tutorial covers:

-How to use GIMP and TerraPop to make smooth even land quickly.
-A couple of tips for placing trees and other objects.
-Small demonstration of how to test your MP maps in SP.

To start off, you’ll need three things for this tutorial:

-GIMP, downloaded here:
-Pop World Editor, downloaded here:
-Terrapop, downloaded here:
-Optional – A pen tablet. This is what I use for painting land, but it’s not really necessary if you’re good with a mouse.

I recommend that you use a browser with a text to image add-on or function for viewing this tutorial.

To start, open GIMP and create a 128 x 128 image. Fill it with black, then select the Airbrush tool. (If you’re using a tablet, make sure that your pressure sensitivity is on.)

Select a shade of gray close to black and begin painting land. (The closer to white you go, the higher the land will be.) Use the [ and ] keys to adjust brush size as necessary.

Now that you have low-land bases (shared bases in my example), you can start painting in middle ground and then defense hills using a whiter gray.

The land looks good, but it might be a bit rough in some places. There’s an easy fix for this. Go to Filters > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set both Horizontal and Vertical to 0.7. This will smooth out the land a bit. (Higher numbers on the Gaussian Blur will smooth more. Lower will smooth less. I find 0.7 to be a good number, personally.)

This will cause a small problem, though. Your land will have large outlying edges when imported into ALACN’s due to the smoothing. This is also easily fixable, fortunately. Select the Fuzzy Select tool and click in the black ocean of your map.

Then, go to Select > Grow and grow by 1 pixel.

Press D to set your colors to the default settings (Black foreground, White background), then press Ctrl + , to fill the selection with the foreground color: Black. Select the Rectangle Select tool and click outside of the image to deselect everything.

Now your land is smooth, but it also has clean edges. Export the image as a .bmp. (Saving won’t work because GIMP is weird like that from 2.8 onwards.) Keep the bmp image in case you want to edit the land at a later time.

Now, run TerraPop and select your .bmp.

Save it as a levl2xxx, the name format recognized by Populous.

Now, open the levl2xxx in Pop World Editor. Run the World Editor as an admin just to be safe. Look around the map for any problems, and fix them with the land brush set to size 0.

All that’s left at this point is to add objects like trees, Shamans, wildies, Stone Heads, etc. That’s covered in the other stickied tutorials on the PopRe map-making forum, so I won’t cover it here. Quick tip: Shift + New in the Objects panel will duplicate the currently selected object. This is extremely useful for placing trees, wildies, and buildings.

Tips for object placement:

-Place trees on defense hills so that it’s easier to build towers on them.
-If you’re feeling lazy with tree placement, you can use the “Place Tree” effect. This places trees in random groups of three. Note that the trees placed with this effect will not show up in the 3D map viewer on the Matchmaker.
-Make sure that all of your trees, stone heads, and wildies are set to neutral so that they don’t disappear when the map is rotated.
-Keep track of the number of trees that each player has access to so that the map stays balanced.
-Don’t forget to set your header data. Number of players should be however many Shamans are on the map, AI should be set to 122 for all players, and Map Texture, Object Bank, and Available Spells/Buildings should be set to whatever you think works best for the map.

Testing your maps is easy. Just paste the .dat, .hdr, and .ver files of your map into your levels folder, open PopEnhance, and use the Test Level feature with the number of your map as the level number. (Example: If your map is called “levl2005”, then use 5 as the level number.) Test build on every color, make sure no trees are burned by the Reincarnation Site or Stone Heads, test all of your Stone Heads, etc.

And that’s the end of the tutorial. This might seem like a complicated process at first, but it gets easy once you’ve done it a few times.

The map that I created in the tutorial is Test Map #41, Holey Citadel.

Note that I used a shade of gray that was a bit too light to create the base land, so it looks a bit elevated in places where it shouldn’t:

This map was created in under an hour using the techniques in the tutorial: