I’ve posted articles about topographic maps before on my blog, namely my contour map effect Illustrator tutorial and my free pack of topographic map patterns. My first tutorial used Illustrator‘s Blend tool to draw a series of concentric lines. It worked pretty well, but I went on to develop a technique that would help create more detailed and repeatable patterns, which I used to create that freebie pack. I never explained those new techniques in a tutorial, so that’s the topic for today! Follow this how-to guide to learn how to create a detailed topographic map effect, then convert the design into a seamless pattern.

Seamless Topographic Map Pattern

The effect we’ll be creating in this tutorial is a realistic topographic map. My original tutorial involved manually drawing the outlines, but this new technique generates much more complex designs with ease. I’ll also show how you can customise the effect to create a range of map styles, and convert the design into a seamless repeating pattern for use as backgrounds in your outdoors themed designs.

This tutorial begins with Photoshop, then switches over to Illustrator a little later. Create a new Photoshop document at around 1000x1000px.

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  1. I had two problems.
    1. When pasting into Illustrator and tracing as per your screenshot, no paths were made. Solution was to use Grayscale and reduce the threshhold bar to halfway.
    2. Also, “hit the Crop button from the Pathfinder window to trim the pattern to size” did not work. Solution was to make a clipping mask of the pattern with the square.
    Love the guide though, as usual :)

    • I found that selecting my pattern completely and expanding it, using the marquee with just a stroke and 0 fill, Ctrl + A, Pathfinder -> Crop. Worked like a charm

  2. Amazing tutorial – you always take the techniques one step beyond and then another step beyond. Thanks!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing your skills.. These kind of tutorials makes beginners to professionals..

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