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The Ultimate Beginners Terrain Tutorial

Level 8
May 27, 2007

By HermanTheGibbon


Main Structure:

Water Features:
Still Water
Thermal Pools/Springs
Flowing Rivers


Hello all :thumbs_up:

Welcome to THE ULTIMATE BEGINNERS TERRAIN TUTORIAL. I decided to write this tutorial because there aren’t really many terrain tutorials out there (not compared to the amount there are for triggering and stuff anyway). In this tutorial we will cover as many basics of creating natural terrain for your WC3 maps as I can possibly imagine. We will look at every element involved in the terrain process, and we will work through everything as clearly and systematically as possible. I know what it is like to be a frustrated beginner searching desperately for those elusive tutorials which give information I can understand. I will include as many hints, tips and general goodness as I can think of to help you along the way and hopefully create an extensive and thorough tutorial. If I don’t go into something in as much detail as you think it deserves, please let me know. There is a lot of info in this tutorial, and it is always growing in size, and therefore it’s not a good idea to try and get through it all in one go, so I suggest you do it bit by bit, and follow it through with your world editor open, practicing the techniques we will look at as we go along.


Please leave feedback as I would love to hear what you guys think of this tutorial. Let me know if it helped you out or not by leaving me a comment here! Please PM me if there is anything you would like to see covered in this tutorial as I am still compiling a huge list of things to cover in further updates!


Creating a New Map: Before we can start our terrain, we need to make a new map. To do this, simply go to File --> New Map on the top toolbar. You will now see a few options to choose before your new map is created and ready for you to work on.


TIP: Whenever you create a new map, always set the "Initial Water Level" to shallow water and when you click OK, start by raising the terrain by 1 over the whole map so it looks as it would if you had left "Initial Water Level" on none, we will see why later!

The Tileset: A tileset is a collection of tiles which will be available for you to use when making your terrain, tiles are the textures you put on terrain to make it look like grass, stone and so on, e.g. Dirt and Cobble Path. You can change the tiles available in your tileset by going Advanced --> Modify Tileset on the top toolbar, although we don’t need to at the minute, and this is what you will get:




In this section we will be looking at the basic structure of terrain. We will look at how to shape your landscape with important features such as hills, lakes, paths and so on. All these features are crucial aspects of a landscape and give your terrain shape and character. Before we start, you should familiarise yourself with the Terrain Palette. Open it by going Window --> Palette --> Terrain on the top toolbar, or pressing t on your keyboard.


Palettes: The palettes, like the Terrain Palette, are separate windows, like the toolbox on other applications, and have a collection of buttons and options which allow you to quickly add something specific to your map. The Unit Palette and Doodad Palette allow you to quickly find and place an object that you want into your map, by providing an easy to use collection of all the available objects, sorted into categories. You should get used to the Doodad Palette as well because it will also play a big part later in your terraining. The Region Palette and Camera Palette allow you to create, edit or remove regions and cameras, which you will only really use in triggering, they often have no use to terrain making.



Hills and the various things we can make with them are the biggest and most important structural part of any landscape. They make it into something interesting to look at, and make it realistic. The three most critical mistakes you can make when structuring your landscape is to leave it flat, use the noise tool or use blizzard cliffs. So, to make our hills we are going to be using the Raise, Lower and Smooth tools (you should have already had a little go with these so you know where to find them and what each one does.) We will look at four things in this part of Section I, they include hills, valleys, cliffs and mountains, and you will learn how to make each with a very simple yet effective method, which we shall call the step method.

The Step Method: The step method is an accurate, precise way of creating hills. It involves forming a hill in layers. You start at the top, creating the highest point or ridge your hill will have, then work downwards, raising the terrain immediately next to your previous layer until it sits just a little below it, creating a slope.



A natural elevation of the earth's surface, smaller than a mountain.

Hills are the foundations of any terrain, and as such the knowledge of being able to make them is vital. They add interest, beauty, height variation and so on to any terrain. They are absolutely crucial for the great majority of maps, so without being able to build them well, you probably won't be able to terrain well at all.


To create our first hills, we are going to use the step method. This involves working in steps, by first forming the tallest part of the hill, then going down steadily until we reach the lowest part, so forming the hill in layers or steps.

So, we will use a mid-size brush, maybe 2 or 3, I recommend 2 for now, and create a ridge or point where we want the tallest point of our hill to be. From then on we will move gradually down the hill raising the terrain up until it is just a little lower than the previous step until we reach flat ground again. Be sure to use the gridlines to help you form your hills accurately.


TIP: Try and avoid making your hills too flat and smooth, because in general hills in the real world aren’t perfect. You can do this just by altering ever so slightly the amount by which you raise the terrain at a certain point in a specific layer of your hill, i.e. raise it one more click or one less click than all the other bits of that layer.

To make a steeper hill, we will need to start either from the bottom, most gentle part of the slope, and work up, or we can start from midway up the hill, and then work outwards in both directions, i.e. up and down. This is because there is a limit as to how tall you can make a single point stand above all the ground around it. For example, with a brush size of two, I can raise the terrain 12 times on a single point, i.e. 12 clicks of the mouse at a single point on the grid, but that is as far as I can go unless I raise some of the ground around it first.

Height Limit: There is a limit as to how far you can raise a single point on the terrain above all its adjacent points. So to make a specific point very tall, you may need to raise the terrain around it aswell before you are able to.


Therefore we will not be able to start a steep hill by creating a tall ‘highest point’ and working downwards as we did before, it is not possible. This is something which it is important to understand now, because you are undoubtedly going to want to make some much bigger hills in the future. So make sure you know how to make a steeper hill before you move on.


Start becoming familiar with the step method by first creating some very basic hills. They should be small so you can focus on achieving a nice slope, don’t worry about shape to begin with. Afterwards, you can move on and try some of the following exercises:

1. Build a hill from the ground up. Rather than creating your tallest layer first, you will need to work up from a smallest layer, which will be initial ground level.
2. Try some bigger brush sizes and get used to how they work with the raise tool, and try building some smooth hills using a large brush size.
3. Try forming a hill around a tallest point rather than layer, so you are creating a nice curved hill. You will have to think about where you need to raise the terrain to form your next layer more carefully, as you will have points in the same layer which could be diagonal from one another rather than directly next to.



Elongated lowland between ranges of mountains, hills, or other uplands, often having a river or stream running along the bottom.
–American Heritage Dictionary

A valley is the next step up from the basic hill, and is basically just two hills, or slopes, facing one another, with a flat strip of land running between them. They are interesting and can add great atmosphere to your map. Tall, looming valleys make for a foreboding and dark atmosphere, yet small, wide valleys can just add charm to a countryside terrain.


To create our valley, we will simply create another hill similar to the one we already have, placing it opposite and facing our existing one. We will be again using the step method to create our second hill, but we need to be sure to leave a small strip of flat land running between our two hills. This can be as narrow or wide as you like, just think about the atmosphere you want it to have, e.g. a narrow passage for an eerie feeling.


TIP: Aim to make both the hills which make your valley the same, or roughly the same, in height and gradient (sloping at roughly the same rate). Slight difference is OK, and probably even favourable, but it looks odd to have a valley made up of one tall, steep hill, and another small, gentle hill.

The valley we just created is a little small, which is fine, but in some cases we may want to create large, looming valleys. So, we will now make the hills which create our valley a little taller and steeper. To do this, we are going to need to raise the other sides of the hills as well, due to the issue I discussed earlier regarding steep hills and height limit.


To make the sides of our valley steep, when we are creating them using the step method, we simply create a very tall ‘highest point’ and leave a large gap between the amount we raise each layer by. For example, to make my small hills, I raised the highest layer to a height 12 (12 clicks with the mouse), the next layer by 7 (7 clicks), then 3 and then finally, I raised the last layer by 1 to get a nice gentle feel. Notice how I start with a larger gap of between the tallest to layers, there is a difference in height of 5, between the tallest layer (height of 12), and the next layer (height of 7). However, as I descend down the hill the difference between height in the next to layers gets smaller, i.e. 4 clicks between 7 and 3, then 2 clicks between 3 and 1, and then finally just 1 click between 1 and initial ground level. So, to make a looming valley, I may choose to raise the highest point to 30, then go down raising each layer maybe 8 or 10 clicks less than the previous until I get close to the ground, and then I would make a more gentle slope for the last little bit, as with a regular hill.


We have only looked at a very short, basic valley here. When you are familiar with creating a basic structure like this, move onto some more complex valley shapes. Also experiment with adding a little variety to the two sides of your valley, to find out where the line is between good looking variation, and bad looking variation. You can try a few of the following exercises to help you improve your valleys:

1. Vary the height of the valley the further it goes. You could try making it tall and looming in the centre, but short and spacious at the entrance.
2. Make the mouth/entrance of your valley more interesting to look at. You could try curving it outwards, making it look jagged and rocky, and so on.
3. Try making a valley which follows a curved path rather than a simple, straight one.



A high, steep face of rock.

A cliff is basically a hill which slopes up in one direction, but then faces a vertical drop down a rocky face when it gets to its highest point. They provide interesting vantage points, and potential for height variation, and different planes for units to walk on if you block them off with pathing blockers (i.e. units can't walk up the rock face).


To create our cliff, we are once again going to create our basic hill shape with the step method, starting with our highest point. However, we are going to instead lower the terrain on one side of the hill after we have created a slope leading up to it. We will lower only a very thin strip using a brush size of 1 or 2 along the bottom edge of the cliff face, doing so in a random manner, so the highest point of our hill starts to look jagged and rocky as it bends down to obey the laws of height limit we looked at earlier. Imagine you are creating you are creating a normal hill, and this will be your next layer, but you are instead using the lower tool, and only altering the height very slightly. You may want to lower the terrain a little further away from the base of the cliff aswell to get a nice smooth slope down towards it, so you aren't left with a big, jagged ditch.


Now we have started to form our cliff face, the ridge along the top looks too jagged and sharp. We can remedy this by raising the layer directly behind the original tallest layer a little, so that in effect we get a new highest layer. We only need to raise our cliff a little bit here, just to round it off slightly, but again doing so in a random manner to make it look rocky. Once you have done this you will need to go back to the sloping hill part leading up to your cliff and raise it some more if you want a nice gentle slope, because creating your cliff face this way will have distorted and probably stretched it, making it more like the wall of the valley we looked at earlier.


Also notice here that I have curved off the cliff in a concave (inside of a bowl) shape using the step method to decrease its height once again, you can also make straight, convex (outside of a bowl), or randomly curving cliffs, whichever you like. Again, you should practice as many different ways and techniques as you can.


1. Try making some more interesting ends to your cliff. I rounded mine of with concave, (inside of a bowl) curved ends, but you could also try convex curves (outside of a bowl), straight slopes, or randomly curving cliffs.
2. Try adding some imperfections to the face of your cliffs just by raising the terrain a little. These can be turned into rocky outcrops or ledges later on.
3. Build a cliff on top of another, in layers. be sure to leave a small strip of flat ground between the two rock faces so you can make the second one tall, and also to use as a path.



A natural elevation of the earth's surface rising more or less abruptly to a summit, and attaining an altitude greater than that of a hill.

Mountains occur when the plates in the Earth's crust collide and force one another upwards, thus creating a mountain or mountain range. This means there is no such thing as a smooth, neat mountain because of the rather violent way in which they are born. Therefore mountains are by far the easiest peice of terrain in this section to create, as they rely on being uneven and jagged to look good. They add awesome amounts of history and lore potential to RPG maps, and not least look pretty darn "WHOOT" in any map.


To create our mountain, we will use a brush size of either 5 or 8. To begin our mountain, we just need to raise a lump out of the ground, making it as tall as we like, or as tall as the World Editor will let us. To start with we only need to create a basic shape, more like a spike than a mountain to begin with, so only raise your terrain in the area where the summit of your mountain will be. Generally, you shouldn't be moving your brush around, just keeping it on one point and clicking until you reach the height you want. If you can't get it as tall as you want at this stage because of height limit, leave it alone for now and go back to it after you expand it outwards, which we will look at next.

The only reason we are not using the step method here is because it would take ridiculously long, and mountains don’t need to be nicely accurate and even like the other structures we have seen so far. This doesn’t mean you should stop using the step method for everything else though!


Now we have the basic outline for our mountain, we can go back and add some more height around the edges to make it look more like a mountain. To do this, we are simply going to raise the ground around the circumference (outside edge of a circle) of the mountain’s base in a random manner, by clicking, holding and then dragging the raise tool back and forth around the base of the mountain to get an uneven effect, making the mountain look as though it has lots of large outcrops and so on. The key to this is to keep your mouse moving at all times, and keep your movements restricted to a thin strip around the base of your mountain, i.e. don't expand it too far outwards.


TIP: You can make the summit of your moutain a little pointy to make it look more realistic, by using a much smaller brush size, and just raising the terrain a little further right on the tip of the moutain until it becomes slightly pointy.

And there we have our mountain. If we wanted to make the summit of our mountain even higher, and weren't able to before, now would be the time to do it. This is exactly the same principle as the height limit rule we looked at earlier, but on a much bigger scale.


1. Try making more than one mountain, and joining them together by raising the ground a little between them, creating a mountain range.
2. Try adding small cliffs onto the side of your mountains, these will make very nice ledges which you can later put all kinds of cool stuff on.



So now you know how to form hills, valleys, cliffs and mountains. You should practice making each of these things, and cover your landscape with them. Try and maintain a nice balance of the four different formations, although you should only have a couple of mountains at the most in general, try to balance the number of hills, valleys and cliffs without one outnumbering the others. If you can’t quite grasp one of the techniques, go back and quickly read over the section again, then take a closer look at the screenshots to get a better idea. The key thing is practice. I know it’s cliché but it really is the best way to get better, not only with terrain, but all aspects of map making.

Here is a quick list of things to think about when you start structuring your landscape. Hopefully they will get you to think technically about the layout of your map, so keep them in mind as you work on your terrain:

1. Where will you place paths and roads later on? Leave spaces for your paths to run through the most scenic routes.
2. Where would you like to place some nice doodads later on? Can you add a little outcrop onto a hill to post a watchtower or a windmill on later?
3. What kind of history does your landscape have? Have your hills been witness to huge battles, leaving craters from catapult fire and deformations in the land?
4. Can you merge two features into one? Could you make a valley with cliffs at its mouth instead of just hills, or maybe connect two mountains with a valley?
5. How much space have you got to fill on your map? Limit the height of your landscape, especially mountains, if you only have a small space to work in, it will make it cramped.



In this section we will soon see why you always set ‘Initial Water Level’ to ‘Shallow Water’ like I told you to do at the beginning of the tutorial, and the answer is, to make smooth shores and river banks, much nicer than Blizzard cliff ones. Before we start, we need to do a little something by clicking Advanced at the toolbar at the top of the screen, then scroll down to Enforce Water Height Limits and turn it off (click it until there is no tick next to it). Now this is done, we can create our pools. Water features are important to our terrain because they provide a pleasant change from our hills and valleys. They give the player something to look at when they are just travelling around your map.



Flat or level section of a stream where no flow or motion of the current is discernible and the water is still
–American Heritage Dictionary

Water is found in nearly all environments, and so should be a feature of nearly all maps to give them realism. Still pools can be used in any context, from boggy swamps, to quaint countryside lakes, and serve mainly as a focal point for certain areas of your map. They give the player something to look at an uneventful stage of your map, or if they are travelling for long distances in an RPG map.


To create our areas of still water, providing we had an initial cliff level of shallow water, and have turned off enforce water height limits, all we need to do is lower the terrain. So, using a largish brush size, we need to find a suitably sized area of flat land to make our pool on. It is important that you only do this on flat land, where you haven't raised the terrain previously at all, I will explain why later. Now all we need to do, is lower the terrain steadily and evenly across the shape we want our pool to be, until we see water emerging from beneath the ground. We start lowering the terrain where we want the centre of our pool, and work outwards gently until we have our desired shape.

TIP: You may find it helpful to mark out the size and shape you want your pool to be with a bold tile before you start lowering the terrain. This will serve as a template so you can make sure you are lowering the terrain nice and evenly across your pool.


You will notice that using the lower tool on its own gives a very jagged looking edge to our pool, so we will now smooth it out using the smooth tool. Select the smooth tool with a smallish brush size, and the click and hold while you drag the tool around the edges of your pool until it looks nice and smooth. You may need to stop dragging, and click repeatedly over a particularly jagged area to smooth it out nicely. Try and get the slope down to the water as gentle as possible to give a nice, natural look.

TIP: Smoothing the banks of a pool or river will often make the area of the water get smaller. So when you are first creating your water feature, try making it a little bigger than you want the finished product to be. This simply allows plenty of space for the smooth tool to work properly.


TIP: The more we lower our terrain, the deeper the water will become. If you want shallow water, which units can walk through, lower the terrain only a little, so you can still see the ground under the water's surface.

And now you know how to create a pool, you can create rivers using exactly the same method; just lower your terrain in the shape of a long, meandering river instead. You can experiment with a lot of different shapes and sizes for your pool, and you should try and avoid the simple, boring circular shape like my example if possible.

Now here is a high quality Paint job which tries to illustrate the fact that you cannot create water using this method on raised terrain. It is infact a relatively simple concept, and you should be able to figure it out on your own with no problems, but anyway:



1. Try making a pool which starts shallow at the shores, and gets deeper towards the middle, until it is too deep for units to walk in. Make the transition from shallow to deep as smooth as you can.
2. Create some pools next to some of the terrain features you tried earlier. You could try adding one to the base of a cliff and so on.
3. Try combining water features, build a river which runs into a pool, then build another river running out of that pool.



Issue of water from the earth, taking the form, on the surface, of a small stream or standing as a pool or small lake

Now we know how to create a basic and ordinary pool, we can very easily turn one into a thermal pool or mountain spring. These are natural, pure water sources, where the clean and fresh water bubbles up through the rocks after being squeezed and filtered through the layers.


Thermal pool and springs naturally occur most often in crater shapes, so to begin with, we will make a small, circular pool using the lower tool again. We don't need to make the initially bigger than we want this time, because we don't need to smooth out the banks. When we have our small circular pool, we need to give the edge of our pool a jagged, rocky look, like a crater would have. We are going to use the same sort of technique that we used on the top of our cliffs, to give a rocky feel. So we will raise the terrain randomly in a thin strip around the perimeter of our pool, using a brush size of 1. Go around slowly, raising the terrain by repeatedly clicking on each spot around the pool, rater than holding the mouse button down and dragging around the edge.


Now we will use the step method to get a gentle slope up to the the rocky lip we just created. So we simply need to go around the pool again, but this time a little further out, and raise the terrain again, but not as much this time. We will keep doind this until we have a nice gentle approach to out pool.

Now to make our pool into a spring or thermal pool, we just need to add some of the bubble doodads to it. We will use the Bubble Steam doodad for now to make a thermal pool as they give a boiling look to water, but if you are making a regular mountain spring, you may want to use Bubbles instead, as springs don’t get hot.

Find the bubble doodads under the water category in the Doodad Palette; they are available in most tilesets.


Place a suitable amount of bubbles according to the size of your pool, but don’t go crazy, keep them spaced apart, and evenly spread across the whole pool. You should be using your common sense to judge when you have enough.


1. Practice making the smallest spring you can, these water features look best in groups of a few, small pools rather than one big one.






To create flowing rivers, we are again going to be lowering the terrain, but this time we only want to create a shallow riverbed, rather than expose the water beneath the ground. To do so, we are going to use the lower tool, and with a brush size of 3, hold the mouse button down, and move the mouse back and forth over a path which we want our river to take. Now we only need a very shallow river bed here, so use the smooth tool across the whole thing to pull it back up a bit if you find yourself lowering it too far.

TIP: You may find it helpful to mark out the path you want your riverbed to take with a bold tile before you start lowering your terrain to create it. This will help you remember where you wanted your river to go, and it may also help you spot where your riverbed is once you have made it.

After we have created our riverbed, we need some flowing water running through it. To do this, we are actually going to use the waterfall doodad to get that flowing effect. However, to do so we first have to alter the waterfall doodad’s scaling values.

Scaling: A doodad's scaling is basically how big it is, and there are three values involved in the scaling of doodads, they are x (width), y (depth) and z (height). To alter a single doodad’s scaling, select it in your map and then press the Return key, or simply double click it to open its Doodad Properties. You will see the three values for x, y and z in a percentage of their default maximum value. Changing these numbers will make your doodad bigger or smaller in one or all of the three dimensions depending on which you alter.

Before we can alter the waterfall’s values to those that we need, we need to change them in the object editor. To open the Object Editor, either click its icon, below Window on the top toolbar, or press F6. Now we need to find the part labelled Editor – Minimum Scale, and change this to 0 (it will go automatically to 0.01 as that is the lowest possible value without the doodad being invisible, but 0 is quicker to type :thumbs_up:) Don’t worry if the Object Editor is a baffling mass of information at this point, we will take a much close look at it later on in the tutorial; just change the value we need for now.

Now once your waterfall’s can be made a lot smaller, place one near your riverbed, and open the Doodad Properties again. Now we will set both the x and y values to the same, large number, maybe 150, and the z value to 1. Simply click on one of the boxes to allow you to enter custom values, delete what is there, and enter the number you want. After you have done this, press Return or click OK to confirm your changes, and you will see that you now have a flat sheet of flowing water instead of a waterfall.


Now we have our flowing water, we can fill our riverbed with it to make it look like a flowing river. To do this, we just need to copy and paste our sheet of water, and place them all along our riverbed. At first, they will appear to disappear below ground partially, but don’t worry about that yet, just make sure they are lined up along your riverbed, all flowing the same way, and spaced equally apart with no gaps showing in between them. Use the tip below to help you place your water precisely.

TIP: While you have one or more doodads selected, make sure Num Lock is on, and then use the 1, 4, 6 and 8 keys on the number pad to move them one small space at a time either North, East, South or West (use the corresponding number by looking at the arrows printed on the keys).


Now your riverbed is lined with these sheets of water, we need to make them actually visible. To do this we need to raise them up until they are level with the banks of our riverbed by following the tip below. If you find they don’t line up with the banks of your riverbed very well, simply move them slightly as above. This will make them return pop back below ground, so you will have to raise them up once again after you do this.

TIP: To raise or lower a doodad along the y axis, simply select it, then hold CTRL and press either Page Up or Page Down to move the doodad up or down.


Now, do this for the whole of your riverbed, until you have a flowing river. Don’t worry about getting some rough looking edges, you will be able to avoid these better with practice, and the little bits that are inevitable can be covered up with doodads at a later stage. If your river has bends in it, simply rotate your waterfalls as you place them so that the flow of water is following the path of the nearest river bank.

TIP: To rotate one or more doodads or units while you have them selected, simply hold CTRL and click anywhere on your terrain where you want them to face. If this fails, you may be able to do it by opening the Doodad Properties and editing the rotation manually through there.


1. Create a very winding river and get used to rotating the waterfalls to fit it as seamlessly as possible. You may find you need to use lots of waterfalls to cover up gaps at sharp bends in your river.
2. Try making some flowing rivers going through your valleys or down hills and so on.
3. Create a flowing river running into a still pool, and try to get the transition from flowing to still as smooth as possible. You will need to use doodads to cover up the seams.



Natural fall of water from a height such as a rock or a cliff
–Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary

Waterfalls can be anything from small, gentle watercourses, to huge, epic cascades. They make pools a whole lot more interesting, and add movement to your terrain, which can really grab the player’s eye.


The waterfall we will create will be made near the very edge of the map, as using the method we will be looking at, there is no way of creating a pool at the top of the waterfall, therefore we will have to make it look as though the source of the cascade is a river running from somewhere we cannot see. So to start creating our waterfall, we need to make a cliff face for it to cascade down. To do this, we are going to be using a slightly different method from the one we used to make our average cliffs earlier, because we need a higher cliff to make a waterfall on, otherwise it will look a bit too small. So to start with, we simply raise a lump out of the ground, using a brush size of 3 or 5, as we did earlier to start off our mountain. We will start to raise the terrain close to the shaded out boundary, but not actually in it.


Once we have raised a point of terrain as tall as we want our waterfall to be, we will move on and build up the rest of the cliff over which our water will cascade. So now we will take the plateau tool, and using a brush size of 1, simply click down at the tallest point of the terrain we raised a minute ago, hold down the mouse button, and begin to drag it around a little to raise more terrain to roughly the same height. Using your original point as a guideline, start to raise the terrain around it, and bring it out in front of it a little as well, to create a sort a groove for your waterfall to flow down, as though the rock had been eroded by the water over time. Once you have your basic shape laid out, quickly go over it with the smooth tool to get rid of any huge jagged bits, but try and keep a little of a rocky appearance, as waterfalls most often occur over rocky cliffs and so on.

You will also need to use the lower tool at the base of the your waterfall to create a pool for the water to fall into, but you already know how to create a still pool, so did the same as we looked at earlier to do this. You may also want to use a brush size of 1 and just raise a small lip around the edges of your waterfall to ensure you can keep it enclosed relatively neatly when we add the waterfall doodads later on.

Waterfall 2.jpg

Now we have the structure of our waterfall laid out, we need to add the actual water to it. To do this, we will use the waterfall doodads that we used earlier to create our flowing rivers, but with regular scaling to create the actual cascade. So to begin with, simply place a waterfall doodad down in the groove you created for your waterfall. Now you will notice that it sits nowhere near flat on in the groove, and so we now need to lower it along the Y axis of the terrain to make it look as though it is sitting flat in the groove. So to do this, we need to select our waterfall, hold CTRL, and press Page Down until our waterfall is sitting nicely in the groove, not above it.

Waterfall 3.jpg

Waterfall 4.jpg

When we have filled up the steep section of our waterfall with water, we need to add the source of the cascade to the top of the hill, by altering the Z scaling of the doodads and following the same technique we used for making flowing rivers. You may also want to add some flatter waterfalls to the bottom of the cascade to get a more gentle entrance to your pool. Chances are you will need to use a combination of altering both height along the Y axis, and Z scaling to get some waterfalls to sit nicely, the best thing to do is just practice and experiment, and you will eventually find the effect you want.

Waterfall 5.jpg

Again, we will be able to cover up those rough edges later on with doodad work, so for now just concentrate on getting the basic shape to work how you want it.


1. Try making an effective looking waterfall with as few waterfall doodads as possible. This will help you get used to making best use of height and scaling manipualation.
2. When you are confident with getting the waterfall doodads to sit properly along your waterfall, try building more complex structures for your waterfalls, adding curves, forks and so on.



Remember, the main role of water features is to beatify your landscape. They can also occasionally add history and geography to an RPG or similar style map. This means you are aiming to make them as noticeable and nice looking as possible; they will break up the solid landscape, and provide nice focal points for players to look at as they pass. Here’s a list of issues to think carefully about when making water features in your map:

1. Where would the water flow to and from naturally? Look at the shape and position of your hills and so on when looking for a suitable place to make a pool. Water runs naturally downhill, so your placement of water features should represent this fact.
2. Where will be the main points of interest in your map and where will the player have to travel to? Create water features near places important to quests, or on routes that will eventually have to be travelled, so they are easily spotted.
3. Can you combine a water feature with anything you have made previously? Pools look good at the base of a cliff, rivers flow nicely through valleys and so on.
Last edited:
Level 8
May 27, 2007
The Ultimate Beginners Terrain Tutorial Continued


By HermanTheGibbon


Landscape Details:
Paths and Roads
Mountain Passes

Tile Variation:
Grassy Areas
Rocks and Cliffs
Winter Wasteland

Basic Doodad Work:
Trees and Rocks



In this section, we will begin to explore some ways of adding interesting features into the structure of our terrain. We will look at things that will give it definite and clear structure, and give it identity, rather than leaving it as a mass of rolling hills and valleys. These things involve various types of paths that can be cut through all kinds of terrain, opening up the chance for players to explore your terrain properly. These kind of things also make your map seem to have purpose, paths lead to certain destinations, and now so will your map lead to certain goals.



Way beaten, formed, or trodden by the feet of persons or animals.

Paths and roads can take any form, from narrow, enclosed passes through the mountains, to wide, bustling city roads. They can provide all sorts of atmosphere for a map, and potential for interesting quest ideas. Paths and roads can sometimes be quite important to a map, providing links between towns and cities and many other uses. Not only that, they make a map seem well planned and thought up, as though it has some sound geographical background which has been planned carefully. They give a map definite structure, making the player feel there is somewhere they must travel and so on, it also stops the player feeling that they are in the wrong part of the map, or that they are lost.


So to form a path through our landscape, we are going to first hollow out some ground for our path to run along. This just gives a used, beaten feel and makes your landscape more interesting with that all important height variation. So we will now take the lower tool once more, and using a brush size of around 3, we will go along and lower the terrain ever so slightly where we want our paths to be. Do so by holding the mouse button down and dragging the mouse quickly along the route you want your path to take; don’t go slowly or back and forth over the path because you will soon find the groove has become too deep. The hollows for our paths only need to be ever so slight, and in fact it maybe that you can hardly even see them until you put some tile variation down. We can also use the smooth tool to help get the grooves as shallow as possible, just by dragging it back and forth along our pathway.

TIP: Before you lower the terrain for your paths, lay out the routes you want your paths to take with a bold tile which will stand out, so you know exactly where to go with the lower tool. You can get rid of it again later, but it will also help you make sure your paths work ok together, and how you wanted.

When we have laid a shallow groove for our path to run through, we need to add the actual path to it. This is simply a case of adding some texture, and I would recommend that to do so, you use the Rough Dirt tile for most tilesets. Using a brush size 1, we then simply click and hold, then randomly move the mouse very quickly back and forth along the grooves we made to apply the texture for our actual path, trying to avoid big blocks of tile and straight edges. If you are patient, you can draw out your paths manually, by clicking individual tiles to create an accurate path, and this can often give more pleasing results if you know exactley how to place your tiles to make them fit together nicely.

Paths 1.jpg

TIP: Paths look best with a broken, natural look, and this usually applies to all paths and roads.

Paths 2.jpg


So now you know how to plan and make effective paths and roads, try putting them in the most interesting routes you can find. Below are some basic rules to follow when placing your paths and roads through your landscape, which will hopefully get you looking for the most opportune spots for your paths. Practice making some paths around your terrain, placing them in the most interesting and scenic places yo can find.

1. What is the most interesting route your path can take? Don’t just stick it running straight through open ground; make it wind around hills, pools and so on.
2. What is the path you are making used for? Does it need to be straight and wide for carriages and wagons, or is it a narrow, windy passage used by ambush attackers?
3. Do your paths make the most of the height variation in your terrain? Make sure you place them climbing up and down hills and cliffs for added interest.
4. Where can your paths meet? Try adding crossroads and junctions to connect all the paths in your map together, they add more interest and choice for the player.
5. Practice drawing paths out 1 tile at a time instead of the click and drag method, to get more precise results.



Place where a river or other body of water is shallow enough to be crossed by wading.

Fords are a natural occurrence, and are made when gravel and rocks gather at a narrow point or bottleneck in a stream. They get stuck and gradually build up a small dam, and so create a surface which can be crossed quite easily. In our terrain, they will serve mainly as a way to remove limitations on where rivers can be placed. For example, they mean that you can place a long river cutting straight across the middle of your map, dividing the whole terrain in two, but you can create fords along its length to allow units to cross. They are also very nice looking additions, and can often break up long stretches of plain water nicely.


To make our fords we need to simply raise some ground up and out of our river using the raise tool. Taking a brush size of 2 or 3, we simply choose a section of a river we have created, and begin to raise the terrain up a couple of clicks at a time. So, just choose a part of a stream (not one created with waterfall doodads), which is quite narrow, probably no more than the width of the brush you are using, and simply click a few times with the raise tool until you start to see ground emerging from beneath the water’s surface. You should be aiming to raise your ford until it is just below the surface of the water, and you can see a slight current rolling over it still.

Ford 1.jpg

When we have finished, we can use the smooth tool a little to make our fords look more natural, as though they have been built up gradually over time and beaten down by feet, rather than just dumped there. However, be careful that the smooth tool doesn’t flatten your ford and make it a lot wider than you originally made it, or cause it to sink back into the water. Finally, take care not to make your fords too wide, you should make them no wider than the brush you are using, and when they are finished, only 2 or 3 units should be able to fit on side by side at the absolute maximum. The ideal ford should let only 1 unit at a time on, but with ample room to move side to side without allowing another unit on.

You can also make islands in pools by raising ground up and out of the water using this method, and you may also want to keep on raising the terrain so the surface of your island is out of the water instead of just below the surface as should be the case with our fords. You could then add a ford to provide a way onto the island if it is close enough to the shore.


Fords can be very useful if you plan to have a lot of rivers in your map, but overdoing them can be quite easy. Practice using them sparingly and tastefully, and only when they are needed, not wanted. Here are some pointers to think about when locating and making fords:

1. How long is the river you are creating? This will help determine how many fords you should place along its length, i.e. a short river should have only 1, but a longer one may have a few.
2. Is your ford easily noticeable? It can be easy to look straight past a ford in game, because they tend to blend in quite well. Make sure you have a path leading blatantly to it.
3. Will there be a lot of traffic across your ford? If there is the possibility of a lot of units in your map all needing to use the ford, consider making a little wider, but still try and avoid making it too wide, or build another nearby.
4. Where is the most scenic spot along your river? When you have decided you need a ford, think carefully about where abouts along your river you will place it. Look for areas with other interesting features nearby such as mountains, etc.



Location in a range of mountains of a geological formation that is lower than the surrounding peaks.

Mountain passes often provide the only way through or over a mountain range on foot. They are similar to valleys, but found on and between mountains. For our WC3 maps, they provide good atmosphere once again, setting the scene for an ambush or whatever. Like the mountains themselves, passes can also provide good background if given an ominous name, such as Bloodclaw Pass or something.


To create our mountain pass, we first need to create two mountains standing next to each other, far enough apart so that they only join together a little. When you have your two mountains, start to raise the terrain between them a little to create a gentle hill. Create this hill so that its tallest point will form a straight line with the summits of your two mountains, and then gently slope away either side, creating a shallow valley through the middle of the two mountains.

Mountain Pass 1.jpg

Now we have the path laid out for our mountain pass, we need to make it look a lot more harsh and rocky, like the actual mountains. To do this, we are going to raise the terrain some more, using the techniques for both valleys and cliffs, to create the craggy walls of our pass. So to start with, we will take a brush size of 1 or 2, and begin creating a ridge on either side of our pass with the raise tool. We are using the same technique we used for creating our cliffs here, and remember to keep a nice jagged, rocky look to the ridge we are creating by raising the terrain to random heights along its length. The deeper into the pass you get, the higher you should start raising the walls, until you reach that straight line with the two summits, at which point you will start sloping back down. When we have created our initial ridges, we then need to fill in the gaps and make them merge blend into the side of the mountain, to look as though they are rocky outcrops protruding slightly. We are using the same principal here as we did for rounding off the edges of our cliffs earlier, so simply start to raise the terrain a little more behind the ridge until you get that nice rounded yet rocky look.

Mountain Pass 2.jpg


Generally speaking, you will olny rarely have the opportune place for a mountain pass in your terrain, but if you do, you need to be that it is functional aswell as good looking. You need to consider where the pass is providing access to and from.

1. What lies close to the pass? If you have any towns or villages nearby, make sure they are linked well to the mountain pass, build roads and signposts leading to it to give the impression it is well used by the locals.
2. Try making the tallest point of your mountain pass as high up as you can without having to make it merge into the actual mountain too much.
3. Try making some curved passes, or add forks by creating a mini mountain in the middle of a very wide pass, between and slightly behind the main two.



In this second section, we will start looking at how to breathe life and colour into your map. We now know how to structure and build an interesting and detailed landscape, but we still need to learn how to add texture, plant life and so on. These things will bring your map to life; give it atmosphere, identity and all those things.



Tile variation is crucial to any map, and bad tile variation is only slightly more desirable than none at all. So in this part we will look at how to texture various features of our landscape, and what makes good tile variation. It is important to add good tile variation because it gives your terrain realism and interest, and without it your terrain will remain a barren nothingness, a bunch of lumps in the ground. As a general rule, you should steer clear of the Lordaeron Summer tileset, it looks too bright and doesn’t blend together well either.

IMPORTANT: Only ever use a brush size of 1 for applying texture to your landscape, any bigger and it just won’t look good at all, size 1 is the only size that gives accurate and realistic results. Also don’t listen to people who tell you that a brush size of 2 is okay if it’s circular either!



Ashenvale Tileset

In most landscapes, grass covers the majority of the ground, and provides the main source of colour and texture. Grassy areas will be used mainly to cover large areas of open or flattish landscape, where you can’t or don’t want to add anything such as a water feature, etc. It is also one of the most important types of texturing, as it is used to border almost every other type of terrain, and provide smooth transitions between all the different areas of your terrain.


To begin with, we will start with a basic cliff and a path running along side each other and spaced a good distance apart. We will look at how to terrain cliffs and rocks properly in a while, so for now, focus on the land in the middle which needs filling. The strip of land we have at the minute consists of the dirt tile and nothing more, and as we can see, it looks boring, and this is where we will apply new textures to make it look more realistic and interesting.

Grassy Areas 1.jpg

So to start placing some texture variation onto our landscape we will take a brush size of 1, and first select the Grassy Dirt tile from the Ashenvale tileset. Now we need to simply apply this tile completely randomly all over our strip of dirt. Do so by holding the mouse button down, and dragging the mouse quickly and randomly all over the area of land. We need to spread the tile out as evenly as possible, and should end up with roughly half and half of Grassy Dirt and Dirt on the area of land we are working on.

TIP: When you come to the very edges of your path, try to leave some lengths of its edge bordering with Dirt, i.e. don’t put Grassy Dirt all the way along it, as the Dirt tile leaves a sharper transition than Grassy Dirt, so gives your path more definition.

Grassy Areas 2.jpg

Now we have broken up the dirt a little, we can start adding some different tiles to make the area look a litte more grassy and natural. So next, we will apply some Grass tiles, to give the area more depth and give the area around the path a worn feel. To do this, we will simply apply a few small areas of Grass along the very edge of our cliff's base, placing it directly next to the Rock tiles. Make sure to keep the Grass tiles away from paths, as it will make paths look well used and trampled.

TIP: Never have Grass tiles touching any tile other than Grassy Dirt, it gives a sharp, nasty looking border. Always have Grassy Dirt creating a nice smooth transition between Grass and any other tile.

Grassy Areas 3.jpg

Finally, we can add a few more small areas of Rough Dirt to our grassy are, just to give the finishing touches, but making sure not to merge them into the path by placing them too close. On particularly large grassy areas, you can also try adding some other tiles such as Leaves and Vines into large areas of Grass for a little more detail.

Grassy Areas 4.jpg

Below is a good example of everything you should be avoiding when adding texture to your terrain. These points are true for all types of natural terrain work.

Grassy Areas 5.jpg


Grassy areas are probably the most important bit of texturing you will learn. They are present in the vast majority of terrains, and are absolutely crucial if you want an interesting, natural and authentic look landscape. They will also be on display more than any other type of texturing, as others will likely be covered with doodads such as rocks and shrubbery and so on. Therefore it is important that you are able to texture grass well, so here are a few things to help you practice this all important bit of texturing work:

1. Try adding grassy areas in between other landscape features, such as on the walls of valleys, around a pool, and so on, to practice using it to make smooth transitions and borders between terrain features.
2. Get used to blending Grass with Grassy Dirt. Place lots of Grass tiles down completely randomly over a large area of Dirt, then have a go at using Grassy Dirt to blend them into the surrounding Dirt without covering it all up.



Ashenvale Tileset

Adding texture to your cliffs and rocky outcrops really helps emphasise the height variation in your map, and makes them seem a lot taller than when they are left plain. Adding areas of rock to your landscape can also make it easier on the eye, as they will help break up large expanses of grass and other plainer areas. We can also add small or large rocky outcrops on their own to make use of an empty space where nothing else is suitable, to make it less boring.


Before texturing areas of rock, make sure you have some definate structure to apply it to, as the Rocks tile doesn't look good on flat ground, and the fact that rocks aren't flat doesn't help! So we will begin with a basic cliff, and a small rocky outcrop by its side, which is simply a lump raised out of the ground, then made a little jagged with a few extra raised points using a brush size of 1. To start with, we will cover the whole face of our cliff and outcrop with the Rocks tile, creating a solid colour across the whole area. Remember though, not to create any straight edges, by simply adding a few extra bits of Rocks, extending out onto flat ground from the base of the cliff, creating a wavy line where Rocks meets Dirt.

Rocks And Cliffs 1.jpg

Now our cliff and outcrop are starting to actually look like they are made from rock, we can begin to break up the solid texture a little. We will begin to add a couple of very small areas of Dirt to give the cliff and outcrop a weathered look. Making sure we don’t swamp the areas of Rocks with the Dirt tile, we will simply create a few small and evenly spaced areas of exposed Dirt across the faces of rock. Do this by choosing specific points and adding Dirt with careful and precise clicks of the mouse button, so we don't go overboard and cover the Rocks.

Rocks And Cliffs 2.jpg

Now, we will replace some of the Dirt we just put down with the Vines tile, as rock faces provide the ideal surface for climbing plants to live on, this will provide even more realism to our cliffs and rocky areas. Picking a few spaces that we had already applied Dirt to, we will simply click a few times again to add a few small spaces of vines within the Dirt areas. You can replace the Dirt entirely with Vines if you wish, in which case you can apply them straight to the rock in the future without adding the Dirt first.

Now finally, to finish off our cliff and outcrop, we will simply add some Grass along the edges of the Rocks, and then blend them into the surrounding Dirt with Grassy Dirt, just to make everything blend together nicely. If you aren't sure how to do this effectively, go back and read the section on Grassy Areas.

Rocks And Cliffs 3.jpg




Village Tileset

Adding areas of farmland and crops gives a terrain added charcter, and makes the terrain feel alive and well lived in and active. It also serves to bring colour and interest to big empty spaces.


Farmland works best on hilly, gently sloping land, making it look as though the soil is churned and moved about regularly. So before we start adding texture, we will add a few small but wide lumps using the raise tool and a large, circular brush size, then going over it all with the smooth tool. You can then add a path or road running through the middle to build your farmland around or something similar so you have a guideline to work around.

Farmland 1.jpg

Now we have our basic layout for our area of crops, we need to begin breaking up the large areas of plain Dirt, using the Short Grass tile. As we have done previously, we simply need to apply the texture randomly but relatively evenly, using a brush size of 1 at all times for texture work. As we did in the Grassy Areas section earlier, again make sure to partially but not fully edge the path you made (if you made one) to make it blend in nicely.

TIP:For best results, hold the mouse button down and move around in quick, circular motions all over the area you want to cover. Then keep on reworking small areas until they all have the right amount of texture.

Farmland 2.jpg

Now our base is ready, we can begin to actually apply some Crops. The best way to apply an area of crop is either in long, thin strips, or small squares, but here will use long strips of crop. So, running roughly parrallel to our path, we will start applying Crops using the same method we used for the Short Grass to get our random yet even application. However, we do need some blocks of texture to make it actually look like healthy crop, so be sure to rework it a little more than you would ordinarily. Be sure not to get any perfectly straight edges once again.

Farmland 3.jpg

Now we have our Crops in place, we can start to make them look a little more natural and cultivated. To do this, we need to break up some of the perfect lines of green, using the Rough Dirt tile. This blends in very nicely as it is exactley the same as the background of the Crops but without the green bit of vegetation. So, to apply the Rough Dirt, we need to pick just a few select areas and apply only a couple of clicks of Rough Dirt, and spread out these small areas nicely across the whole crop. When this is done, we can do the same again, but with the Dirt tile, keeping the areas of Dirt bordering the areas of Rough Dirt we just placed to get a nice broken look. When we have done we will have a much more natural looking crop.

Farmland 4.jpg

Now finally, we can finish off our area of farmland by applying some Cobble Path to the path we created earlier, but leaving some Rough Dirt showing to give the path a worn feel. You can also add some small rocky outcrops as we looked at earlier to give that little extra detail and make things just a little more realistic.

Farmland 5.jpg



Loraeron Winter Tileset

Here we will be looking at a desolate, mountainous type of winter terrain, not an Alaskan type tundra look with huge expanses of snow and nothing else. Snowy, winter terrain, in my opinion is one of the trickiest sorts of texturing to accomplish tastefully, as it can be too easy to apply more snow than is needed, and if too much is applied, you can ruin your terrain, making it look flat and boring.

We will start off with a small mountain pass style terrain, with an interesting assortment of small mountain style formations and rocky areas and a hollowed out space running through the centre to locate a path on.

Winter Wasteland 1.jpg

Now to begin adding our winter landscape, we will start off by ‘capping’ the mountains with the Snow tile. To do this we simply need to add snow to anything which represents a peak of a raised area. Some examples of suitable areas would be the tip of mountains, the ridge of a cliff, the tops of hills and so on. Don’t pay too much attention to the appearance of the snow caps at this point, all we need to do now is mark out where the snow is actually going to be.

TIP: Using the grid may help you identify suitable areas for adding snow to. Look for areas of the terrain where the grid is bent up into points in several areas near to each other. Look at the areas where I have place snow on the screenshots below and then look at how the grid is shaped around those areas to get an idea of what to look for.

Winter Wasteland 2.jpg

Now we have marked out where our snow is going to be, we can start to expand on it and blend it into the rock structures a little better. To do this, we are simply going to add small trails of snow going down the mountains, following their contours. When doing this, it may help to imagine that the snow is water, and trying to visualise where it would trickle in a real landscape. This is where snow can easily be overdone, and people completely cover their terrain, which is fine in some types of winter terrain, but is not the affect we are attempting to achieve here. Make your trails of now as thin as possible, only 1 brush size wide wherever possible.

Winter Wasteland 3.jpg

Now we have all our snow laid out, we can begin to add some Grass tile into the terrain. Much like we did with our ‘Grassy Areas’ texturing we need to border the Snow tile with the Grass tile. Look for spaces in between your ‘trickles’ of snow coming down the mountain sides and rocks, and add Grass to those empty spaces. Doing this gives the impression that the Snow has only recently settled on top of the fresh, living grass, which can still be seen protruding from underneath. This gives the landscape a sort of edgy, uncertain feeling, giving the impression that something bad is on its way.

Winter Wasteland 4.jpg

Now all that is left is to use the Grassy Snow tile to blend our texturing and bring it all together. Again, much like our Grassy areas, we will cover the remaining areas of Dirt with Grassy Snow, taking care to blend tiles together and get rid of sharp transitions and straight looking edges while still retaining definition.

Winter Wasteland 5.jpg



Nothing will add life to your map other than those intial doodads, such as trees, rocks and other environmental features. In this part, we will look at the intial steps to adding doodads to your terrain. We will begin with the most major doodads, that are crucial, rather than using smaller doodads just to make your map prettier. We will cover all the environmental doodads we can use to bring life to our map, includind trees, rocks, plant life and so on. During this section, I will be working mainly in the Ashenvale, but with a little effort, you can easily transfer the techniques we will look at to any tileset, simply with a more appropriate selection of tree or something.



The biggest and most noticable dooads in most maps are the trees and rocks. They form a reasonable majority of the total amount of doodads in your map, and really give it life. These types of doodad also help fill in the gaps in your terrain, they can fill up balnk, open spaces, or cover up slight imperfections your couldn't remove from the structure of your terrain. Before we begin, you should download The Ultimate Terraining Map (creds to DungeonM as always!) as we will be using the custom tree models from it throughout.


So now we can begin to add the first real signs of life to our terrain, in the form of trees. When placing trees into our terrain, the main thing we need to pay attention to is placement in relation to landscape features, and other trees. In general, we will place trees mainly in open, empty spaces, to fill up gaps in our terrain, and also because trees in the real world need lots of space to grow. So begin with we need to look at how trees should be spaced apart from each other and so on.

TIP: When placing trees, only place them on appropriate textures for realism. For example, don't place them on Rocks or Cobble Path tiles, but do place them on Grass or Grassy Dirt, etc.

Now we will look at placing some trees on a flat, open space, so we can see clearly how they should be properly spaced out. When we begin to place our trees, they should always have a space between them roughly big enough to fit at least one more tree into comfortably. This gap should exist 360 degrees around a tree, not just to its left or right with trees crowded in close above it, etc. We also need to pay attention that we aren't placing trees in straight lines, at right angles to one another, and so on, to give a more realistic approach. Trees should be placed completely randomly, and always one at a time. Below is an example of good spacing compared to bad spacing, which will help give you an idea of how to work with trees.

Trees 1.jpg

TIP: NEVER use a brush size of anything other than 1 when placing trees, it will give a horrible symetrical, uniform look making your map look very unrealistic.

When placing trees near paths, we have to begin looking at scaling aswell as positioning. When we come to a path, we can begin to work in sort of layers with our trees, begining at the point farthest away from our path, and moving in towards it. By doing this, we will place the largest trees at the back, away from the path, and the smallest ones near it, along its edge. This gives a greater sense of the height of the trees at the back, and stops your map feeling cramped when a player is moving along path. Here is an example of how we would place trees in the space between a cliff and a path.

Trees 2.jpg

TIP: While you have a doodad selected press the + and - keys on the number pad to increase or decrease its size. Make sure Num Lock is on.

When we have a large group of trees, we may alse need to work in layers outward from the centre of the area, making the trees in the very middle the tallest, decreasing the size as we get towards the outside edge of the wooded area.

TIP: Varying the height of your trees well can help you to improve the efficiency of your doodad placement. If you become good at getting the impression of height and layering by doing so, you can often use just a few trees to cover a large area, rather than have to use a lot of trees to fully cover it. This helps to keep the number of doodas in your map down, and so keep a smaller file size.

Now we know how to place trees efficiently, we can also look at how to place them for interest as well, and so it becomes necessary to know where trees will look good, and where they won't. In general, we should be on the look out for any unusual spots which stand out in our terrain where a tree would be fitting. For example, small hillocks raised out of the terrain, small nooks and crannies in the sides of mountains, the banks of a river, and so on. With a well placed tree, these areas can draw the eye away from empty spaces around them, or at the least make the empty space look nicer with a background. If you can't find any opportune places, be sure to create some if possible, rather than just placing a tree in the middle of open, flat ground, even if it is just raising a little lump to place a tree on.


Now we have trees out of the way, we can begin to look at padding out areas of landscape with rocks which will later serve as rally points for other envirnmental doodads. The absolute best position for rocks to be placed is at the base of tree trunks. Not only does it improve the appearance of the terrain while keep these larger doodads away from paths and other areas which need to be easily playable, they look poor when placed on their own in open spaces, and you can also cover up the harsh transition between the ground and the tree trunk, particularly when using custom trees as all good terrainers should.

TIP: MiscData.txt is a very helpful optional tool. It allows a map maker to edit terrain in order to exceed Warcraft III's default height limitations. Simply create a folder titled UI in the Warcraft III directory, place the MiscData.txt file there and then edit the file as required.

Last edited:
Level 8
May 27, 2007
Hey I'd just like to ask if a moderator could kindly delete or move the posts seperating the pages of the tutorial now I have gone onto a new page. I just want to keep it nice and neat and easy for people to access. Thanks in advance! :D

[EDIT by Wolve] Done.
~ Tutorial approved. Thread moved to General Mapping Tutorials.

EDIT: Thanks Wolve :D
Last edited:
Level 8
May 27, 2007
lol Wolve you uber efficient little beastie, thanks for that. Anyhoo, I never actually use the thing myself, but yes it is a good suggestion PurplePoot. I think I will relocate to a future section on general World Editor tips, which is still to come at some point, as it really has nothing to do with trees :wink:
Level 1
Aug 21, 2007
yo gibbon thx for the best tutorai ever
but really i saw many maps hase amovin waterno like
the normal one
no its like real one
and i asked on of the mappers they said it was flat water falls????????
how cloud you make flat waterfalls
and i hope you answer me as soon as possible
lol thx agin for the tutorail
Level 6
Mar 8, 2007
Wow iam impressed this is ONE good tutorial, i hope it will help people to make their map look more beatiful.
Level 6
Mar 12, 2007
Man that was good. I thought myself to be a good terrainer, but apparently not. Ur good man, Specially your part about the rivers and water stuff. Thanks alot, if i could give you rep, i would, but thanks anyway.
Level 2
Aug 22, 2007
just for people who think mapping is good one way and not another and think your complete pros, heres my opinion. A mapper is never truly pro unless embracing all veiws and techniques , in most cases Blizz Clifs.
All the same great tutorial Hermon!!!
Level 10
Feb 19, 2006
wow i have to just skimmed throught this and wow its frikin awsome, im gonna read it sometime, i havent even read all of it, i just read titles/subtitles and look at pictures and i get the idea lol, but ill read it when i have more time, excellent tutorial well done.
Level 2
Dec 31, 2007
I found this tutorial very amazing to read off of. I was not so comfortable with making terrain and in all maps, i love to see the life come out. Thanks for showing this... :D
Level 2
Mar 29, 2008
This is going to be very helpful for my RPG maps and my new project,Its a battle map but i havent got a name for it yet. 5/5 +rep
Level 12
Apr 18, 2007
Holy sh-
Nice work. I can see you put a lot of effort into this. Definitely deserves some rep.
The one and lonely.
Level 3
May 20, 2008
This is a great tut as it's name! Absolutely +rep.

But, still I am wondering, if we set the initial water level to Shallow Water, then later we will have to re-raise it. This action can not be done by increase cliff level, as if we lower the increased area there will be no water. Thus, it can only be done by the raise terrain tool, which will take too long if we have like, a 320x320 map. So I wonder, is there any shortcut to raise the entire map, not just a 8x8 rect? Or do I have to take my time? I've just started my map and I want it's terrain to be decent at least.
Level 3
Dec 24, 2008
I forgot to look at this before i made my map, so I had to go through my map and change all the terrain to Shallow and raise one section, plateau it, then yea... I'm like half way done with that :p
Stupid me...
I dunno how to just change the floor (without remaking my map)
Oh well, least I'm almost done :D
Thanks for this tut!
I'm a horrible terrainer in some areas :p
Now hopefully, since i have most of it all down, I won't need to request anyone to terrain my maps and what not :p
I'll have to train on the hills though ;)
Level 1
Mar 4, 2009
Didnt have enough time to read,just skimmed over.Looks like a great guide:thumbs_up:Im gonna try it later.Thanks for writing this guide:grin:
Level 4
Apr 1, 2009
Hey great tutorial, my terraining sucks lol..

Just one question how do you get the still watter evect thing ive tryed manytime but i just dosent seem to want to work..

Oh yea and +rep
Level 1
Feb 16, 2010
I read the most of the tutorial and noticed it was a lot of terraining in outside, ad natural environments. This tutorial helped me soooo much with parts of my mapping, but is it possible you could make a section over inside features, such as making a proper dungeon/jail or something of the like?
Level 5
Feb 13, 2010

This is a really useful and effective tutorial. I just skimmed through most of it, but I see it's very good. I just didn't notice any spot where the apply cliff set of options where used... Was that intentional, or did I miss it?
Level 9
Oct 17, 2009
i think you mean 2 ,4 ,6 and 8 instead of:
TIP: While you have one or more doodads selected, make sure Num Lock is on, and then use the 1, 4, 6 and 8 keys on the number pad to move them one small space at a time either North, East, South or West (use the corresponding number by looking at the arrows .
At the flowing rivers
Level 2
Jun 18, 2010
All i can say is...

:O ! Wow, that must have taken ALOT of time, GREAT JOB!!!

You've covered everything needed to know on a good style, ive been workiing and fiddling with WE for a year and a half but only recently have picked up on advanced things and i even learned a thing or two from this :D

There are many techniques out there but yours seem to work flawlessly... well... for me anyway :grin:

Keep up the good work!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Level 3
Aug 28, 2017
I can't make those Water Pools,I have turned off Enforce Water Levels but what do you mean by "Cliff level set to Shallow Water?

I tried doing "Adjust Cliff Levels" to -1 since they would be 1 piece lower than normal land.Any help is appreciated.
Level 12
Jun 9, 2008
Question, in the editor the waterfalls do not go below 50, I cannot seem to make them as flat as the "1" in the example here, for river purposes. How would I change that? I did everything else described here.