Using the Terrain Brush

The Terrain Brush was added to make editing tile maps easier when using terrain transitions. There are of course multiple ways to do transitions between tiles. This tool supports transition tiles that have a well-defined terrain type at each of their 4 corners, which seems to be the most common method.

To demonstrate how to use this tool we describe the steps necessary to reproduce the desert.tmx example map, which now also includes terrain information in its tileset.

Create a New Map and Add a Tileset

First of all, follow the Getting Started instructions to set up the map and the tileset.

The tmw_desert_spacing.png tileset we just set up has 4 different terrain types. Traditionally editing a map with these tiles meant that you had to carefully connect the right transitions to avoid broken edges. Now we will define the terrain information for this tileset, which the Terrain Brush will use to automatically place the right transitions.

Define the Terrain Information

First of all, switch to the tileset file. If you’re looking at the map and have the tileset selected, you can do this by clicking the small Edit Tileset button below the Tilesets view.

Edit Tileset button

Edit Tileset button

Then, activate the terrain editing mode by clicking on the Terrains terrain button on the tool bar.

In this mode, the list of terrain types is displayed and you can mark corners of the tiles in your tileset as belonging to a certain terrain type. To start with, add each of the 4 terrain types. The fastest way is by right-clicking on a tile representing a certain terrain and choosing “Add Terrain Type”. This automatically sets the tile as the image representing the terrain.

Adding Terrain Type

Adding Terrain Type

Give each of the terrains an appropriate name. Once you’re done, select the Sand terrain and mark all corners in the tileset with this type of terrain. When you’re done it should look like this:

Sand Terrain Marked

Sand Terrain Marked

If you make a mistake, just use Undo (or press Ctrl+Z). Or if you notice a mistake later, either use Erase Terrain to clear a terrain type from a corner or select the correct terrain type and paint over it.

Do the same for each of the other terrain types. Eventually you’ll have marked all tiles apart from the special objects.

Done Marking Terrain

Done Marking Terrain

Now you can disable the Terrains mode by clicking the tool bar button again.

Editing with the Terrain Brush

Switch back to the map and then activate the Terrains window. You should see the 4 terrain types represented in a list. Click on the Sand terrain and start painting. You may immediately notice that nothing special is happening. This is because there are no other tiles on the map yet so the terrain tool doesn’t really know how to help (because we have no transitions to “nothing” in our tileset). Assuming we’re out to create a desert map, it’s better to start by filling your entire map with sand. Just switch back to the Tilesets window for a moment, select the sand tile and then use the Bucket Fill Tool.

Let’s switch back to the Terrains window and draw some cobblestones. Now you can see the tool in action!

Drawing Cobblestone

Drawing Cobblestone

Try holding Control (Command on a Mac) while drawing. This reduces the modified area to just the closest corner to the mouse, allowing for precision work.

Finally, see what happens when you try drawing some dirt on the cobblestone. Because there are no transitions from dirt directly to cobblestone, the Terrain tool first inserts transitions to sand and from there to cobblestone. Neat!

Drawing Dirt

Drawing Dirt

Final Words

Now you should have a pretty good idea about how to use this tool in your own project. A few things to keep in mind:

  • Currently the tool requires all terrain types to be part of the same tileset. You can have multiple tilesets with terrain in your map, but the tool can’t perform automatic transitions from a terrain from one tileset to a terrain in another tileset. This usually means you may have to combine several tiles into one image.
  • Since defining the terrain information can be somewhat laboursome, you’ll want to avoid using embedded tilesets so that terrain information can be shared among several maps.
  • The Terrain tool works fine with isometric maps as well. To make sure the terrain overlay is displayed correctly, set up the Orientation, Grid Width and Grid Height in the tileset properties.
  • The tool will handle any number of terrain types and each corner of a tile can have a different type of terrain. Still, there are other ways of dealing with transitions that this tool can’t handle. Also, it is not able to edit multiple layers at the same time. For a more flexible, but also more complicated way of automatic tile placement, check out Automapping.
  • I’m maintaining a collection of tilesets that contain transitions that are compatible with this tool on OpenGameArt.org.