I've been working on a project and needed some graphics related to drinking water. Because the easiest way to get pictures is to see if any are available online, I searched for any in the public domain or any that might be available without copyright. The USEPA has some nice graphics that are not copyright restricted, but the ones I found focused more on the water cycle, and I needed something that very simply showed drinking water sources. There were a few I found online created by private companies, but all of them were copyright restricted. So I had to finally make my own, but wanted to do so in the easiest way possible. So I defaulted to a method I've been using lately and decided I'd share it here in case anyone else who needs to make graphics fast wants to try it.
First I create the image I need in a 3D environment. Now you might be saying, "Oh no – 3D programs are so complicated to learn and use so how in the world can that be fast?!" Normally I would agree with that – I use 3D programs like Blender and still can't make what I made today using a traditional 3D program. Instead I use a program called OpenSimulator which is used to run 3D worlds just like Second Life software runs the Second Life world. And I imagine if you've never spent time in a 3D world, you might still wonder how in the world can a program like that be used to create a graphic for professional use?
The key is that you create in the 3D world the image you need in your graphic. For me, I needed some mountains or hills, streams, a reservoir, a lake, a spring, and a well head. So I chose a world to use and went in and built what you see below:
The reason it is so easy to build this in a 3D world using software like OpenSimulator is that there are tools that very easily allow you to manipulate the terrain by raising or lowering it and smoothing it. Also, while you can make your own landscaping items, to save time I chose to use some free trees I picked up that someone else had made. Other items that people make are available at a very low cost. For example, I bought the water I used for the streams up in the hills because it has some special properties I can use in other builds. I made the well head and the reservoir with a few cylinders I was able to quickly generate, size, and texture. The total time it took me to make this was roughly an hour or so. The software allows you to take a photo using different lighting and cloud cover. For example, below is another photo of the same site using a different environment filter that only takes a moment to change:
If you were interested in exploring how to start using 3D worlds to very easily generate graphics, I would suggest going into a world like Second Life and playing around with the build tools. You can also go into other worlds that are run by Opensimulator such as Kitely or any of the others (you can find a list here). The key point is that to build something you need to either own the land on which you are building or have permission to build. In many worlds such as Second Life, you must pay to own land which would allow your build to remain or build for free in a public sandbox you share with others and which clears builds on a regular schedule. However, in some of the worlds run by Opensimulator, you can arrange to secure some free land to test out small builds. There are also instructions online of how to install Opensimulator on your own computer, create land, and either build in your own world using something like simonastrick or connect your own land to a world like OSGrid. For me, I am currently renting land in Kitely in addition to occasionally running a world on my own computer.
Anyway, once I had my photo, I needed to label the sources so I brought the photo I took into a graphics program like Paint Shop Pro and added the following text:
And because I wanted to try to create a different look, I brought the photo into Photoshop and applied one last filter to get my final image. In all the whole process probably took me 2 to 3 hours mostly because I like playing around with the filters:
Feel free to use the images with the labels if you need your own Sources of Drinking Water Poster – I'm releasing it under a Creative Commons License and just ask for a link back to this blog if you use it online:
Sources of Drinking Water by Public Works Group is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.