Planet-making options

Started by SpacePioneer, December 14, 2017, 01:57:11 AM

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I know there are ways of creating an entirely procedural planet, and ways of creating real planets via super-hi-res terrain data but is it possible to do a sort of  hybrid option where we make the overall planet in another program and then let Terragen do the smaller details like individual mountains and/or small details like the ground? I have a program called Grand Designer in which I can make the overall map of the planet, including pretty hi res textures if I want, but that detail only goes down so far, so I'd like to know if theres some Outterra-like method of making small planet details, as in, can I use the power fractal shader on top of a heightmap?
Also, how can I get things like rocks or trees to be able to not take up an incredible amount of memory by covering the whole planet while they can't be seen individually while in space but a close shot having them?
Why does the sun not have any kind of flare or glare while in space?
How can I get cloud layers to be distributed based on a map I can make in Grand Designer? If I do this, how can I make the areas that are set to generate clouds have better dispersal? In my humble experience it doesn't look right when a large area is used by one cloud area, it doesn't look random enough on large scales..Also, how can I get fully global clouds, like, not just in a radius you specify but all the way around the planet?
Does anything have an emissive shader I could use to have, say, lava lakes/oceans?
Are image map shaders only applicable to heightmaps or can they be used as surface maps too? If so, can I use Terragen's built in surface map "creator" on top of the surface map to get smaller details?
If I wanted to go about changing the size or appearance of the star, how would I do that?
Do backgrounds effect the lighting of a planet at all or are they only for the end esult as a backdrop? How would I go about adding a full 360 degree background (I've seen some answers on backgrounds but I think they've only been based on the end image...?
On a somewhat unrelated note, where can I find a large sample of 3D models for very cheap prices if not free? I need somewhere to start to build my way up to being able to get higher quality and quanitity models. Also, how can I change the colors of plant models? Say, if I want to have a planet with red plant life instead of green.
How can I make money via producing things from Terragen and other programs? I see that there is a job referral/list of artists at the top of this forum but I'm only 17, not 18 yet, so I don't know if that immediately disqualifies me, I only have Terragen 4 (Which certainly has more features than Terragen 2, but I understand the need for consistency) as a better version than the free one...does this disqualify me as well? And my experience is limited but I would very much like to increase that...if any of these three things do indeed disqualify me, how else could I go about making money with Terragen and other programs?

Sorry about all the questions but I'm kind of (And I mean kind of, I've been working with free versions for a while now) new to Terragen and I'm curious about what I can and can't do with it and what requires other software and how I can include other software in my work with Terragen.


Whoa, quite a load of questions there. :D

Yes, you can make some really nice procedural planets just in TG with no need for other programs. Whether you use procedural or resource-based items is up to you.

When I create (Terran) planets I follow these simple guidelines:

- Cover the whole planet with a water sphere.
- Create large-scale (on a magnitude of 1 500 000 or so) displaced fractal for elevation.
- Create smaller, localized displacements for mountain ranges.
- Create large-scale, displacement-free color power fractals. Actually I create many of them to account for various terrain types.
- While we're at it, note that you can fake jungle and forest coverage simply by adding green power fractals to imitate foliage. Analogically, you may use yellowish and brown fractal to produce, say, a desert area.
- For more specific coloring, you can add same fractal but with smaller scales.

All you need to remember for starters is that you need really large fractal scales if you want procedural planet. If you make it too small the resulting celestial body will look patchy and repetitive. And obviously, it is almost never feasible to actually add 3d tree objects to get forest at an orbital altitude. ::)

As far as the clouds are concerned, I think TG4 has an option of successfully creating planetwide cloud patterns, does it? ???

And yeah, I was also toying with an idea of offering my services as a CG artist but I am afraid there are people with more time and qualifications than I. I'm not sure if hobbyists are of any serious interest to head hunters...
"This year - a factory of semiconductors. Next year - a factory of whole conductors!"


I've tried to make a couple planets before, and I had a similar system in mind when doing so...thank you though  :) Also, the idea of using power fractals for forests/jungles could certainly work but what if I ever decide to do an animation that would require actual plant models to be there, how would I make one effect fade into the other in a not-so-noticeable manner?

I think it does have a checkbox for "localize", but again, I'm not sure how random the dispersion is...

Yeah, unfortunately...


Yow, lots and lots of questions! I will try to answer each one *in brief*. I suggest you open a new thread to better discuss any more in-depth questions/answers you need.

First, as a preface, it is very important to know what you intend to do with your creations. If you just want to create procedural planets to make renders or animations in Terragen, then it's very possible. However if you have hopes to create things like procedural planets and then export the result to something like a game engine, that's not really a good workflow and you are better off not using Terragen in that kind of process at this time. So I'm answering your questions with the assumption that you intend Terragen to be your final "destination" program from which you create all renders.

Going in order of your questions...

Yes, you can apply Power Fractals and most other shaders on top of other data. Whether it will create a great-looking result is another question, but it's certainly possible. You *can* use Terragen to procedurally enhance raster/image-based data. For terrain data you need your other program(s) to output *heightfields*, where grayscale is used to indicate height. You can then add additional displacement on this for more detail. Alternatively you can output continent masks in another program and use these to create a base shape in Terragen and blend it with procedural displacement for better realism, bit is more ideal if your other program(s) create height to begin with, it will be a better base.

Augmenting textures is harder, they do not work in the same easy sort of "additive" way where a base image can be used to define the color of overlaid procedural color variation for detail. However you can use things like Merge Shaders and other more complicated approaches to try to take a lower resolution image-based texture and add procedural detail. It is challenging and I would generally recommend only doing your continent/large-scale *terrain* shapes (heightfield) in other programs, then do all texturing in Terragen.

For covering planets in rocks, trees, and other objects, there is actually no software that can do this without doing it using clever procedural hacks where everything is dynamically generated at runtime. To do it in Terragen, you need to customize your populations to cover the area that you plan to zoom to. If you want to zoom to any random area and have it covered in trees, that's pretty unlikely unless you have tons and tons of memory (think about 128GB, maybe even more), and you will be dealing with a lot of unnecessary overhead, so let's assume you do it using a more focused method. So for a single zoom-down animation from space to ground, what you would do is texture the terrain such that it has the appearance of, say, a forest from a distance (add tree-sized displacement and green texturing, for example), then you just create a population that covers the area that your camera will focus on as it descends, and use a mask to transition from the texture/displacement "forest" to the real 3D model forest, so that as your camera comes down, the transition zone is in the distance, hardly visible or not at all, by the time you are able to see the dimensions of trees.

The sun does have a glare if you enable Starburst in Filters (Terragen 4). Glare is a camera/eye effect, it does not exist in the real world. ;)

If your cloud map generating software creates *masks* (black and white images that show where clouds should and should not appear), then you can easily use this as a mask for procedural clouds in Terragen.

v3 clouds (e.g. Easy Cloud) are always localized due to rendering demand and overhead. Use older v2 clouds (try "Global Cloud" presets in Add Cloud menu) for global clouds. Use the Mask input with any large-scale cloud map (you can use real-world NASA data for example to get good large-scale cloud shapes).

Emissive shader = Luminosity, a texture setting available in several shaders including Default Shader and Surface Layer. Use very high values (e.g. 1000 or 10,000 or more) to get a lot of light. You often need to use high Global Illumination (GI) settings to get this to look good, but it works.

Image Map Shader can be used for color as well as height (displacement). But as I said above, augmenting a color texture is harder to do well than augmenting height with more detail.

The "star" is an "infinite" light source, with an optional disc-shaped object. There is limited customization at this time, but you can change color, disc size, some glow options, and you can adjust Starburst settings to change some of its appearance. If you need more customization you will need to use workarounds like a secondary planet that does not cast shadows, set in front of the Sun (e.g. if you want to add a texture to the "sun").

Backgrounds can affect light if they are *luminous* (see Luminosity setting mentioned above), however you need very high GI values for it to work well, and Terragen is really not designed to work this way at present. It is not recommended.

To add a 360 background go into the Background Object, add an Image Map Shader with Spherical Projection and set the position of the Image Map Shader to be equal to the Background Object position.

Changing colors of plants can be done in any external 3D modeling program, of course. If you want to do it in Terragen, go into the internal network of any imported object node (the + symbol on the right of the node in the network view, or right-click it and go to Internal Network), then go inside the Parts Shader, find the Object Part and connected Default Shader that corresponds to the *part* of the object you want to adjust. In the Default Shader you can adjust Diffuse Color to tint the existing texture, or you can replace it by changing out Colour Image, or you can feed in a new procedural function (e.g. Power Fractal) to make more sophisticated procedural tinting changes.

As long as you have some way of receiving money on the Internet, you can just put up a website and sell anything you make. Whether people will want to buy it just depends on how high the quality is, so focus on that. You can talk to the people at New World Digital Art (NWDA), but I don't know if they can work with someone under 18 (up to them), and of course you would need to have some demonstration of the quality of your work. So that's probably something to work on and apply for later. Focus for now on making high quality content, and I'd advise starting by giving some things away, then as your quality increases you can consider charging.

Again I recommend opening dedicated threads for any in-depth discussion you want to have on the above topics. This is intended only as a quick response and this could quickly become an unwieldy thread to keep track of. :D

- Oshyan


Thanks for all the time and work you put into this answer Oshyan! Been quite informative.

You know what, I was wondering if you have any "recipe" for this "tree-size displacement". I was wondering how to do it and make it look decent. For now, I'm faking forest coverage simply by applying "flat" colors, but some information on the flavor and scales of the displacement would be nice.

If you don't mind answering in this thread? :D
"This year - a factory of semiconductors. Next year - a factory of whole conductors!"


If you use voronoi billows (or a blue node setup, I think, from my head, adding 2 3D perlins)) you can make white circles/dots. Mask into patches if needed. Displace those by the height of the tree needed and color it a greenish mix, and that's the basics. You can add a compute normal and some smaller displacements to mimic sidebranches full of leaves if needed. That's a lot of 'if needed'  ::)


Ulco's answer is pretty good, though I'd also say the type of shapes and displacement you need depend in part on what kind of forest or other vegetation you want to simulate. Lumpy/billows style is good for typical large-canopy, deciduous trees, but not as good for e.g. evergreens/conifers (which should be a bit spikier).

- Oshyan


You can use a bias scalar to change the curve.


Thank you all for your replies! ;D I know, I asked a lot of questions, but I'll definitely keep your tips and techniques in mind throughout my efforts.
Two more, woo...
If I do decide to use textures, I'm assuming they need to be in equirectangular projection to work correctly if I want the whole planet covered and shown correctly, right? Or is there some other map type like cubemap I need to work with?  (I ask because I'm much more experienced with equirectangular than any other projection, so working with something else would be annoying at best)
Also, is there any way I can customize the sunburst/lens flare effect you mentioned other than changing the softness and intensity?


Have a look at this if you would like Frank took a few years to develop it
New World Digital Art
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Yes, you want an image that will map to a sphere with Spherical Projection and where the poles are appropriately mapped so that they do not "pinch" or otherwise distort when mapped.

The starburst effect does not have other customizations than the ones you see in the UI at this time. Additions may be made in the future, for example to control the number of "points" on the starburst.

- Oshyan