Blender for making naturalistic landscapes. Is it good enough?

I want to clarify that my experience in Blender is for Archviz stills (no animation)
I’ve been capable of illustrating my work in a competitive, professional standard, even if not distinguished with artistic criteria for my renderings.
A big step for me, with outdoor renderings (I often do interiors) was HDRI lighting, which added so much to the “natural” feel to my renders, enough to make me want to increase the realism. So I started investigating landscapes.

I’ve been looking at several tutorials under the search string “blender painting landscape”.
The average Blender video on YouTube is far behind the UE4 equivalent, for the same search theme.
I’ve been trying to convince myself I don’t need to learn one more program… Blender is getting better. For Archviz it’s good enough (I hope…) so far and things like the recent principled shader, the noise reduction, among other improvements in 2.79, improve workflow and end quality.

But I look at landscapes… wow UE4 just impresses me so!
I should also add that trying my first at particle systems, just bogged down my system so much, to make me wonder if I can ever hope to add more than a few trees of clumps of grass. Isn’t UE4 much faster too?

You don’t render individual leafs or grass. You have too cheat. Billboarding trees and bushes makes no difference in an distance. There are great plugins for blender that costs some money and there are finished vegetation in blender market. Same with rocks and other stuff you might find in landscape.

Addons such as? I have Alchemy (by Blendersensei)
Could you show me a cheater’s workflow?
UE4 for example has a cheat mechanism, I don’t recall the name of it, but basically it substitutes a mesh for a simpler one at a distance.

This is probably not the best search term… specifically the word “painting”. Although you can do digital painting in Blender, that’s not really what you’re looking for. Rather than “paint”, try using words like “model”, “render”, “generate”, and perhaps “sculpt”. Those more accurately reflect what you’d need to do to create a landscape in Blender and therefore will give you better search results.

Nature is hard but I believe that the secret to good renders has more to do with the assets (and how to use them) than the engine. There is a video about the making of the jaw dropping UE4 demo that came out about a year ago. It shows a team of talented modelers out in the boondocks for weeks capturing textures and scans for their assets.

For a look at what Blender is capable of, check out the work of Dee van Hoven
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In addition to good HDRI skymaps, I would recommend the following:

  1. The Grass Essentials pack from Blender Guru–a great collection of grasses and weeds.
  2. The Blender sapling add-on for modeling non-hero trees and bushes.
  3. Chaos mapping node group to avoid the texture tiling effect: Chaos Mosaic
  4. “Tricky Water” material so you don’t have to use caustics.

Not an exhaustive list, but valuable to me.

Thats not really unique to UE4 and it’s called impostors.

More commonly called Level of Detail

impostors are not lods, but you can use it in the last lod level

So what’s the implementation of LOD / impostures in Blender?
If you have one angle, one static camera, you choose your “hero” and details manually. But how to do that dynamically, switch your impostures etc.? ( for example UE4 switches LOD)

Sounds like you want to do renders in real time with a camera that moves across the landscape. Automatic LOD is great for that and is found in most game engines. Looks like you will be learning UE4 or Unity.

What you would need to create really good looking large landscapes would be some kind of erosion simulation. Blender is missing it currently, but you might want to have a look at WorldMachine. It has a free test version (with support of 512x512 landscape resolution) and the results you can get with it are really stunning.

LODs are usually used in real-time applications and for more realistic rendering other techniques are used. In Blender, you can e.g. use Adaptive Subdivision, which automatically subdivides depending on how much detail is needed.

Jump to 27:49 for adaptive sampling:

BTW… there is a LOD plugin on blendermarket:
Think that should be useful… :slight_smile:

Just saw this ad on twitter .

It’s for snow landscape add on and it costs 160 dollars. It looks great in the renders and it’s fast. Just a heads up now that winter is coming.

All very good stuff, thank you