Small mountain with clouds

I need a mountain for the background in a scene I’m working on, so I used the free version of Gaea. Since it is limited to 1k output, I spent a lot of effort breaking up the low-res maps with noise and displacement.

I found a few references to Gaea on the forum here, but not a lot. Is there a thread, group, or other repository of knowledge for working with Gaea specifically in Blender? I’m reasonably happy with my muddling about, but it would have been faster to have learned from others’ experience.

Here’s the heightmap applied to the plane in isolation:

Now back to trying to figure out how to make cumulus clouds in Cycles. Cirrus and stratus clouds are fairly straightforward, but I’m having a bear of a time getting decent looking cumulus clouds with a volume material on a cube. Anyone have a link and/or pointers?


So I think I’ve got a cloud material I’m happy with. Need to turn down the Volume Step Rate to get the detail to show, and volumes are sample-hungry. So It’ll be a long render.
In the meantime, here’s a quick low-res preview render:


This is the raw render result. I’m still working on the compositing.

I decreased the volume step rate to .1 from .5, and decreased the density of the clouds from 10 to 2 to compensate (there seems to be a proportional response).

I’m happy with the detail in the clouds, but I’m not thrilled that I lost the highlights on the left side. I guess the lesson is to either match the step rate in the viewport, or do several small test region renders… both options are super-slow. Any suggestions?

Hoping to get the compositing done tonight. I’m having some issues with artifacts where the sky meets the mountain; we’ll see if I can overcome them.

1 Like

I love the clouds!

Lots of trial and error, but I’m happy with the way they came out in the end. I had to take a few breaks due to frustration. Coming back to it fresh, and trying something new each time, eventually got me results I like.

Having too much fun in the compositor; lots to explore.

I felt the clouds were a little too dark, and the strength of the sunlight on the mountain a little too strong. Also, the roughness of the ground material was a little too low, so the small displacement bumps were catching too much light. The dark cloud at the top wasn’t adding anything either, so I cropped it out.

Then I wanted a Black and White version. Perhaps I should bring up the contrast of the clouds a little, which will mean blowing out the rightmost background clouds even more. Had to drop the value of the sky to keep it from being distracting.

And lastly, I decided to take it over the top, for fun and all :

Which should I use for the final thumbnail?

I really like the first render.

When you presented the “black and white render,” I think I see what I was looking for in the snow, which to my eyes looked too much like a sand dune.

Now, since you’ve already discovered “compositor heaven,” what if you took that black-and-white snow, and dropped it into your existing color image?

What I’m suggesting here is a very deliberate bit of non-realism. It may “suck,” or it may be dynamite.

Thanks for the suggestion. I think it’ll look a little odd with the snow desaturated so much, when all the lighting is full of color. But I’ll give it a go :slight_smile:!

I don’t have it in front of me at the moment, but I don’t think I have a mask of just the snow. It is all part of the same giant material that is the mountain, applied to a single subsurf’ed plane. So to do this properly, I think I’d need to somehow separate the snow into its own material so I could grab it with a cryptomat (and re-render). Sure would be nice if we could separate individual shaders within a material for matting purposes (maybe we can, and I just don’t know how…).

I rendered out a mask for the snow. This first version is with the snow completely desaturated:

And this version is mostly desaturated.

:face_with_monocle:These clouds look very cool! :thinking:
…Terrain too, by the way! :sweat_smile: But I’m always with my head in the clouds, so… congratulations!
I can say immediately that these are rendered on cycles, but, if I may ask, do you use separated lighting for the clouds or is the same for all the scene?

Thanks! I’m always fiddling with cloud shaders. Some day maybe I’ll find the perfect combination that always works, but for now there is a lot of trial and error.

The lighting is the same for the whole scene, just a Nishita Sky Texture node if I recall correctly. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with mixing a Sky Texture node with an HDRI. I’ve also started using a light in the scene to compliment world shader, particularly to illuminate the underside of the clouds. An example in my sketchbook.

The big thing that I don’t know how to tackle is the horizon line. How to get the clouds and ground plane to meet properly. Hiding the horizon with hills to cover up the gap is getting old.

1 Like

Thanks! The usage of Nishita Sky and Cycles explains all my doubts… Eevee just can see lamps, but Cycles also calculates the sky and that is the major difference I’m detecting from your gorgeous clouds and my lousy ones :pensive:

Yeah! About the horizon line, I know that issue too well too :slight_smile:
That’s because the Earth is round and we are using flat clouds and terrains :sweat_smile:
I too have been fighting with that… My issue is that I use Eevee, in which volumetrics only work with cubes… but can’t cycles make clouds in a round way? Using a section of a sphere with solidify as cloud volume?

Yes, Cycles is more flexible when it comes to volumes. We also have volume objects now, which I’ve started exploring. Thus far I find them very slow, particularly if they have holes.

As for the curved volume to bring the clouds to the ground in the distance, I’ve not been happy with my experiments doing that. I just haven’t found a setup that looks decent, but I’m hoping it’s out there waiting to be found :).

Eevee can do really nice clouds, there are quite a few tutorials online showing different ways to accomplish them. I did a nebula in Eevee, and then later also rendered it with Cycles. Nebula are just space clouds after all :). Perhaps I’ll give Eevee clouds a go someday.

1 Like