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Creating Terrain Using a 2D Picture

Author: SpookeeP

Tools Needed

  • Bryce 5.5
  • Any 2D image (jpg or bmp)


So I was fooling around with Bryce one day and on a lark, I tried something out. I took an image that I had on my hard-drive (of German darkwave/synthpop band L'ame Immortelle) and wondered if it was possible to make a terrain out of it. What you see below you is the result of that. This tutorial will help you in making a unique terrain based off a 2-dimensional image.


Step 1 - Setting Up the Document

First, open up Bryce and change your document size to whatever you feel comfortable with. You can do this by clicking File/Document Setup or pressing Ctrl+Alt+N. The settings I use are the default settings for 'Max Recommended' (because I exist only to torment my computer).


Document Settings

Next, create a New Terrain Object. This is done by either clicking the 'Create Terrain Icon' or clicking the 'Create' triangle and selecting Terrains and Objects.


The silvery thing near the left is the terrain icon.


Create > Terrains and Objects

Finally, click on the terrain you just created and then click the small 'E' icon to bring up the terrain editor.


Step 2 - Terrain Editor and Loading the Image

Now we're in the Terrain Editor Room. You'll notice three windows here- two that have images and one that has a lot of buttons. The windows are your 'Preview Pane', 'Terrain Canvas' and 'Editing Tools' windows. They all have names so we can't forget which one is called what. In the Editing Tools window, click New, and then the Pictures Tab.


Terrain editor Room


Click New and then Picture Tab

Now that you have your Picture Tab open, take a look at it, you'll see three windows in the tab. The first two tabs can be used to insert pictures in (we'll touch on how this applies later) and the third window displays your picture. Since Bryce figures terrains similar to a bump-map or a displacement map (for those that are somewhat familiar with 3D) grey-scale images often work the best. This doesn't mean you can't use a color picture (I found that Bryce will convert it to grayscale for you)- you just run the slim risk of losing some of the detail if you do. Now that I touched on that, let's load our picture up. Click on the 'Load' above the first window and select your picture from the pop-up box.


'Load' your pic. I desaturated a colorized picture of L'ame Immortelle for this tutorial.

In the bottom left hand corner of the Picture Tab, you'll see a radio button marked 'Blend'. Click on the button and drag from left to right- you'll notice the image become darker as you drag to the left and lighter as you drag to the right' Pretty spiffy huh? Let's go ahead and drag all the way to the left- you'll know you're as far as you can go when your first and third picture look the same. Click 'Apply'. In the 3D Preview window, you'll see what your terrain looks like as a raw, untouched terrain and the Terrain Canvas window will have your picture in it.


Click on the Elevation Tab and now we move on to-

Step 3 - Fun with Elevation!

So I forgot something earlier during step 1. In the 3D Preview pane, click on the little downward pointing triangle, will ya? See the option that says 'Realtime Linking'? Do me a favor and Click that. You did it already? Good. Moving on. Click on the Elevation Tab in the Editing Tools Window. Ignore most of the options that are present (they only serve to scare you right now if you're brand new fresh out the package' believe me you'll have time to play with them later); we're only going to focus on 4 buttons- Raise/Lower, Smoothing, Undo and Eroded.


Elevation tools. We are primarily focused on Raise/Lower, Smooth and Eroded.

The Raise/Lower button is pretty self explanatory. Click and Drag right to lower, left to raise. Smoothing is not as self explanatory- it more or less equals out the height variations in the terrain to produce a somewhat more natural appearance. Eroded will do a massive smooth-over on the image and simulate roughly 10-20 years in the desert winds. Fool around with those, and if you don't like how something looks, just use Undo to take it back to the previous appearance. On the below picture, I 'scratched' in more terrain around certain high points (bare arms, exposed chest, faces) and then clicked and dragged on Eroded one time.


Note the amazing details that are still visible in the preview pane. Don't worry if yours doesn't turn out like this.

Step 4 - Finishing touches (Materials camera, etc)

This is the part that is actually the hardest- picking a material setting and camera position for your new terrain. I leave the ground plane in the image, and give it along the terrain a painted desert material setting.

Click on your terrain, select the Small 'M' and choose a material that you like best. After picking 'Painted Desert' for my terrain material and Desert Morning for my sky, not to mention a few hours of obsessive compulsive camera adjustment, this is what I came up with.


“Desert of L'ame Immortelle”

Step 5 - In conclusion

Let me wrap this up by saying two things:

1) Thanks for reading this. Hopefully it has helped you out in some way shape or form.

2) This is not the be all, end all method for what I am referring to as Terrain-facing. If you can find a quicker, simpler way, pass it along!