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Tutorial - Create landscapes using heightmaps made in Blender3D by snipercup
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Added: 18/07/2014 - 01:00AM
Updated: 18/07/2014 - 01:05AM

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Last updated at 1:05, 18 Jul 2014 Uploaded at 1:00, 18 Jul 2014

Create landscapes using heightmaps made in Blender3D

This tutorial explains how to create hightmaps and load them into Creation Kit to make your own custom landscape. This tutorial will cover the creation of the heightmap and loading it into CreationKit. This tutorial will not cover creating LOD or filling the landscape with towns and quests. Only free software is used in this tutorial.

Credits:
Thanks to Hoddminir for t-h-e-s-e tutorials.
Also helpful: this CreationKit tutorial.
Blender wiki for this tutorial.

Why did I create this?
Because I like exploring. That's why it would be great if other people can create their own landscapes and make a mod with it. I'm looking forward to see what will be created.

This is how the landscape is going to look if you follow this tutorial:


It kind of looks like minecraft but I haven't found a way to automatically correct this (Except for Hoddminir's use of GeoControl, but you have to pay for that software (30 day trial)). That's why I will advise you to manually smooth the landscape later on in this tutorial (so you can still work with it). If that does not satisfy you, try to find your own way around this (and let me know what you come up with!).

To create the landscape, you have to follow the steps below:
  1. Open a new Blender file
  2. Delete all the objects in the 3d view
  3. Add a new plane mesh
  4. Subdivide the plane mesh
  5. Add a displacement modifier
  6. Add a subdivision surface modifier
  7. Add a material to the plane mesh
  8. Add the texture that will be used for rendering
  9. Add the texture that will affect the landscape
  10. Configure the displacement modifier to use the displacement texture
  11. Configure the displacement modifier to use a vertex group
  12. Paint the landscape
  13. Add a camera to render the landscape
  14. Render the landscape in the correct format and save it
  15. Convert the landscape image into a raw file
  16. Import the raw file into Tesanwynn
  17. Load the tesannwyn file into creation kit
  18. Smooth out the landscape using the landscape tool


If you haven't already done so, download Blender3D here. I'm using version 2.70a

1. Open a new Blender file

To open a new Blender file, just start up Blender and click in the 3d View



2. Delete all the objects in 3d view

Keeping your cursor in the 3d view, hit A twice to select all the objects (you will see a orange outline on the selected objects). Then hit x to delete the objects.



3. Add a new plane mesh

To add a new plane mesh, hit add -> Mesh -> Plane



Hit . (period) on your keypad to focus on the plane. Hit 7 on your keypad to switch to top view.

4. Subdivide the plane mesh

Click the object mode drop-down menu and select edit mode.



In the left menu, click subdivide. Some options will appear below. Where it says 'number of cuts' , enter 25 (you may use more or less depending on the performance of your computer).



Click the edit mode drop-down menu and select object mode.



5. Add a displacement modifier

  1. Select the modifier tab on the properties panel of the plane
  2. Click the add modifier drop-down menu
  3. Select the displacement modifier.


6. Add a subdivision surface modifier

  1. Click the add modifier drop-down menu.
  2. Click subdivision surface.


7. Add a material to the plane mesh

  1. Click the materials tab in the properties panel of the plane
  2. Click new


Scroll down a bit and click the shadeless checkbox.



8. Add the texture that will be used for rendering

Click the texture tab
Click new



Rename the texture to RenderTex



Select the type drop-down menu
Select Blend



Scroll down a bit.
If your colors panel is still closed, open it.



Click the Ramp checkbox (the ramp checkbox should be checked).



Click the color field
Set the alpha (where it says 'A') to 1



Click the thin line on the other end of the bar



Click the color bar again
Set the R, G and B colors to 0.015



Scroll down a bit
In the mapping panel, set the mappings in the lower right to Z / Z / Z



9. Add the texture that will affect the landscape

Scroll up to the top again
Select the second texture slot



Click new



Rename the texture to DisplaceTex



Uncheck the checkbox behind the texture



If the type isn't set to clouds already, set it to clouds



Just like before, in the colors panel
Click the ramp checkbox
Click the color bar
Set the Alpha to 1



Set the 'pos' to 0.118
Set the Brightness to 1.090
Set the Contrast to 0.045
Set the Saturation to 0



Scroll down a bit
Turn off Clamp
In the Clouds panel,
Set size to 0.10
Set Depth to 1



In the basis drop-down, select Voronoi F2-F1



10. Configure the displacement modifier to use the displacement texture

Click the modifier tab
In the displacement modifyer panel,
Click the drop-down menu below texture
Select the DisplaceTex



Set the strength to 0.8
Click the direction drop-down menu
Select 'Z'



11. Configure the displacement modifier to use a vertex group.

Click the view mode drop-down menu
Select edit mode




Select the vertex group tab
Click the + button to add a vertex group



Set the weight slide to 0
Click assign



Go back to the modifiers tab
Click the little snowflake where it says vertex group
Select the vertex group you just made



12. Paint the landscape.

Click the view mode drop-down menu.
Select weight paint.



You should see a blue square.
You are about to paint the landscape.
Use the following values in the weight slider:
0 = lowest (water)
0.180 - 0.200 = coastal areas
0.250 = main land
0.350 = mountains

A important note: all the land will be random hills because of the displacement modifier set to clouds.
If you set the weight to 0.250, it doesn't mean it will be a flat patch of land. It will become clear to you if you read more down below.

In the panel on the left, set the weight to 0.250. You will first paint the main islands.



You can paint anything you like.
If you make a mistake, just set the weight slider to 0 and correct it.
I painted a round island surrounded by a larger island.



Now paint the coastal areas.
Don't be afraid to erase too much water, you can correct it later.
Set the weight slider to 0.180
Set the radius to 20
Paint along the edges of the islands




Now paint the mountains.
Set the weight slider to 0.350.
Set the radius to 10.
You should see a couple of green strokes on the islands.



Now correct the area's where you erased too much water.
Set the weight to 0
Set the radius to 20
Be sure to paint along the edges of the map. If the edges are not water, it will not connect correctly to the wilderness in the CreationKit



Now add rivers and lakes.
Set the weight slider to 0.
Set the radius to 10.
Set the strength to 0.5. Because of this, it will take a couple of strokes before it will be entirely blue. This is to make sure the slope is not too steep from the mountains to the lower level. If that happens, the cells in the CreationKit will rip.
Paint a few dots and lines on your islands



13. Add a camera to render the landscape.

Click the view drop-down menu
Click Object mode



In the bottom-left menu, click object.
Click snap.
Click Cursor to Center.



Click Add
Click Camera



Hit 3 on your keypad. This will align the view to the side of the camera.




Place your cursor in the 3d view.
Press G to move the camera
Press Z to move it along the Z axis (up)
Move your cursor to move the camera upward so it's above the plane
Click the left mouse button to confirm the move.



Select the camera tab
Set the camera to orthographic




Set the orthographic scale to 1.970



Press 0 on your keypad. This will display the view as seen from the camera.




Click the render tab (with the camera icon).
In the dimensions panel, adjust the resolution:
Set X to 4096
Set Y to 4096
Set the % to 25



You have to check if the camera covers only the plane. If the camera renders anything outside the plane, the edges will not render correctly.
Place the cursor in the 3d view and zoom in.
Hold shift + middle mouse button and drag the cursor to the top-right (so the view will move to the bottom left.
If you accidentally release shift and the view switches to outside the camera, just press 0 on your keypad again to move back into camera view.

Because of the Subdivision Surface, the plane has rounded corners. The image below shows the camera only renders the plane and nothing outside it. If the camera is still outside of the plane, adjust the orthographic scale in the camera tab of the camera.



To move back to the top view,
Use the mouse wheel to zoom out
Press and hold shift + middle mouse button and move the mouse to align the view again.



14. Render the landscape in the correct format and save it.

In the render tab, scroll all the way to the bottom where it says 'output'.
Set the file-type to PNG
Set the colors to BW
Set the color depth to 16



In the 3d view, press the right mouse button to select the plane.
You can see you have selected the plane by looking at the objects panel in the top right.



Select the modifiers tab.



Very important:
Save your file before moving on to the next step.
Press F2 (or file -> save)
Insert a file name.
Press save as blend file.



You will not be saving the file after this. If you do save your file after this, you have to load an old save or start over.

In the modifiers tab, press apply to apply the displacement modifier.



Press F12 to render the image.
Use the scroll wheel to zoom out.



Click the image menu in the bottom-left corner
Click save as image



Enter a filename. I used tutorialworldspace.png
Click save as image



15. Convert the landscape image into a raw file.

If you haven't done so already, download ImageJ here. I'm using this version (v1.43).
Extract the zip file and open ImageJ. If you start it for the first time, it will ask you to update imageJ and it opens windows with information regarding ImageJ. Close the windows so you only have ImageJ open:



Select File -> Open.



Select the image (tutorialworldspace.png in my case) you saved earlier and click open.




With the image open,

Click image -> Type -> 16 Bit



Click File -> Save As -> Raw Data...



Enter a file name.
Click save.



16. Import the raw file into Tesanwynn.

If you haven't done so already, download Tesannwyn here. I'm using this version.
Extract Tesannwyn into a folder.
Place your tutorialworldspace.raw file in the same directory as Tesannwyn.



Use the command line to import your .raw file into tesannwyn:
TESAnnwyn.exe -i Skyrim -p 1 -b 16 -d 1024x1024 -s 0.1 -x -16 -y -16 -h -2050 -w LostLandOfKarin tutorialworldspace.raw

See the Tesannwyn manual for details on the command line options.
I'm using -w LostLandOfKarin. This means my worldspace in the CreationKit will have the name LostLandOfKarin.
The -h 2050 option is very important. If you don't enter the right value your world will float above or below the ground level in the CreationKit (the lowest point in the CreationKit).

Once you entered the command line, Tesannwyn will produce a tesannwyn.esp.
Put the tesannwyn.esp in your C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\Skyrim\Data folder and start CreationKit.

With the creationKit open,
Click the open icon
Select your skyrim and update.esm files
Set Tesannwyn.esp as a active file.



Once it's loaded, click world -> Heightmap editing.



Select the world you created. I named my world LostLandOfKarin.
Click OK.



This is just to make sure there are no spikes in your map. If there are any bright dots or lines you have spikes in your landscape.
It should look something like this:



Close the heightmap editing window.
In the Cell View, select the world you created.



For X and Y, enter 0.
Click Go.



In the render window, use the mouse wheel to zoom out.
Hold left shift to turn the camera.
Click the middle mouse button to pan the view.
In my case, I ended up between the two islands.



To smooth the surface, press H to open the landscape editing menu.
Click the soften vertices checkbox.




Use the landscape editing tool and wipe across the surface to smooth it.
You may set the radius to a larger number to cover a larger area.



This concludes the tutorial. If you want to know how to connect your world to the Tamriel world, see this tutorial.