Tag Archive: 3D

Rendering Trees in Howler

I use DAZ Bryce quite a bit to render landscapes. A useful feature is the capability to “stack” terrains. Stacked terrains offer a quick way of adding trees or rocks. Here’s a simple mountain terrain rendered in Bryce.

daz bryce 3d mountain terrain

Simple Terrain Rendered in DAZ Bryce

To add trees I duplicate the terrain then modify it in Bryce’s terrain editor. Generally I first add a bit of height and slope noise so the result will be more interesting. The terrain editor can add “spikes” to a terrain bump map. This can be done at several resolutions. In the screenshot of the terrain editor below you can see spikes added to a terrain map. The size and number of spikes generated vary with the resolution chosen. Here the resolution is very low so that you can see the spikes, they are not just dots.  Simple dots would probably render as cylinders, not cones. You can see a rendered view at top right. When rendered in Bryce some of the cones are truncated.

screenshot of daz bryce terrain editor

Adding “Trees” In The Bryce Terrain Editor

When the two terrains are rendered together the spikes of the “tree” terrain protrude through the original terrain. After selecting a texture for the “trees” there are a number of ways to further modify the terrain. By simply raising or lowering the tree terrain relative to the original you can vary the size and number of visible trees. Areas without trees and treelines can be made my editing the  bump map. Such tree layers work best for mid-range or background terrains. With a bit of work you can a quite realistic image.

bryce terrain - spikes, or trees

Same Terrain With Trees

I wondered if I could do something similar in Howler, so I rendered a terrain bump map with spikes, or trees, in 3d Designer; this is the result. The grass color was set as a reddish hue to resemble soil or conifer needle duff. Snow and rock were set as similar shades of green.

example rendering of trees in dogwaffle howler 3d designer

Conifers Rendered in Howler’s 3D Designer

As you can not work simultaneously with multiple bump maps in 3D Designer it would be necessary to edit the bump map to make areas without trees, such as on the peaks and steep, rocky slopes. A better texture map and some method of distorting the trees, so they do not render merely as smooth cones, would improve the results. Post processing might be required to distort them for added realism. I usually have to do the same thing for trees rendered this way in Bryce.

Here’s a de Havilland DHC-3 Otter (which you have seen before), operated by mythical Flying Moose Aviation of Talkeetna, Alaska, flying over a snow-covered mountain range. While Dogwaffle began as a 2D, raster-based paint program, Howler can model landscapes with multiple ray tracing utilities. This image, of stunning, almost photo-realistic quality, was rendered up in the 3D Designer utility. 3D Designer also has the ability to insert localized cloud formations of several types into your image. In this example you can see the leading edge of an approaching snowstorm just beyond the mountains.

outrunning an approaching blizzard

Running Ahead Of The Storm

Dogwaffle has an amazing array features – 2D, 3D, particles. There is also a large and growing number of video tutorials to help you figure out how to use them. Look here for more examples in the future including landscapes rendered with the Puppy Ray ray tracing utility.

A New Toy

Like most artists working with digital media I use several software applications. Sometimes I may use as many as six or seven programs to produce a single finished image; especially if it involves 3D modeling – whatever works to get the job done. One program I have used for quite a few years now is Project Dogwaffle. I began with the freeware version and was very impressed; it was also a lot of fun. There have been many updates over the years and I upgrade every so often. A few days ago I upgraded to the latest version, known as Howler. No single application does everything, but Howler is a very sophisticated, though generally easy to use program. In addition to the standard painting functions that you would expect you can also make animations. Special settings for “painting” foliage are also included and some time ago the ability to generate 3D terrains was incorporated.

I have been tinkering with my new toy and thought I you might interested in the results. There will be more examples and explanations of how I use Dogwaffle in conjunction with other software posted here in the coming weeks. I am always experimenting and trying to push the envelope of what can be done. My friend Philip Staiger who helped develop various versions of Dogwaffle will also probably be posting some of it and additional material at his website, thebest3d.com. He has also made some very good video tutorials. My thanks to him for his recent assistance.

As I said 3D terrain modeling has been a feature for some time and, like the other capabilities, it gets better with every new version. The ability to work both 2D and 3D in the same software makes some things much quicker and easier.

Here is the first image I worked up in Howler. I probably should not have put my copyright mark on it as I, more or less, slavishly followed the steps outlined in a video tutorial by Dan Ritchie who developed Dogwaffle. I really like how Howler handles fog.

Desert Sunset

Desert Sunset

To generate a 3D terrain you need a black and white image where the lighter the shade the higher the elevation; I call this a bump map. Here is a bump map for mountainous terrain. A simple, black and white, overhead image – think topographic map where the lightest shades are the mountain tops and the dark shades are lowlands. These are very easy to make by rendering plasma clouds.

black and white elevation map

Black And White Elevation Map

Here is a screenshot of the same bump map inside Howler’s 3D designer filter. Notice the terrain is a light neutral color. On the right you can see a panel with some of the many settings you can adjust.

screenshot of project dogwaffle howler 3d designer

Draft Terrain Render In Howler 3D Designer

The next step is to apply an image map, a texture, to the terrain. This is a simple image map made by again rendering plasma clouds, adjusting the color and adding a rock pattern to make it more interesting and realistic. As with rendering plasma clouds this is quick and easy to do. For the sake of brevity I left out a couple of steps required to add the snow.

terrain image map

Terrain Image Map With Snow

The same image map applied to the terrain bump map in 3D designer.

image map applies to the bump/terrain map

Image Map Applied To The Terrain

By adjusting a multitude of settings – elevation amplitude, illumination, point of view, etc., etc., etc.,  anyone can make a nice scenic view.

Here is another doodle I made. Except for the Northern Lights, which I made with other software, everything in this image was done with the Howler version of Dogwaffle on the same manner as outlined above. You can also make some very nice Northern Lights in Dogwaffle.

example 3d terrain render in project dogwaffle howler

Aurora Borealis Over Snow-Covered Mountains

One other thing you might find to be interesting.

Here’s a fractal image I made some time ago.

fractal magen david/star of david

Fractal Star Of David

After running it though the same process as above – I was curious what would happen – this is the resulting image with the illumination set to make the relief more visible.

fractal image rendered as terrain

Fractal Image Rendered As Terrain

I definitely recommend Dogwaffle to anyone, from beginners in digital arts, to professionals with many years of experience.

Thin Air


When making images I may use something I draw/paint from scratch, objects and landscape modeled and rendered with 3D software, or photographs I have taken – sometimes I make use of all three in one image – whatever works. I do a lot of experimentation. In this doodle of stark, high mountains I am trying to “automate” the irregular presence of snow rendered in 3D; so that the snow line is not just that, a line. I haven’t perfected the process, but I think I am on the right track.

In this case I applied a terrain image map which I made in the PD Artist version of Project Dogwaffle (which, by the way, has a very useful 3D terrain modeling filter) to mountainous terrain in Daz Bryce. I duplicated the terrain with a snow material. Repeatedly applying a variety of random variations (noise) in the geometry of the two terrains gave the effect I was looking for. A bit of post-processing produced a rather nice result.

thin air - snow on the mountains

Thin Air


In the north the term “breakup” refers to melting of the ice in lakes and , especially, rivers. When breakup occurs masses of ice begin melting and moving; spring soon follows,

I recently picked up a few tips that will allow me to become better at the mechanics of using 3D software to make art. Those tips are incorporated into this image; a mountain lake in spring. Sunlight reflects off trees in the distance in a more natural way that I was able to achieve previously. And I think I was able to render a fairly good approximation of ice as it appears on a lake in spring when it melts most days and then refreezes at night. And the partially-melted snow on the hills also looks natural.

I added a Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) in the foreground as they are one of the most beautiful and interesting birds in the upper left hand corner of North America. We call them screeches as that is what they do.

Click on image for full-size view.

a mountain lake in spring

A Mountain Lake In Spring