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I want to create very thick and defined white smoke. Should I model it with displacement or use the smoke simulator? Note: this is a still image.

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It's a lot easier to get realistic results with the smoke simulator, however it will take longer.

A quick (and rather terrible) attempt at mesh smoke:

enter image description here

To create the mesh smoke I used a subsurfed cube with a displace and a remesh modifier, which I extruded randomly and duplicated around in edit mode.

Smoke sim:

enter image description here

There are some tricks to getting smoke sim bake times down for a still, for example you can use a faster time scale and/or a quick moving particle system as the emitter in order to get the smoke into position in a smaller number of frames.


To get a nice thick white smoke, try using larger number of volume bounces and a lot of light. In the above images I used 5 volume bounces and a strength 5 sun lamp.

You can set the bounces in Render settings > Light paths:

enter image description here

Also make sure you have a pretty dense volume shader with scattering.

For a smoke sim a simple way to tweak the density is with a multiply node:

enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ Wow! Thanks I'll give this a go and report back. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – user7604 Oct 22 '14 at 14:41

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