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I'm currently trying (and failing) to create a close-to-realistic pile of ground coffee beans. I put a blue annotation to indicate roughly what I'm trying to accomplish, and I got pretty close with the nodes shown.

The problem is this setup doesn't rough up the edges of the gradient into values way closer to 0 and 1, instead of the current soft gradient look shown here, and obviously is void of any kind of roughness.

I feel like I'm missing something obvious. Any help is greatly appreciated.

enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ Are you trying to do it with material only, or are you open to using geometry nodes to instance "ground coffee bits" (objects) all over a surface. If you're looking for material only, are you using cycles (with or without displacement), or eevee? $\endgroup$ Jul 11 at 4:58
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Musgrave Texture is a pretty good candidate for breaking up an outline like this, since it outputs values between -1 and 1 it won't offset your coordinates. On average everything will be centered around the same point.

You can use MixRGB on coordinate vectors and it will operate on each channel as though it were RGB, and you can use it as a vector input afterwards with no problem.

enter image description here

To get a harder gradient you just need to move the white stop on your Color Ramp further towards black.

enter image description here

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You could do some touches manually.

Try editing the texture "by hand"... Just like if you were making a PBR texture or drawing... The darker a color is, the deeper it will look. And the lighter the color is, the more popped-out it will look...

For example, paint with a darker shade (of the same color of the sand) for a deeper effect in a certain area, or a lighter shade than the original color for a bumpy/ popped-out effect, and use a blend brush to mix the colors together.

If you don't understand much of coloring, I suggest watching some tutorials about color blending/mixing and shading, since it's the same process whether you're painting a texture or a drawing...

Here are 2 tutorials that might help and you don't need Photoshop to follow it, since the coloring process is the same in any program:

And for a more grainy effect, you can try adding some noise to the texture if you like.

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