the gravel

I'm trying to make gravel for my animation, and so far I've tried particles resembling pebble pieces. This method seems too clumsy, so is there an efficient way to make a pile of gravel with collisions on?

  • $\begingroup$ What specifically is clumsy? Ease of use? Time to render? Is that your finished product in the question? Did you take advantage of physics? Is the gravel the primary focus or secondary background? Is your mesh shaped like the pile [operative word ] mentioned in your writing? $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 19:16
  • $\begingroup$ Render time and ease of use. Generating particles seems like an unnecessary procedure, but I'm not aware of better methods. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 19:20
  • $\begingroup$ Particles can be your strongest ally many times. Whether or not they are well suited for your particular project is to be determined. Are you generating a still image or dynamic video? If the image is still you might be able to place a texture on a mesh. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 19:23
  • $\begingroup$ I'm doing a video $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 15:26
  • $\begingroup$ You might want to list the specifications of your machine hardware in terms of render time. Blender system info does that. What specifically is the ease of use issue, but not render time. Can you place a texture of the gravel on a mesh? Would that be acceptable? Type game speed optimization. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 16:16

1 Answer 1


1. Add a plane and Fractal Subdivide it

A Fractal value around 0.5 is good for this size of plane.

Fractal subdivide a plane

2. Subdivide it again

Do a second subdivision of a single cut, this time with a higher Fractal value. In this example I used 3.

Subdivide again

3. Add a collision plane below

This is to catch the stones after we explode the fractal plane. Scale it up to be somewhat larger than the fractal plane.

Add a collision plane

4. Specify the collision plane's settings

This is done in the Physics Context with the collision plane selected.

We just want some Particle Friction and Particle Damping. No need to be exact.

Collision settings for the collision plane

5. Select "Quick Explode" from the Object menu

POW! Why sculpt and cut when you can just blow things up? Huge time-saver.

Choose "Quick Explode"

6. Specify Quick Explode settings

Adjust these while playing your animation in a loop to see what you like best.

Quick Explode settings

Once the settings are committed, they're committed.

7. It's exploded but needs thickness and form

Next we will perform some magic to turn this confetti into rocks.

Exploded fragments lack thickness

8. Add some more Modifiers with these settings

Note the Solidify Thickness of 0.1, the Decimate Ratio of 0.3, and the SubSurf Subdivisions of 1 each. There is room to experiment here - these values are not set in stone.

What's happening: First the Solidify Modifier turns the flat shards into chunks with volume, but they still look too uniform and not organic enough. Next the Decimate Modifier crushes that geometry down into a shape that looks more like stones by merging neighboring vertices. Finally a Subdivision Surface Modifier takes care of taming the jaggedness.

How many subdivisions? 1 or 2, depending on how smooth you want your stones to be and what kind of poly count you can afford. Usually less is more, and this can be changed later.

Modifier settings for shaping shards into stones

9. Apply all modifiers except SubSurf and set shading to Smooth

The Particle System Modifier is the only one that can't be deleted or applied in this stack.

Particle System Modifier - Setttings can be found inside the Particle Context

Instead, navigate to the Particle Context. From there you can click the minus icon-button to delete it. We no longer need it once the stones have been created.

Click the minus button to delete the particle system

The purpose in leaving SubSurf on is for flexibility. You may later choose to remove the SubSurf altogether or increase its subdivision level to 2 for smoother, hi-poly (but also heavier to calculate) geometry. The Modifier settings from one stone can be copied to the rest. More on the SubSurf Modifier later.

With Modifiers added and object smoothed

10. Select the stones of desirable shape and size

In Edit Mode (Face Select), select a face which is about the ideal size (meaning area) that you want your remaining stones to have. Then press ShiftG to Select Similar and choose "Area".

Select the stones of desirable shape and size

Immediately after selecting similar faces a Threshold slider will appear in the Operator Panel. Adjust it until it's catching the appropriate amount of stones.

Adjusting the threshold of similarity

The goal is not to catch every face of every stone with this method, but just to get selected at least one piece of geometry on each stone you want to keep. After this you can shift-select parts of any additional stones you like. Then press CtrlL to Select Linked and this is how you get the whole stones selected.

11. Delete the rest

While still in Edit Mode and with your desired stones selected, press CtrlI to invert the selection so that only the stones you don't want to keep are selected. Then press X to delete them.

Delete reject geometry

12. Separate by loose parts to get individual stone objects

At this point you may want to rename your object from "Plane" to something like "Stone", before breaking it into a bunch of smaller objects that will be named "Stone.123" etc.

Press A to Select All, then P to Separate. Choose "By Loose Parts".

Separate by loose parts

From Object Mode you may now want to Hide (H) the collision plane if it is obscuring some of the stones.

13. Set Origin to Geometry

Having the origin point of these stones off in an arbitrary location is no good, especially if they will be used in a particle system. Let's set it so each stone's origin point is at its center.

In the Tools Tab use the Set Origin drop-down selector to choose "Origin to Geometry", or press ShiftCtrlAltC.

Origin to Geometry

14. Group your stones

Grouping your stones is not only a good way to stay organized and be able to select them easily in the Outliner or Append them to other .blends - it's also necessary if you're going to use them in their own Particle System.

With all of your stone objects selected in Object Mode, press CtrlG to group them. In the Operator Panel name the group something creative like "Stones".

Creating a group and naming it "Stones"

From here you can either use these stones (rocks, gravel, whatever) as particles or as rigid bodies, or with the Molecular Add-On. Self-collision is possible with the latter two methods. If you want to apply the SubSurf Modifier to all the stones you can press AltC and Convert to Mesh.

  • $\begingroup$ How do you select similar pebbles and how do you separate by loose parts? $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 23:20
  • $\begingroup$ While in Edit mode, hit P. "Separate by loose parts" will be the last choice. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 15:44
  • $\begingroup$ Please see my updated answer. When I first posted I didn't have time to add much text description, just wanted to get you the essential info. I have now filled in the details to make it more comprehensive. $\endgroup$
    – Mentalist
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 15:53
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ best way I have ever seen to do this! $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 17:50
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is exactly what I was looking for! Thank you very much :D $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 23:12

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