A couple of months ago I created this image with the help of this Blenderguru tutorial. The Blender Render engine is used. Although only one sun lamp is used you may note that the shadow side of the earth is not black.

enter image description here

Now I have a little understanding of cycles I tried to build the planet earth in cycles with this result. Note that the shadow part is very dark / black although I used a very tiny Ambient Occlusion

enter image description here

I really prefer the blender render result because

1) the blender render planet is a "true blue planet" with lots of water and blue tints. In the cycles render there seems to be much less water 2) the africa continent seems very large in the cycles image 3) the clouds are very present in the cycles image and make it a more greyish image.

It looks like that the proportions are different. Did I make some mistakes with the texturing. Or is this simply the kind of differences that are normal ? I thought that Cycles was the more photorealistic render engine, but is this true and are there better engines ? Were did I go wrong with my cycles render ?

After the answer of Gandalf I applied his volume shaders to my Atmosphere and I also added subsurf modifier to the atmosphere. This is the result. I used the same shader as Gandalf. I guess I should change the distance between the atmosphere and the earth ??

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ Nothing most likely. Cycles is more realistically based, and is a completely different engine. You should not expect the same results, as if that is the case, you should use the much faster internal engine instead. $\endgroup$
    – J Sargent
    Commented Jan 23, 2016 at 17:34
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    $\begingroup$ Are you using UVs to map the texture? $\endgroup$
    – user1853
    Commented Jan 23, 2016 at 17:41
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    $\begingroup$ no, I use Texture Coordinates (generated) in the Cycles render and in the blender render also generated coordinates are being used. By the way, I re-uploaded the blend file and now packed all the images $\endgroup$
    – user13877
    Commented Jan 23, 2016 at 17:44
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    $\begingroup$ It is not only that I prefer the blender render result but also I think the dimensions of the image mapping in the cycles render seem out of proportion $\endgroup$
    – user13877
    Commented Jan 23, 2016 at 17:46
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    $\begingroup$ You might also want to look at this question: blender.stackexchange.com/questions/10741/… $\endgroup$
    – user1853
    Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 0:25

2 Answers 2


Cycles is capable of utilizing physically-based rendering techniques, but that doesn't inherently make every render appear photo-realistic. See How is Cycles different from Blender Internal?

To get a nice atmospheric scattering effect in cycles, I'd suggest wrapping your earth sphere in a slightly-larger sphere with a volumetric material such as this:

enter image description here


enter image description here

Note that these values are arbitrarily hand-picked based on what I thought "looked nice". If you are after accuracy you'll probably want to do a bit more research than I did ;)

It could use some tweaking, but it does look somewhat similar to actual photographs of the earth:

enter image description here enter image description here

Note that in the above setup the atmosphere is a constant density. The real atmosphere gets less dense higher up, creating a subtle falloff. This is pretty easy to simulate with a spherical gradient texture, but will vastly increase render time.

enter image description here

If you don't see the edge of the atmosphere very close up in your render, simulating this may not be necessary.

In response to the edits to the question:

To get rid of the grid-like pattern, add a subsurf modifier to the atmosphere sphere and increase the number of subdivisions until it's no longer apparent.

The reason the earths atmosphere appears bluer at the edges is because light which travels farther through the atmosphere is more likely to be scattered off air molecules. Since rays closer the edge of the atmosphere which travel farther through it, they appear bluer:

enter image description here

Keep in mind that thickness matters a lot with volume rendering, so another thing you can tweak (in addition to the density etc.) is the scale of the atmosphere object (adding more or less atmosphere on top of the ground)

Here's the .blend of my setup:

Textures intentionally omitted

Note that everything is just eyeballed; nothing is based on real-world data.

  • $\begingroup$ This conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – gandalf3
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 12:43

If you prefer the blender internal render for this kind of scenes (as I do), then you can use inverse Fresnel material approach to simulate atmospheric effects including outer glow, color gradient, soft edge near the space etc. Here is:

  • The basic nodded material setup with source fresnel showed on the right
  • And final result you may expect from it

It does increase render time, but just a little bit.

The basic nodded material setup with source fresnel showed on the right

Final result with atmospheric effect


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