Timothy J. Reynolds has these awesome mountains - enter image description here but the closest I've got to modeling one of these cool mountains is:

enter image description here

What lighting or modeling am I missing?

EDIT: I use cycles, so preferably I want a solution in blender cycles.

  • $\begingroup$ I have an idea on how to make more contrast, try making the background a dark grey, then render the image with transparent background (Render>Film>Transparent checkbox) and paste the image on a white background $\endgroup$
    – tacofisher
    May 13, 2016 at 15:29
  • $\begingroup$ Are you just looking at his lighting/post? Or are you going for how to model the buildings, mountain detail, etc? $\endgroup$ May 13, 2016 at 17:32
  • $\begingroup$ @MikeBelanger Lighting/post & how to model the mountains. Thanks for asking! $\endgroup$ May 13, 2016 at 17:59
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    $\begingroup$ Thank-you for posting this! I'm a fan of Tim's work too, and it's nice to see people trying to re-create each others looks. I made an edit just to say you're not looking at modelling the structures in the image, that way nobody gives a tutorial about modelling the structures. $\endgroup$ May 13, 2016 at 18:03
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    $\begingroup$ Looking at it, I bet he hand places each of those polygons, using his artistic eye. The best way to learn would be to attempt to exactly replicate a work of his, and that should give you a feel for the right size shape and placement. $\endgroup$ Jun 6, 2016 at 3:17

5 Answers 5


Here is what I got:

enter image description here


According to the result, there are some evidences that the author might very possibly take AO pass into account:

enter image description here

So the basic idea is to multiply AO pass with Image pass something like this:

enter image description here

Then it should come with a few color related nodes such as Color Correction, Color Balance, RGB Curves, etc. to mimic the tones for each channel, something like below:

enter image description here

Materials are very basic, no magics I bet. Just use Sun lamp with a very small size value to get sharp shadow:

enter image description here

There are generally two methods to model poly mountains:

Method A:

  1. Create a plane, then subdivide and decimate: enter image description here

  2. Apply all modifiers, then paint vertex weights in Weight Paint mode, and use it for a Displace modifier: enter image description here

Method B:

Use Sculpting tools. Use dynamic topology to create these randomized triangles, and use Flatten brush to create the flat tops: enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ THANK YOU. I will reward you with the 50 reputation soon. I have some questions, though. So which method did you use to make the scene? (A or B) $\endgroup$ Jun 10, 2016 at 20:53
  • $\begingroup$ A here to be honest. Plus a little further tweak such as selecting faces of each peaks then scale along Z axis to make them real flat. $\endgroup$ Jun 10, 2016 at 23:44
  • $\begingroup$ Or you can simply add a Decimate modifier to the high poly mountain that has already been modeled. $\endgroup$ Jun 11, 2016 at 12:25

You are not just just limited to the material and lighting,A process you all forge about is post production you can change the mood and the look of the image completely in post.

Here is an example for contrast enhancement for your image just by using a single node:


What is also useful is the extra passes you have like the Normal pass which can be used to do exactly what you want in here.

Here you can see what I did to make the image more contrasty and appealing:

you can see the original in the render layer node.


I added a vector Normal node and choose a good angle and then overlayed it on the image to get the contrast based on the geometry.

I can also see some fog in the scene which can be done using the mist pass.

Which will give something like this:


It is barely seen, because the scene is just too small but in your scene it will look good.


To make the mountain you can use an addon called ANT landscape which is in master so just enable it.

Add this landscape and play with the options to get what you want.


Edit the mesh to suite what you need,I flattened the top of the mountain and made it circular.

Then I added a decimate modifier and checked trianglate,decrease the ratio to get what you want.


And then you have your mountain:


Buy using the all the techniques,We can get this result:

Final render

And here is the blend file:

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you! The contrast based on the geometry I think will help a lot! But, do you have any idea on how to model one of those mountains? $\endgroup$ May 13, 2016 at 16:28
  • $\begingroup$ Tim's also has much sharper shadows, which probably contributes a lot to the "contrasty" look. $\endgroup$
    – Matt
    May 13, 2016 at 19:47
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexSafayan I edit the answer. $\endgroup$
    – Omar Emara
    Jun 9, 2016 at 11:33
  • $\begingroup$ Ok, I think you have the answer, but could you also show a render of the mountain? $\endgroup$ Jun 9, 2016 at 21:05
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexSafayan Here is a render and the blend file. $\endgroup$
    – Omar Emara
    Jun 10, 2016 at 8:02

No one mentions baked Ambient Occlusion into textures, that's what makes it look like it looks. Here is explained what that is:

What is Ambient Occlusion?

Here I marked the areas where you can clearly see it (it is noticeable everywhere though). Btw. AO makes the model look dirty, it put's shadows in areas that are lit and shouldn't be darkened:

enter image description here

The rest of the look is a filter post-process. With that you can match the colors, adjust tone of shadows, contrast etc. To analyze the filter-effect, you can look at the image histogram:

enter image description here

You can see that the contrast is lowered, with lacking blacks in all channels. Furthermore the blue channel is boosted in lower half so the shadows are tinted blue. Here are all the filter effects reversed:

enter image description here

But no amount of tweaking normal pass or filtering colors will add the very noticeable AO in the original.

You can use baked AO into textures, AO pass, or custom render using AO shader and overlaying over render. Here are some Ambient occlusion related questions:

How do you bake ambient occlusion for a model?

Adding Ambient Occlusion to Material

Emphasizing Cycles Render Ambient Occlusion

As the question also asks about lighting, here comes the analysis:

  • there are sharp shadows -> the light is a point-light with no size
  • the shadows are parallel -> the light is very far away
  • the shadow areas are also lit -> there is also a uniform environment lighting
  • there is Ambient Occlusion
  • there is most definitely a normals edit trick as other answers suggest. It is very common with such low-poly renders and it gives a control that would be a shame not to use.
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    $\begingroup$ Could you explain a little more, maybe adding some screenshots? $\endgroup$ Jun 8, 2016 at 1:09
  • $\begingroup$ I think this is actually the correct answer, but it needs a lot more information to be a sufficient answer. $\endgroup$
    – Matt
    Jun 9, 2016 at 13:22
  • $\begingroup$ Oh I didn't notice this answer before I posted mine. We got quite similar inference on the AO part. :) $\endgroup$ Jun 10, 2016 at 14:12
  • $\begingroup$ @LeonCheung I think we are both correct, the AO is definitely there:) $\endgroup$ Jun 10, 2016 at 14:16

Looks like there's quite a few triangles in the mountains, so its probably best to make some kind of subdivided, organic shape and throw a triangulate modifier on the stack. enter image description here


You can use the normals to determine the colors of the faces.

enter image description here

The material is here :

  • Input on normals
  • A mapping (x or y rotation) allows to change "faked" light angles
  • A color ramp to choose your colors

enter image description here

Edit : a variation to add more contrasts (just change the color ramp) : enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ Not what I'm looking for, these mountains look nothing like the example. $\endgroup$ Jun 8, 2016 at 21:03
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexSafayan can you detail more ? In fact, I dont understand if your question is about the shape or the colors or other ? $\endgroup$
    – lemon
    Jun 9, 2016 at 5:34

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