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This is what my ocean looks like:

enter image description here

This is the node editor of ocean:

enter image description here

This is the result after I edited a few values:

enter image description here

As you can see, I am either able to create a fully reflective ocean (which I did from a video tutorial) or create a blankly grey ocean. I played around with many values in the node editor but they don't make sense to me so I really wasn't able to achieve anything near my goal.

My question is:

What do I need to edit in the node editor setup to make my ocean more realistic?

Edit: I thought it would be apparent, but anyway, I'll want my ocean to be animated and not still.

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  • $\begingroup$ Connect a texture to the Displacement socket of the material output node, or connect a texture to a Vector > Bump node and plug it into the Normal socket of your shader nodes $\endgroup$ – Duarte Farrajota Ramos Jul 4 '16 at 16:38
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For large-scale water to look good, you'll need a few things:

  1. An environment for the water to reflect. You already got this.

  2. Waves. Water is almost never a perfectly flat mirror. You will need a lot of extra geometry to mimic the waves. It is a lot more common to use a displacement texture to 'fake' the effect.

  3. A key property of water is fresnel reflection. That means depending on the angle of the surface is to the camera, it is either really dark or really reflective.

Combining all 3, this is what we end up:

enter image description here

The Blend file can be found here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/8pf88lwlobv3kf9/ocean.blend?dl=0

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Hard to give "the best solution"... but here are some aspects that can help :

  • ocean is not flat and not a regular surface

You can use a texture to bump the surface (as Duante Farrajota Ramos said in comments). Or use the ocean modifier which "makes waves" for you.

enter image description here

This modifier by default, will add a new plane surface for the ocean. But you can use the "displace" option to apply it to your current ocean mesh. If you use displace, you'll have to subdivide your surface a lot in order to obtain the displacement.

  • ocean need to reflect something and is also transparent The sky, the objects at the border may be visible. But also a bit of what is under the surface.

So the material may be a mix between glass (something with indice of reflection), glossiness, and diffuse.

I suggest this kind of nodes as starting point :

enter image description here

The noise texture give irregularities but it can be balanced / moderate by the color ramp. The diffuse / glossy pair depend of the visible 'flatness' due to the fresnel node. And the glass shader allow to have transparency but depending of the IOR of it.

This gives this result :

enter image description here

This is far from perfect as you can see, but I hope this will help you to find the variations you want for your project.

The blend file :

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