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I can't seem to figure out how to model low poly nature terrain. I don't know what objects to use, and what to do from there.
enter image description here This is a great example. How do I make (model) this type of terrain? Would the best workflow be to make them random generated? Or manually modeling them using sculpt tools, etc. ?

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    $\begingroup$ The leaves are obviously just basic spheres. The rocks are also basic sphere but the vertices are moved around a bit in edit mode, probably with proportional editing. The tree trunks look like a cube that was scaled down then extruded a couple of times. I imagine each section of the terrain is a subdivided plane with the vertices moved around abit in edit mode or maybe the mountain is just a copy of the tiny rock just scaled up and subdivided once. $\endgroup$ – eromod Jul 24 '16 at 2:58
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    $\begingroup$ See blender.stackexchange.com/questions/58398/… $\endgroup$ – Duarte Farrajota Ramos Jul 24 '16 at 3:07
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    $\begingroup$ Blendernation listed a tutorial on that just a couple of days ago. $\endgroup$ – sambler Jul 24 '16 at 8:06
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    $\begingroup$ Please be more specific with your questions. It easier to help you if you show what you've done and what of the process you are struggling with. $\endgroup$ – cegaton Jul 24 '16 at 16:38
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    $\begingroup$ Regarding the bounty that you put on the question: I guess what you want is a complete tutorial on how to do this kind of scenes. Blender Stackexchange is clearly the wrong place for tutorials that require many steps and lots of screenshots to answer the question to your satisfaction. Also please check out my answer below... $\endgroup$ – metaphor_set Jul 27 '16 at 13:17
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Ok, so, here we go. This will be the final result:

enter image description here

Beginnings

I came at this task with a systematic approach. I would grade everything by color and sculpt to pull out different colored landmasses from beneath a water surface plane (the lowest object in the scene). The cliff background, along with rocks, trees, and bushes, would come last.

Background Image

I downloaded the image from your question and imported it as a Background Image in the 3D Viewport Properties panel. I set the Display Axis to Camera, because it was the only relevant place that I would need the image. I also changed the Draw settings to Front because I would need to still see the image above my models; it's too complicated to do everything in Wireframe View.

enter image description here

Camera Settings

I also adjusted the Properties panel > Render tab > Dimensions dropdown settings so that the image wasn't stretched.

enter image description here

I keyed Numpad 0 to switch to Camera View, zoomed in, and checked 3D Viewport > Properties panel > View dropdown > Lock Camera to View.

Utilizing the background image, I aligned the ground plane and default cube to roughly the same orientation as the camera. Note how the grid, just barely peeking through the background image, appears to be on the same plane as the water.

enter image description here

Lighting

Sun Lamp

Since this is relatively simple, we'll knock it out now. Select the default Point lamp and go to the Properties panel > Object Data tab. Set the Lamp Type to Sun. Set the Size: value to 0. Click Use Nodes, and set the Strength: value to 3.0. Make sure the Color is Hex: value FFFECC.

enter image description here

HDR

For added realism, I prefer to use an HDR Image as an alternate light source.

Go to the Properties panel > World tab > Surface dropdown. Click Use Nodes. Click the dotted button next to the Color: input and choose Environment Texture.

enter image description here

Open an HDR Image. I am using the one from BlenderGuru's Cherry Blossom Tutorial.

Modeling

...and a bit of texturing.

The Water

I deleted the default cube to start and added a plane (Shift + A > Mesh > Plane). I scaled the plane up until I deemed fit (23.13). I then popped over to the Properties panel > Materials tab, ensured that I was in Cycles Render, and added a new material. I kept the default Diffuse BSDF shader but set the color to color of the water. To do that, I...

  1. ...went to the 3D Viewport Properties panel > Background Image dropdown.
  2. ...increased the Opacity: value to 1.
  3. ...went back to the Properties panel > Materials tab > Surface dropdown > Color Selection option.
  4. ...used the Ink Dropper to pick the water color.
  5. ...went to the Properties panel > Materials tab > Settings dropdown > Viewport Color.
  6. ...used the Ink Dropper to pick the Properties panel > Materials tab > Surface dropdown > Color.

You can do that or use Hex value BADDFE.

enter image description here

The Sand

...and basically steps for the dirt and the grass as well.

This is what I call the lightish brown stuff in the image (Hex: FFE1C8).

I duplicated the plane and moved it lower by keying Shift + D, then Z, then -.5. I keyed Tab to enter Edit Mode, keyed W to open the Specials menu, and selected Subdivide. I keyed T to toggle open/close the Toolshelf. Under the Subdivide dropdown, I changed the Number of Cuts to 10, the max.

enter image description here

I then subdivided again, but this time only used 3 cuts. I keyed Tab again to exit Edit Mode.

enter image description here

Next, I traveled to the Properties panel > Object modifiers tab and added a Triangulate modifier. I clicked Apply to apply the modifier.

enter image description here

I entered Sculpt Mode via the footer of the 3D Viewport. In the Toolshelf, I made sure that all mirroring was disabled. I, personally, enjoyed using a brush size of 17 px. and a strength of 0.5. I sculpted everywhere I saw sand. I did this until I felt content.

A gif of a bit of me sculpting:

enter image description here

The Dirt and the Grass

This is what I refer to the low lying green and dark brown coloring as. You will want to do the same thing as with the sand except that you will want to use a different material. Also, where materials are concerned:

  • Grass hex: DBE492.
  • Dirt hex: B18E7D.

What I've got so far (note that there were some white bars at the top and bottom of the image that I downloaded. I added these in for consistency's sake. I will include a blerb about how you can include them later. Note that the alternative is either shrinking the camera dimensions or making more scene):

enter image description here

The difference between the two:

enter image description here

Greyish-Brown Cliff

Hex: C4A888

I started by adding a Cylinder and scaling it up by a factor of 11. I then keyed Numpad 7, Numpad 5 to enter Top Orthographic View. I keyed Tab to enter Edit Mode. I keyed A to deselect everything. I keyed Z to toggle in/out of Wireframe View. I Box selected the following vertices.

enter image description here

I keyed X to open the Delete menu and selected Vertices. I then rotated my view and selected the top vertices.

enter image description here

I keyed . to switch the Pivot Point to 3D Cursor, which should be at the center of the scene. I keyed E, then S, then Shift + Z, then 2 to plateau my cliff face. I keyed Numpad 0 to revert to Camera View, A twice to select everything, and G, then Z, then 2.5 to move the cliff up. I keyed S, then X, then 2 to scale my cliff. I keyed G, then X, then -5 to move my cliff left. Lastly, I keyed Alt + RMB RMB while hovering over the back vertices that we extruded out of the top of the cliff to select them and G, then Z, then 4 to move it up. At this point, I have a cliff that looks like the following.

enter image description here

Now I subdivided it (3 cuts) and triangulated. And sculpted. After sculpting, I had something like the following. It's not totally accurate to the image, but it does look good.

enter image description here

Last thing for the cliff. I extruded and assigned the grass material to the same mesh for the grass at the top left of the cliff.

Background rest of the cliff

Stone hex: C3C3C3
Red Rock hex: E7A17D

There's no easy way for me to explain this, but I basically divided it up into chunks by color and made pieces out of various stretched and sculpted cylinders. This was my result:

enter image description here

But this was my scene. Not pretty, but effective:

enter image description here

Fillers

Pine Trees

Hex: 90C785

These I made by adding a cube, scaling it up, and scaling it down at the top.

enter image description here

Obviously I had to scale them slightly differently for each instance. Also, I did some occasional sculpting of the landscape beneath the trees to make it fit them, rather than vice-versa. After some work, I achieved this:

enter image description here

Rocks and Shrubs

For this, I added various low poly spheres which I triangulated and sculpted and placed around. I added no new materials, choosing to use the existing Pine tree, Greyish-Brown Cliff, and Red Rock materials. After adding these features, I achieved this:

enter image description here

The Trees

Tree Bark hex: 91604C

These I made through the simple system of extruding a low poly cylinder up and up. This was the trunk, for which I added yet another material, this one at a Hex value of 91604C The leaves were copies of a bush using the Pine Tree material again. How I arranged them was quite clever, if I do say so myself...and I do.

  1. In the Properties panel > Scene tab, I turned off all Gravity.
  2. I duplicated shrubs around the top of the tree.
  3. I added a Force Field > Force with a Strength: value of -20 to the top of the tree.
  4. In the 3D Viewport > Toolshelf > Physics tab, I Add Actived all of the leaves.
  5. I Add Passived the tree.

The setup:

enter image description here

After simulating:

enter image description here

After simulating, which I had to do by separate trees, I had to click Bake to Keyframes for each leaf and set the Start: and End: values to the frame that I liked (119).

After making the trees, the last thing, I produced the a result that only needed some minor post-processing, which I'll explain next, to look like the image from the beginning.

Post-processing

I used 1000 Render Samples and 256x256 tiles because I rendered on my GPU. As a rough guide, refer to the following chart by BlenderGuru. Make your own tests to find out what is the optimal tile size for your system and scenes.

enter image description here

For the compositing, I used these nodes to add the top and bottom white borders:

enter image description here

How this works:

  • The two Box Mask nodes create a two white boxes (top and bottom) with a black background at the specified coordinates for the specified size.
  • The Color > MixRGB > Add node adds all values white (1) to the other creating two strips with a black (0) background.
  • This can be used as a Fac: between a chosen color (which just so happens to be white) and the rest of the image that I want to show.

Once again, the final result:

enter image description here

The .blend file:

ARadish's modified .blend file, in which the compositing and tree leaves were changed:

ARadish's compositing and corresponding explanation:

enter image description here

The compositing was meant to add sepia-ish tones to the image, and make the ambient shadows darker, and orangier. I added an AO (ambient occlusion) render pass under "Render Layers" and strung this to the blue channel of the original image. After recombining RBGA, i ran a tweaked line of the AO into the black levels of the image using RGB curves. This gives me darker shadows without changing the over all contrast of the image. A tad of color balance for sepia made the image get that softer feel.

Result from ARadish's .blend:

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ this is a good answer. honestly, the leaves and the compositing are terrible, i was able to do something about the leaves, but that compositing is hard to pin. kudos to you. this deserves the extra points. <img src="http://blend-exchange.giantcowfilms.com/embedImage.png?bid=1666" /> $\endgroup$ – Scalia Jul 29 '16 at 20:31
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    $\begingroup$ @ARadish I agree with you. The leaves were terrible. I just wanted them to not be running into each other, but I did realize that they looked nothing like the original picture. Note that I mostly did the compositing to cover the ugly top and bottom of the image. I will say, if you don't mind, that telling someone that their work is terrible may not be the best approach. I'm generally good with criticism, but someone else might not be so adept. Lastly, do you mind if I add your modified .blend file to the end of the answer? And would you consider explaining to me how the compositing works? $\endgroup$ – Shady Puck Jul 29 '16 at 21:21
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    $\begingroup$ The compositing was meant to add sepia-ish tones to the image, and make the ambient shadows darker, and orangier. I added an AO (ambient occlusion) render pass under "Render Layers" and strung this to the blue channel of the original image. After recombining RBGA, i ran a tweaked line of the AO into the black levels of the image using RGB curves. This gives me darker shadows without changing the over all contrast of the image. A tad of color balance for sepia made the image get that softer feel. still working on this tho. thanks for understanding. $\endgroup$ – Scalia Jul 29 '16 at 21:43
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    $\begingroup$ @ARadish added your stuff. Thanks for the help! $\endgroup$ – Shady Puck Jul 29 '16 at 21:55
  • $\begingroup$ This was the image I put together without your tutorial: s32.postimg.org/6lli8dzet/edited.png $\endgroup$ – Alex Jul 31 '16 at 21:52
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Since Blender Stackexchange is clearly the wrong place to give full-blown tutorials about how to create whole scenes, I'll try to answer this as short as possible.

In General:

The creation of this kind of Low-Poly Scenes differs not vastly from the creation of High-Poly scenes. It's always good to start with a high polycount and reduce it with a Decimate Modifier with the "Triangulate" option checked. See How do I create low poly style terrain

You always want to use flat instead of smooth shading on your models. This is a per-model/mesh setting, which you can activate in the toolbar (T)

activate flat shading per model/mesh

Work with separate models for

  • the basic terrain with a basic material like sand, rock, soil... and sculpt rivers and lakes into it
  • hills with different materials like grass, dirt... and create roads and paths with them.
  • planes with a displacement modifier for water
  • rocks, trees, bushes, houses, ... built out of primitives

Terrain:

You can use the ANT Landscape generator, like I already described in my terrain answer, you can also start with a simple plane.

  • Choose a reasonable size, subdivide it evenly into squares (using loopcut helps) and add a multires modifier to it.
  • Sculpt the terrain in Sculpt Mode, slight hills for the basic shape, steep carvings for lakes, rivers, creeks...
  • When your base sculpt is done, add a Decimate Modifier with "collapse" and "triangulate" to your stack and reduce the Ratio until you are satisfied.

Water

Use at least one separate plane or, if you have several lakes on different altitudes separate planes for them.

  • adjust them so that the terrain overlaps the water plane(s).
  • use subdivide/loopcut to get even distribution
  • uv-unwrap them
  • add a multires modifier and a displacement modifier with a voronoi texture
  • add a Decimate modifier with "collapse" and "triangulate".

Mountains and Cliffs

Use separate Meshes to create them. Use Primitives like cubes and planes, loopcut them for even distribution and also use Multires modifiers

  • Sculpt the rough details
  • add a Decimate modifier with "collapse" and "triangulate"

Props like rocks, trees, buildings

Use primitives like cubes, cylinders and icospheres to create the basic shapes. Use separate meshes for different materials like treetrunks, treetops... and again use loopcuts + Multires on them. You can also join meshes with the same material.

Depending on the shape, man-made structures like houses don't necessarily need to be triangulated. It's a question of personal taste.

Materials

Depending on how "basic" your look should be you can use

  • simple color materials with or without specularity
  • also textures for more complex models with different colors, like black&white cows
  • specularity and translucency for glass, water, etc...

Compositing

It depends on the personal taste and which render engine you want to use. Blender Internal tends to produce harder lights and shadows by default. Since cycles allows more control over them it's much easier to adjust them to your liking.

Example

I slapped together a small demo (roughly 45 minutes) in which I used the above described technique. Some of the models like the tree trunk and the rocks were originally low-poly assets for a game.

The light setup is very basic, it's intended to show how to produce "hard" shadows in cycles. Set the the light source's size to 0 if you want to remove the rest of softness.

enter image description here

Instead of a simple diffuse color for the water material I chose a more glass-like shader.

I also left most of the used modifiers unassigned for you to reenact my steps.

low poly scene

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The method I use is to create a plane with multiple subdivisions and then add a triangulate modifier. After you add the modifier apply it and then sculpt your terrain. You could use separate planes for different colors, but I just applied different materials to the separate parts of the plane.

Here are some renders I made using this method:

enter image description here

enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ How did you created those spots? $\endgroup$ – Jml19 Jul 27 '16 at 17:34
  • $\begingroup$ Do you mean the grunge on the grass and mountains? That was done in the post-processing stage. I just overlayed a grunge texture using Photoshop. $\endgroup$ – CyberBurst Jul 27 '16 at 21:04
  • $\begingroup$ No, I mean in the secont one $\endgroup$ – Jml19 Jul 29 '16 at 9:19
  • $\begingroup$ Those were also added in Photoshop. I just found and image of the spots with a black background on google and used Photoshop to add them to the render. $\endgroup$ – CyberBurst Jul 30 '16 at 18:53
  • $\begingroup$ Oh! Could you give me the link? I've been looking a long time for that type of images! $\endgroup$ – Jml19 Jul 30 '16 at 21:59

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