In using the particle system to render trees in a forest, is there any advantage in using the Emitter system over the Hair system given that the render will be done in Cycles?

I have played with both using tree images with alpha on planes as well as 3D geometry and can get similar results with either system in my small tests.

I believe that:

  1. Cycles does not support billboards which could otherwise be used in the Emitter system. So a track to constraint system is needed in either case.
  2. If using the Emitter system, I have to make sure the trees are not dynamically popping in and out during animation.
  3. The Hair system has a special panel for Cycles. If one is duplicating objects instead of strands, does it matter?

Hair seems to be the logical choice for grass but is it the best system for trees? I have seen tutorials for both but perhaps the ones using Emitter are older.


1 Answer 1


I've always used Emitter to populate a large number of static objects. I don't think hair is needed here.

In the particles panel:

  • Set the start and end value to -1, and the lifetime to some high value that's longer than your total animation. This avoids any popping in and out.

  • Turn off particles newtonian physics completely.

  • Use object instancing or group instancing to replace each particle with a tree

  • Play with other settings (variable size, initial rotation, etc)

Cycles is surprisingly good at rendering large number of instanced geometry. So unless performance is really important, rending actual geometry shouldn't be too bad. And lastly, this tutorial might help.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It's a good tutorial. The rocks are instanced objects in the emitter particle system but the trees are placed using billboards (the tutorial does not use cycles.) The use of weight painting to control the density of the placed objects is really nice. $\endgroup$
    – jrboddie
    Commented Mar 29, 2014 at 2:47

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