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Erik Selin
Erik Selin

3D artist & all that other stuff

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How to use Blenders free terrain generator: ANT Landscape add-on

It has happened to me more than once that I start a scene, then with I’m about 80% through with my main subject; I realize that I want to put it into a scene. I also realize that if I do, I suddenly have several more days or weeks ahead of me before I finish the rest of the scene in Blender.

This is when the A.N.T Landscape add-on can become handy. It can help us generate terrain for our scenes way quicker than it would be to model terrain by hand.

To use A.N.T Landscape in Blender once we enabled it, press “Shift+A”, go to mesh and select landscape. Press F9 for the operator panel and find the preset drop-down at the top. Pick the one that is the closest matched to your needs, then go to the noise settings section and start clicking through the “random seed” until you find what you like.

This is the quickest way to get a good-looking landscape going in minutes or even seconds. But there is a lot more of customizations to explore here than just a preset and a random seed value. Let’s dive deeper into A.N.T Landscape for Blender.

Related content: How to create realistic 3D trees with the sapling add-on and Blender

How to install A.N.T Landscape

If you got the official build of Blender or one of the experimental ones, A.N.T Landscape comes bundled by default. We can enable it in the preferences. Go to edit->preferences. Find the add-on section and search for “landscape”. The list will filter and you can enable the add-on by clicking the checkbox left of the add-on name.

What is A.N.T Landscape and what are some alternatives?

A.N.T stands for another noise tool. It uses different procedural noises to generate landscapes. 

Another tool with some more features and ease of use is Mirage. The settings in Mirage is a bit easier to understand and is therefore easier to use. You can also generate and distribute things such as trees and rocks to fill your landscape quickly. You can check it out here:

External content: Blendermarket Mirage

If you are more interested in getting real world terrain data, you can check out my Blender-OSM review here:

Related content: Blender OpenStreetMap importer add-on: Never model New York again

There is also an add-on called Blender GIS that is free. You can check it out here:

External content:  Blender GIS, github page

Just make sure you keep track of the license terms for the map data since this data comes from third-party providers. We don’t have this problem with a noise tool like A.N.T landscape.

There are other software out there that is specifically designed to generate terrain only. The most noteworthy is probably world machine. But it comes at a cost. This may not be a problem for you if you intend to work professionally or just create a lot of landscapes. Check it out here:

External content: World machine website

How to use A.N.T landscape to generate terrain.

So how do we use A.N.T landscape? After we enabled it, we can press “Shift+A”, go to mesh and find “landscape”. Click it to add a landscape.

All settings are available in the operator panel in the bottom left corner of the 3D viewport. If we change our view or click away, making this menu disappear, we can access it as a floating window with F9.

However, if we do other operations, this menu will disappear, and we no longer have access to the settings.

In the introduction we touched on the presets at the very top. We also spoke of the “random seed” value in the noise settings section. These are arguably two very good settings that help quickly iterate through landscapes and find what you like.

But what if you kind of get what you want, but not exactly? In that case, we need to dive deeper into the settings to see what they do.

We will not cover all the settings since some of them change depending on other settings. For instance, each type of noise have its own settings specific to that noise pattern. Play with those settings as you see fit. 

If you ever want to start over from the default settings, you can’t delete and add a new landscape. The settings will stick. What you have to do is to go to the presets and choose “restore defaults”.

The last advice I can give before we jump into the settings is to take it slow through this add-on. Don’t be afraid to break anything, you can always go back to the defaults and start over. But also think about what is happening between each setting that you change. Soon enough you will get a feel for how it works.

But let’s now get ourselves dirty and create some landscapes.

Blender add-on A.N.T landscape settings.

Just below the presets we have two buttons, a car and an update icon. The car icon is a toggle that will give us instant update to the terrain as we change settings. You may need to turn this off for lower end systems.

Also keep in mind that when adding a new landscape, there is a bug making the auto refresh turn off even if the icon is blue and should be active. Simply deactivate and reactivate the auto refresh in this case.

The interface is divided into four sections. These are open by default, but you can close and open them as you see fit to unclutter the interface and focus on one area at a time.

The sections are the following:

  • Main settings.
  • Nose settings.
  • Displace settings.
  • Water plane.

We will go over them one by one.

Main settings

The main settings are mostly geometry related. Here we can triangulate our mesh, the number of subdivisions and the actual size of the landscape.

By default, we have a landscape that is 2×2 meters. We may want to increase this to get a proper feel for how dense the geometry is per real world meter. 

But we also need to consider that if we create a landscape and want it very detailed. We should probably add detail at a later stage close to where the camera will be instead of adding too much geometry overall.

If you select sphere, this will change the underlying primitive object from a plane to a sphere. We can use this to create planets, rocks, or asteroids if we want.

We can also name our object right here. This is equivalent to changing the name later in the outliner, and we can set a material.

You can check out this article for some very efficient features we can use in the outliner since 2.8x.

Related content: 10 New or hidden features in Blenders outliner

Noise settings.

This is the bread and butter of the whole add-on. Here we can choose from a large range of noise types and experiment with settings.

The noise type is the first setting, and we have a lot of choice here. 

With everything from a custom texture to things like “another noise”. It’s very hard to imagine what all of them does.

The quickest way I found to explore there is to keep the auto refresh turned on and hold “Ctrl” while scrolling the mouse on these settings. This way we can just scroll through each one and preview.

The noise type is kind of the overall shape of the landscape. This is then complemented by the Noise basis which is the next settings.

The noise basis dictates how we break up the noise type. It lower or raise certain parts of the nose type. By default, it is set to Blender, this is just a name for a noise in this case.

We can roughly divide the noise basis into three groups. These are the noises, the voronois and the cell noise ends up in its own category.

The noises are made up of the first three entries in the list, Blender Perlin and new perlin. 

The voronois are all the ones with voronois in the name and the cell noise is special because it tends to create more mechanical looking patterns. We could probably use it as basis for a surface on another planet or perhaps a quarry, since they tend to have straight man made edges in the landscape.

Generally, the drop-down menus in this section makes very drastic changes to the landscape while the numerical values are much more gentle adjustments.

The offset and size settings do what you would expect. Changing the scale and move the noise across the landscape in the given direction.

The noise scale changes the whole scale in all directions.

Higher scale values generally flattens and simplifies the surface while smaller noise numbers tend to create more detail.

Below the noise detail, the settings change depending on the noise type. Even if many settings have the same name in many noises, the effect they have when changed can vary. Explore these settings based on the noise type you choose.

The next part of the noise settings is the effect type. This is essentially another layer of noise added on top of the first.

When experimenting with the effect types though I find them to be much less like noises and more like broader shapes that we may add as a final touch or turn off if we are already happy with the noise pattern we got so far.

Many of them have a very man made or alien feel to them so these may be better when we are not dealing with a more traditional landscape. Perhaps for cartoon style terrain?

Displace settings

The displacement settings are closely related to the main settings. While the main settings’ area has settings focused on the X and Y coordinates and the density of the mesh, the displacement settings owns the Z direction based on whatever noise we generated in the noise section.

But the noise is done, sure we can go back, but it can be a good idea to close the noise section and focus on both the mesh and displace settings at the same time. We might find that we need to increase the resolution or change the mesh size in some way while exploring this part.

The height setting is easy, it says, how high will the brightest value in our noise be and how low will the darkest values be. After all, the noise is just a black and white procedural texture under the hood.

The height is the multiply operation, scaling the height up and down, the offset is the add operation moving the whole mesh up and down. This can be in relation to the waterline but there are also max and min heights below. Together these settings can form a plateau at the highest peaks or a flat terrain at the lowest valleys.

With the falloff we can tell ANT landscape that we only want the terrain to falloff in X, or Y or both directions. If we choose only one direction, we can create something like a mountain ridge or a valley instead of a single mountain or pit. Together with the mesh size X or mesh size Y we can extend this ridge as far as we want.

If we want to keep an even topology though, we have to match the ratio of the terrain with the ratio of the subdivisions in both X and Y.

We can use the last setting, named strata, to create levels in our terrain. Scroll through the options to see how they change the landscape.

Water plane section

This section is slightly different. When we turn this on and off, we not only hide the settings, but we also enable or disable the water altogether. This just adds a plane to represent the water level.

We can add a material to it and changing the water level. There is not much else to it. But if we want to have water in our landscape, it is a good thing that we can add this, so we may see how the terrain above water still looks without having to create a separate plane and lose the settings we set up for the terrain.

What to do after you created your terrain?

When we are happy with our terrain, we most likely want to get some material on it. But before we do that, I highly suggest that you add some light into your scene.

A sunlight is a good starting point. Rotate it around to see how the light falls on the terrain. Does it look like you expect in the light you want your scene to have?

The lighting can change how a landscape looks dramatically.

A few notes about materials here. The A.N.T landscape add-on does not create a UV Map for us. Generally, I found that a simple unwrap with no seams work most times. 

But also keep in mind that using textures on a terrain may quickly look very repeated. I suggest that you try to break up your terrain materials as much as you can. A single large image texture almost never has resolution high enough to hold up if the camera comes close enough to the ground.

Instead, try to create a procedural material or a combination and think about how close to the ground the camera will be and what will be on the terrain.

When you are ready to fill your terrain with stuff, I can recommend cggeeks asset packs. They are really great value. Easy to add and start using.

BlenderMarket CGGeek

Final thoughts

If you like this kind of content, please share it around so that Artisticrender may grow. It is essential for the sites’ survival.

That summarized the A.N.T landscape add-on. It is perfect when you need a quick terrain in the background of a scene or want a starting point for your projects in Blender. 

You can always continue to work on your terrain in sculpt mode or use the modifier stack to enhance it after we complete the initial setup.

Thanks for your time.

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