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Fantasy Art Tutorials in the FARP Section



By Kenyoung, Gallery 189.


  • Metacreations Bryce 4

Metacreations Bryce is a powerful and intuitive 3D creation and rendering tool.

Bryce's world building is possibly second to none when considering its ease of use, and this is the area most beginnners will play with in awe, creating mountains with just one click of the mouse. It's a fantasy enthusiast's dream!

In this chapter I will guide you through Bryce and its possibilities, showing its many options and explaining techniques such as boolean operations.

  • The Interface

I find the interface of Bryce simple and useful. If compared to that of 3D Studio Max, it wins hands down for ease of discovery and use. Becoming familiar with the interface of this program is a must, as with any program. The best way to do this, is hands on. I will not explain too much of the interface, as it is intuitive and should be explored at your own pace. Here a few key tips for using it though.

1. Holding your mouse over most buttons or words will cause text to be displayed explaining what this button does. For the main interface, this text will be displayed in the bottom left corner.

2. If you don't know what it does, CLICK ON IT! Experiment and explore, click on everything and see what it has to offer, many of Bryce's most powerful options are hidden behind tiny obscure buttons you never notice until you become more familiar.

3. Click on the words 'Creat Edit Sky Fog' to open up their options.

4. Be sure to click on all those tiny little arrows, they reveal a wealth of options.


  • Creating

This is where the fun begins! Here are your basic creation options.

The above shows the main basics, from left to right as Water Plane, Cloud Plane, Ground Plane (all infinite), then to Terrain, Stone, Symmetrical Lattice, Primitive Objects (referred to as primitives, for their simplicity) and the last yellow four on the right are lights, one omni light (casts light in all directions like a light bulb) and spot lights.

I'll not go into detail of how to create with these objects, as this is simple and easy to learn yourself from exploration. Here are some basic starter tips though.

1. Once you have created an object or terrain, select it (click on it to turn it red) then click on the M button to enter the Material Editor and design your own material (explained later), or click on the small arrow next to Edit to open the Material Presets (already made materials, you'll use these most often).

2. You can resize your objects, rotate them or move them along one line (more accurate than moving them by mouse within the main display) using the tools under Edit. Hold your mouse button over parts of these tools then move the mouse to achieve results.

3. You can draw your own terrain within Bryce using the Terrain Editor. Access this by selecting your terrain or symmetrical lattice (click on it to turn it red), then click on the E to enter the editor, and play with all the options there. The brighter an area, the higher it is.



  • Advanced Creating

Now we enter the slightly more advanced side of creating, using boolean, and other techniques. Don't be frightened, it's all actually quite simple. Boolean models (a model is a 3D object, be it anything, even the terrain you make) are just shapes made by intersecting, joining, adding or subtracting two or more shapes together. Here's an example.

You'd best grab a nice yummy looking apple for this example, and a pen!
1. Stab your apple with your pen (just once)! That's it... take all your anger out on it, but leave the pen stuck in the apple.
2. Now, make the pen invisible. If you're not talented enough or haven't brushed up on your magick lately, either imagine the pen invisible, or remove it from the apple.
3. What do you see now the pen is hidden? You SHOULD see a hole in your apple, even though the pen is still there (if you used the right cantrip, and didn't flame your apple). This is an example of a simple boolean operation. A hole is made in the apple by the pen, but the pen needs to be made hidden to see the hole.

Here are a few techniques and how to achieve them in Bryce.

Negative boolean
This form of boolean I find to be the most useful and called upon. Read the example above to get an idea of negative boolean.
1. First, lets create a sphere by clicking on the sphere primitive, then a tuboid.

2. Now, stab that sphere with the tuboid shape! Just like you did with the apple. Make sure it actually goes through the sphere, do this by changing views, aligning it through the centre of the sphere from the top view and a side view.

3. Now, select the tuboid, and click on the A button, this is the Attributes button. In the attributes options for the tuboid, select negative, then hit the tick in the bottom right corner. The object's lines will now become broken.

4. You now need to select the sphere, and assign it's attributes as positive. The lines won't change for this one.
5. Now that's the operation out of the way, you need to group the objects. Do this by dragging your mouse to create a selection square over both objects, so they both become selected (turn red). Now, a G should pop up, click on this, it means Group.
6. You've grouped the objects, so all you have to do is render! Adjust the camera angle if you can't see the hole too well.

Intersecting boolean
Some very interesting shapes can be made from this technique.
1. First, create two spheres.
2. Now, move the spheres so they are overlapping in a section.
3. Assign one sphere a positive attribute (the A button).
4. And assign the other sphere with interesect, under attributes (the A button).
5. Drag a selection across these objects to select them together. Then hit the G button (Group).
6. You should end up with a football type object!

But Why?

The uses of boolean are limitless and advantageous. You may think it seems uneccesarry, but after some use of 3D modelling, you'll soon discover otherwise. Boolean can be used to create anything from arched stone bridges, to windows in walls, bowls, and far more complicated models. Try making those out of primitives or just the terrain editor. Bryce itself comes with a few premade boolean objects to help show what can be done.
Here is a simple wooden bowl I made to show the use of negative boolean. It uses two negative objects, and one positive, and a wood material. There are two spheres, one is the wood, one is to hollow out the bowl, and the third object is a cube to flatten the edges of the bowl.


  • Terrain Creating

The terrain tool and the symmetrical lattice tool (basically terrain) are the two most often used, and useful, components of Bryce. They're what gives Bryce so much power and ease of use. For basic use of the terrain tool, I will explain how I produced the following image. Example is often the best way to learn.

This image contains only 3 terrains, and a ground plane, nothing more.


1. To begin, I created 3 terrains (that's just 3 clicks of your mouse button!) and moved them apart for ease of selection.
2. I then selected two terrains and clicked on the small arrow next to Edit. This brought up the material presets, I chose the category Planes & Terrains, then chose the material Mud & Snow for these two terrains (the ones in the foreground).
3. The third terrain I wanted to be a mountain in the distance, so I chose the material Roches and Ices for this one, as I think it suits the role of distant winter mountains.
4. Now I moved terrain #3 out of the way, and dealt with positioning my foreground Mud & Snow terrains. I did this by enlarging them (holding my mouse over the centre of the Resize tool under Edit, and holding my mouse button down while I dragged right to enlarge.)
5. I then moved them around until I had a 'pass' between them, and they filled the foreground.
6. Now I went back to my #3 terrain, and selected it. I then clicked on the E, to access the terrain editor. It looks like this.

7. Here, I simply changed the terrain by clicking on the Eroded button, and I now had an eroded mountain.
8. After leaving the terrain editor, I then positioned my mountain well in the background, and enlarged it a great deal. Then, I stretched it along it's X axis (using x axis arm of the resize tool under Edit).
9. Then I needed to adjust the infinite ground plane's material to suit the scene. I selected the ground plane by using the select buttons on the bottom of the display, and gave it the Roches and Ices material.
10. The final stage was to find a suitable sky and atmosphere. If you are creating clearly visible objects in the far off distance, you need an atmosphere with haze and/or fog, to make the objects seem far off. Of course, you can do this yourself easy enough under the Sky & Fog options, but to keep it simple I chose a pre-made sky named Abisko WInter Dusk.
11. Then I hit the render button, and voila! A simple Fantasy terrain setting achieved in under 5 minutes.

This alone won't pass as art though, you need to do much more with it. This will be discussed later.

Drawing in the Terrain Editor

Some very unique landscapes and objects can be created by drawing directly in the terrain editor, and using its multitude of options. Also, images can be imported, in colour or greyscale, to be converted to terrain. An ideal image to import will be 512x512, and designed specifically for this task in Photoshop or similar. Below I will briefly explain how to make a forest this way, this technique was made popular by Jonathen Allen's tutorial. I will expand upon it by adding my own techniques too.

1. Create a new terrain.
2. Open the terrain editor, and select New, to make the terrain area blank.
3. Choose a brush with a fuzzy edge, but not too soft (the Hard option).
4. The size of the brush is up to you. If you want thin trees in your forest choose the smallest. For thicker woods enlarge the size.
5. Now place dots spaced apart in the editor. These will be your trees, in the image below I have opted for a forest of thinner trees.

6. Once these are made, leave the terrain editor, and select the terrain in the main display. Now, stretch it along it's Y axis (stretch it up) until the top of the terrain goes out of view.
7. Choose a material for your trees. The best to use is perhaps Eroding Cliff, under the Rocks & Stones material presets.
8. Copy this terrain to produce a number of them, and place them around the field of view to create your forest.
9. Now create a cloud plane, and assign it with the Foliage material. Raise this plane up just out of view to simulate a high canopy and add shadows and lighting through the forest.
10. Next create a new terrain, and stretch it to act as the floor of your forest. Choose any suitable material for this.
11. Adjust the sky & fog/atmosphere, and you're set!
12. An additional technique to this depending on where you place the point of view is to create a 2 dimensional square plane, leave it vertical, and assign it with a foliage material. Make this material somewhat transparent (click on the M) and position it to act as leaves on the trees from a vertical plane.

Here is a quick example using the thinner trees.

You'll notice I've added a couple of trees from the Rocks & Trees section.

Try painting a smiley face in the terrain editor to see how it turns out. This should give you some ideas. Also, try loading some images into it. The US Geological Survey has many real life locations you can load into the terrain editor. These are great to give you an idea of making terrains.

The symmetrical lattice tool is an incredibly useful terrain tool as well. As it can be used to make anything from terrain to swords and bows, or castle components. Try importing images into the terrain editor for the lattice too, you'll find it much more useful than for the standard terrain. Here is an example of how the lattice tool can be used - In this image the lattice tool was used to create the superstructure of the vehicle, the 'hull'.


  • Materials

Materials (textures) are a very important factor of your image, thus, choosing the best one for your lighting effects, scene and entire image is crucial. Of course, there's a great variety of premade material with Bryce already, but as you expand, you'll find these just aren't enough. This is where the materials editor comes in.
There is far too much in the materials editor for me to explain thoroughly, and keep this chapter to a reasonable length. Experimentation is the key here, play with everything in the materials editor, of noted value is the Texture Source Editor button (top right, move your mouse over the buttons until the text displays Texture Source Editor. The C A B in the source editor are channels, a useful one to remember is that B is the bump map channel, this gives your materials texture and bumpiness, instead of them being plain flat. Great for realistic looking chainmail textures and so on.
If you can't make the texture you want, import photos to use as textures, these can be your own or free for use ones found on the internet.


  • Lighting, Sky and Atmospherics

A make or break part of every image is it's atmospheric and lighting effects. It can turn a dull scene into something spectacular, or vice versa. As with much of Bryce, the best way to learn this is through experimenting, and remember to use the Sky Lab (the little cloud button under Sky & Fog). With the Fog option, when you adjust it you will notice two sets of numbers. The first is the density, or how thick it is, the second is the height. Here are a few images of the same scene, with varied atmospherics.




Lighting can be used to create some stunning and dramatic effects, as well as enhance an image greatly. Using the E (Edit) button after selecting a light will reveal its options. Once again, I stress experimentation and exploration to learn this tool, but I will explain a few techniques in lighting.

Texture Gels Can be used upon a light for many atmospheric variations. Imagine a texture gel as a material that wraps around your light to add its own properties to that light. Gels can be used to create many effects, including underwater ripple refraction effects. The following image displays two round spot lights. The light on the left has a texture gel applied to it (the gel is an image of coloured diamonds created in Photoshop), while the light on the right is a plain spotlight.

If a region of your scene just isn't illuminated enough, but your atmosphere and sun position are just perfect for the feel of the image, then use an omni light or two to brighten up the darker regions. To do this subtly adjust the colour of the light to match your atmosphere, and dull the light until the image blends and it looks like no light source has been artificially used.

Use of spotlight for atmospheric lighting can greatly enhance an image. Try this simple technique.

1. Create your spotlight, then click the E to edit it.
2. Use the small downward facing arrow to enter more options.
3. Choose 'Volume Visible Light' and Infinite light. You'll now see what this has achieved.

Making a volume visible light can slow your rendering time down considerably though, so use with caution. Below is an image made using this technique. For varied results, play with the lenght and width of you spotlight, squashing it up or elongating it.

In this scene, the single spotlight was not enough to illuminate.
An omni light was used on the left side of the scene to illuminate the apple.


  • Tips, Tricks & Artistic Techniques

It must be said that achieving 'art', particularly fantasy art, with Bryce alone is not an easy task. Certainly you can create some stunning images, and fantastic landscapes, but the essence of art often lacks within these images. How do you achieve 'art' then? Of course, what is art to one, is something different to another, but in general fantasy art through the use of Bryce can be similar to that of traditional 'hardware' mediums.

Some general tips are -

  • Always try for originality, including using original or unrecognisable models. This will always give you an edge in your art.
  • Strive for flawlessness, with a little extra effort, this can be achieved or near enough in Bryce.
  • If you can make your work look as though it was either not made in Bryce, or look like a photograph, then do this in preference. Many professionals in many fields avoid easily recognised utilities, a classic world-wide example is the lens flare of Photoshop, avoided by many because it can be recognised so easily. Make your viewers say, 'How did you do that!?' even when they know Bryce.
  • Use camera angles! A static camera angle can ruin an otherwise brilliant image, whereas a unique, tilted or well placed camera angle can make all the difference.
  • Always when making a final render, use the 'Fine Art' Anti-Alias option.
  • Do not limit yourself, think anything can be achieved within this one program, and you'll be able to achieve anything.

    Design tips -

  • Want to make those fluffy floating clouds that aren't the cloud plane or sky? This is easy, simply create a few spheres, stretch and manipulate them, place them in a close group and assign them with a cloud material or volume material, then put them in the sky. You now have clouds.
  • Always strive for a minimalistic polygon count. On a slower or average speed machine this is crucial. Use as few objects as possible to achieve your result, remove those objects that are out of view, and so on.

    Endless amounts of work can be produced in Bryce alone, but you'll soon find yourself wanting to expand. Explore the other chapters of this topic to learn how to do so.


  • Onto Chapter 2


FARP Article Guestbook

10 Jun 2009:-) Rosver Bernados Legaspo
Booleans are ok for hard geometrical modeling (tables, valves, arches, etc.) but for organic modeling (flowers, animals, humanoids, etc.) they are close to useless. Also I have not heard yet of any 3d modelers with good boolean tools, they always cause ugly geometry and the like. I say use them but with caution.

By the way I thought this is to teach us how to use this tools (the software package). It seems that we require knowledge of it before we could fully understand this tutorial.
8 Dec 2009:-) Riaan MAN Marais
Thanks for this tut. Learned a trick on two!!!
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