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Bryce 5 Tutorial

How to create a river

By Kathy Sarah Sammis


Originally published on


In this tutorial you will learn, I hope, a technique for creating water out of the standard terrain instead of having to rely on the infinite plane for all sources of water.  This technique is still a work in progress and is not the answer to all water creation needs within Bryce but is very useful, in my opinion for the creation of rivers or shorelines where the water and land interaction needs greater control than the standard infinite plane gives.

Figure 1

Create a terrain and then click the E to edit the default terrain.  Don't worry about the material now.  You can change it later to suit your needs.

This first terrain will be your river bed and river banks.  You will want to create the shores for the river (the land).  I usually place a rough outline with a few paint brush circles and then use the fractal option to give the shore line more personality.  If you want an ocean shore, you would only create one area of land.  After playing with the fractal option (I think I used round hills), I added some erosion to the coastline.

When you are done, click the check mark and see what you have created.

Once you have your first terrain, it helps to align the camera before things get too complicated.  I like to keep the camera low to give a sort of "view from the boat".  The next step will be to select your newly created terrain and to duplicate it.

Figure 2

After you duplicate the river bed terrain, go back to Terrain Editor.  The second button on the top of the elevation editor is "Invert".  Click it.  Your river bed terrain will have its values reversed so that the low bits are now the high bits and vice versa.

When you first invert the terrain, don't freak.  There will be a hideous white box all around the area that was once black.  Take your paint brush, set it to black and paint out all the unwanted white areas.  The remaining center area will be your new water terrain.

The last thing I like to do is to lower terrain and add some faint erosion to it.  The erosion gives some personality to the water and will help to mimic surface tension or waves (depending on the scale of your final image).

Click the check mark to return to your scene.

Figure 2b

Again it's a good time to place the camera as described above.

Figure 3

After scaling up the grouped terrain, and duplicating the group to lengthen the river, I added the roman vessel and castle Dream Models that came wit RDS 5.  The textures on these models were created in Bryce.

I also duplicated the water terrain in the front group, thinned it down to 1 in the Y and raised it to the top of the water terrain.  Then I added a cloud material with an increased transparency to create the foam along the shoreline.

I finished by using the "storm approaching" Bryce sky and modifying it slightly to give the scene a darker mood than the standard default Bryce sky.

Figure 3a

I have provided a second view of the scene to show the water and land interaction.  Keep in mind, that I consider this scene a work in progress.  I'm not yet satisfied with the results of this particular image but I do still believe this technique has its uses.  When creating water and land scenes, keep in mind that scale makes all the difference.  I see a lot of scenes where the imported objects, be they Poser people or props of some sort, appear to be giants on really tiny land masses.

A rule of thumb: if your terrain is 500x100x500, the Poser person should be no more than 20 high.  If however, you are dealing with the Zygote dragon fly and want a close in view of life on the swamp, then the dragon fly should be large relative to the terrain.

River Tutorial © 2004 Sarah Sammis and used here with permission.