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Easy 5-Step Process for Hand Sculpting Perfect Landscapes Entirely in UE4

Category: UE4
January 28, 2020

"My approach to learning UE4 landscapes has been one of a painter..."

Hand-sculpted landscape in UE4

First major obstacle I had to overcome creating landscapes in UE4 was thinking I needed to use external software to generate heightmaps.

Two Ways to Create Landscape Heightmaps in UE4

There are two ways to create heightmaps (terrain data) in UE4:

  • First is to use Sculpting Tools in UE4; the heightmap is created automatically by UE4 as you sculpt your landscape in editor
  • Second is to use paid or free external software such as World Machine, World Creator, Terragen and others to create heightmaps

If you don't know, a heightmap is just a 2d image of black, white and gray values that represents terrain data. When this heightmap texture is used the black colors become low areas of the terrain, white color become high areas of the terrain and grays are everything in-between.

But there is a problem using external software to create heightmaps, especially if you have never created landscapes before:

  • You have to pay for the software (some have free versions but give you small heightmap resolution)
  • You have to learn how to use the software, adding additional steps and complexity on top of UE4
  • You still don't know how to use landscape tools that come with UE4
  • You still don't know how landscape sizes, sections and components work in UE4
  • You will often need to tweak the heightmaps after you've imported them into UE4 using the Sculpt Tools
  • If you have very specific area for your landscape then you have to manually sculpt it, external software won't give you the results you want

By using external heightmap generators I might be able to WOW you with the results. But I would lack the essential skills for creating landscapes. I hate to completely sidestep this entire process of being able to sculpt my own landscapes manually.

Another example of a quick, manually sculpted landscape in UE4

In the end you should know and use both.  External heightmap generators are great once you know how Sculpt Tools and landscape sizes work in UE4. But jumping to World Machine, Terragen, World Creator or any other generator will only hinder your ability to learn, to create and to fix problems as they arise.

How to Approach Learning Landscapes in UE4

My approach to learning UE4 landscapes has been one of a painter...

I want to know how to mix different paints to get the color I want. I don't want to buy a color already pre-mixed and bypass the process of learning how to do it myself.

This is why you should learn to use UE4 Sculpt Tools exclusively before complicating the pipeline with additional software.

There are a lot of Sculpting Tools in UE4 landscape menu to overwhelm you. But you only need to use a few to get great results. I do cover each of the tools in detail in "UE4 Fundamentals Vol.2: Essential Landscapes" tutorial course.

The 5-Step Manual Landscape Sculpt Process

So let me show you how to create great looking landscapes entirely in UE4 very quickly and in just 5 steps.

The 5 steps I use are:

  • Step 1: Noise Tool
  • Step 2: Smooth Tool
  • Step 3: Sculpt Tool
  • Step 4: Erosion Tool
  • Step 5: Polish/Tweak

I've included 2 videos.

  • First video goes more into depth about the settings used for each tool and during each step. The video is longer and it covers everything more in detail.
  • Second video is only 3 minutes and it quickly shows you all 5-steps in few minutes. If you want to see what to do quickly and straight to the point then watch the 3-min video.

Video Tutorial: Detailed 5-Step Process

Video Tutorial: Quick 3-Minute Overview

Next Tutorial

In this following tutorial you will learn a technique for how to reduce landscape texture tiling. This is a big problem with landscapes that always needs to be dealt with.

PS.

Learn how to use all the sculpting tools and how big you should make your landscapes in the "UE4 Lanscape Essentials" tutorial course.

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About World of Level Design

My name is Alex Galuzin. I am self-taught level designer, game environment artist and the creator of World of Level Design.com. I've learned everything I know from personal experimentation and decades of being around various online communities of fellow environment artist and level designers. On World of Level Design you will find tutorials to make you become the best level designer and game environment artist.

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