Last modified on 19 February 2015, at 10:44

Blender 3D: Noob to Pro/Modeling a volcano

In this module, you will create a volcano using the proportional edit fall-off tool. You should be comfortable with deleting and adding meshes.

Adding a PlaneEdit

Delete the basic cube. Add a plane, and  S cale it up by 10. Rotate it so you see it in top-view (make sure it's in Orthographic view too).

Enter Edit mode and subdivide (with  W ) 5 or 6 times. More subdividing will give you a "smoother" volcano, but it also needs more CPU power.

The difference between "Subdivide" and "Subdivide Multi"...

"Subdivide" divides every square in the plane into four new squares. So every time you press "Subdivide" you will have four times as many squares as before. "Subidivide Multi" will make x horizontal and x vertical lines through your existing squares, so the new number of squares is: (squares_old)*(x+1)2, where x is the number you enter.

Making the MountainEdit

In top view, select one of the points in the middle of the plane. With this point selected change to side view. Press the  O , which enables the "Proportional Edit Falloff" tool in the Menu-Panel beneath the 3-D-Window. As seen in the previous tutorial Blender 3D: Noob to Pro/Mountains Out Of Molehills when you move a vertex while edit falloff is enabled, all vertices in a defined radius of the selected vertex will align with the selected vertex when its position is altered. How they are adjusted can be chosen in the tab on the right of the yellow dot. I propose using "smooth falloff".

Blender Smooth fallof.jpg

Now grab the vertex with  G . You will now see a gray circle. You can change its size with the mouse wheel. Every vertex inside this radius will be affected by the falloff. Change the size of the circle so almost the whole plane is in it.

Blender circle size.jpg

Now move the vertex a bit upwards, as seen in the picture. Optionally you can lock the z-axis to make the volcano go straight up by pressing  Z .

Blender grab 1.jpg

As you can see all the other vertices will shift upward. We could keep moving this vertex at the same rate, but that would cause the plane itself to rise and bend, and that's not very good. So press  LMB  to apply the changes, grab the same vertex a second time and repeat the previous exercise as before, except now choose a smaller radius for the circle, about half the diameter of the plane ( G  Z  → scroll  MMB ).

Blender grab 2.jpg

Repeat this two or three more times and you will get something like this:

Blender grab last.jpg

Forming the CraterEdit

Now we're going to create the "hole" on the volcano. First change the falloff to "root". Grab the vertex one more time, change the size of the circle so it's more or less as seen in the picture.

Blender grab down circle.jpg

Grab this vertex down a bit, apply, grab it one more time with a smaller circle. You now should have something like this:

Blender grab down last.jpg

If yours has such a jagged border like mine, you should follow the following steps: First disable the fallout tool with  O . Then select a vertex and grab it, then pull it up so it's on the same height as the other. Do this for every vertex till they're more or less the same height.

You can also select the jagged vertices and the vertices around them then press  W  → Smooth (Older versions: Space → edit → vertices → smooth) and this will get rid of some of the jagged edges. (I suggest using this method since this is only a basic volcano, and using Subsurf after this will make the jagged edges all but invisible anyway.)

Blender edges corected.jpg


Now  TAB  to get into Object mode. Add a Sub-Surf Modifier to the Mesh, set at level two ( 'Modifiers' tab → Add Modifier → Subsurf → Catmull-Clark → Levels: 2; Render Levels: 2).

Blender subsurf.jpg

Do not apply these settings yet, first we'll do a test-render. Press F12 to enter Render, after adjusting the camera. If you like your volcano you may apply the modifier, but if you have some rather nasty edges like I do, don't apply the modifier yet. We'll correct this now.

First click on the marked button to disable the subsurf-modifier in Edit-mode.

Blender disable modifier.jpg

Then enter Edit-mode. Then select the vertices on the top and pull one after another a little bit outwards, so they form a nice circle.

Optional Enhancement Method to form the circle:

I found this nifty method to help "guide" making this circle with the manual vertex manipulation.

1. Enter Object mode, we will be creating a new temporary object.

2. Center your cursor (either Shift+S->Cursor to center(if your original plane HAS NOT shifted from center of grid) or Shift+S->Cursor to Selected(if your original plane HAS shifted from center of grid), basically you want the cursor centered in your plane.

3. Once you have the cursor centered, hit Ctrl+NUM7, to bring up Bottom Ortho view. You should now see the volcano from the inside out and your slightly edged crater opening.

4. Hit Shift+A->Mesh->Circle. This will create a circle at the cursor which will also be completely centered on the crater. Select the circle with RMB and Scale it with S, manually increase the size until it it slightly larger than your crater opening, or however large you want the out edge to be.

5. Once your circle is the correct size, make sure you have the translate manipulator turned on, select the circle and change to Front Ortho view (NUM1). Now move the circle through and above the volcano along the Z axis (blue handle). Finally, change to Top Ortho View (NUM7).

6. While still in object mode, deselect the circle and select the plane containing your volcano. You now have a nice "guide ring" to grab your vertices to! After you have finished positioning your vertices, deselect all with an A, spin your view by holding down MMB and moving the mouse, enough to be able to pick out the circle easily without selecting the plane. Tab to object mode, select the circle again with RMB and finally delete it with X.

  • Unity user GlennC

Make circle.jpg

Once you have done this exit Edit-mode and press the "Set Smooth" Button in the Link and Materials Button. If you Render now again, it should look a lot better. (Don't worry about the color)

Blender volcano render final.jpg

Adding MagmaEdit

Let's add some "magma" using lighting.

  1. Press  Shift + S  and choose Cursor to Center.
  2. Press  Shift + A  and choose Lamp → Point.
  3. Older versions only: press F5 to enter the shading menu
  4. Change the color to reddish-orange. (Red: 1, Green: 0.1, Blue: 0)
  5. Set the Energy to around 7.
  6. Raise the light until it's just above the bottom of the crater ( G rab along the  Z  axis).
  7. If the ground level of your plane is reflecting light from the lava lamp this is because the bottom of your crater is above ground level of the plane you created; you'll need to turn on ray-tracing. in the object data menu for the light, open the Shadow menu and click "Ray Shadow"
  • Alternate 1: Spot Lamp
  1. Change the light's type to Spot.
  2. Raise the light until it's covering most of the crater. If the light is not pointing down,  R otate and angle it downwards.
  • Alternate 2: Area Lamp
  1. Change the light's type to Area.
  2.  R otate along the  Y  axis: 180 degrees.
  3. Set Gamma to 2.
  4. Set Distance to around 5.

Experiment with the values and positioning to get something that works with your volcano.

It should now look like this:

Blender volcano magma.jpg

Varying the TerrainEdit

Next, let's set the volcano's material.

  1.  RMB  on the volcano plane.
  2. Select the "Material" button Materials button.png and press New.
  3. Change the color to ashen gray. (Red: .260, Green: 0.230, Blue: 0.230)
  4. Select the "Texture" button and press New.
  5. Change the Type to Stucci.
  6. In the Influence panel, uncheck Color, and check Normal. Set the Normal slider to 0.5. This will render the texture as a bump-map.

Older versions:

Select the volcano and press F5. Keep Pressing F5 until the Materials Buttons (symbolized by a red ball) is highlighted. Then add a new material. You do this by clicking the Add New button in the Links and Pipeline Panel. Once you've done that, set the settings similar to the picture below. Now press F6, then add a new texture to the material. Choose a stucci texture, set the noise size to 0.15. Now switch back to the materials-window (F5) and click on the "map to" tab. Deselect the "col" button and select the "nor" button. This will render the texture as a bump-map on the volcano. Set the "nor slider" to 0.5, which should be the default. Switch to the "map input" tab and choose "tube".

Blender material volcano.jpg

If you now render you should get something like this:

Blender volcano stucci.jpg

This looks really smooth, like clay pottery. To get a more rough-looking volcano, try out these options:

  • Option 1: Subdivide and increase the fractal.
  • Option 2: Decrease the texture's basis size (in the "Stucci" panel when you select the "Texture" button).
  • Option 3: Proportional edit tool.
    1. Press  O  to turn on Proportional Editing mode. Select Random fallout.
    2.  G rab the center vertex, and raise it along the  Z  axis.

Older versions:

Go into Edit mode, select all Vertices, and use the fractal (set from 15 to 30) to really get things looking rocky and mountainous. TAB (Edit mode) → F9AKEY to select all → Mesh Tools → Fractal → 15 - 30 (15-low, 30-high) → OK → TAB (Object mode) In Blender 2.5 you can use the random proportional edit tool: use NUM7 to switch into top view, grab the central vertex of your volcano using a large-radius random proportional edit, and pull it slightly into Z-direction.

(A note: Seems there is no need in subsurf at all since fractal tool will dramatically increase vertex quantity.)