Terrain Visualization in Blender

Created by Austin Phan, Spring '23


Terrain visualization in blender isn't too hard. Once imported, you an apply texturing, shading, and create beautiful landscapes which can be exported to most major VR development programs. 

What you need:

Blender (I'll be using 3.4, but the methods remain more or less the same)

A .png or .raw file heightmap. Here's an example I pulled from the internet and what I'll be using for this tutorial.

Getting Started:

Open up blender and start a new project. Using the 'General' template will work fine for most purposes. You'll be greeted with the Blender UI, and a box in the middle to start off. 

Go ahead and select the box with your mouse, and delete it. In the upper left hand side, there should be an 'add' button (you can also use Shift + A). Go and add a mesh plane to the map. It should load in now. Pressing 'N' will open up a transform box. It should look like this:

Ensuring that the plane is selected, scale the plane to the size of the heightmap you're importing. The heightmap I'm importing is 2624x1756. Since I don't want it to be too large, but want the aspect ratio to remain the same, I'll set the scale to 1/20 the size. Here's what I used: 

Next, you'll need to add some modifiers. Begin by going to the bottom right of the screen, selecting the wrench icon. Make sure your plane is selected, and add the 'Subdivision Surface' modifier. Set it to simple, and set both 'Levels Viewport' and 'Render' to 9. Leave everything else as is.

Now add the 'Displace' modifier to the plane as well. Then press 'New', name the new texture as you'd like.

Press the button all the way to the right of the texture tab, it should look like a set of sliders. It should look like this:

Go ahead and press open, and select the heightmap .png or .raw file that you want to import. Ensure that the image loads as expected, and make sure the color space is 'linear'. Once done, return to the 'wrench' tab that we were at earlier. Here's what loaded in default:

Not super textured, right? We can increase the strength, so that features are more pronounced. Here's what it looks like with strength = 20. A lot better, right?

All done! You can export this as a .fbx file to Unreal or Unity for use in your world!

Recommended export settings (File > Export > .fbx): 

You can keep all other settings the same.