Landscape Design Software by Idea Spectrum
Realtime Landscaping Pro Landscape Design Software

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Adding a Height Map

Using the Height map object, you can sculpt the terrain using a bitmap. You can "draw" your terrain elevations using a program such as Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro, and Realtime Landscaping Pro will use it to adjust the terrain height at each point. This is a powerful tool for making your landscapes more organic and realistic.

To create and import a custom height map:

1.   Create a 512x512 or 1024x1024 bitmap in your favorite paint program. (Larger sizes give you more detail, but take longer to load.)

2.   Draw the desired terrain heights using shades of gray. Use darker shades in areas where the terrain should be raised less, and brighter shades where the terrain should be raised more. Use black in areas where the terrain should not be raised at all.

3.   Save your bitmap in 24-bit BMP format.

4.   Use the Picture Import Wizard to import your bitmap as a height map.

5.   Your bitmap will then appear in the list of available height maps.

To add a height map that you have already imported:

1.   Select Add Height Map.

2.   Click the picture of the height map and select the one you want to use.

3.   Click to place the top-left corner. Hold Shift to constrain to a square shape.

4.   Click to place the bottom-right corner.

How it Works

The shade of each pixel will determine how much the terrain is raised or lowered. Use black for regions that should remain unaffected. Use brighter shades of gray for regions where the terrain altitude should be affected more; use white for regions where the terrain altitude should match the current Height setting.

For example, suppose you set the height to 10'. Wherever the height map is white, the underlying terrain will be raised up 10'. Wherever the height map is 50% gray, the underlying terrain will be raised up 5'. Wherever the height map is black, the underlying terrain will not be raised. Shades in-between will raise the terrain proportionally.

You can use a negative height value as well. In this case, wherever the height map is white, the underlying terrain will be lowered 10'. Wherever the height map is 50% gray, the underlying terrain will be lowered 5', and so forth.

To prevent seams at the edges, make sure you surround your height map with a black border. See the sample height map below for an example.

Depending on how much detail your height map contains, you may need to increase the resolution of the terrain to achieve the desired quality level. See Terrain Settings for details. However, since the terrain resolution is limited, height maps generally need to be at least 30' x 30' or larger before the detail will become apparent.

Below is one of the sample height maps included with Realtime Landscaping Pro.

The following terrain uses the above height map:

The following landscape design uses the height map shown above.

Tips:

      Height maps can be the size of the entire terrain.

      You can use as many height maps as needed.

      You can rotate the height map using the Rotate tool. See Rotating Objects for more information.

      Be sure to use black for the border. This will prevent the height map from leaving hard edges in the terrain. However, if you want the height map to extend over the entire workspace, then the border shade doesn't matter because it will be restricted to the workspace boundary anyway.

      In some situations, you may need to control the order that terrain sculpting objects are applied. See Controlling the Terrain Sculpting Order for details.

      When working with detailed height maps such as the one used in the above example, you may want to increase the resolution of the terrain. See Terrain Settings for details.

See also:

Height Map Properties
Setting Object Properties
Selecting Objects
Selecting Points
Editing Objects
Adding Slope
Adding a Height Grid

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