View Full Version : Any heightmap editors that know the heightfield is really on a sphere?

04-29-2013, 09:25 AM
Good (whatever time of day it is where you are reading this from)...

So after extensive searching for a heightfield editor that knows that the surface being edited is supposed to be wrapped around a sphere (you know, so that the heightfield tiles horizontally and all that), I find I am limited to the following software.

i) Fractal Terrains

ii) That's it.

Anyone know of any other software that can do this?


04-29-2013, 11:47 AM
Fractal Terrains doesn't always produce good effects with its painting tools, though. The biggest problem (for me, anyhow) arises when using brushes in the polar regions. The brushes begin to squash oddly when displaying in any projection except the default equirectangular and they won't go over the pole. The brush engine is also fairly primitive and fairly slow.

Wilbur's brush engine has the same capabilities for brush wrap that FT's does (click the little "C" button on FT's Paintbrush Options toolbar and you'll see the same UI as in Wilbur), but it seems that I didn't expose wrapping on the UI. Some of Wilbur's filters (notably the precipiton) offer east/west and/or north/south wrapping options to allow for "spherical" or "toroidal" height fields.

There are some fancier tools like Mudbox or zBrush that should be able to do this sort of thing, but it's not really what they were intended for. If you're looking for something that lets you paint effectively zero relief onto a sphere, I'm not sure there's much out there because it's a fairly specific desire for a very limited audience.

04-29-2013, 12:44 PM
Oooh, didn't realise wilbur's precipiton could be wrapped. I should really pay more attention to the options shouldn't I?

Making a 3d sphere and displacing it with a heightmap, which is what I believe you mean when you mention the "fancier tools" isn't really what I want. Something like fractal terrains with some more powerful erosion and editing tools is what I want really.

Oh well, thanks for the protips anyway!

04-29-2013, 07:50 PM
Mudbox and zBrush are 3d sculpting tools that actually go sort of in the other direction. Make the sphere, sculpt your terrain, then export the displacement map. Those programs, though, don't (as far as I am aware) have any erosion tools, so they're still not useful for your purpose.

04-30-2013, 12:29 AM
Are you trying to map and height map on a sphere without pinch distortion? Like needing Equirectangular height maps?

If so, there's this plugin for PS - Spherical Mapping Corrector by Richard Rosenman ( or at his website here (http://www.richardrosenman.com/software/downloads/))

You can also use panoramic photography tools which I've used before as a PS plugin to convert for cube maps for video games, which also converts different types of maps - but cant find the link atm.

there's also this Fixing your equirectangular poles (http://www.cartographersguild.com/tutorials-how/22575-fixing-your-equirectangular-poles.html)

hope it helps

04-30-2013, 05:58 AM
Umm....No. See, I already have an "equirectangular" (at least, it's a 4096x2048 image that tiles horizontally) heightmap made by plate tectonic simulation that's been tidied up a bit. Now I want to erode it, but most of the erosion software does not preserve the tiling on the x axis, except fractal terrains, which has rather limited erosion tools, and wilburs precipiton erosion, which I have now learned can be made to tile horizontally using the wrap option.

I'm not too concerned about spherical displacement mapping in 3d software (that's easy, if I wanted to do that), I just want to edit the heightmap in software that knows the heightmap should tile horizontally.

05-01-2013, 10:45 PM
Not displacement mapping (like bump mapping) - polar pinching - is what I was refering to I thought you wanted to eliminate that

Anyway, sounds like Wilbur can do what you want,then? Yay!

mmmm <wonders if World Machine would do this?> - World machine does have some tiling and errosion. It would need some experimentation though.

Not that you need to do this now, but another option is if you're manually editing it, coz you could do that in PS. (offset tool) and you could do 2 wilbur renders and blend them together. if you just want to tile the left /right ends.


1: Take your 'pre wilbur' map (I'll call it map 'A' ) make a clone of it (I'll call it map 'B')

2: on B , In PS go Filter>Other>offset (gimp has something similar) and offset +horizontal of 2048 (half your 4096 to get it in the center) , do any edits so it tileable here, save it out ( of course, you could just bring in A but save this out as B)

note: if dimentions used change, then the offset should be recaluated to whatever half of the width of the map will be , in this case it's 2048.

note: sounds like you have a tiled 'pre wilbur' map already, so you just need make a copy and offset. I've included that step in there in case someone else comes along wanting to do this and doesnt have that bit

3: Put A through Wilbur - note any non default settings you may use

4: put B through Wilbur using same settings as A

5: Get A & B after Wilbur results back in PS

6: On A do the offset thing again, but dont do anything else - if it was the last filter you used, and you didnt shut down PS, then you can just click Filter and it'll be at the top. click on that should simply repeat what you did before using that filter.

7: Select B and cut and paste it above A, into a new layer

8: (this is where this whole idea will succeed or fail :D) B should line up with areas on A, other than the bit you want to tile, but that's why you have B. You're just re doing the tile using layers. Make a mask on B and blend the two together - getting rid of the left and right ends, A has those. ( or use eraser, but a mask is non-destructive)

9: Select all (Ctrl+A) then Edit>Copy Merge> Paste (or Shift+Ctrl+C > Ctrl+V ) get a new layer with both A & B now as a new one (I'll call it C)

10: On the new layer that is C, use the offset filter again - as you're using 2048 to shift horizonally again, it should return your map back to the origin and you'll now have tiled ends.


Hope that made sense - it was a bit of a mind dump and very redundant if Wilbur does it for you, but wanted to put it down as another option if anyone needed it.


05-02-2013, 03:47 AM
Thanks for the input Jez. I can't really tell from just reading whether that method is a brilliant stroke of genius or...not. I suspect it may not work, but I'll try it out later and let you know how it goes.

World machine does have a tileable macro, I was fiddling with that the other day but I couldn't adjust it to do what I wanted and gave up.

Wilbur's precipiton, with wrap x active, seems to produce quite good results...