Help with making realistic mountain range

I know WM can create beautiful mountains. I see them every time I fire up the program. I, however, am having a devil of a time making a mountain range that looks realistic to me. I’ve spent days playing with parameters and trying to find a good blend but I just seem to get worse rather than better.

I think part of the problem is I’m trying to recreate an existing map so I have used a shape generator to define where the mountains should be. I’m beginning to think it’s cutting them off unnaturally or inhibiting a natural mountain generation, but I’m not sure.

Here’s what my mountain range looks like currently. I’d appreciate any feedback on how you think I can improve the look. I need an imposing, impenetrable mountain range look.

Oh, here are the current generator properties:

Welcome to the World Machine experience :stuck_out_tongue:

This is probably not the core issue, but it can hamper the natural transition from flatland to mountains, so I suggest loosening this constraint a bit.

But now onto the generation of mountains. This is not something that can be one with one device. The Advanced Perlin can do a lot, but it can’t create mountain ranges. What I suggest you do instead, is to think “how are mountain ranges actually created in real life”, and emulate that.

IRL, mountain ranges are the result of hydraulic erosion, so water/rivers carving their way into the rock, and then often thermal erosion creates the nice valleys and foothills we all love, as it gets rid of steep cliffs. In WM, we can achieve this using two/three devices. We start of course with a base terrain, for which an Advance Perlin is well suited.

Image 1: Base terrain

The first method is the low resolution Erosion + old version Thermal Weathering combo. In this combination we won’t really use the output of the Erosion device, but instead use the Flow mask to carve out the water channels. Then, using the old version of the Thermal Weathering device, we can carve out the valleys. This is essentially the core of my Valley Cut macro.

Image 2: Using the low resolution Erosion + old version of the Thermal Weathering method.

The second method is creating a proper water system, using the Flow Restructure and Create Water devices, then carve the rivers out, and again, use the old versions of the Thermal Weathering device to create the valleys.

Image 3: Carving out rivers, then using the old version of the Thermal Weathering device.

As you can see, both methods create valleys, just looking a bit differently. The first method, is quick and easy to implement, but in the end, the second method leaves a lot more room for customisation and can lead to procedurally generated mountain ranges of high quality.

I hope this helps you a bit, and if you have anymore questions, please let me know!

The basic-mountain-ranges-with-valleys.tmd (138.1 KB) file in case you (or others) are interested!


Oh wow, thanks for this detailed explanation and especially for the demo file! I’m going to have to study this carefully. I haven’t gone much past the Advanced Perlin generator yet.

A quick question: when I’m viewing my nodes, clicking on the node gives me a view of what the scene looks like at that node. When I click on the nodes in your demo file, they all show me the same thing, which can’t be accurate. Is there a setting I need to toggle somewhere?

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The preview is probably still locked (as you can see by one device having “Preview Locked” above it).

Go to that device, and either Alt+click on it or click on it and press the F key. Both actions will disable the preview lock.

Alternatively, you can select any device, and lock the preview to that one using the methods mentioned above!

Just popping in quickly to say that I’ve been using World Machine for years now (probably getting fairly close to a decade), and my dumb self had completely forgotten about the distortion input of Advanced Perlin devices until seeing it in this thread. I’ve been piping them into Displacement devices for ages now. Real embarrassed about that, but wanted to point out that even an old head will always have things to learn!