Landscape/Scenery App Recommendations


Wondering if anyone here uses any apps for landscape generation. Not home landscape, but scenery. Vue never seems to be stable or reliable. I know Bryce doesn't work on newer Macs. Are there any others that are usable, yet not bank breaking?


It really depends a little bit on what you need and what you exactly mean with 'scenery'.

The last version of vue I really know was 6 infinite, and that I used quiet a lot. Stable it was, but renders took forever even on fast machines and with much smaller resolutions than are needed today (I remember an update that crashed the disk with it's installer. Stupidly I had forgotten that when I changed the computer and had kept the updater ... (only this time without a save as I was just installing and installing ...)). So, I have mixed feelings about vue :). But for fast backgrounds with clouds and plants I still haven't found anything better for a halfway reasonable price. They were bought one or two years ago and try now to be again a solution for professionals (somewhere on the way since 6 they seemed to care more for the poser market than anything else).(Only the 'creator' solution is not bank breaking). But I still would try out the test version, just to have something for comparison.

Then there is terragen, meanwhile not even very pricey anymore. I never bought it, only had a beta version of 4, and have to admit, I never was that happy with it. Clouds have in my opinion almost always a slightly unnatural look, like painted (but I have seen a few pictures with good results). It comes with some plant library. There is a free version (with ridiculous low render settings) you could test out. With $ 349 (creator) / $ 699 (professional) it's cheaper than vue. To get good results you'd need some time to learn it (more than I ever invested), but it can deliver professional results. Certainly worth a look.

Then there is still carrara pro 8.5 around, which has something like a plant creator and volumetric clouds. It's sold from DAZ, meaning that there wasn't an update for eons. Two years ago I got it for free and have to admit, I'm a little bit surprised that they do sell it again for some 150 $ (it's from 2014). The quality is probably better then Bryce, as it's a thad newer. But it's quiet low in my opinion and I do mention it just because you could stumble on it on your search in the net... Definitely not worth that money imho.

World machine 2 is specialized in landscapes, which means it probably doesn't meet your needs, like everything else I know off can just do one or the other (like a ton of small programs that can create plants. If you find something for free working on a mac, let me know, please). All major 3d software has some built in volumetric objects with which you can produce smoke, clouds and stuff, very often just as a pricey plugin. And you can get a lot of plants, stones etc. from different sites (like xfrog). Some models you'll find for free (with instancing that part of the scenery can very well be achieved inside Cheetah).

And there is of course Houdini, which is a full grown 3d package that has an inbuilt terrain generator. It's widely (and professionally) used for fx, with everything you'd need for fire, clouds, smoke. But it's quiet a bit more than you asked for. It's not quiet bank breaking but nowadays only available as rented software with annual payment ... For non-commercial projects is a free version available (with a big fat watermark in the lowest part of the render (you can cut it away)).

And (now think of me as looking very sourly) blender, which probably has all the things you need, at least with some plugins (not all are free, though). Again a bit more than a simple landscape generator.
Wow! Thanks for the detailed response!

I was hoping there was some changes since the last time I checked. I see it's still the usual suspects. I'm definitely looking for trees, land, rocks, etc.

I can probably cobble pieces together and form a populated terrain right in C3D, at this point.


No problem :)

Of course there are some changes: There is a ton of new plugins for different 3d apps around, and almost anything can meanwhile render volumetric objects in reasonable quality (i. e. clouds). The big advantage of vue is the possibility to use 'textural' clouds for background (fast) or volumetric ones (not fast at all, in every app).

And there are a few other apps around you can only use on a win pc (except lumion nothing that comes to mind that would be that great).

You probably know this anyway, but for landscape generation you can use your painting app (like photoshop) to create some interesting height map and then displacement in Cheetah. With the particle system the plants and rocks are no problem, too. And there is a ton of pbr materials around for the ground. You probably could even simulate some grass as particles.

By the way, xfrog always has some free trees for download (you'll finde some elsewhere, too, sometimes even in usable quality).

In Cheetah with no volumetrics you can try with textured clouds or, much easier, photos as background (there are some available for free with cc0 in reasonable quality).

Or you can paint the clouds in photoshop. There are quiet good cloud brushes around for free (and commercial use without any fuss). I did use them for example once to widen a picture someone wanted for a website (nobody saw the difference between the real and the painted ones). You could paint the background and might get away with creating a texture for a cloud-mesh (without sss, I'm not so sure, though). Those things would then create the necessary shadows.

Volumetrics, god rays, fur (for grass) and stuff probably will find their way into Cheetah sooner or later, but at a reasonable quality the render times will be quiet long.
One last option, but it's hard to provide much useful information. Bryce's co-creator, Eric Wenger, has gone on to develop a few applications on his own, including one suite that renders as beautifully as Bryce ever did, but from the outside looking in, I find its user interface much more intimidating. It's called Artmatic - about $350 to buy in: it takes two component programs to really have much control over what is rendered (Designer & Voyager). I know nothing about its performance, but the sample art is amazing. You can find details here.
And, of course, if you can find a copy of Snow Leopard Server, Bryce for Mac runs decently on a Parallels virtual machine. (Snow Leopard Server is the only Bryce compatible Mac OS licensed for use on a virtual machine.) That's still what I use for landscapes.
Thanks for all the info, gang!

Swizl, that software looks a lot like Natural Scene Designer which I had many years ago. I thought they would upgrade it over time, but they didn;t do much with it.

but the sample art is amazing
Did we look at the same gallery? Clouds are quiet ok, some landscape too, but as soon as anything else is shown, it's quiet bad (no much for Cheetah). And every pic is from Wenger (which says something about it, too). Didn't know about that app, though.

frank beckmann

Well-known member
It seems QuixelMixer2019/beta will do terrains as well:
I once got TerraRay - and honestly thought it´s abandon ware - no updates since then and cloud scaling crashes it here immediately. But used its exported 16bit maps inside Cheetah3d from time to time. (
I was able to run the latest Bryce version via wich is a mystery that it´s working - but never ending fun - used it a lot with DEM Earth elevation files.
World Creator2.1 will be available for Mac soon (add pledge) but its license and versions model is another story.
Not of much help here though unfortunately.

I also bought TerraRay several years back. I had a play with a couple times, then I abandoned it.
That QuixelMixer2019 trailer makes me drool. Last time I checked Quixel was Window only. Will check again though.

--shift studio.

edit: looks like there is a Mac version of 'Mixer'. The website is not showing their other apps 3Do and Ddo etc. surprisingly.
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Did we look at the same gallery? Clouds are quiet ok, some landscape too, but as soon as anything else is shown, it's quiet bad (no much for Cheetah). And every pic is from Wenger (which says something about it, too). Didn't know about that app, though.
Depends on your goals. The cities certainly don't fall under naturalism, and Wenger obviously prefers pristine, impossibly clear air - so the software is preset to provide that. I've downloaded his demo before and it's very much Wenger's world - it's hard to build any deliberate compositions (you sort of take what his pre-defined "worlds" give you) and there is almost NO compatibility with anyone else's 3D tools or 3D file standards. This is not modeling software, and not compatible enough with the world at large to serve as a platform, assembling other work. But as a landscape renderer, it definitely seems worth considering.

Some of the cities' structures are interesting, but the textures are horrible, and I doubt there's much way to improve on that. So ignore them.

Looking at the demo, it appears that the same atmosphere tools which allow Bryce to reach photo-like naturalism (with some practice and skill) are in there. It appears that rendering of generic background foliage (there aren't any specific tree models) is also stronger than Bryce's was - though again, there seems to be very little deliberate composition. (There don't seem to be any sort of plant models or particle-based tools.)

Overall, it appear to be hard to use, and much too limited, which keeps it from being worth the money for me. But I keep an eye on it. If I found myself in a tight spot (and didn't know Bryce as well as I do) I would consider it an option.
Depends on your goals.
No. Because Artmatic is in the same price range as Terragen, where you are able to create the same clear desert air, the same kind of clouds. If you want to, you can even take bad textures and some 'genereic background foliage'. But not vice versa.

Almost everything you write about it are very good reasons to avoid that quiet pricey software (for what it delivers). You probably like it because you still have a soft spot for Bryce :).

About Quixel Mixer:

For the task of scenery recreation (i. e. landscapes with clouds) it's no help, but simple awesome for the creation of pbr-materials from the look of it. As much as I know the plan was to rent this new software within the metascan abo, which is a thad expensive (but they deliver the best materials around, no question. You can download a few examples for free but of course commercial use is not allowed). Now they changed the abo-plan, and it will be available for 99 $. Soon after Adobe bought Allegorithmic they announced this decision and give away since then the open beta for free (but it will certainly not run anymore as soon as the beta phase is completed).

I'm not quiet sure if I will bother with the beta, like many others who have to use Adobe Creative Cloud as they promised to include Substance there. And to be honest, I for myself have reached my limit of learning new stuff (as it is I take up new information like a sponge (only part of it 3d related)). Otherwise I'd already play around with it.

World Creator2.1 will be available for Mac soon (add pledge) but its license and versions model is another story.
Now that's good news.I had filed away that program in my head still as windows only.

I knew the guy who started GeoControl from a forum more than a decade ago. He created awesome landscapes and wanted to get the tools to do it better (from the looks of it, he is not involved anymore with the firm today). World Creator has evolved a lot since then and the price isn't that high (even the professional version is around a 100 $ cheaper than the smaller version of terragen, but with maintenance to get further support and updates after the first year). At the moment there is not even a demo available for windows ... I never would buy again some software without trying it out (or at least know somebody personally who owns and uses it). Those days are over a long time ago. But it's well worth to keep an eye on this if one is interested in landscapes.
No. Because Artmatic is in the same price range as Terragen, where you are able to create the same clear desert air, the same kind of clouds. If you want to, you can even take bad textures and some 'genereic background foliage'. But not vice versa.

Almost everything you write about it are very good reasons to avoid that quiet pricey software (for what it delivers). You probably like it because you still have a soft spot for Bryce :).
Jeez, Hasdrubal, Sorry if I accidentally killed your dog and didn't notice. But when I ask for suggestions in a public forum, I want every option on the table. Maybe that's just me. Sometimes my two cents is just not worth two cents to everybody. Oh well.
MonkeyT, there wasn't anything disrespectful in my post. And I have nothing said against you mentioning this piece of software. I only happened to disagree about the 'amazing sample art'. After your answer to that I pointed out that's possible for Terragen to create the same look as in Wenger's app but not the other way around. Which seems quiet true.

That about the soft spot wasn't meant in any unfriendly way. I have myself some of these spots (in 3d for example one for Lightwave). Actually I find it a good thing if somebody likes the tools he is or was working with.

So nothing against your two cents. But if you post something in a forum you have to expect that other people's opinions aren't the same as yours. No reason to take that personal (and getting personal yourself on the way). It has nothing to do with my opinion about you or what you say in general.
First post in 5 years! Wow, it has been a long time.

Saw Carrara mentioned above and thought I would chime in.

I started 3D with Cheetah but, like the OP, needed some scene making stuff. I am a horrible artist and had little time to put together my own stuff. That took me to look around and I settled on Carrara. It is actually a quite capable app and you can get it on sale from time to time (I have not visited Daz in a while though so I am not sure about current pricing). Sadly, Daz wants to kill it off, I think, and it has not been updated in ages. There are some plugins available for it that make it quite useful and the community is very helpful in the forums. I bought lots of models from Daz (not the characters) and many of them work fine in Carrara. Modeling is also easy. There are some functions that are a great help for nature scenes, namely the plant creator and the ocean. Fog works OK, as does fire. Personally, I never really worked with clouds, but they are there. All in all, I think it was well worth the money spent.

Carrara works fine on Mohave, but, with the new MacOS coming out, warnings about things not working with future OS updates pop up. Once Catalina is out and Daz updates their content manager things may work, but they may not. That is why I am coming back to Cheetah. I will keep an old machine around to run Carrara on but will start learning the ropes on Cheetah again.


Active member
Nice info on this thread. I realize TerraGen isn't the greatest, and a lot of the functionality can be done in an image editor. I sometimes use it for a quick height map. I made one for this beach simulation I'm working on in C4d with X-Particles. The height map is there for the beach erosion and took about 10 seconds to do in TerraGen. It's going to be alpha mapped, so the height map isn't really even seen. Just so the waves have a more realistic path to follow.

Thanks for the tip on WorldGen Frank. I'll have a look at it. I've also been looking at Forester, but it's a plugin only for C4d (edit: and Softimage). I have a bunch of long term landscaping projects. So it can help me plan that out and I figure it's more versatile than Xfrog plants.

There's also Arbaro, which I think there's an older thread discussing it.


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