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Create Realistic Oceans

Blender 3d tutorial

Oceans In Blender

Similar to clouds and other natural phenomenon, the ocean is a fairly popular subject for 3D artists. To create an ocean in Blender 3D, we will be using the built in ocean modifier. This tutorial covers how to use the ocean modifier, adding materials to your ocean, and how to add foam for choppier seas.

Ocean Modifier

As mentioned previously, creating the waves themselves is incredibly simple. If you have the default cube and lamp, delete them from your scene. Add a plane. To turn this plane into our waves, select the plane, go to the Modifier panel of the Properties window. Under Add Modifier, select Ocean. You should see an ocean replace the plane we just added.

There are many options you can play with to adjust the appearance of your waves. The settings you change and what you set them to largely depends on the kind of scene you are setting up. Is it stormy? Calm? A little windy?

For this tutorial, I'll go for a fairly calm scene, but what you learn should be good enough to get your started on more violent oceans as well.

Making Waves

Many of the settings are self explanatory, while others are little less intuitive. I definitely recommend going to the Blender Wiki to learn what all the settings do.

For this tutorial, we will first change the resolution. By default it is quite low, so bump it up a bit. I put mine between 12 and 16 for testing and then in the 20s for my final render, however, your values largely depend on the power of your computer and how long you are willing to wait.

After that, change Repeat X and Repeat Y to 2, change Spacial Size to 100, Choppiness to 1.50, Scale to 4.000, Alignment to 1.000, and Direction to 10. This should give us some fairly calm ocean waves. That said, feel free play with the settings to make your ocean look however you like.

Setting Up Materials

I will be using Cycles, so lets change the Render Engine to Cycles Render. This setting is the right-most setting in the main menu of Blender. After that, select our ocean and go to the Materials panel. Click on + New to create a new material.

We will be using nodes, so change the Screen Layout to Compositing. Then make sure the compositor is set to display Shader nodes and to show nodes for the selected object. These settings are to the right of the node menu in the compositor window, and highlighted in the image above. If you have done it correctly, you should see a Diffuse shader node and a Material Output node.

Adding Nodes

Delete the Diffuse shader node. In its place, add a Glass node, a Gloss shader node, and a Mix Shader node. Connect them together and change the highlighted settings as shown in the image above.

The color I used in the Glass node has an RGB of 0.000, 0.010, 0.016 and the color for the Gloss shader node is white.

If you try doing a test render now, you won't see much of anything. We will fix that in the next step.

World Shaders

To get our ocean looking a little better, tell the compositor to show nodes for the world. This setting is the little earth button in the compositor window menu. Then check the Use Nodes box. You should see two nodes appear in the compositor.

Add a Sky Texture node to the compositor. Connect it to the Background node. Also, click and drag on the sphere to make it look similar to what is shown in the image above. This controls the direction from which the sun is shining in the sky.

The Camera

Now we need to set up the camera and go into Camera View by pressing Numpad 0. Open the Properties panel by pressing N and check the Lock Camera to View setting in the View section. Now move your view around until you have it place where you like and uncheck the Lock Camera to View setting.

If you notice that some of your ocean is being cut off, go to the Camera Panel in the Properties window and change the End setting to 500 or larger so the camera can see our whole section of ocean.


While our calm ocean does not require foam, we will add some anyways. Select our ocean and go to the Modifiers panel. Check the Generate Foam setting and change the Coverage setting to 0.250. Then give foam layer a name of Foam.

Then go back to the ocean materials nodes and add an Attribute node (Shift-A, Input, Attribute). Fill out the empty text box with the name of our foam: Foam. Then add a Diffuse shader node (Shift-A, Shaders, Diffuse) and a Add shader node. No settings need changing, so just connect them together as shown in the above image.


Final Result

If you render now, you should see our final result. Before ending, one final feature to note for the ocean modifier is the Random Seed setting. Changing this value can give you a different variation of waves. Using a different seed can actually change it quite a bit, so if certain settings aren't quite giving you the results you want, try throwing some numbers into the Random Seed setting.

With that, I'll end this tutorial. If you'd like to give feedback, feel free to post below, I'd definitely appreciate it!

Keep Learning!

No single tutorial will cover everything, so if you want to dig deeper, here are some resources for you to check out. If you have other resources you think I should add to this list, feel free to let me know!

Blender Docs



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  •  raisyclutch / 0 / unranked
  •  irascibleone / 2543 / AAA
    Sorry about that! The zip file should be working now.
  •  denpo / 0 / unranked
    Great tutorial, but the zip file can't be opened.
  •  fala gbenga / 0 / unranked
    Nice work