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  • Developer(s): Planetside Software
  • Website : Terragen2

Quick Start

Terragen™ 2 is a powerful solution for rendering and animating realistic natural environments. Create entire worlds from your imagination, or import real world terrain datasets and use Terragen 2 to create the most realistic visualisations possible. You control the weather, landscape, rivers, lakes and oceans, suns, moons and stars. With Terragen 2 you have complete control over the shader networks used for terrains, textures, micropolyon displacements, clouds and object distributions. You can reorganise the planetary shading pipeline to suit your goals. Place grass and trees wherever you want, as well as other objects in OBJ format that you can model in third party software. It's easy to find great plants and objects modelled by other Terragen users or elsewhere on the web.

Terragen is not a game engine; it has a sophisticated film- and broadcast-quality renderer and procedural modelling tools designed so that you can create the most realistic images possible without taking a photograph. Nor is it a general-purpose 3D program designed to render everything. We have dedicated more than a decade to specialising in algorithms that simulate skies, outdoor lighting, terrain textures, and to render extremely large and detailed terrains. Terragen 2 puts those algorithms in your control. When you need CG environments that don't look CG, Terragen 2 will help you get there. If you want to go beyond reality, Terragen 2 is a toolbox with infinite possibilities.



Terragen 2 makes this possible with the following features and benefits:

  • Hybrid micropolygon renderer optimised for large displacements and very large landscapes.
  • Render entire planets, sweeping vistas, tiny rock gardens, or anything in between.
  • Export high resolution objects from displaced surfaces.
  • Import 3D objects for rendering.
  • Render millions of plants and other objects using instancing. Billions of virtual polygons are handled with ease.
  • Add multiple heightfields, textures and displacement maps to your scene.
  • Georeferencing options; automatic georeferencing for properly formatted GeoTIFF files.
  • Procedural terrains that can span an entire planet.
  • Apply almost "infinite" fractal detail to terrain and other objects.
  • Overhanging terrain using procedural displacements, image-based displacements, or imported geometry.
  • 3D painting of colours and masks that can control almost anything in the scene.
  • Photorealistic atmosphere and sunlight.
  • Volumetric clouds or fast "2.5D" clouds.
  • Global illumination, multiple scattering in volumetrics, full light interaction between volumetrics and surfaces.
  • Production quality anti-aliasing and motion blur that renders quickly and efficiently.
  • Node graph editor for ultimate control over shaders and textures.
  • Flexible planetary shading pipeline.
  • Animation of almost any parameter with the optional Animation module.

User Interface Elements

Interface Elements

Each button accesses a layout tab to edit that specific part of the scene at the top of the interface is a standard menu bar which includes options for 'File' operations ('Save',etc.), 'Edit' ('Copy'/'Paste' and 'Undo'), 'View' (opening of various windows of specific information), 'Project' (various project-related settings and information), 'Window' (window management), and 'Help' (documentation, key reference, etc.). To the left of the 'Layout Tabs' on the 'Top Toolbar' are standard 'New', 'Open', and 'Save' project buttons, as well as a button to open the 'Render View' and the '3D Preview'. Below the tabs on the left is the 'Node List' which displays items (nodes) which are relevant to the current layout in a hierarchical list format.

The Node List

The Node List

Just to the right of the 'Node List' is a small 'Shader Preview' window, which generates a realtime preview of the currently selected node, when applicable (not all nodes can be previewed).

The Shader Preview

The Shader Preview

Below the Node List and the Shader Preview is the 'Parameter/Settings Pane', which will display the settings of the node currently selected in the Node List.

The 3D Preview

3D Preview

Below the 3D preview is the Node Network view, which is contextual when viewing any of the specific layouts such as 'Terrain', focusing on the nodes in the default Group corresponding to the current layout (there is also a separate 'Node Network' view which gives you a larger view of the entire Node Network without the 3D Preview).

The Node Network

The Node Network

At the very bottom of the user interface is a toolbar that includes the Animation Timeline and controls.

The Animation Timeline


The Animation Timeline (red) & Errors and Warnings Notifications (green)

At the far right of the Bottom Toolbar is the Errors and Warnings Display which, when clicked, brings up a window with details on any errors and warnings triggered so far. Next let's explore each section in more detail. Several of the windows in the UI can be resized by placing the mouse cursor between windows where a double-ended arrow appears, and then clicking and dragging. The 3D Preview and Node Network windows can also be expanded or closed completely with the buttons in the upper-right corners of these windows, which are similar to standard operating system window controls. If you close one of these windows and wish to display it again, use the Preview and 'Node Network' options in the View menu.

Working With Each User Interface Element

This section will give you practical information on working with the major user interface elements.



On the file menu are the normal 'New', 'Open', 'Open Recent', 'Save', and 'Save As' items. 'New' will load your default scene, which may be customized in the preferences (more on that later). 'Open Recent' shows the last 10 scene files you have opened. You can clear the list with the 'Clear Menu' option. 'Save Incremental' will save your scene as a new file with an incremented version number appended to the file. By default it will add _0001 to your file name, however if you have already added a version number of some kind, it will attempt to recognize your numbering format and increment it appropriately. For example if your file is scene1.tgd, using 'Save Incremental' will create scene2.tgd. The last number is always what will be incremented, so scene1_1.tgd would become scene1_2.tgd. 'Revert to Saved' will simply reload the last saved state of the current scene. The clip file options work with Terragen 2 .TGC Clip Files, a subset of TG2's native .TGD XML file format. Clip files are specific nodes saved separately from an entire scene file, designed to be easily inserted into any project. Using this functionality you can save useful pieces of your scenes such as surface shaders, complex terrains, or other functions and re-use them later with ease. 'Insert Clip File' allows you to insert a previously created clip file. 'Insert Recent Clip File' works just like 'Open Recent', except it only shows recently loaded clip files. 'Save Nodes as Clip File' allows you to create a clip file from the currently selected nodes. You must select at least one node in the 'Node Network' in order to use this function. 'Explore Temporary Files' will open the Terragen 2 image output folder located in your Temp Folder. TG2 currently outputs all rendered images, including aborted renders, to a sub-folder in your Temp Folder. Alpha images are included. As a result you will want to check your Temp Folder regularly and clean it out if space becomes an issue. Note that crashed renders are not currently saved in this way. A new uniquely numbered directory is created in this folder for every TG2 session. They are sequentially numbered.


The 'Edit' menu contains the standard 'Cut', 'Copy', 'Paste', and 'Delete' functions. The 'Undo' function works as it does in most applications and operates on the majority of settings in Terragen 2. 'Group' and 'Ungroup' control the node grouping functions, which will be covered in the Node Network section. 'Preferences' accesses a number of settings to control behavior, UI, and other aspects of TG2 and its functionality.


All items on the 'View' menu control the visibility of functional or informational windows in the TG2 UI. In most cases new windows are opened with these options. The majority of these settings are used to customize the UI, or enabled more advanced workflows, so we will cover only the most important ones at this point. The 'Render' option opens the 'Render Window', which allows you to start and stop and view in-progress rendering tasks and save completed renders. The 'Undo History' option opens a sequential text list of actions which can be undone. To revert to a previous state, click the appropriate item in the list and press the 'Undo to Selection' button at the bottom. Note that all changes made after the selected action will also be undone.


'Render current render node' will automatically start a render with the currently selected render node. This can also be invoked with the shortcut Ctrl+R. This is faster and more direct than opening the 'Render Window' and pressing the 'Render Button'. The 'Purge Undo' function clears the undo buffer, which can sometimes become very large and take up memory. Remember that you will lose the option to undo to a previous state if you do this, but further changes will still be recorded in the undo buffer.


The 'Window' menu allows you to switch between currently open TG2 windows, and to show and hide any floating windows you may have opened. Note that unless you have opened any additional windows, there will be only one option here, 'Terragen 2'.


The 'Help' menu contains a link to the online documentation (where you can find this document, the Node Reference, and the User Interface Reference). The 'Mouse and Key Settings' option will show you a complete overview of all the currently assigned mouse and keyboard settings. You can change many of these key assignments with the 'Preferences' option under 'Edit'. 'Visit Planetside Forums on the Web' will take you to our active and informative forum user community. We encourage every TG2 user to signup and join the discussion. 'Check for Updates' will contact the Planetside servers and check your version of Terragen against the most recent available version. If your version is out of date you will be given the option to upgrade. The upgrade check is also performed automatically on startup of TG2, though you can turn this off in the preferences.'About Terragen 2' displays the 'About Box', which most importantly will show the version number for your TG2 installation. This information can be important for troubleshooting purposes.

Top Toolbar

Top Toolbar

The 'Top Toolbar' holds standard 'New', 'Open', and 'Save' buttons on the left. If you click and hold the 'Save' button you will get a dropdown menu offering additional options such as 'Save Incremental' (see above for usage). Next are buttons to quickly access the 'Render Window' and '3D Preview' (note the '3D Preview' button has no effect if the '3D Preview' is already open, as it is in the default workspace). The rest of the toolbar contains buttons to access each of the specific UI layouts for editing the various aspects of your scene.

Node Lists

Terrain Node List

'Node Lists' display structured lists of nodes in your scene. In the 'Node List' for a given layout, only nodes which correspond to the purpose of that layout will be shown. In the 'Terrain layout', for example, the 'Node List' displays nodes that control the shape of the terrain, a Heightfield shader and Heightfield generator in the default scene (note: you may need to click the small “+” sign to expand the list and see the Heightfield generator), while in the 'Atmosphere layout' the list will contain nodes that define the atmosphere and clouds. The only exception to this is the 'Node List' in the 'Node Network' layout, which displays all nodes in the scene. Nodes are displayed hierarchically, with sub-nodes, also known as “child nodes,” indented and connected to the main node, or “parent node,” by a dashed line. This structure mirrors the structure of the 'Node Network', which we’ll discuss later. Single-clicking on any of these nodes will bring up its settings below the list in the 'Parameter/Settings Pane' (covered in a later section). The configuration of the Node List will vary depending on the layout you are in, but all of the lists include a button at the top to add additional nodes of appropriate type. of affect of their parents. This is similar to how surface mapping in Terragen Classic works. The 'Terrain Node List' also features a special button to add Heightfield Operators, which are nodes that manipulate heightfield data specifically.

Atmosphere Node List

Atmosphere Node List

Finally, the 'Atmosphere list' has a unique button and information display which is only enabled when a Cloud layer is selected. The 'Pattern' button accesses the input node of the Cloud layer 'Density shader', while the information display shows the altitude of the top and bottom of the currently selected cloud layer.

Shader Preview

Shader Preview

The 'Shader Preview' displays a top-down view of the currently selected shader node, where applicable. Note that not all nodes can be previewed in this way. The 'Shader Preview' is not displayed in layouts where the relevant nodes cannot be previewed, so it is only present in the 'Terrain', 'Shader', and 'Atmosphere' layouts. Even where it is present, certain nodes in a given layout cannot be previewed, for example Heightfield generate in the 'Terrain' layout. When visible, the 'Shader Preview' is limited by the node it is displaying data from. For general procedural nodes with “infinite” area, a 'Size' (scale) indicator and '+/-' zoom buttons are displayed. Pressing the '+/-' buttons will respectively increase and decrease the area which is shown in the preview. With a node of finite area, as in the case of any of the heightfield nodes, the display will show the entire extent of that node's output, and no 'Size' indicator or controls are shown. You can use normal 3d camera movement controls (covered below) to control your view in a limited way, but the top-down view is generally the most useful. If you have altered the view, pressing either of the '+/-' buttons will reset it to top-down. As in the primary '3D Preview', objects can be selected and repositioned by clicking on their bounding boxes. Details are below. You may open a copy of the 'Shader Preview' in a new, floating window by right-clicking and selecting 'Open in New Window'. You can also access data copy functions on the right-click menu, allowing you to use this view to find specific locations and easily copy the coordinates, altitude, or slope of a chosen point to another node's respective settings. The separate, floating version of the 'Shader Preview' provides full camera control and additional options, including the ability to use the Painted shader directly (see the Shaders section for details).

Parameter/Settings Pane

The 'Parameter/Settings Pane' displays the settings for the currently selected node. When no node is selected in the current layout, this area will be blank. The node settings can also be opened in a separate window by double-clicking a node in the 'Node Network'. This is where you will adjust the majority of the details of your scenes, by manipulating node settings.

Parameter/Settings Pane

Node Settings Layout Conventions

Node settings windows are laid out in a standard way, maintaining consistency across the interface, no matter what node you are editing. Setting names are generally specified in a text label to the left of the setting itself.

Feature scale

The setting name for 'Feature scale', with associated controls to the right

Setting controls often include both a numerical entry field, in which you can enter almost any number, and a slider control which has a more limited range. The range of most setting sliders is within the suggested defaults for that setting, though you can usually use almost any value. The numerical entry field will reflect the values selected by the slider. When coordinates are displayed, they are usually not separately labeled, but they are always shown in the same order, the standard X, Y, Z. Remember that Y is “up” in TG2. In some cases only two coordinates are shown, X and Z. This is in cases where only horizontal adjustment is possible (as in the Heightfield shader.

Setting controls

Coordinate numerical entry fields, X, Y and Z Complex nodes with a large number of settings are usually arranged into tabs, with settings that have a common or similar purpose grouped together on appropriately named tabs. Simply click a tab to bring up the associated controls.

Setting tab