Creating the Planet


Any number of erosional combinations can be used for almost endless possibilities.


Fractal terrain's Incise Flow feature includes four settings; Blur, Amount, Flow Exponent and Effect Blend. You will probably be familiar with what each of these by the end of this tutorial but I will give a brief explanation in layman's terms.

Blur; controls the width of the incise or the pre-effect blur, higher being wider
Amount; relative depth of the incise, higher being deeper
Flow Exponent; severity of the incise, lower being more severe
Effect Blend; how much the effect blends into the terrain. Higher = more evident.

I have attempted to show all application tasks in an ordered format for the sake of comprehension. Number of settings will vary depending on action and will be shown in the order that they appear on the screen. These task sequences will be in red on a white background and usually, but not always, set apart from blocks of text.

This is a general example:
Name of Action: Selection (Value/Range), Feather (Value), Menu Name >> Menu Path >> Setting (Value)

For this planet, called Israh, I am going to do something unusual to give the effect that ocean levels have fallen drastically due to a severe ice age. I will achieve this by raising the sea level and re-apply continental shelves in the planet settings before I begin any erosion in Fractal Terrains. This is not something you would have to do on your average planet, but then, what is an average planet? Later, when the sea level is dropped there will be more of an oceanic or continental shelf look to what will be the coastal region and lowlands, while the highlands will have apparent effects of wind and rain erosion which occurred long before the current age of perpetual cooling set in.

My methods are experimental and satisfactory results can likely be reached in a more efficient manner. But experimenting is learning. One thing is for certain; if you weren't familiar with Wilbur or Photoshop prior to this tutorial, you probably will be afterward. This is a fairly long process so take your time and experiment as you follow along. Your settings don't have to match those of the tutorial exactly but hopefully they will help guide through this creative process. I apologize ahead of time if I failed to make things as clear as I wanted to.



The primary reason that I do most of the aggressive erosion in Fractal Terrains rather than Wilbur, is that it allows for greater continuity between maps when output at different scales later-on.


Fractal Terrains will automatically create a random planet for you upon opening the program. You will want to adjust the settings according to your preferences and hit apply. You can adjust the Random Seed field to keep regenerating random worlds within your desired parameters. Your planet may not look exactly like mine as I may have changed my settings slightly after I captured these.


This looks good to me...
Generated Planet

Once you have the planet looking how you want it, Save the Fractal Terrains file with the desired name. You do not really want to have to repeat these steps again if necessary so try and remember to save fairly frequently along the way, just in case. It also doesn't hurt to save out a separate backup copy of the file on occasion as well.

Take a moment to refer to: for more information on preferred planet settings and guidance on realistic continental forms. This particular planet will be mostly a single landmass so I won't worry too much about mountain placement in relation to the continental landmass.


Israh is the smaller of two planets in a dual planet system with a circumference of just under 26,000km.

All erosional processes in Fractal Terrains are either done by hand with the Paint Lower>> Prescale Land Offset tool or the Incise Flow action which you will be using quite a bit. The key is to layer and overlap incises as they might appear in nature. This tutorial is not based on scientific research but is rather an interpretation base on the general rule that at lower altitudes you probably have wide smooth incises and as altitude increases valleys will steepen and get deeper.

Raise sea level 2000 meters, Tools >> Global Raise >> Water Level >> 2000m

Fill Basins: Select all, Tools >> Actions >> Fill Basins in Offset

Planet settings >> Secondary (tab) >> Continental Shelves = 300m >> Apply (button)
Incise Flow: Select all, 8 / 1 / 0.5 / 1

and a closer look...


When you want to select to the lowest or highest elevation, just use a very high/low number like 500,000.

Incise Flow: 2500 & Up, Feather 2, 6 / 0.9 / 0.5 / 0.9

To simplify drainage, Paint Lower >> Prescale Land Offset to connect some of the smaller sea areas using a non-aggressive brush setting in the range of 0.001 to 0.005. Switching to an Orthographic view and using the Global Navigation tool may help visually;

before connecting:

after connecting:

Change back to a Hammer projection for a wider view of things;

Incise Flow: 4500 to 10000, Feather 2, Tools >> Actions >> Incise Flow >> 2 / 0.8 / 0.5 / 0.8

Incise Flow: 5500 to 11000, Feather 1, Tools>> Actions >> Incise Flow >> 2 / 0.7 / 0.4 / 0.7

Incise Flow: 6500 to 12000, Feather 1, Tools>> Actions>> Incise Flow>> 1 / 0.6 / 0.4 / 0.6
Incise Flow: 8000 to 10000, Feather 1, Tools>> Actions>> Incise Flow>> 0.5 / 1 / 0.4 / 0.2

Fill Basins: Select all, Tools >> Actions >> Fill Basins in Offset
Incise Flow: 2200 to 4000, Feather 1, Tools >> Actions >> Incise Flow >> 1 / 0.5 / 0.4 / 0.5
Smooth Terrain: Select all, Tools >> Global Smooth >> Prescale Land Offset >> 1

Look around for unwanted orphan puddles, or "divets" as I call them, especially ones far from larger bodies of water, and Paint Raise>> Prescale Land Offset as many as you can so they're just above sea level. Since Fractal Terrains treats any of these divets no matter how small as "sea", getting rid of them will allow "Fill Basins" to level them up to the surrounding terrain for further erosion. If you want to save a few of the nicer ones as inland seas then that is fine too. Just remember that in this case you will be lowering the sea level eventually.

Fill Basins: Select all, Tools >> Actions >> Fill Basins in Offset
Incise Flow: 2800 to 4000, Feather 1, Tools >> Actions >> Incise Flow >> 1 / 0.5 / 0.4 / 0.5

Incise Flow: 4500 to 7000, Feather 1, Tools >> Actions >> Incise Flow >> 0.6 / 0.6 / 0.4 / 0.3
Incise Flow: 6500 to 9000, Feather 0.5, Tools >> Actions >> Incise Flow >> 0.5 / 0.7 / 0.4 / 0.3
Incise Flow: 8500 to 11000, Feather 0.5, Tools >> Actions >> Incise Flow >> 0.4 / 0.8 / 0.35 / 0.3
Incise Flow: 9000 to 13000, Feather 0.5, Tools >> Actions >> Incise Flow >> 0.3 / 0.8 / 0.35 / 0.2

Incise Flow: 12000 & Up, Feather 0.5, Tools >> Actions >> Incise Flow >> 0.1 / 0.7 / 0.3 / 0.1

Again, now is a good time to look around and fill any unwanted divets caused by the incising.
Select all, Tools >> Actions >> Fill Basins in Offset
Incise Flow: 2200 to 3500, Feather 1, Tools >> Actions >> Incise Flow >> 3 / 0.2 / 0.7 / 1


Two of my favorite topographic color schemes for Fractal Terrains are provided for you in the FT_colors folder inside of the Israh Extras download folder.

Sometimes it's a good idea to change color palettes as some tend to be better for showing detail at different elevations than others. Don't worry if you're not using the same one as I am at all times. The important thing is that you can "read" and are comfortable with palette.

Incise Flow: 3200 to 5000, Feather 1, Tools >> Actions >> Incise Flow >> 1.5 / 0.4 / 0.6 / 0.7

Incise Flow: 2800 to 7000, Feather 1, Tools >> Actions >> Incise Flow >> 0.3 / 0.2 / 0.5 / 0.3

Smooth Terrain: 2100 to 3000, Feather 1, Tools >> Global Smooth >> Prescale Land Offset >> 1

Fill Basins: Select all, Tools >> Actions>> Fill Basins in Offset
Lower Sea Level: Select all, Tools >> Global Lower >> Water Level >> 1500

Incise Flow: -100 to 1000, Feather 2, Tools >> Actions >> Incise Flow >> 1 / 0.2 / 0.6 / 0.6

Using the Paint Lower >> Prescale Land Offset tool, connect your seas again as this will roughly be the shoreline of the final planet.

Save your fractal file and now you're ready to save this out as a "Special .mdr" file for Wilbur. As you might expect, the higher the resolution you save this file at the better. However, your computer has to be able to handle it so you may have to play around and find out what it can take. I am running Windows Vista on an Apple iMac Intel with 4GB of ram and it can faithfully handle the following document size which will be more than sufficient for this project. The final map is going to be output at 50% so you can actually go lower here for the sake of processing time.

File menu >> Save As >> Special MDR >> width samples: 5000 (leave box unchecked)


Proceed to Wilbur Part 1>>

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