Colour by Altitude

Last modified

16 February 2019
Untextured Stewart Island 3d Model

Untextured Stewart Island ready for the addition of colour.


This tutorial will show you how to assign colour to a model based on altitude.

Setup Blender for Procedural Colouring of Terrain

We'll be creating nodes to find the altitude and then assign colour. Download 01 Start - Stewart Island.blend which contains an island to colourize. The UI has been changed a little to show the Node Editor. Increase the quality of the model if you wish by increasing the level of Subdivisions:-

Adjust subdivisions and click apply

Blender UI setup for procedural colouring of terrain.

01 Change render engine from Blender to Cycles:-

Change render engine from Blender to Cycles

02 Check Use Nodes box:-

Use nodes

Initial nodes

Initial nodes.

Add new nodes

03 We need to ask Blender for the position of the model, extract the Z height range, and assign a colour gradient over that range. We will create three nodes and link them to the Diffuse BSDF node:-

Geometry - Separate XYZ - ColorRamp - Diffuse BSDF - Material Output

  1. Add >> Input >> Geometry
    SHIFT A ... I ... G
    LMB on the left of the screen to place node.
  2. Add >> Convertor >> Separate XYZ
    SHIFT A ... N ... P
    Place this node to next to the first.
  3. LMB DRAG a connector from Position to Vector.

  4. Add >> Convertor >> ColorRamp
    SHIFT A ... N ... C
    Place this node next to the second.
  5. LMB DRAG a connector from the Z to the Fac.

  6. LMB DRAG a connector from Color to Color.
Add Geometry Node

SHIFT A brings up a menu to add nodes.

Change to Cycles, Add nodes, and add nodes Geometry - Separate XYZ - ColorRamp to Diffuse BSDF - Material Output

Stewart Island with a grayscale colour ramp

Stewart Island with the ColorRamp as applied above.

Add Colours to the Colour Ramp

Click the button to add in as many colour stops as you desire. Select a colour by clicking on the  button and adjust by clicking on the colour box:-

You can copy colours by moving the mouse pointer over the colour box and pressing CTRL C and then change to the next stop and paste the colour with CTRL V.

Do this for each colour. You can adjust the stops by LMB dragging the . For greater precision use the position field:-
and cycle through the stops using

In this model the sea and beach may look nice if they're quite close together. E.g.:-

Stewart Island Colourized

Stewart Island colourized.

Stewart Island from above.

Stewart Island from above.



The link to download the starting model "01 Start - ..." seems to be broken. I followed the steps in your other tutorial "Make Mountains..." to reach the first step, in the Displace Modifier I've set Midlevel=0.5 and Strength=0.01, and I haven't put the Smooth modifier. However, I don't find the menu tab where you arrange the nodes.
How do you do the same when you have bathymetry in addition to topography please? Sorry I'm new to Blender
John Flower

Hi Max, this tutorial will work to show water depth as well. This will rely on you having a model that shows all the geography, not just that which is above the water. Simply choose shades of blue that are pleasing to you.

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