It recently snowed in my local area and I decided to go about recreating realistic snow in 3D. Snow doesn’t sound like the hardest thing to recreate. Its solid white, and covers an area from above. However snow is not perfect. Especially when its been stepped on and turned to slush! I found an amazing tutorial on Blender Guru (youtube). This tutorial explained a way of using displacement maps to manipulate a surface. I was particularly interested in the tyre treads and footprints. This is a very clever method to producing realistic snow, on top of this the material added smaller details. I wanted to try this for myself.
I followed the tutorial and used the provided resources from Blender Guru. Here I have sown my results.
looking closer at my results I picked out areas that could be improved.
I took some reference photos to further study, using reference photos is as important as looking at your subject whilst painting. The general snow structure is pretty much done, however the material could be improved. In different scenarios where snow may have fallen on cobbles, the cobbles would be visible underneath the snow. Using the displacement map is the best way to define thickness of snow. Using this information I modified the material to show another material underneath. An alternative to this, is to create a plane underneath with a different material, then using the displacement map to change its opacity.
My reference photos provided up close shots of snow, the finer details. I added an extra noise node, so the edges of the snowy area aren’t as sharp. The smaller details became a focus to selling the effect. I noticed in the PC game The Division that this effect was heavily used in their gaming engine Snow drop, thus creating rather immersive environments. Clearly this game was concentrated on graphics and new game engine features. So far this is my favourite engine alongside Unreal and Cry-engine in terms of visuals.
This technique to producing snow can be transferred across different platforms.