Tips for Modeling a High Detail Tree

We know it can sometimes be difficult to model really high detail trees. There are many factors to consider, and it is more than just creating an impressive high triangle count model.

In order to stay within bounds of having a reasonably modeled tree, I have come to learn and heavily depend on a few tools and tricks in SpeedTree®.

Focus on a specific area by isolating it:

In order to keep the fast interactive editing capability when adjusting those small details, it is helpful to isolate the desired area. For example, what if I wanted to edit the placement of the leaves but didn’t want to deal with the full compute time? Or what if I was just having a hard time focusing on one aspect with all the details surrounding it? By just going into the Generation editor of the Generators and changing the “Frequency” and “Step” values to 1, I am then able to isolate the one branch on the tree which enables me to focus solely on the leaves without any delays OR distractions.

High detail tree model High detail tree model






Low triangle counts on leaves:

I also find it easy to get lost in modeling. You know those times, when you’re so caught up in the moment, that by some strange force your eyes finally look to the triangle count and what you see there shocks you. One way to cut back on this count is to be aware and careful of the triangle count on the leaves. This is where they can start piling up! Also, the reduction of the leaf triangle count can allow you to increase the complexity of your branches.

Another helpful tool with meshes is the “Generate Mesh” option that is found in the Material window. This tool creates a mesh based off of your alpha channel and also allows you to add some depth to them as well. Not only does it allow you to create a mesh, but with the “Corner” attribute, also changes the number of triangles in your pre-existing mesh. You can test how the mesh can look with lesser “Corners” and easily replace them. This is a process that can be repeated until the desired outcome is achieved.

Generate Mesh tool Generate Mesh tool window






Model for the shot:

Also, something I keep telling myself is to model for the shot! What’s the point in adding lots of details to areas that won’t be seen? With that in mind, I am able to place my higher detailed meshes in the important areas and then use LODs to switch to a smaller triangle count mesh.

Some other helpful tips are:

  • Lower accuracy and segment counts as you add levels. You can always node edit some back in for close ups.
  • Hiding generators stops drawing them, but also stops computing them!
  • Use “Interactive Degradation” to make editing smoother. (Stopwatch icon in Toolbar menu – “Interactive Degradation”)
  • Set min and max placement distances to 0.0 and angle to 0.5 on leaf generators to make leaves stick to their parent.

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