This is a fairly old tutorial, as you may notice by the version of Lightwave used! However, the principles are exactly the same in newer versions, and indeed you should be able to apply the ideas presented with pretty much any CGI software.
I have seen many rather poor attempts to make convincing ringed planets, and thought it might be a good idea to tell you how I do it. I rate it as intermediate in level, as I am not going to explain mouse click and numeric values. You should be familiar with making spheres and disks, and applying image based texture maps. I have done this tutorial as one long page, so it is easier for you to print. It should work with any version of Lightwave from 5.6 onward, and the ideas should also be easy to adapt to any other modern 3D graphics package.
There’s no doubt that it is possible to spend vast amounts on graphics software – many of the industry standard packages run to thousands of pounds, and even image editors like the full Photoshop are very expensive, (and come with monthly fees too).
But provided you already have a computer, it is possible to get going for little or even nothing. This blog post will explore some of your options.
Be aware though, that this stuff is NOT easy, and whatever package you go for, it will take considerable time and effort to master.
This is a seriously powerful 3d package, with some highly advanced features such as fluid simulation, and hair systems. It is completely free, and open source.
An unusual one for me, as I take a crack at an original science-fiction design.
My objective was to get something seriously large, primarily for use in Vue. My thinking is that I notice many great concept art pages have fairly abstract ships that are so big the more distant parts are afffected by haze, giving a great sense of scale. And as volumetric effects are a strength of Vue, I figure model in LW with Vue in mind. In practice this meant:
Keep the number of different surfaces low
Avoid clever effects that I don’t know how to do in Vue, including advanced surfaces
Avoid elements that would give a clear idea of scale, such as windows, hatches, stairs
Make it a long design so it’s easy to get the most distant parts lost in fog
I’m continuing to spend most of my graphics time in Vue recently, and I think I am starting to feel comfortable with it. I’m still getting occasional frustrations, but I’m feeling a lot more in control.
One lightbulb moment was when I realised I did NOT have to use the included billboard planet options for planets! But could use full 3d objects which then pick up the light from the Sun, and are properly affected by the haze and fog. A good example is the ringed planet in the banner image for this post, at the top. (Note the tiny astronaut at the top of the cliffs!)
One of the frustrations of working with CGI is that you sometimes find a brilliant free model, but it’s not for your software. And a specific example that has frustrated me is that there are some great models available in Blender format on the NASA 3d object library site: