Nebula Generator

by Mark Kingsnorth in Materials, Shaders, Textures

A ready made set up so that you can quickly configure a wide range of panoramic background space nebula effects in cycles.

Features:

  • Fast render times even at high resolutions.
  • A range of configuration options allow you to change the colour and shape of the nebula.
  • Optional star effects that can be swapped out for your own.
  • By animating the parameters, the clouds can be made to appear as if they are moving.
  • Great for game backgrounds, animations, or concept art backdrops.
  • By default the effect is projected onto the background of the blender scene but can also be used as a texture on other objects.


Earlier versions of the node setup used here (version 1.2.0) will remain free on my website, however by purchasing this version here you will:

  • Have a priority on new feature requests.
  • Be able to take advantage of new updates.
  • Allow me to invest the time in developing the effects further.

Once purchased, you will have ongoing access to a set of .blend files with different setups so that you can start customising and making your own quickly.

Future roadmap:

  • Potential migration to python code if efficiencies in usability and performance can be seen.
  • Increasing ease of use of the different parameters on offer.
  • Experimentation with more 3D like effects.

Useful Links

If you'd like to install the node group as a node you can access in other blender files, you can follow the instructions found here: How to install a group node.

Files

You will have access to two sets of files:

  • NebulaNode_vX.X.X.blend - the latest version of the node group file.
  • samples.zip - These are a set of different examples of the nebula generator blend file in action.  These are useful as a starting point for adding other effects.

How it works

The principles behind the node group is described in my youtube video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EtXI4ePzO4

The node works by overlaying a series of different noise effects to produce the clouds and the stars. 

The options for the Nebula Node are as follows:

Vectors

The first set of options define the position of each layer.  They are separated out because the key to producing a good effect is offsetting the vector (position) of the layers:

  • Small Stars Vector: The position of the small background stars.
  • Large Stars Vector: The position of the larger ambient stars.  Note that these aren’t exactly star-like, and more produce the ambient lighting of the nebula.
  • Clouds 1 Vector: position of the first cloud layer.
  • Clouds 2 Vector: position of the second cloud layer.
  • Clouds 3 Vector: position of the third cloud layer.

You will find that offsetting the cloud vectors using Blender’s mapping node will produce different cloud shapes and effects.

Cloud settings

As noted, the key to getting different nebula effects is by adjusting the 3 layers of cloud noise.  Each layer, labelled Cloud 1-3, has the following settings:

  • Color: The individual colour of each cloud layer, mixed in by the rest by the Screen layer effect.
  • Mix: How strongly mixed the cloud layer is with the overall effect (Default: 1.0)
  • Scale: The size of the noise in the cloud layer.
  • Distortion: The distortion effect applied to the cloud layer.
  • Refinement: The amount of variation in the cloud texture.  Higher levels do produce more detail, but be careful not to overly distress the cloud effect.
  • Refinement distortion: Applies a distortion effect to the detail.
  • Amplify: This amplifies the distortion effects of the clouds even more, which at times is good for adding further details to the cloud texture.
  • Dark Start: The position in the noise where the dark parts of the cloud begin.
  • Light Start: The position in the noise where the light parts of the cloud begin.
  • Cloud Darkness: How dark a contrast the overall nebula effect is producing.

Star and Light settings

The following settings control how stars are overlayed, the intensity and position of the ambient lights, and how rim lights permeate the nebula clouds.

  • Stars: Input for a starfield.  You can either use the StarsNode provided or input your own texture.
  • Stars Mix: How the stars are mixed with the clouds. Lower values only mix the stars with the brighter parts of the nebula.  Higher values also mix them with the darker parts.
  • Stars Colored by Nebula: How the color of the stars is affected by the nebula color.


  • Ambient Lights Scale: The scale or frequency of the ambient lights in the nebula.
  • Ambient Lights Start Pos: The position where the lights that brighten the nebula starts.
  • Ambient Lights End Pos: The position where the darker part of the ambient lights tails off.


  • Rim Light Start Pos: The start position of rim light shining through the clouds.
  • Rim Light Middle Pos: The mid position of rim light shining through the clouds.
  • Rim Light End Pos: The end position of rim light shining through the clouds.


  • Rim Light Start Intensity: The starting intensity of rim light shining through the clouds.
  • Rim Light Middle Intensity: The mid intensity of rim light shining through the clouds.
  • Rim Light End Intensity: The end intensity of rim light shining through the clouds.

Stars Node

A "Stars" Node Group has been created to provide straightfoward star effects.  Parameters are as follows:

  • Star Density: How densely populated the starfield is.
  • Star Size: The size of the individual stars.
  • Star Color: The color of the stars.  This input could be provided with something like a node map to produce stars that have different colors from each other.
How best can I control the parameters? I've managed to change something so that I'm not getting a good effect. What do you suggest I do?

You can click and slide the mouse over multiple parameters and change them all at once - this is useful when you want to change a property on all 3 cloud settings.

Also, by hovering over the parameter box and hitting the delete key, the parameter will return to its default value.

There are a set of sample .blend files I have supplied in a .blend file to give you a head start in configuring different effects.  I'm sure you can find more.

Any plans for a 3D version?

At the moment the texture is projected onto the 2D background of the scene.  I continue to experiment with 3D effects like here and here, but I haven't found a satisfying effect that isn't processor intensive.  Investing in this plugin helps me to experiment more!

Any tips and tricks?
  • By adding node groups like noise and musgrave to the inputs of the main node group, you can get lots of additional interest effects.  I'd encourage you to experiment and let me know if you get anything interesting.
  • Also, I have added a curves node to the outputs of the stars and nebula node groups - playing with those settings will help intensify the colours of the nebula further.
  • Try swapping out the stars input for your own starfields and you should get more interesting effects.
How can I control the parameters slowly when I move the mouse?

A neat trick in Blender is the shift key - whilst clicking and moving the mouse over a parameter, hold shift.  The values will change more slowly.  Especially for this node group, you can more subtly change the effects.

When I load the .blend file the viewport is blank. What's happened?

You have to change the viewport mode to "Rendered", Blender unfortunately does not load it by default.

Item Rating

This item has an average rating of 5 from 2 ratings by the community.

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  • 22936704d87f34118e8ef18ba7e4b5e8

    Relja Trajkovic 16 days ago

    Truly amazing work.

    • E6d9aac9d9b155b1c848c7aa40b6bc22

      Mark Kingsnorth 13 days ago

      Thanks Relja glad you like it, it took a while to figure out.

  • 5eb74c8fa55bd4b15356be864d9939ab

    juha heikkinen 17 days ago

    Thanks, really good work again! Very easy to use and worth of every "penny". Real time saver too.

    • E6d9aac9d9b155b1c848c7aa40b6bc22

      Mark Kingsnorth 13 days ago

      Thanks and glad you find it easy to use - let me know what you're using it for :)

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