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Houdini has always been about the procedural approach. Set up some nodes and a few expressions to realistic results — just like that. The thing is that many artists believe the tool is to complex to master. The times they are a changin’. Houdini now provides a new interface and all sorts of helpers that make it easier to use the tool.
Creative Bloq has shared a tutorial that gives an overview of the tool. Start with some basic modeling techniques for leaves and grass to see how easy it can be to get started. The guide covers sampling VDB volumes to distribute plant growth and the use of VEX code and wrangle nodes to generate geometry on the fly.
01. Get organised
Start with a model of a ruin you want to cover in foliage. Make sure you name your shapes in a meaningful way. This allows easy grouping of the geometry for different purposes later. Split it up into walls, planks, bricks, windows and glass. Houdini alembic import will set a path attribute on import. You can then easily use a split or blast node to select the pieces you want.
02. Create the leaves
With the ruin in place, it’s time to begin creating individual leaves to use later for instancing. Always work with reference images from nature if you want more realistic results. We need the leaves to be single-sided and of fairly low poly count. Start off by making a curve to resemble the outer leaf shape. Use a remesh node to add some surface tessellation. With a soft transform, slightly lift out the centre at the stem. Also add a colour attribute with different shades of green.
03. Grass strands
We also need individual strands of grass to cover the floor. Again, simple one-sided polygonal strands with varying width are sufficient. Generally speaking, more variation is always better. But even with just five different shapes, you will achieve quite realistic results. As our setup is procedural, more can easily be added later. It’s important to make sure all meshes are centred at the origin with the pivot at their foot. This way we can use them as instances straight away.
You can find the full guide here.