Create a Realistic Earth

Discover how to create a realistic earth using textures from NASA and the right know how.

34 minutes
Blender 2.5
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 4.8/5 (258 votes cast)

In this tutorial you will discover how to:

  • Use color, bump and specular maps
  • Add clouds and atmosphere
  • Use material nodes to create city lights in the darkness

With the complex terrain, ocean, clouds and atmospheres you’d think that creating a realistic earth would be quite hard to create… especially in Blender. But with the right know how it’s actually pretty easy.

In this tutorial we will be using several textures from NASA and some careful tweaking of materials to create realistic shaders.

Finished Result

Textures used in this tutorial:

All textures are from NASA but have been resized for easier use in blender.

At a Glance

Screenshots from the video:

Further Inspiration

Not sure where to go with this tutorial? Check out these links for further inspiration:

Hope you found this tutorial useful. As always, if you make something cool, post it in the comments below!

Download the finished .blend Create a Realistic Earth, 4.8 out of 5 based on 258 ratings

About Andrew Price

User of Blender for 9+ years. I've written tutorials for 3d World Magazine and spoken at three Blender conferences. My goal is to help artists get employed in the industry by making training accessible and easy to understand. I'm an Aussie and I live in South Korea ;)
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  • nicolas

    hey people i had troubles to open the bump map. so i did without the bump its cool, but isn’t the same thing. somebody may help me?

    • Alfonso

      Hi Nicolas
      What do you mean you had trouble open the bump map?

  • Alfonso

    By the way, thanks Andrew for this amazing tutorial :-)

  • Alfonso

    Hi everyone

    This is my attempt to do the earth. I had to use another sphere with a white diffuse material to mask the lights. Andrew used another material for the same sphere to mask in BI. But I don’t know how to get the same result in Cycles and I hate to have to use another sphere in another layer. Anybody knows how to do it?


  • Kai

    Very good tutorial. Easy to follow, and the result looks awesome. Thank you very much.

  • Gaurav

    The stars option isnt there under the world tab…using the latest version…any help?

    • Alfonso

      It was removed in Blender 2.70


  • Jake Watts

    Did a 4K animation of this! Thanks for such a great tutorial!

    • Frederic

      Hi I have a question I was wondering how to make the earth spin is there instructions on how to do that?

  • kat

    i have already added the cloud layer, but i dont think its the problem. whenever i render only the night lights show up, the day colour doesnt show at all. and i cant figure out whats gone wrong. help someone please?

  • Jerry

    My Earth textures are very blurry even though I used the ones downloaded from the site, anyone has a fix to this?

    • CC

      Try this: In image Sampling (under texture), unklick MIP map. Also, set the EWA filter size to 0.10. That solved it for me.

  • Stuart Gill

    Anyone know what could cause stars to be visible in all views in blender and in preview render but not visible on any output? Driving me nuts. Complete newbie, but starts set to render. Downloaded Andrew’s blender file. See stars when I play the wireframe and when I render a preview. But ouput png sequence gives black background. Setup a new blender project – just turned on stars – same thing! Using 2.69 Mac blender. Would one of you clever people please help! Thanks.

    • achtelnote

      Set the stars minimal starting distance to 90 instead of 180 and set the spread to 3.5..

      • Stuart Gill

        Thank you! I’l try that

      • Stuart Gill


        I always get stars showing as a scene renders (see images) but just before it completes the stars disappear.

        • achtelnote

          Start a new blend and in there go to World options set background colour
          to black and enable stars, set the options to the ones in the image provided and see if it appears..
          If not then I can only say “it’s probably a mac problem”, Ir am not a blender expert my self.. just wanted to answer some questions. :|

          • Stuart Gill

            Thanks – this works now. I will recreate the animation starting from this – should be okay now. BIG thank you for your help Achtelnote

  • Trevor Perger

    Here’s mine, after I went into the compositing, something changed and have so much more black. I checked all the sphere’s for receive transparent but nothing seemed to happen. I still like it though. Thanks Andrew.

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  • unammed

    any solution?

    • achtelnote

      Select the third sphere the “Atmosphere” and in the shading turn ambient light to 0, I can see you have currently set it to 1..

  • Marcin

    I don’t know way, but on my Earth the atmosphere and clouds are too bright on the dark siede. Can You help me?

    • achtelnote

      Select the “cloud” sphere and go to shading tab, there disable Tangent shading and set ambient to 0.

  • Dorian Black

    I love this tutorial. I tried it 3 times to work, but the third was the first working. But that’s my own fault, I just deleted to much ;)
    And the stars do not flicker(I’m using Blender 2.68a).

  • Shawn Khokher

    This is my video along with an intro i learned from your Emerald Picture Tutorial. Hope You Like!

    • abibad

      you can move the clouds bro by moving the 3rd sphere :) “if you want”
      Good job anyway :P,i like it

    • Jayvee Yango

      sir can you teach me how you animate the world ? i dont know how to animate :(

      • Shawn Khokher

        I didn’t animate my earth but if you want to all you have to do is set a key frame for the earth at the beginning and then move forward some frames and rotate the planet and set another keyframe and it should play out as a rotating planet. I just moved my camera to show all sides of the earth at one moment in time. When you are done you want to render it out as an animation. Andrew Price has a short tutorial on animating and exporting it if you would like to know more. Good Luck!

        • Jayvee Yango

          can you send me your finished blender of earth ? please sir i want to study you r work please

          • Shawn Khokher

            I could but it won’t be all that different from the tutorial. If I send it to you it won’t render properly because the pictures won’t be in the right location so you will have to enter them yourself. You can however see how I moved the camera. How would you like me to send it?

  • Guest

    Sorry, here’s the image:

  • Guest

    Thanks for this great Tutorial!
    But i have a Problem:
    If I activate the Bump mapping, i got this result:
    As you can see, there are “bumps” at the sea and it looks wrong.
    You hadn’t this problem, but how you can see the Options, are like yours…
    Do you know, what i could do/what i did wrong?

    lg xOmegaLP

    (sorry for my English, i’m german :)

  • t_gokuul

    Here goes…

  • shachar harshuv

    My version! what about an explosion tutorial?

    • abibad

      seems like universal production ,very Good job

    • Jayvee Yango

      sir can you teach me how you animate the world ? i dont know how to animate :( please sir

  • shachar harshuv

    I didn’t understand what “ColorRamp” in the materials nodes do. A little explanation will help.

  • Thief

    Actually the Egyptians knew the world was round, because they used an auditorium to see the constellations and where they would go. By doing that they noticed when stars would be in certain places, and that everything would rotate. There is more of an explanation. But yeah.

  • Davide Frasca

    as always after hours of trying to figure out and posting for help I realise what a fool I have been, my mistake

  • Davide Frasca

    I have Blender 2.69 and instead of the mix node I get a mix RGB node and it doesn’t work, any suggestions?

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  • Rob

    Hello Andrew.
    I have followed your tutorial & it came out great. Thanks :)
    I have one question thought & hope you or someone can help.
    I am using blender 2.68 & was having trouble creating the blur for the earths atmo glow. If i attach a viewer node to the blur i can see it is having an effect but doesn’t seem to affect the final render. What i have noticed though & it’s the only difference i can see is in the composite nodes the initial input render node has a transparent background whereas the one i am doing shows a black background.
    If i change the sky to render transparent i can see the atmo blur working but the final render hasn’t got the black as the space backdrop.
    Any help would be much appreciated.

    • Rob

      Just tried rendering again with the sky set to transparent & the blur for the earth doesn’t render but the atmo renders.

      • Rob

        I have just updated to Blender 2.69 & still have the same problem. Can anyone help?

        • Rob

          Sorted. I used the workaround Riain suggested. If anyone knows how to do it without the workaround that would be great. :)

  • Jason H.

    So this is the animation with 200 frames (at a further distance from Earth)

    using your great tutorial. I projected an all-sky full spherical image map of actual MilkyWay galaxy (by ESO) onto a larger sphere, and placed the camera inside that galaxy sphere. Thanks again Andrew!

    Jason Higley

  • Jason H.

    Thanks Andrew! To this mini GIF animation I projected an all-sky full spherical image map of actual MilkyWay galaxy (by ESO) onto the a larger sphere, and placed the camera inside that galaxy sphere. I also made one with the Earth more distant which showed the galaxy much better. In this one I also added the new light pollution map from NASA’s Suomi satellite made in 2012, and I added a little emit to the dark side clouds. I didn’t use your atmosphere glow, and I had to knock this down to under 2 megs from the original 20 meg animation (so it could fit here) so I reduced the frames by a factor of 4 (from 200 to 50) scaled it down to 0.75 and converted it to 8-bit (so it’s drab in this GIF, but the big one came out nice I think.) Thanks again very much for this and your other tutorials too!
    Jason Higley

    • Jason H.

      Sorry that GIF animation’s don’t load here (and I didn’t know that couldn’t delete this post as a “Guest”), so I’ve uploaded one to youtube of the longer-distance movie in my next post. Regards, Jason H.