Creating the sea and the sky


Upon a turbulent sea we sailed in mortal danger of death, until the sea calmed and became like glass and reflected the beautiful heavens.” – Lea Wiggins

I have to admit to being a little reticent about putting this tutorial out there, given it’s a style I developed completely from scratch and I thought what if people just put theirs out there afterwards, it will steal my thunder. Then I thought, no this is all about sharing, and if you create great scenes of the sea with the sky then that will make me very happy indeed and to hell with the thunder. 🙂

(Recently I discovered these had stopped working, Brad Stefanov helped me find what the problem was … Windows as usual… anyway, thanks Brad)

There’s a Flame Pack with this tutorial, download it, and load it into your JWildfire. It contains some sample skies, and seas to use. If you want to explore the skies further, you could try my Heavens Script pack which will randomly create more. You can of course (and hopefully) tweak the sample skies settings and create your own.  If you do, please share the link back here so others can try their hand at it too.

Download the following flame pack (collection of flames for JWildfire) to your computer, remember where you saved it !


Sky and Sea Flame Pack - Michael Bourne 145.44 KB 506 downloads

Example sea and sky flames for use with the same named tutorial here.  The flames...

Download Resources

Next you’ll need the displacement and sample skies files, these MUST be stored at C:displacement for the flame pack to work correctly. So unzip the the following ZIP file to your C drive if your ZIP program creates folders it should create the C:displacement folder. If it doesn’t, create the folder manually and extract the files to that. This is very important as the seas won’t look right, and there’ll be no backgrounds.

Your folder should look like the following when done.


Resources for Sea Sky FlamePack 0 59 downloads

Resource files to be used with the sea and sky flamepack. ...


Ok, so this is going to be in two parts, the first part is to render a sky, we do this so that when we render the sea, we can add our rendered sky in as a background.  This is trial and error to some degree, as you’ll be working on the parts separately, but it isn’t too tricky to adjust afterwards. So, let’s begin. Click any of the pictures to see the larger versions!

Rendering the sky

Load the flame pack into JWildfire

Once you’ve loaded the flame pack you’ll see there’s some sample skies to play with, click on one that you like the look of to get it into the JWildfire editor.

Next, we’ll be playing with the Pitch and Perspective (click the Camera Tab to see these). I won’t go into the technical details of what these are, but you need to alter them so that the sky tapers toward the horizon. In other words it looks stretched at the top, narrowing to the horizon. This is to give the illusion of depth and distance. You can leave these alone and see how it goes, it’s all just a matter of personal preference.

Now, we’re going to adjust the horizon of the sky, I like to work with 2/3 sky and 1/3 sea, so I adjust the Centre Y setting until my sky is about 2/3 of the way down the screen. I like to leave some overlap too because the sea is rendered as partially see through, so you’ll be able to see the remaining sky colours through it, which gives a better sense of realism. Again, where you place this is up to you though.

This is only approximate, but somewhere around here (as indicated by the line of the arrow) usually works well. When you’re happy with the positioning, render your sky ready for part two.

Rendering the sea

Before you go any further, if you haven’t downloaded and extracted the resources mentioned at the very beginning of this tutorial, you’ll need to go back to the beginning of this tutorial and do that, and it needs to be extracted to your C drive,  it’s a folder, but in case your ZIP program doesn’t create folders all the files need to be inside a folder called displacement so C:displacement (all lower case).

Once you’re done , click the Camera tab, and experiment with Roll, Pitch, Yaw and Perspective. Only make slight adjustments to get the feel of what’s going on. The one to be careful of is Yaw (spin) . The sea will look hideous if you adjust this too much,  more so than the others so be careful, and always hit S Shot (snapshot) before making adjustments, so you can go back if you mess things up (I do all the time, it’s part of the creative process!).

If you’re feeling brave, you can try adjusting the settings of the Parplot in the transform menu. You can get some superb results this way, but by the same token you can get some dreadful ones too. Adjusting the Preset ID to a number between 1-48 will give you different shapes to the sea (most don’t work well at all). Adjusting the colour mode will give different looks to the water itself. You can apply a gradient to the water of course, but you’re on your own when it comes to colouring. You can also create a gradient from the sky rendered image if you want, that sometimes works very well. For now though, just stick with these.

Once you’re happy with the way your sea looks, then it’s time to add the sky. Do this by clicking the colouring tab, then clicking BG image and find the image of the sky you rendered earlier in Part one. We’re almost done!

All that’s left to do now, is to adjust the height of the sea with the CentreY slider so that it matches your sky. Once you’re happy with that, go ahead and render your final image.

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14 thoughts on “Creating the sea and the sky”

    • Another “happy accident” while playing with parplots, and turning one on its side, I thought hey, that looks like water! Eureka 🙂 Hope life does settle down.

  1. Thank you for posting this tutorial! I have been able to render some images that were somewhat controllable for the first time.I did have two questions. The sea flames did not resemble water. they were brownish and smoother that what i had seen on the tutorial. Do i have a setting out of place?

    • Talk about a delayed reply, sorry Shawn.

      The reason (more than likely) is that you need the resource files to be extracted to your C:\displacement folder. The displacement pic is one that gives the sea its choppy look. I’m hoping as of now (2 yrs later) to be able to include the files inside a script folder, so there’s no manual messing about.

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