After reading the help sections for asking questions, I am now confident that my question does in fact appear to be on-topic and in scope for this website.

I currently use a page called PlanetMaker in order to render pictures of my planets and moons. However, this is web-based and can be somewhat difficult to use. It is also missing many things that I would like it to have.

What is a good resource for rendering my planets and moons?

Like PlanetMaker, I want it to support the following mappings:
1. Texture maps
2. Normal maps
3. Bump maps
4. Specular maps

But it would be nice if it also supported:
5. Cloud maps
6. Ring maps
7. City light maps
8. Ambient/Emission light maps (for example, a partially lava world which glow in some sections)

A good answer will include links, or mention the name of a program or online resource that will enable me to visualize my planets and moons. I am willing to pay for a program, if need be, so all resources are welcome.

The best answer will be given to the first answer that actually answers the question properly.

EDIT: The purpose is to simply have a realistic picture of my designs. I just want a good resource that will allow me to showcase the things I have created. Hopefully something not bulky such as Unity or Unreal Engine, since the only purpose of this is to make a reference image.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ If someone thinks this is off-topic, maybe they ought to explain why and give me a chance to edit the post instead of voting to close it without any explanation. $\endgroup$
    – overlord
    Sep 19, 2019 at 22:10
  • $\begingroup$ Feel free to familiarise yourself here: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/help $\endgroup$ Sep 19, 2019 at 22:46
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know of one, but am highly interested in an answer if you get a good one, as it could save time in my own current worldbuilding project down the road. $\endgroup$
    – HA Harvey
    Sep 20, 2019 at 5:26
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    $\begingroup$ Not really an answer, but our (my wb team) current method is generating material-based terrain textures (naming them based on material/terrain type) then building an algorithm to dynamically (if not astrophysicist-accurately) develop the globes and distribute textures based upon the generated surface data. We do this using the basic modeling ability in unity. $\endgroup$
    – HA Harvey
    Sep 20, 2019 at 5:30
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    $\begingroup$ Using our method, ring worlds and dyson constructs will have to be generated semi-manually, which we feel is alright as those object will be rare and intentionally built. $\endgroup$
    – HA Harvey
    Sep 20, 2019 at 5:32

3 Answers 3


First off I am not an expert in this field, however I do like exploring simulations of astronomy stuff as a hobby

In terms of simulating planets I would suggest , Celestia and Space Engine

Now both of the above allow for some degree study of textures, however if you require a very detailed study I suggest using two or three tools separately instead of using just one (maybe one to study what type of conditions your planet might have in a simulation and then study different types of maps in separate tool to get detailed scenarios of what type of conditions you might get in such a in such a simulated planet, in smaller areas of the planet)

In terms of texture and stuff, I suggest CrazyBump (explore its tutorial here to see if this is what you want) and ShaderMap (tutorial here)

Since I could not figure out what exactly you want [I just got a vague idea of from your question] I have suggested the above.

I have also listed out both opens source soft wares Celestia , CrazyBump and ShaderMap [not every thing in this platform is free] and paid software Space Engine since you stated that either of the types would be OK

Hope this helps

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    $\begingroup$ im just commenting here so i can save this reply $\endgroup$ Oct 28, 2019 at 10:43
  • $\begingroup$ Glad it helped you people :) $\endgroup$ Oct 30, 2019 at 4:56


You could easily do this in Unity in under 20 minutes. Unity has a built in sphere mesh (though for a planet you'd technically want an ellipsoid), and tools for creating materials to map onto the sphere.

You will have to keep in mind though that there is no way to map a texture onto a sphere that doesn't result in distortion. It might make more sense to create a little tool in Unity to let you edit a sphere object directly, rather than starting from a 2D texture.

An excellent tutorial for what you want to do in Unity is Sebastian Lague's Worldbuilding tutorial set on YouTube. It is more geared towards procedural generation of worlds (i.e. more hands-off), and can be heavy on coding in some parts, but it will definitely provide the basics you need to map your materials onto a sphere, as well as rendering your planet.

  • $\begingroup$ I am actually a Unity developer. I was hoping to find a program that was meant exclusively for planets that I could use for my world-building. $\endgroup$
    – overlord
    Oct 2, 2019 at 17:36
  • $\begingroup$ I might just end up developing my own program for this. $\endgroup$
    – overlord
    Oct 2, 2019 at 17:37
  • $\begingroup$ What aspects of Unity make it less suitable for your purposes than writing your own program? $\endgroup$
    – toolforger
    Oct 28, 2019 at 6:31

Without knowing how you're going to use the output, it's hard to say for certain. Unreal Engine 4 has a very robust texture mapping solution, it includes real-time ray tracing, and with the blueprint system, you could very easily get a render with the criteria you describe. It also has a python-based plugin that can reach into these features pretty well, so you could design a library very quickly that matches your needs. It also has a marketplace, which a cursory search yields things like "Planet Creator 1 V2" which may have a lot of the legwork done for you.


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