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What is the best method for creating a visual that mimics aerial photography for a fake island. The desired quality is USGS standards for actual aerials, preferably 2 foot aerials. The end product will be a created island complete with city and residents.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not quite sure what you mean by "2 foot aerials" but I've put an answer explaining how I generate these sort of visuals. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Nov 26 '14 at 17:57
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    $\begingroup$ "2-foot aerials" means that each pixel is 2 feet x 2 feet. $\endgroup$ – randomblink Nov 26 '14 at 18:06
  • $\begingroup$ What about hiring a CGI artist? I don't know about you, but CGI was a hobby of mine and no reasonable amount of time would produce such an image of satisfactory quality. $\endgroup$ – dtldarek Nov 27 '14 at 14:10
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You could take a look at the software Terragen.

It is designed for procedurally generating 3d terrain and rendering it in very high quality. It is a very powerful tool which requires some learning and isn't cheap (199 USD - 699 USD, although there is a free version for non-commercial use), but when you master it, you can use it to create almost photorealistic landscape renderings.

Here is an example of what it can do: Fractal island Image source: Wikipedia.

Their image gallery has a lot more pictures. Looking at some of them it is really hard to believe that they are really CGI and not actual photos.

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The way I'd do it is Photoshop, if you don't have access to that you could achieve the same with Gimp although the Photoshop tools would make it easier.

Get aerial photos that cover the types of terrains and climates you need (i.e. mountains, forest, beach, wood, etc). Overlay them on top of each other and then airbrush away parts of the layers.

So mountain layer on top, delete everything not mountains.

Then forest layer, delete everything not forest, etc until you get down to the final layer which is the ocean.

You can also use "content-aware fill" to fill in any missing details on your island as well.

For good results you'll also need an airbrush that is capable of sensing a range of pressure values and a fair amount of practice.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm a Creative Cloud customer so yes, I can do that. I suppose a paintbrush could be put together for trees and coastline and such... my concern is buildings, and streets... $\endgroup$ – randomblink Nov 26 '14 at 17:58
  • $\begingroup$ I'm hoping someone will come in with a tool I haven't discovered in my MANY google searches that lets you draw an outline and it fills in trees, mountains, etc. (we'll see) $\endgroup$ – randomblink Nov 26 '14 at 17:58
  • $\begingroup$ For buildings and streets I'd do the same thing, just find existing material with a suitable library and use that. By mixing things around you can build entirely different road layouts. It does depend a bit on how much source material is available though for the style of town you need. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Nov 26 '14 at 18:00
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    $\begingroup$ Well, I do GIS work as my day job and have access to terrabytes of actual aerials, but I was hoping for something a little more automated... either that or an Apprentice (lulz). $\endgroup$ – randomblink Nov 26 '14 at 18:02
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    $\begingroup$ You can also try posting this over on software recommendations, you may find someone over there that isn't playing in world building...yet. Unless a mod wants to ask to link it over there. $\endgroup$ – James Nov 26 '14 at 19:31

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