Howto:Improve scenery in your area, or area of interest

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People often see a part of the environment, and want to change or improve that part. Sometimes it's to make the area they live in match reality more. Sometimes it's to change an area they are interested in. Sometimes it's to improve systems like weather or seasons. The goal of this article is to identify where and how different parts of the environment you see can be changed - links are provided.

Flightgear uses many ways/systems to create environment visuals. These systems have a huge number of different points where someone can change the way the environment looks. The huge number of points mean there are things people can improve with almost no time spent learning and little time spent on skills. FlightGear has some extremely powerful systems that, once learned, allow a small amount of time to vastly change how large portions of the world look.

Firstly, an overview of the visuals FlightGear creates: Terrain is a mesh. It is 'painted' with colours and details down to the centimeter scale - procedural texturing. It can then be optionally overlaid with additional 3d detail. Objects can be placed on top of the terrain - vegetation, buildings, roads, and even ships or icebergs on the sea. Objects are also meshes that can be 'painted' with procedural textures. If you don't know what a mesh is, look at this mesh of terrain with objects like roads on top. Terrain and land-type drive weather physics experienced by your craft. Weather (wind) can move things like trees or grass. Weather physics can create visible cloud structures and formations. Volcanic activity creates different clouds and affects weather physics. Clouds have defined 3d structure and also use textures. The process of creating what you see in various situations can be influenced and changed by people at various points. Some points require more learning than others. The process itself can be changed and improved, though this is generally more involved.

The wiki Scenery Portal has more detailed information, and you can ask questions in the Scenery forum. See also: this list of entries not added (yet) to the table. It's possible to search the forum using google for better search results: put "" before the search term(s).

Where the things you see in-sim when flying come from

Object Examples Source
Where to get contributions reviewed Notes
(month/year written)
Trees & plantations & bushes

1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6

Regional definitions FGData: textures/trees

Regional materials: docs/README.

Thread asking for photo contributions

Thread: workflow for finding photos on Wiikimedia commons & exacting textures
Seasons & snow

HowTo: Vegetation

HowTo: Find photos & create textures

Screenshot gallery


Flightgear-devel ML

Vegetation makes a huge difference to visuals. Multiple layers of vegetation are possible - see Hawaii. Vegetation size, distribution e.g. forest clearings or thinning on mountain slopes, seasonal variation etc. can be set in regional definitions. Photographs used to make textures need to be GPL2 compatible - CC0 or CC-BY-SA 4.0 are examples. Possible sources of photos: (search example with 20-500 results), or public domain image sites, or photographs personally taken, or online photographs where the creator was asked permission. Google earth & streetview photos are not compatible. (May 2020)
Small plants & Grass: type 2 1 ,

2 , 3 , 4 , 5

Regional definitions FGdata: textures/trees (Grass blades) Regional materials: docs/README.
HowTo: Find photos & create textures Forum
As of FG 2020.1 this type of grass needs to be turned on by editing/uncommenting a text config file. Instructions: Forum , wiki. This type of grass uses the same principle as trees. It is suitable for multiple types of small plants, flowers, etc. in the same field. This is an ALS effect. Doesn't look good under Default/Low-spec or Rembrandt. (May 2020)
Grass overlays (Airport keep, lawns in Iceland) 1 Regional definitions (Grass shape & properties) FGdata: textures\terrain (Grass colour map only) Regional materials: docs/README.

Reaction to rotorwash

Use in scenery

Modify effect (texture)]

Each grass blade is simulated and reacts to downwash. Enabled by overlays feature. This is short grass, i.e. limited in height. It's used for airport keep. It's also used suitable in suitable places like lawns (see iceland), or grassy hills. (March 2021)
Terrain overlays (Volumetric/3d terrain detail) 1 ,

2 , 3

Regional definitions FGdata: textures\terrain (Grass colour map only) Regional materials: docs/README.


Use in scenery

Modify effect (texture)

Overlays can provide a huge amount of volumetric detail. Overlays are small scale 3d (volumetric) detail placed on top of terrain.
Birds (bird flocks) 1 ,


Regional definitions (Random objects) FGData: Models/Effects/Birds/ (textures) Forum topic Summary Use in scenery Bird flocks are placed as a type of random object in regional material definitions. Place object-group linking to Models/Effects/Birds/birdswarm.xml. They need ALS and need random scenery objects to be enabled on in menu > view > rendering > Random scenery objects. (May 2020)
Waterfalls 1 Global models database (XML text file uploaded via webform - along with standard particle texture file) Models database: Example xml files

Webforms to submit/update 3d models (XML text file & texture)



WiP Gallery

Global models database review


Waterfalls are a static scenery object that emits a stream of water (particle effect). The properties of the waterfall can be set in an XML text file and added to the Global scenery models database. (May 2020)
Volcanoes 1 ,


FGData: Models/Volcanoes/<names> /.. Description & locations See the volcanoes topic on forum for more information. See FGData for examples. (May 2020)
Models database: Random scenery objects Material regional definitions: density / distribution Global models database Regional materials object-group & objects: docs/README.

Help on submissions

Defining regions & land-classes Help These are objects that are randomly placed depending on type of terrain - land-classification/land-class. They are common-pool objects located in the Global models database (shared objects). A few seem to be left-over in FGData. For example farm buildings can be placed over terrain classified as "agriculture". Examples of objects: Icebergs on polar oceans, silos, cottages in woods, signs of logging operations, big equipment, ships & boats over oceans, objects on beaches, common manmade historic objects like cairns or ruins. (May 2020)
Models database: Landmarks / unique buildings / special custom buildings / objects 1 Global models database Webforms

Help on submissions

UFO: Testing, Placing & exporting created models

Desired landmarks
(maybe out of date)

Help Flightgear's global model database stores models. Terrasync will fetch these models and distribute to to users. Updates to the database, once validated, automatically update scenery seen by users. See wiki: scenery portal and the scenery forum for modelling help/tips. (May 2020)
Models database: Shared models Global models database Webforms

Help on submissions

UFO: Placing & exporting models

Help Shared models in the Global models database that are re-used a lot. See entry above. Shared models can be placed one by one, or mass imported from a STG text file. Shared models are also placed by OSM2City and Project3000. (May 2020)
OMS2City: Complicated buildings created by OSM2City 1,


Screenshot Gallery

OSM map contributions FGData: Textures/OSM2City (atlas) OSM2City scripts Documentation OSM2City project

Building textures

OSM2City worldbuild

Areas with OSM2City custom scenery

Forum OSM2City makes complex buildings using floor plans and other building info available in the Open Street Map (OSM) database. FlightGear 2020.3.7 added OSM2City output for the whole planet to automatically downloaded scenery. Updating the OSM database for an area will result in improved scenery. The complex buildings are output as a mesh that's textured based on a texture atlas (March 2021).
OSM2City: Simple common buildings placed by OSM2City

Random buildings

OSM map contributions FGData: Textures/*-buildings.png (atlas) Regional materials - Random buildings properties, Buildings texture atlas:docs/README.
Random Buildings Forum See entry for complicated OSM2City buildings. These simple buildings are instanced. Updating the OSM database will result in better scenery.

(May 2020)

OSM2City small buildings use the same texture and lightmap atlas as Random buildings. The exact texture and lightmap atlas used is determined in the regional definitions for landclasses with buildings - e.g. Town/SubUrban - buildings on these landlcasses will use that texture.

Random buildings properties are defined in regional definitions. (March 2021)

OSM2City: Complex objects & buildings from global objects database placed by OSM2City Global models database: shared objects OSM map contributions Updating the appearance of shared models can have a huge impact on the way large areas of the world look. See entry for shared objects for details. Updating the location data in the OSM databse will improve scenery. (May 2020)
Clouds Screenshot
FG data: Textures / Sky FG data: Models/ Weather (cloud structure) docs/


Background info on weather & rendering: 1 , 2 , 3

3d structure,
Forum Clouds also hugely impact the flying experience compared to time to improve them. Suitable photos taken from the air can be made into textures. More cloud types than currently exists can be added - both structure and textures. See international cloud atlas (permalink), wiki cloud type page This is a link to a Wikipedia article, the navigation bar on the left for the WMO cloud atlas website and gallery. The AW page describes how clouds are used in the weather system. (May 2020)
Colour & appearance of terrain geometry

(regional texturing)

1 Material regional definitions FG data: Textures Regional materials: docs/README.

Old overview (2012)


Capabilities & examples

HowTo: Find photos & create textures

Wanted: drone photos

Some landclasses: descriptions , examples , list
Big gallery

Improvement to scenery and textures


This is only a rough entry - it should be expanded. This can make a huge difference to visuals. This covers the appearance (colouring) of the terrain with detail in the scale of kilometers to centimeters. This is achieved by procedural texturing systems which use regional definitions and textures in a variety of ways. It includes sea and sea ice. It includes seasonal change. It includes water puddles and snow on ground. It includes agriculture, rock, sand, cooled lava, cliffs etc. Includes light point density when seen from far away. This is controlled through simple text files which contain properties. It's possible to improve an area simply by tweaking textfiles and seeing the changes, while using existing textures.

Simply put 'blobs' of terrain are classified into landclasses. The appearance of landclasses in a region is set by a regional definition - e.g. landclasses for agriculture in a European country look different to farmlands in Asia or USA. Grassland landclasses in a wet climate look less brown and dusty than grasslands in a dry climate. Regional definitions start out covering the whole world, followed by increasingly smaller regions which override the regions that came before. Text files containing 'regional definitions' set properties that define appearance of that landclass - what terrain effects, effect settings, textures, etc. to use. (May 2020)

Land classification data (land-cover, land-use) Shapefile server (in future) OSM land cover/use database Scenery portal: terrain

USA: using NHS & NLCD data

Forum Place holder entry. Involved contribution with scripting - ask in scenery forum. FlightGear uses land classification data from multiple sources to determine what type of terrain detail to paint on the terrain mesh, and what type of vegetation and objects to place. Multiple sources can be used to build improved land classification data: land-cover from national databases, OSM data like beaches & cliffs, water body databases, land use data bases. A new world build is planned using next gen scenery - see World Scenery 3.0 (March 2021). It's intended to have a land classification server of some form with WS 3.0 data so improvements can be submitted. See this guide to create high quality data for USA on par with data for CORINE Europe. The Australian scenery project is working on scripts to combine multiple data sources for Australia. Land classification quality controls weather physics. (May 2020)
Terrain mesh Terrain elevation data sources (DEMs) Scenery portal: terrain Forum Place holder entry. Involved contribution needing scripting - ask in scenery forum. The terrain mesh is a surface on which terrain colours & details are 'painted'. It is a polygon mesh made from available terrain elevation data sources (Digital elevation maps). Improving the resolution and accuracy of the terrain elevation data for the next scenery world build will result in better scenery. Terrain elevation data controls weather physics.

Help on submissions. (May 2020)

World Scenery 3.0 (Next gen scenery)

On going development (March 2021)

Roadmap: World Scenery 3.0

Move to: OpenGL 4.x

Virtual Planet Builder


Mailing list archives: FlightGear - development

Installing WS3 scenery (Jan 2021)

FlightGear: nightly builds

World Scenery 3 (WS3) is FlightGear's next generation scenery. It is under development as of march 2021. WS3 uses Virtual Planet Builder (VPB) for terrain. WS3 needs the Compositor rendering framework. WS3 will benefit from the ongoing move to OpenGL 4.x. There is a prototype available in the next branch, and nightly builds.

Contributing needs getting involved with core development, bug / performance testing, VPB tool chain, shaders, building terrain for parts of the world, and the like. Contributing to the Compositor or OpenGl move will also help. To contribute contact the "fg-devel" mailing list. (March 2021)

Note  Please feel to add to the table as you find or create new resources! This includes relevant forum discussion threads, guides, or youtube videos showing how to improve scenery.

To add to the table with the new visual editor, just click edit, and then double click an entry to begin typing.

Topics to add to table (to do)

  • Airport, seaplane base, and helipad development - it's possible to have various animated things like ground traffic, jetways, or background activity including optional AI scenarios at specific facilities
  • Carrier development - FlightGear supports carriers that planes and helicopters can take off from or land on - see the carrier Harry S. Truman. Animated activity is also possible
  • Project 3000 airport buildings and clutter (now integrated into although there hasn't been a build of using these. As of march 2021 the exact folders for which these should be output has not been determined.)
  • AI Scenarios
  • Add links to object modeling resources or pages containing them - including animation
  • AI traffic (forum) - FlightGear contains an air traffic simulation. Planes and liveries for airlines can be added, as well as airline schedules.
  • Contributing to addons (which may be integrated into the FlightGear base package in future once stable):
    • Ground Services Addon - Generic ground services for all types of aircraft (currently aircraft that have ground services have specialised ground services that are bundled with the aircraft package, and duplicated)
    • Cargo Towing Addon - Helicopter cargo towing, including assembling things like towers.
  • Other things

See also: