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How to create simple space skybox?

I want to create skybox without atmosphere, with only stars everywhere. I create a .dds cubemaps, a .hdr images, but how can I use any of them to get a simple space skybox? I still didnt find any descriptive info about skybox customization. No guides, nor tutorials.

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asked Mar 22 '14 at 02:50 PM in Using UE4

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avatar image CyXoB Mar 22 '14 at 06:09 PM

Oh, nice. I'll give it a try. Many thanks.

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3 answers: sort voted first

I'm also trying to create a stars skydome and I've found some problems to make it work the way I want. I will try to describe the process I followed the best I can so others won't waste precious time trying to figure out what's wrong with their space skydome. Instead of modifying the default Skybox I wanted to create my own from scratch. It may sound a bit lame, but that way I force myself to learn how things work in UE4.

First we need to create our cubemap texture, so go here where you can find a step by step process for how to create cubemaps for Unreal Engine 4 and here for an awesome application to create space skyboxes.

Before continuing we need to know what exactly is the skydome we are going to create, which is basically a really HUGE spehere enveloping our scene. We start creating a new Blueprint and in the Blueprint's components we add a Scene component as Root and a Static Mesh component as child of the Scene Component just like this.

alt text

We need a sphere for the Static Mesh component. I used one called SM_SkySphere located in /Engine/EngineSky. By default the Engine folder is hidden but can be revealed by an option in the context menu of the Content Browser. There are other spheres in the /Engine folder bur this one is a blank one without clouds nor scripts. As said before we need the skydome to be a huge sphere so set the scale of the sphere to (400, 400, 400) and make it static (usually the sky don't move, right?). The category is optional and I created the BP_Skydome just for organization purposes.

Before moving forward we need to change one small setting so we can actually see something inside our skydome, and that's switch Cast Shadows off in the Static Mesh component properties. Why? Because if we add a Directional Light to our scene (and we'll likely do to represent the sun's light) the light from the Directional Light won't lit the objects inside our skydome because our spehere is projecting a shadow on them. Also we want to change the collision type to "NoCollisions" since we don't need to check when something collides with our skydome.

alt text

Now we need to assign the material that will be displayed in the Skydome. Go to the Graph section of the Blueprint and in the Construction function create a node to set the material of the Static Mesh. Create a public variable of Material type (you can make variables public with the eye icon next to them). Through this variable we will set the material used in the sphere, so the next step is to assign whatever material we have in this variable to the spehere. Create a Set Material node and set the sphere as the target (in my case I named the Static Mesh component as Skydome and the material variable as Sky Material) and the material as the material.

alt text

Now whatever material we assign to the material variable will be applied to the sphere's material. It's time to create the material. Import your DDS Cubemap Texture created following the steps in the Unreal documentation. In the Content Browser right click on it and select Create Material. Edit the material so it looks like this:

alt text

The blue node is a TextureSampleParameterCube with the texture we created assigned. Why do we send the data to the emissive channel? Because our skydome won't be lit by the lightning of the scene so it will have to lit him himself. In fact, we need to tweak some properties in the material properties. Select the material (the big node with all the channels on the right) and change the following properties like in the image.

alt text

If we let the material to be lit by the lighting system, when we add the directional light we will only see the part of the skydome which is lit by the lightning and the other one will be hidden in the shadows. The other option es very important because we are inside the mesh, so we need the material to be displayed in both sides, outside and inside so we can actually see it.

And that's all. Maybe this is not the best way to do this and there is more accurate or efficient ways to achieve the effect, but this works in a way that makes sense for me. I'm just starting with Unreal Engine 4 and sure I'm missing a lot of options and systems, but I hope this helps any of you in some way ;-)

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answered May 04 '14 at 01:18 PM

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avatar image WhiteHawkDown May 10 '14 at 08:28 PM

Good heavens that took FOREVER to figure out - THANK YOU for a good step-by-step!

avatar image illYay Sep 22 '14 at 01:43 AM

That was a great explanation.

Is there a reason to use spheres over cubes though? Spheres are of course more polys than cubes. It probably doesn't matter as much nowadays, even on mobile, but a part of me wants to keep things as efficient as possible, and I'm not sure what the benefits are.

Seems like your instructions work equally well for any mesh type.

Also, if you make the material be unlit, then shouldn't it make no difference whether you make the texture emissive or just diffuse?

avatar image jLadis Feb 04 '15 at 07:39 PM

You can't make a texture emissive or diffuse, you can plug a texture to the emissive or diffuse (Base Color in UE4) parameters of the material.

If you set a material as unlit, you will only have the Emissive and World Position Offset sockets available. I guess the reasoning behind it is that if a material is not iluminated by light (Unlit), the only way that it can ben seen is if it emits light, thus why the Emissive is the only available. Also, Base, Metallic and others are all used to calculate the final result taking into account the light received by the object. If the material is not affected by light (that's the meaning of unlit), they are useless.

Here you have a screenshot for completeness. alt text

avatar image Angel Tsvetkov Nov 10 '14 at 11:24 AM

There is no Skydome in "Add Component" (New in Content Browser->Blueprint->Actor) in UE 4.5

avatar image DotCam Nov 10 '14 at 04:21 PM

You need to add a Static Mesh component from the drop down list, and then see the top image above, in the details panel set the "Static Mesh" to SM_SkySphere (or whatever your sky sphere is named).

Hope that helps! :)

avatar image Flashback Apr 28 '16 at 10:26 PM

After trying to follow this instruction with 4.11.2 I found out that Spacescape doesn't export cubemaps in a way that makes a seamless skybox in UE, even if there is "UNREAL" preset in cubemap export dialog. Here is how cubemap looks like after it's saved to DDS from Spacescape:

original export result

Here is how should it be rotated to make it a functioning skybox texture in UE 4.11.2:

correct rotations

Hope it saves someone time.

skyboxdbgorig.jpg (99.2 kB)
skyboxdbg.jpg (100.1 kB)
avatar image mortmaire Aug 11 '16 at 07:54 AM

I really appreciate your tutorial. Thanks for your time!

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Hey CyXoB,

There's some useful information on the cubemap system in UE4 you can look at here:


You can also take a look at the BP_Sky_Sphere seen in the Default level (File > New Level > Default) to take a look at an implemented example.

Hope that helps!

Ben Halliday

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answered Mar 22 '14 at 03:05 PM

avatar image DatMiyamoto Apr 19 '14 at 03:57 PM

searching BP_Sky_Sphere in my content browser doesn't bring anything up am i supposed to look for it somewhere else?

avatar image DatMiyamoto Apr 19 '14 at 04:00 PM

Nevermind I found it, it's names BP_Sky_Shere for me for some reason

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Take a space image you like, cube map it, open UE4, open your project. in the content browser import the image to what folder you want. Right click it in the content browser the drop down will have a MAKE MATERIAL select that it will them create a mat for you. make a GIANT sphere for your mat attach it and you have a sky dome. there are good you tubes on it.

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answered Mar 22 '14 at 04:12 PM

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