three.js Textures and Materials Creating a Model Earth


Textures for this example are available at:

Installation or Setup

You can install three via npm

npm install three

Or add it as a script to your HTML page

<script type="text/javascript" src="" />


    <meta charset=utf-8>
    <title>Earth Model</title>
        body { margin: 0; }
        canvas { width: 100%; height: 100% }
   <script type="text/javascript" src="" />
        // Our Javascript will go here.

Creating the scene

To actually be able to display anything with three.js, we need three things: A scene, a camera, and a renderer. We will render the scene with the camera.

var scene = new THREE.Scene();
var camera = new THREE.PerspectiveCamera( 75, window.innerWidth / window.innerHeight, 0.1, 1000 );

var renderer = new THREE.WebGLRenderer();
renderer.setSize( window.innerWidth, window.innerHeight );
document.body.appendChild( renderer.domElement );

Creating the Sphere

  • Create geometry for the sphere
  • Create a phong material
  • Create a 3D Object
  • Add it to the scene

Plain Sphere

var geometry = new THREE.SphereGeometry(1, 32, 32);
var material = new THREE.MeshPhongMaterial();
var earthmesh = new THREE.Mesh(geometry, material);

Add a Diffuse Texture

The diffuse texture set the main color of the surface. When we apply it to a sphere, we get the following image.

Diffuse Texture

Result    = THREE.ImageUtils.loadTexture('images/earthmap1k.jpg');

Adding a Bump Map Texture

  • Each of its pixels acts as a height on the surface.
  • The mountains appear more clearly thanks to their shadow.
  • It is possible to change how much the map affects lighting with bumpScale parameter.
  • No extra vertices are created or needed to use a bump map (unlike a displacement map)

Bump Texture


material.bumpMap   = THREE.ImageUtils.loadTexture('images/earthbump1k.jpg');     
material.bumpScale = 0.05;

Adding a Specular Texture

  • Changes the 'shininess' of an object with a texture.

  • Each pixel determines the intensity of specularity.

  • In this case, only the sea is specular because water reflects light more than earth.

  • You can control the specular color with the specular parameter.

    Specular Texture


material.specularMap = THREE.ImageUtils.loadTexture('images/earthspec1k.jpg')
material.specular  = new THREE.Color('grey')

Adding a Cloud Layer

  • We create canvasCloud with a canvas, and use it as a texture.
  • We do this because jpg doesn’t handle an alpha channel. (However, a PNG image does)
  • We need to make the code to build the texture based on the following images.

Cloud Map

Cloud Map Trans

enter image description here

var geometry   = new THREE.SphereGeometry(0.51, 32, 32)
var material  = new THREE.MeshPhongMaterial({
  map         : new THREE.Texture(canvasCloud),
  side        : THREE.DoubleSide,
  opacity     : 0.8,
  transparent : true,
  depthWrite  : false,
var cloudMesh = new THREE.Mesh(geometry, material)
  • We attach the cloudMesh to earthMesh so they will move together.
  • We disable depthWrite and set transparent: true to tell three.js the cloudmesh is transparent.
  • We set sides to THREE.DoubleSide so both sides will be visible.
    • This avoids creating artifacts on the edge of the earth.
  • Finally, we set opacity: 0.8 to make the clouds more translucent

Adding Rotational Movement

In your render loop, you simply increase the rotation

As a final touch, we will animate the cloud layer in order to make it look more realistic.

updateFcts.push(function(delta, now) {
    cloudMesh.rotation.y += 1 / 8 * delta;
    earthMesh.rotation.y += 1 / 16 * delta;