You can model simple landscapes using sculpt surface tool on nurbs surfaces. Think you have to sculpt some surface effects like erosion, rocks, dunes etc. When you are modeling hard surfaces like that you have to move to external softwares like modbox, zbrush etc. But in this post I will discuss about Vue which is very useful for modeling landscapes.Download Vue>>>>>
Vue is one of the most popular landscape designing and tree generating software in 3d industry. You can create and sculpt terrains easily using vue. When you using Maya with Vue you will get many advantages like reducing rendering time, realistic rendering etc. Look at the image.
I got less than a minute to render this image using mental ray. If I create these trees using Maya paint effects I will get 5 minutes to render. I have created terrain, trees,sky and haze using Vue. Then I import it into Maya and did my rendering process. Now lets see how to integrate Maya and Vue.
After installing Vue you have to load the plug-in. Go to Window->Settings/Preferences->Plug-in Manager and put a tic in front of vue_xStream.mll. Now you have successfully load the plug-in.
Then you have to do some little modification in Vue units. Go to Vue xStream(in Maya menu)->File->Options.... In general tab turn on manual scale. Set following values.
Now Maya unit is equal to Vue unit. There are some rendering options that might be useful for animations(lights, lens flare etc). Try those attributes.
Now you are ready to modeling in Vue. In my Next post I will show you how to create a desert landscape using Vue.