I can highly recommend a viewing of Andrew Price’s tutorial on making a Christmas tree in Blender.
I stopped watching when I became thoroughly engrossed in what I was making using the techniques shown, but I’ve since been back to check out the part where he makes tinsel, baubles, a star for on top etc. and there’s some great tips in there too.
I’m part way through creating a scene using the tree making technique as a starting point, and I did a couple of extra tricksy things that Andrew didn’t mention in his tutorial which are as follows:
1. Rather than trying to manually weight paint the tips of the branches to scale down/remove the particles, I created a tapered cylinder that was a similar shape to the outline profile of my tree, then I used that object as the source for a Vertex Weight Proximity modifier on the branches themselves. What this allows you to do is smoothly gradiate the weight from 0 to 1 from the tips of all the outermost branches to some distance away from the surface of the surrounding object. I then did a similar thing but used the trunk of the tree to prevent particle growth at the very start of the branches. I think this gives a nice effect. (I’ll post some pictures of the resulting weight group later)
2. Instead of manually placing the curve for my tinsel/lights, I added a mesh circle, extrude-scaled it to make it a ring of faces, ripped one edge and pulled it up with Connected Proportional edit turned on, so that I ended up with a sort of spiral, added an array modifier to “copy” it a few times vertically so I ended up with several loops of a spiral.
Then with this loopy spirally string of faces, I added a Simple Deform modifier to taper it toward the top to a similar profile as my branches and positioned it roughly where I wanted it to be.
The next step was to grab a copy of the branches and apply a Decimate modifier to them set to a ratio of somewhere around 0.005 (I think this means it’ll try to remove 99.5% of the faces, which is roughly what I wanted) to create a really low poly tree “proxy” which I then made into a collider. I set up a cloth sim on my loopy spiral and played it for fifty or so frames, letting it jiggle about and come to rest on my tree proxy, then I grabbed one edge loop of the spiral, separated it from the mesh and converted it to a curve for beveling and conversion back to mesh for the core of the tinsel (I could have used a skin modifier, but I wanted the curve for other things too).
Here’s a 25 sample test render of where I’m up to with the scene:
I’ll post more when I get more done 😀