The Forest Citadel


SKU: forestcitadel1 Category: Tags: , ,


This piece started with Vue d’Esprit’s atmosphere editor. I put together a great sky and then I worked to create a scene to go with it. First I tried an ocean scene, but later settled on a forest. The volumetric fog in this scene is quite expensive to render, so I am having a hard time producing a multi-screen render. I still run the multi-screen render on my alternate box when I have no other more pressing projects, but it is very slow going.

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115 reviews for The Forest Citadel

  1. Kevin [lifer]

    This is a great wallpaper. Can we get multi-screen versions of it?

  2. Jon

    You need to provide this in 5120 x 1440. Larger Dual Monitor setups are so common now a days. Who only uses one monitor?

  3. Tyler

    Now that Bucephalas is online I think you owe us the multiscreen. You know damn well the new hardware will easily handle it. I also think I speak for MANY other members. Don’t abandon it! Thanks in advance 😉

  4. Gaia09

    This reminds me of “my mountains” in Forest Lakes, AZ. I just stared for so long. Beauty like that is nearly without equal. Thank goodness it’s nearly and not completely. Thank you for sharing your talent. I’ve been a follower since 1999.

  5. Dennis M.

    Looks like we may need to start a contribution drive so that Ryan can buy another rendering machine. I am really looking forward to the dual screen version. (dual 16:9)

  6. Peggy

    I just really love this image…. it brings me into a different place while I am working! It mirrors the weather outside today.

    Love it….

  7. Brandon

    Ryan, no problem. Just glad to know you are still planning on doing a multi-screen version of this one 😉

  8. Ryan

    Sorry to say the render is on hiatus at the moment while I finish a couple of other more pressing (and quicker rendering) projects. It basically works on my alternate box when it has nothing else to do. I sure hope to post it someday as I think the middle screen will take the place of the current single-screen.

  9. Brandon

    Just making sure you havn’t given up on this one for a multi-screen 😉

  10. JK

    Good to see it’s still on the radar!

  11. Ryan

    I have been running this one on my alternate computer between other projects. The simple fact is that it is taking forever due to the cloud effects, but would look lame without them. Patience!

  12. Stryk3r

    I too have been waiting and wondering why there hasn’t been any multiscreens for this wallpaper? There have been so many new multiscreens since, have you just given up on it? I really like this wall paper and would hope you will eventually get around to posted them.

  13. Liggs

    Seeing as it has been over two months now I’m guessing you’ve given up on the multi-screen version of this. Bums me out because I’m a huge Terry Brooks fan and this one made me think of Pananor (The Druids Keep).

  14. JK

    …that instead of checking in weekly to see if the multi-screens are done to do it once a month!

  15. Ryan

    …after all these days!

  16. JK

    Thought I’d drop in and check on it weekly 🙂

  17. JK

    Cool, looking forward to this!

  18. Ryan

    I have a multiscreen render of this chugging away on my alternate box. I’ve reworked some things so it will take a little less time to complete than the single-screen, but it’s still taking forever…

  19. Byteful

    Is there any multi screen versions coming out on this?

    Sure would be a nice addition.

    Have a great Weekend!!!!

  20. Dustin

    I love storms and lightning so this background is just pure awesome (I love your other lightning backgrounds as well). As a triple monitor person, I don’t care how long it takes to render because it will definitely be worth the wait!

  21. JK

    Guess that new multi-display render strategy didn’t work out as planned!

  22. labanimal

    Ryan, just wondering; surely if you design and render a triple screen version from the start, then chop them up into the smaller ones after wards would save a little time? This would also avoid the possibility of differences between the single, dual and triple versions!

  23. JK

    This wallpaper really floats my boat!

    Which reminds me… when I was a kid I was fascinated with early sailing boats and would draw them alot. I’d love to see a 1700’s era sailing ship tossing about in a storm at sea with lightning and waves etc…

  24. JK

    Not dark enough!

  25. linda b

    too dark

  26. Ryan

    “The Forest Citadel” took forever to render. The part it really grinded on was the fog layer. I used Vue’s spectral clouds for it and set the opacity really low. Basically, the more you can see through the clouds the more expensive they are CPU-wise. Yes, they will slow down the multi-screen render so I may try omitting them or substituting Vue’s built in fog. Bottom line, the multiscreen may look a bit different than the single-screen.I am going to try a new rendering strategy for Vue d’Esprit. Before I would render at 2560 x 1600 using the “Ultra” setting. The results were great but the render times were starting to get out of hand.I finally opened the Vue manual (yeah, I know) and read that the “Final” setting should provide similar results with much less time. I’ll try that and render a good bit larger than 2560 x 1600 (i.e.: oversample). Then I will scale the image down in Photoshop and that should make everything look nice and smooth. According to my simple tests so far I could cut render times by over 60%. We’ll see…

  27. Walo

    I get you, my father is astraphobic as well, at the minor sign of a thunderstorm he locks himself inside his room and turns the tv or radio to maximum volume, and no one can get him out of there. I’m like Ryan I just can’t get enough of seeing lightning.

  28. Dan M

    I am a huge fan of Citadel, particularly the night one. So to see the castle from Citadel night in this setting is awesome! I really think the lightning goes great with the forest and castle!

  29. BenC

    Sweet! Can’t wait!

    Given how long this took to render originally, are we talking early 2011 for a multiscreen The Forest Citadel?

    Also if you planning on revamping anymore oldies then I have four words: Once Upon a Time!

  30. Iain

    Too dark for me. I lightened it with gimp though and saw all the hard work you put in!

    What sort of monitor do you use to pick out the shades of black in this?!

  31. Koolio

    I would definitely agree that it is too dark, maybe use the thunder bolts to light up the citadel and surroundings a bit more. Otherwise this type of work(landscape) as well as planet-scape are usually my favorite.

  32. Ryan

    My apologies Laura. I guess you could say I am astraphilic. Just a warning, my next wallpaper might provide problems for the acrophobic out there.

  33. LauraS

    The only thing that is keeping me from totally loving this one is the lightning, and that is because I am astraphobic.

    Astraphobia: An abnormal and persistent fear of thunderstorms. Sufferers experience anxiety even when they realize the risk of harm is very small. Consequently, when indoors they might seek shelter under a bed, in a closet or in a basement. They generally keep a watchful eye on the sky and remain alert for reports of electrical storms.

    So yeah, this one make me want to crawl under my desk, lol. But it’s an otherwise fantastic image, and I actually like the gloominess of it.

  34. Theo

    …Sounds like an amazing idea. 🙂 Galleon would be a really cool one to see in today’s tech savvy world (so I guess that’s a 6th?). Otherwise any kind of revamp of a planetscape like majesty is very very welcomed.

  35. asterismW

    Definitely your best lightning to date! Also, I love the clouds.

  36. Walo

    for a nomination to Galleon as well lol.

  37. Liggs

    I’ve got to believe that you’ve read Terry Brooks. This is a great depiction of what I believe Paranor would look like! Very cool.

  38. Gandalf

    Outstanding as always. Ryan is the man

  39. Chris B

    I wouldn’t change anything about it, it looks amazing! It almost looks like it is under attack from the forces of nature. The lightning effects are pretty cool too.

    I won’t lie, a separate day version would be cool to see the details & stuff, but this one is perfect for what it is!

  40. Blurr

    4th nomination for that particular work. Let’s see it done lad.

    I agree, some of the old pics were undoubtedly some of your best ideas, and deserve to look, probably, more like how you pictured them in the first place. Now that you’ve got much better soft/hardware.

  41. Scarr

    This looks like a mix between Citadel and Rite of spring… almost like (in a world where DB images were pictures of actual things) you took the rite of spring picture, tweaked the camera angle to look up higher, and in the background we see the citadel.

  42. Rob

    I can almost hear the thunderclap!

  43. Mike

    I will 3rd the nomination!

  44. Tim


    I can hardly see the Citadel…way too dark and too far away.

    Please lighten the scene, perhaps by a bright bolt of lightning.

  45. Littlemom

    I like the lightening a lot in this new render, but find the render itself hard to see, maybe two much gray or something in the picture. What I can see I like. Not one of my favorites though, as it’s too dark and hard on my eyes. Still your work is always amazing so it gets added to my collection.

  46. Mazer

    I love it. Can’t wait for the dualscreen render!

  47. anna_writr

    Nice! A bit gloomy for my taste, but gorgeous lightning.

  48. Pete

    Very nice work – Would have given it a 10 without the Citadel. Your scenery work is stunning; buildings just can’t compete and (for me) seem out of place.

    Lightning looks awesome too!

    Just my .02, keep up the great work!

  49. Lidia

    This is certainly not your best remake. It’s too dark and the citadel is too far away. I like the original (2001 image) much better.

  50. t4c2010

    As an avid fan of hd, I normally hate grain. But it works here. If anything, some of the detail is a bit lost in the darkness. Other than that, perfect.

  51. t4c2010

    As an avid fan of hd, I normally hate grain. But it works here. If anything, some of the detail is a bit lost in the darkness. Other than that, perfect.

  52. Miguell026

    sorry for the mess up.. i clicked to many times in “Submit”

    Sorry Ryan and please do remove the extra comments (including this one too) =)

  53. Miguell026

    AH Ryan..

    i was wondering how the grain did get to this picture!!

    i suspected it was intended..

    and not simply a bad rendering.. O.o

    =P hehehehe

    i follow you since 1999 and YES YOU MUST update your older works.. PLEASE do it!

    some of them are not in 2560×1600 and your older glory’s DO deserve a “plastic surgery” into the 22th century =)

    Cheers Ryan! Keep it UP!

  54. Miguell026

    AH Ryan..

    i was wondering how the grain did get to this picture!!

    i suspected it was intended..

    and not simply a bad rendering.. O.o

    =P hehehehe

    i follow you since 1999 and YES YOU MUST update your older works.. PLEASE do it!

    some of them are not in 2560×1600 and your older glory’s DO deserve a “plastic surgery” into the 22th century =)

    Cheers Ryan! Keep it UP!

  55. Miguell026

    AH Ryan..

    i was wondering how the grain did get to this picture!!

    i suspected it was intended..

    and not simply a bad rendering.. O.o

    =P hehehehe

    i follow you since 1999 and YES YOU MUST update your older works.. PLEASE do it!

    some of them are not in 2560×1600 and your older glory’s DO deserve a “plastic surgery” into the 22th century =)

    Cheers Ryan! Keep it UP!

  56. Mike

    Another awesome render, Ryan. It’s a little dark for my taste as well, since I think you lose a lot of the detail, but it’s still amazing.

    Someone mentioned making suggestions to updated older works… one word:


  57. Walo

    I don’t think the grain in the image is a downside. Actually it gives the image a kind of “classic Transylvania” look.

  58. Chris B

    I wouldn’t change anything about it, it looks amazing! It almost looks like it is under attack from the forces of nature. The lightning effects are pretty cool too.

    I won’t lie, a separate day version would be cool to see the details & stuff, but this one is perfect for what it is!

  59. jbhodges7

    Forest Citadel was too dark to see; I have a Mac running Tiger, I used Preview and experimented. I found a tool called “image correction”. By lowering the “gamma” and slightly increasing the “exposure” I got an image that let me see the scene. First time I’ve ever done that.

  60. Ben

    Nice work Ryan! Too gloomy for my desktop, but beautiful still!

    I want to second the nomination of an update of Galleon!

  61. Tyler

    Dear Ryan,

    The simplicity of this piece is why I love it so much. Yes it’s dark, yes it’s gloomy, and yes it’s the bomb! This is eeire how I have the image named Citadel up at work. The lightning is wicked, and the obscure nature keeps this interesting. Dynamite stuff Ryan my man!

  62. Cougar

    Ryan, I love your fantasy / gothic feel art work. This is bloody awesome ! Please don’t change this ! Thanks for making an aussie guy happy ! Cheers

  63. RC

    I don’t really notice the graininess of the image unless I look closely, though I also have Spyder calibrated monitors which makes a huge difference.

    Out of curiosity, how do you calibrate your monitor?

  64. Ryan

    I knew both the grain and the “gloom” would be mentioned. It is tricky making dark images look good on every monitor. I’ve taken the approach to make it look as good as possible on my screen and hope it degrades well, rather than crank up the brightness and put out something that doesn’t look good to me.I actually added the noise after the render in Photoshop. Vue had produced some unacceptable color banding in the final render and the only way to clean it up was to add a little grain to the image. It was the lesser of two evils.Folks wanting something brighter will really enjoy my next wallpaper I think 🙂

  65. Brandi U.

    I love this one. I think some may find it too dark depending on their monitor’s brightness settings (at my work, it’s darker than at home). Love the lightning in the sky, the colors in the sky, the depth of things, and the citadel itself.

    I suspect the graininess comes from using volumetric lighting. Makes for awesome realism, but can leave a grainy effect on clouds.

  66. Mike R.

    great concept, too dark and too grainy though. also, should the focus of the piece be on the citadel or on the lightning?

  67. Max

    I love everything about this except the fog. I do like that there is fog but it rendered extremely grainy. The lightning is leaps and bounds above other previous renders I can recall. All-in-all it’s still amazing as usual.

  68. Michelle


    I love this, in my imagination I can hear the boom of thunder following that whip crack of lightning, and see everything flick to dimness where the citadel looks like nothing more than a crag on the hillside. Amazing.

  69. Byteful

    In a Word…..


    PLEASE!!! GET IT Up for download for Multi-Screens.

  70. TM

    As I go back and look at Moonlit Citadel from 2008 it looks like pretty much the same Citadel. I believe I faintly see the same bridge from that one as well. I think that if the bridge were lit like that one was, it would look nice and give the opportunity to brighten it up a little.

  71. Ray

    I suppose I have the same suggestion as everyone else, as to make the image brighter in a way you see fit to accentuate more detail. I had to tilt my laptop screen to a certain angle to really appreciate it, and just like what Gunner said, different screens might make it turn out slighlty different. One fear I have though, if you actually try making this one better is the rendering time!

  72. Gunner

    Ryan, I’m sure you went into this knowing you can’t get a dark scene like this to look the way you intended for everyone. Monitors notoriously reproduce dark tones quite differently from each other. Perhaps the lightning can light up the scene a bit more showing more detail for those that can’t see much anything? Just a thought. It looks great on mine and I really like it.

  73. Greg in CA

    I agree with others that it’s a little dark. Perhaps some foreground lightning would brighten it a little without changing the overall tone.

  74. TM

    This could be a great one, possibly one of my all time favorites, is it wasn’t so dark.

  75. Bulldoggie

    I too love it the way it is!

  76. RC

    Great image. Wondering if we might be able to get a zoomed version in the pickle gallery? I’d love to see a close up of that citadel in the same setting! 🙂

  77. kenbro59

    I’d have to agree with many of the postings that have been made so far that this one is so dark there isn’t a lot of detail. It looks like Mother Nature is just a little mad, maybe you could take it up a notch or two and add a little more lightning or some cloud to cloud (intra-cloud) lightning to show her real furry. This could help to throw a little more light on the Citadel. Just a suggestion…as always your work is outstanding and I continue to be amazed!!!

  78. Tim

    I wouldn’t change a thing, love it !

  79. rocy

    I agree with everyone else, the render looks great, but the darkness prevents any of the actual detail from showing. All I can make out are silhouettes. I think a revision to make this one more clearly lighted would be an improvement.

    I have to say though, I really love the multi-domed citadels that you have in many of your works (as in all of them showing the exteriors of buildings). The design is original yet very simple.

    Keep up the good work!

  80. John

    Come to think of it, this would also look great in a sunny version! The landscape and mountains are amazing and it’s a shame that they are so hard to see. I guess a fall version would look good too, but I know you are hard at work on new things. Just a suggestion 🙂

  81. Miguell026

    UAU Ryan.. this one is quite a dark scenario…

    nature seems “mad” in this one!

    i like it! is a great piece of darken nature scenario..

    but.. is not very cheerfull if you know what i mean!!

    maybe i think like this cause your last master pieces were more colorfull and joyfull! =)

    keep it up Ryan! great Job!

  82. Pastor B

    Nice pic Ryan. I just recently became a member. Glad I did.

    Not that you need to hear it again, but I too would like to see it a bit lighter. It is estimated that 7% of adult men are colorblind. Being lighter would help us. Keep up the great work.

  83. Josh

    I really like the theme and the storm– I tried to make a render kind of like this once using Bryce 6, but my skills are rather less substantial.

    The only thing I would say could be improved is maybe to brighten the overall lighting a bit (if that can be done without ruining the storm), or maybe make the lights that are actually on the citadel itself a bit brighter so it stands out a little more.

  84. Roberto DG


    I love this work, I finally found a substitute for “At World’s Edge”. I really love it the effects with the clouds. If I could say my humble opinion, I’d like to see it just a little lighter, to see more details of the citadel.

  85. John

    I love this! I agree that it’s a bit dark though. But that’s not stopping it from going on my desktop!

  86. gemgirl

    I had let my membership expire last year but kept an eye on the site to check out the new artwork. I saw this one, got out my credit card and immediately renewed my membership.

    I love this piece! It’s so moody and powerful. Can’t wait for those spring and summer thunderstorms to return! Thanks for bringing me back!

  87. Eric

    I love the concept of this idea, I hope to see you branch out with this lightening and fog, it can make some great future wallpapers. Great job.

  88. Mark

    I can see why that took a while to render! A close up on the castle-thing would be awesome.

  89. Roger

    I love the concept, but it is to dark. I can barely see the castle.

  90. Braden

    Comparing it to the original version, I can only see a few lights… can hardly see the “Citadel” itself.

  91. Andrew

    This is everything I’ve been wanting in a wallpaper lately. It is going on all 3 of my computers today. (usually i keep them different.)

    If you are not already considering it, I would love a day version of this. I like using the day/night versions as alternates for my blackberry in its locked/unlocked state.

  92. Travis

    love the idea of this image, the huge forest/sky elements make the citadel seem like it’s surrounded, lightning is a nice elemental touch. maybe it’s because of the rain, but the overall image seems washed out, without any vivid colors or contrast, and has a somewhat “grainy” feel to it.

  93. Shivron

    I too was first drawn in by Rite of Spring. Then I saw Citadel and Children of the Night and I was hooked. More lightning pics would be well appreciated. You’re the master man. Thanks for all your good works.

  94. Hunter

    Great wallpaper, has so much power in it!

    I hope the multiscreen won’t take so long … we never did get the multiscreen of “enshrouded” either. But not to worry =)

  95. Hunter

    Great wallpaper, has so much power in it!

    I hope the multiscreen won’t take so long … we never did get the multiscreen of “enshrouded” either. But not to worry =)

  96. cmmnoble

    I used to study lightning, actually. And the places where the ground strikes are coming out of the clouds look realistic to me. Also it looks like the lightning is brightening the whole scene already–there’s a reflection on the bolt side of the citadel, and all of the trees and such seem lit on one side with a color that doesn’t match the sunlight, but does match the lightning.

  97. cmmnoble

    I love the lightning effect. Any chance of more lightning pictures? An update of “Rite of Spring” someday? (“Rite of Spring” was always one of my favorites–I first joined as a member way back when in order to get it.) It would also be neat to get a zoomed in detail version of the section of the picture with the citadel and the lightning in it, as a pickle jar version maybe?

  98. Joe

    I’m with Jon H. It’s OK, but it’s not replacing my other current DB desktop image.

  99. Dennis

    I can’t wait for the multi-screen of this… it’s going on my dual monitor mac pro… 🙂

  100. Nick

    I wish the city was lit up a little more, but it still looks awesome and very realistic. The clouds look amazing, no wonder it took so long to render.

  101. Walo

    No wonder why this one took ages to render lol. Anyway it looks very cool.

  102. Jon H

    The concept is cool and the lightning is very-nice looking. It spices up the image. My only complaint is that the color scheme seems kind of drab to me. I know it’s stormy, but it just seems like there is not enough light or color in the scene, especially since there is lightning. Cool concept and nice overall scene layout, but not one of my top favorites.

  103. Snave

    Although I’m not usually a fan of lightning scenes I will have to admit that it makes this scene.

  104. Andy

    that lightning is incredible; feels very lifelike. one of my favorites!

  105. Lars

    I love your pictures!

  106. Josh

    Looking good! I love storms, and I love night time pictures and eerie citadels on peaks!

  107. Brian

    Great work as always Ryan!

  108. Geof

    Not sure how it would look but… I have always liked seeing lightning “in” the clouds, rather than outside of it. I’d be interested to know how the clouds would light up with the lightning being internal. As it is, it looks as though the lightning is making contact to several places in the image, but no sparks at the contact point. Also, there doesn’t seem to be any light coming off the bolts at all, which makes it look as though the lightning was layered on top of the image, rather than rendered as part of it. However, I’m not the image expert. I really like the citadel though. Perhaps dump the lightning all together?

  109. John

    I like it, but the lightning should cast some light around it.

  110. Courtney J

    I would have liked it better without the lightning or fog… it looks like it could have an epic background but the fog is blocking us from seeing the majestic view.

  111. Jeremy

    I love the clouds and lightning effect, but it appears slightly grainy. Not sure if its my eyes or my screen. I love the color poking through the clouds and the bolts of lightning lighting up the sky and would love to see it enhance the structure in the center a bit more with reflected light. The trees could pop out more too. 🙂 Love your work!!

  112. Jory

    Rather amazing how far the ability to make something as simple as lightning look realistic has come.

  113. The Guru

    This one took so long to render that I’m willing to deal with the minor irritant (grain) in order not wait six months for your next piece. Other than that, this scenery is fantastic. I like the layout and the mood. I love seeing updated versions of old wallpaper. Would you consider taking suggestions on old scenes to update?

  114. Greg

    Nice!!! when’s the dual screen??

  115. Eyal

    The image is a bit too dark IMHO.

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