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Good Lighting in 3D Renderings

dramatic lighting in 3d scenes


Lighting is an essential aspect of the rendering process. The objectives for 3D illuminations are not that different from that of the real world; you need to light your scene or digital set in the right ways to get the best lighting for your rendering. Photographers and cinematographers don’t just make use of any lighting available; they create a unique set of lighting that resonates with what they are trying to achieve.

As a CG artist, you should be doing the same thing. Just that you should use a 3D light setup to create a 3D scene that will offer the best result available. To ensure you have excellent lighting in your rendering, here are some tips that will help you have a great light rig and are typically essential in creating professional and well-lit scenes.

Make Use of Global Illumination

Global illumination imitates how light interacts in the real world by conveying various color values and circulating the light throughout the scene based on what the light rays interact with. It can significantly boost rendering time, but very useful for getting more realistic results.

Reduce the light sources when you are working in an open space

If you are working on an outdoor scene, the lighting needed to have an ideal 3D scene shouldn’t be too many sources. It is not advisable to have a lot of lightings outside, unlike when we are working indoors.

Usually, when an artist is working during the day, the source of light could be direct sunlight from the sky. A physical sun and skylight system or an HDR light rig setups are two very popular techniques. One creates a sky dome of sorts and a light source representing the sun while the other uses image-based lighting from an HDR image to illuminate the scene by mimicking the lighting from the image, which can also affect reflections in the scene and even the scene background.

This is an easy but productive way to get photo-realistic  light settings when you are rendering outside. You can also join the global illumination together with this setup to achieve an even better end result.

Material Override Clay Scene Setup

Once the scene is initially set up it is a good idea to set the material override to a neutral light gray or ambient occlusion white matt material to set up the scene lighting. This allows lighting to be set up based upon the model and the mood you are after without materials and textures confusing matters. Once the lighting is set the way you want it; you can adjust the materials if needed to match your light rig and scene requirements.

Render Lighting Elements Separately

Typically, there is going to be some adjustment during the composition stage, whether for balance, color, or texture. It’s an excellent idea to render lighting passes separately so you can alter things in post-production.

Light Direction & Color

The direction of the light source can enhance the subject matter and create the mood for the scene. Depending on where the light is coming from, it can offer a totally different experience for your 3D rendering. Things like warm light source set a mood, and subtle backlighting can make the subject matter stand out.

Preview Your Lighting in the Viewport

Nowadays, a lot of render engines allow for near real-time render display in an active viewport on your monitor, make use of this to make adjustments rather than rendering the scene each time and then making adjustments when possible.

Make use of Reference Materials

Using reference material is an excellent way to achieve realistic lighting results. Even if you have good knowledge of how the lightings should look, without making comparison with already made or real-world examples, you could be missing out on things that will generally make your rendering stand out.

Another type of reference material is that of the master painters of yesterday and today. They have refined the techniques of using lighting to tell a story and set the mood, look for little tricks that might not be physically accurate, but make the image memorable and imply life! You are an artist and not just a technician, not everything needs to be unbiased and physically accurate, make each rendering special and develop your own signature style.

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