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Lighting Tutorials


David MaasGood lighting can bring your models to life. The right tint of the lighting can transform a scene from somber to angry. We've found two excellent tutorials that cover the concepts of lighting.

The first tutorial is from Itchy Animation. A very detailed tutorial covering a span of 40+ pages. Originally ment to be a 7 part series. Now it seems he is working on publishing the article into book form. We'll keep an eye out for it, thats for sure. As it is its a great read. The articles start at the basics of lighting and what is happening. It progresses to where light comes from in certain situations and what affects the light (ie. clouds outside). The last page covers artificial lighting.

The second tutorial is from Warped Space. Using references from David Maas you know right away that its going to have some great examples to work with. I really liked how the article at Warped Space really talked about the emotional contribution that lighting can make to a scene.
The author says the following about the article:

The goals of lighting in 3D computer graphics are more or less the same as those of real world lighting. Lighting serves a basic function of bringing out, or pushing back the shapes of objects visible from the camera's view. It gives a two-dimensional image on the monitor an illusion of the third dimension-depth. But it does not just stop there. It gives an image its personality, its character. A scene lit in different ways can give a feeling of happiness, of sorrow, of fear etc., and it can do so in dramatic or subtle ways. Along with personality and character, lighting fills a scene with emotion that is directly transmitted to the viewer.

Trying to simulate a real environment in an artificial one can be a daunting task. But even if you make your 3D rendering look absolutely photo-realistic, it doesn't guarantee that the image carries enough emotion to elicit a "wow" from the people viewing it. Making 3D renderings photo-realistic can be hard. Putting deep emotions in them can be even harder. However, if you plan out your lighting strategy for the mood and emotion that you want your rendering to express, you make the process easier for yourself.

The overall thrust of this writing is to produce photo-realistic images by applying good lighting techniques. I will use Lightwave 3D to demonstrate the lighting techniques used, but these techniques can be applied in any 3D software.


  1. This is nice stuff. I interviewed David Maas once so this is extra cool for me. I really enjoy lighting, and I spend lots of time on it. I think Blender 2.42 and introduced a good thing for people -- the nodes. Without nodes, I don't think people would have really started playing with lighting. They aren't even in the same ballpark, but that's what I've noticed. Better renders are coming out of blender when people decide to take on the nodes system. Does anyone else see that correlation?

    Anyhow, thanks for the links. These are going to be great to read in full.

    Oh, and don't miss out on Neil Blevins' "CG Education" lighting discussions. They really helped me take on the fun of lighting a digital scene. You'll notice quickly that Neil is using 3ds max and Brazil r/s both of which I used to be wildly a fan of.

    of course the material discussions are equally helpful, and perhaps that answers my own question about the connections to the nodes in blender.

  2. For those interested in a hard copy book on 3D lighting & rendering, I would highly Jeremy Brin's 'Digital Lighting & Rendering - 2nd Edition'. Jeremy's a talented 3D artist who works at Pixar and has done lighting for Incredibles and Cars.

    What I like about his approach is that the book is not application specific; covering lighting methods that can be used with any 3D package. For example, if your 3D app. does not support GI or FG or any AO, Jeremy shows techniques on how to fake it. Of course the book explains all current lighting techniques and how to accomplish breaktaking results.

    I would read these tutorials posted here on BN and then I would pick up this book to further enhance your knowledge:


  3. Thank you for posting these tutorials- lighting is one of the most ignored parts of 3d but it's also one of the most essential.

  4. Ah yes. . .these are two of the best lighting tutorials I've ever found found online. They've helped me improve so much! I think lighting is my favorite aspect of 3D.

  5. Those are some great tutorials you got there... what's cool is, those techniques can be used in real film, not only 3D animation.

    I'm interested in cinematography, which is the composition of camera shots and lighting. Those tutorials helped me learn more, not only in animation but cinematography as well....

    Good job!! Excellent tutorials!


  6. After the .com effect, I wonder how well some home server support the .nation effect :P

    Good lighting tutorials are hard to find on the web... So thank the authors for sharing :)

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