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Controllable shadow intensity and color explained


Part of the upcoming 2.48 release is controllable shadow intensity and color. Roland Hess, author of new book 'Animating with Blender', and coder of this new feature, explains all the ins and outs.

Roland writes:

Usually the Blender development projects that I work on are a direct response to a production problem I've encountered. BlenderPeople created animation baking, the Floor Constraint, Visual Keying and Python API enhancements. The Beast birthed Sequencer and Action Editor selection method upgrades. One other problem I ran into during The Beast was shadow control, but didn't have time to address it in the sources during production. Often, I would get my light placement and intensity just right only to discover that shadows were just too dark in one or two places. As the balance between materials and lamps is tricky to get just right, I was loathe to start adding lamps (the standard method of fixing too-shadowed areas) or altering lamp intensity.

Wouldn't it be easier, and better for the overall shading and looked that you've struggled to craft, if you could just turn down the intensity of the shadow of the offending lamp?

Of course it would!

Now you can.


About the Author

Avatar image for Bart Veldhuizen
Bart Veldhuizen

I have a LONG history with Blender - I wrote some of the earliest Blender tutorials, worked for Not a Number and helped run the crowdfunding campaign that open sourced Blender (the first one on the internet!). I founded BlenderNation in 2006 and have been editing it every single day since then ;-) I also run the Blender Artists forum and I'm Head of Community at Sketchfab.


  1. i tested it in rc1... it only changes drop shadow, not self shadow color/intensity ..

    seems to me its only half finished

    but better then nothing ;-)

  2. blenderme -- seriously? It works inside the shadow code directly. I.e., it doesn't know or care about the casting or receiving object. Are you sure you're not talking about simple shading when you say self-shadowing? In other words, the "Dark side" of a sphere isn't dark because of self-shadowing. It's dark because those faces' normals don't face the light source.

    For an example of self-shadowing, follow the link to the explanation page and see the baby's arm drop it's heavy shadow.

  3. hey dont get me wrong, i really like the new feature! makes blendering lot easier;-)

    it just seems to me, that when i am able to adjust the intensity of the shadow, the faces not facing the light source should be adjusted also.

    the dark side of the sphere isnt anything else but a drop shadow being droped on self, lacking distance between objects.

    so if a shadow is brightened by, say, blue sky the dark side of the object should get this color also.
    kinda like a hemi light brightens shadows...

    or am i wrong?

  4. I may be missing something, but can't you already control shadow intensity if you have an "only shadow" lamp ? Not that this lets you alter shadow colour, which would be neat.

  5. Great, I've been looking forward to have support for colored shadows!

    And blenderme, the effect you mean is called Global Illumination. That's a totally different feature and has nothing to do with this feature (colored shadows) at all, altough the latter can indeed be used to fake GI in some ways.

    Colored shadows is for.. well, coloring the shadows, not for coloring objects themselves.

  6. This is really nice. Rhysy, sure you can use 2 lamps, one for light, one for shadow, but now you can do it with out 2 annoying lamps to worry about. Now just one. Plus I think it's appropriate to be able to control it because all of this stuf is artificial anyway so why not be given the power to artificially create a closer reality. I believe this will save time. Just static models on a blank white floor, I've always wanted to be able to create blur and modify shadow intensity to my desired effect, but unfortunately, a shadow is harder to get right when you are trying to make the lighting right, and you end up balancing the two, or getting a separate shadow lamp which again takes more time. Now you'll be like, "well it looks good, shadow is a little dark, let me just dial that down a bit....done!"

  7. Great addition harkyman. That's the great thing (and sometimes frustrating thing) about 3D. You don't always have to abide true physics to light a scene. For example, you can change falloff to something more manageable than nature, and now you can tailor you shadows much more easily. As someone who also has worked in theatre lighting, I sometimes wish I could do the same on stage.

  8. Oh man, how many basic-features are still missing in Blender???
    But the main thing is to implement physics, hair or other stuff like this! LOL

  9. Surely it would be more useful to be able to adjust shadow intensity from the material in question, instead of a global value from each individual light? That way you would be able to make semi-transparent materials with partial shadows, such as light cloth or thick glass. It's a feature I've been waiting for in Blender for a while now- having to resort to cumbersome workarounds for decent shadows gets pretty annoying.

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