Mastering Lighting

Discover how to a light a scene properly, by learning the core fundamentals of light and shadow.

Length:
39 minutes
Software:
Blender 2.63
Difficulty:
Beginner
Rate:
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 4.8/5 (156 votes cast)

In this tutorial you will discover:

  • The core fundamentals of good lighting
  • Some common lighting mistakes
  • Why shadows are equally as important as light

Ever find yourself placing lamps randomly in the hopes your scene will look good? You’re not alone.

Lighting is a pretty daunting topic if you don’t understand the theory. Most people can differentiate between a good lighting system and a bad one, but few people know why.

To understand lighting you need to know the theory. If you’re against theory then you should probably skip along to another tutorial. Because when it comes to lighting, knowing the theory is vital.

Finished Result

Discover how to create the lighting system for this scene

Discover how to create the lighting for this scene

Download the Starting .blend file

Text Summary

Don’t like long videos? Here’s a summary…

Which image is easier to read? Shadows play a huge role in helping your mind tell the geometry of a 3d scene.

Which image is easier to read? Shadows play a huge role in helping your mind see geometry.

The Three-Point Lighting System

Combined 3-Point Lighting System. Model by Ben Dansie.

Combined 3-Point Lighting System. Modified model from Ben Dansie.

Quote from Universal Principles of Design

Quote from Universal Principles of Design

Other lighting systems

Quote from Jeremy Vickery of Pixar, from Efficient Cinematic Lighting.

Quote from Jeremy Vickery of Pixar, from Efficient Cinematic Lighting.

More examples of lighting applications

Back lighting and Non Key lighting used together

Silhouette and 3-Point lighting used together.

Silhouette and 3-Point lighting used together.

Back lighting used effectively in a snowy outdoors scene

Back lighting used effectively in a snowy outdoors scene

Silhouette lighting plus reflections for added contrast

Silhouette lighting plus reflections for added contrast

Hands on demo of the Three-Point Lighting System:

Add a Plane at a 45 degree angle from camera. Give emission value of 30.

Add a Plane at a 45 degree angle from camera. Give emission value at 30.

Add another plane, 90 degrees opposite Key light. Give emission value of 3.5

Add another plane, 90 degrees opposite Key light. Give emission value at 3.5

Add Spotlamp to rear of scene and point at subject. Set strength value of 100.

Add Spotlamp to rear of scene and point at subject. Set strength value at 100.

Finished!

Feel free to use the fruit bowl scene to explore other lighting methods :)

Further Reading

Interested in learning more about lighting? Check out these links and books:

Make something cool based off this tutorial? Post it in the comments below!

Mastering Lighting, 4.8 out of 5 based on 156 ratings

About Andrew Price

User of Blender for 9+ years. I've written tutorials for 3d World Magazine and spoken at three Blender conferences. My goal is to help artists get employed in the industry by making training accessible and easy to understand. I'm an Aussie and I live in South Korea ;)
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  • Greg Roberts

    Hi guys, does anyone know how to apply lights to just one layer in blender cycles 2.6? It’s easy in blender render as there is an option to select this layer only. It isn’t there in the cycles render engine.

  • BigH321

    Is it the same with internal renderer?

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  • Techrocket14am

    Thank you for the tips! One thing that has been baffling me is how did you make that clothe back drop? I have seen that type of backdrop a lot in both the photography and in the cgi world, but I can’t seem to figure out how to set it up in Blender. So, how do you go about setting up a clothe backdrop in Blender?