6 Tips for Better Lighting

The difference between a boring image and an outstanding image can often just come down to the lighting.

But lighting is such a complex and rarely discussed topic, that a lot of artists are left to just guesswork.

So in this post, I'll break down some of the common mistakes in lighting, and share with you 6 of my own tips for better lighting in blender.

Feel free to download this model by Ben Simonds if you want to experiment.

#1:  Change the Shadow Size

The size of your lamp affects the resulting render in big ways!

Soft shadows can create a calm atmosphere or imitate overcast lighting (example), whereas sharp shadows can bring out the detail or imitating harsh daylight (example).

Changing the size of the lamp can complete change the mood of your scene. So experiment with it!

#2: Don't Go Overboard

Seriously...

Trying to light everything is one of the most common mistakes that beginners make.

Overlighting a scene eliminates the shadows, which play an important role! Because without them, geometry becomes completely flat (see the above example).

So instead of fearing shadows - celebrate them! Consider how you can use shadows to reveal detail or make something of less importance.

Sidenote: Don't make the scene too dark either - that's another common sin particularly in night time scenes :P

#3: Use Colors

Unless you're going for a film noir or black and white look, why are all your lights the same color?

Not only do colors send a strong emotional message to your viewers, but they're also a fundamental part of life!

Almost no light in real life is completely white (which oddly enough is the most used color for CG). Real light is measured in degrees Kelvin, which (few people know) can be directly be used in Cycles with the Blackbody node (Add>Converter>Blackbody).

Watch the Understanding Colors tutorial for more tips.

#4: Emphasize Your Subject

Lighting plays a huge role in what your viewer will focus on when they see the render. And if everything is lit the same, then nothing is important!

So look at your scene and decide what the subject is - then make sure it receives more light than the rest of the scene.

#5: Add Textures to Your Lights

Although rarely used by cg artists, adding textures to your lighting can add an extra element of interest to your scene.

This is sometimes referred to as the light throw, or implied lighting. Which is basically implying that something is happening outside of the frame, without actually showing it.

#6: Animate Your Lights

This one obviously only applies to animation, but it's rarely used and it's super powerful.

Animating the direction, position, size, strength or color can have a dramatic effect on the animation. It can be used to convey the passing of time, signify the moment a character makes a dramatic change or realization or bring something to attention. Consider how lighting can be used to tell the story of your next animation!

Got some tips of your own? Write in the comments below!

Want more tips? Watch the Mastering Lighting tutorial

LightningReynante Martinez