How to Make Realistic Outdoor Lighting with Cycles

>Download a demo of Pro-Lighting: Skies<

I covered this in a tutorial 4 years ago, but technology has since caught up. And there's now a far better method than the traditional two-lamp method I taught previously.

It's called HDR lighting, which some of you may have already heard of or even used, but you might not not know why it's so much better.

In the post you'll discover:

  • Why HDR lighting is superior to using lamps
  • How to setup HDR lighting in Blender and Cycles
  • A sneak peek at a new HDR tool we've created

Traditional lighting (using lamps) misses out on so many things that are crucial to the realism of your scene. Whereas HDR lighting is based off the real world, so it offers beautifully accurate color and intensity, as well as providing reflections for your objects.

The bottom line is, if you want outdoor lighting that looks realistic, you need HDR lighting.

The Problem with HDR Lighting

As good as they are, HDRs come with some rather frustrating problems:

  • They frequently crash - Due to their size (typically 200-400mb), it eats up huge amounts of memory
  • They're unfriendly to artists - Thumbnails are slow to load, and the node setup is fiddly
  • They're expensive - Expect to pay anywhere from $30 to $100 for a good HDR sky online. And you'll need more than one...

This makes them pretty unsuitable for most artists.

I've been using HDRs for the best part of 4 years (including every scene The Architecture Academy trailer) and while I loved the results they produce, I grew frustrated with the problems they introduced.

So I decided to create a solution...

My Solution: Pro-Lighting: Skies

This is a collection of HDR skies specially designed to work seamlessly with Blender.

It solves all the problems of HDRs, while keeping the awesome benefits.

It sits in your World Panel and offers you over 80 skies to choose from. At the click of a button the HDR is loaded into your scene. No fiddling with nodes.

No more Crashing!

Pro-Lighting: Skies cuts down memory consumption by a massive 87%. Meaning you can finally render without crashing!

It works by swapping the backplate for a JPG and using the HDR for reflections and lighting. This results in identical results to an HDR, but with none of the performance issues.

I've got plenty more to show you, but for now I'd love for you to try it out for yourself...

Download a Demo

I'm offering a full-featured demo of the addon that never expires. It comes with 3 skies (out of 80) and is yours to keep forever. No strings attached :)

To get it, simply go here and enter your email address.

Once you've confirmed your email address, you'll receive the addon to download and start adding awesome skies to your scenes :)

If you make something cool with the demo, please post it in the comments! I'd love to see what you create :)