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Introduction to Lighting

Introduction

Blender is not going to behave exactly like reality, any 3D program is about fakery: faking shapes, faking materials, everything, light included. The sooner we realize this, the better. The rules in a 3D application are different than in the real world, so we will solve the problems and make use of the advantages derived from that. Blender simulates many things, approximating reality, but do not count on a magic button to get real lights. So lets get ready for cheating, fixing the incorrectness of approximations or exploiting it as we see fit.

Quick Test

Lets do a quick experiment to get our hands into the dough as soon as possible. Remove all objects, everything including the world material in F8, add some cubes, and render with F12. Oops! "No camera" error. If there are no eyes, no viewer, nothing happens. So add the camera. Aaah, pretty image! Perfect black, is it not? If you see a background with black silhouettes, you forgot to remove the world. So add at least a light. Better! Well, not too artistic, but at least now we see something.

No light.
Light!

So we know we need something to be painted, in our example the cubes, something to "receive" the light, a camera, and something that "emits" light, a lamp (or use some other methods to fake that, as we will see later), to get an image. Some will say that it was not a very useful way of introducing the concept. However, on the contrary, we know the prerequisites and it was such an absurd example that it will be hard to forget. So, hopefully, it will help you catch silly errors in the future, like moving a lamp to the wrong layer.

Contents

This Introduction to Light assumes you know the basics of Blender interface so goes directly into the Basic Principles of real and Blender lights, later providing a set of Exercises in which we will create some different looking images always starting with the same objects and materials, just by adding or subtracting lights.

Flashlight exercise.
Sunny day exercise.

In any case, before going into the practice you probably should Adjust your Hardware or refresh some Light Concepts. You can also peek at the extra content of this Intro to Lighting, Spots vs Ambient Occlusion, Faking Caustics or Adjusting with Nodes.

Future topics for more advanced lighting tutorial:

  • More multi lamp tricks like "omni spot".
  • Faking lights with materials.
  • Bloom.
  • Mirrors and lights.
  • Full passes compositing (when avaliable in Blender).

Until then, practice.