🚩 A few quick clicks to lighting will dramatically change the mood of your scene. If your materials are good, lighting will only make them better. Lighting is often the most fun part of rendering, since it is intuitive, expressive and powerful at the same time. Be bold and experiment!
⚡ Try V-Ray’s Light gen feature to kickstart lighting.
💡 Light gen creates a thumbnail gallery showing automatic lighting variations. It uses an hdr light dome or the sun as input. Try it, then sit back and enjoy the spectacle while your hardware goes wild. Pick any resulting thumbnail to apply its lighting to your scene.
While many thumbnails look cool, their greatest value lies in suggesting interesting paths to pursue. Nothing beats artistic human intention. By fearlessly playing around with hdr dome lights or the V-Ray sun, you will soon discover and be able to pursue your own lighting, with a character that is not just arresting but first of all meaningful.
The perfect lighting often calls for switching camera position. Perspective and lighting are interdependent, not sequential.
Lighting is a complex subject. Lighting exteriors is in some sense easier than interiors. The reason is that at least in daylight, a single light source is often all you need.
There are two main ways of lighting exteriors: using V-Ray’s synthetic sun models, or using high-definition range (hdr) images.
⚡ Switch to Sky improved to take advantage of a more nuanced sky when using V-Ray’s built-in sun model.
💡 If geoaccuracy is no issue, prefer V-Ray’s custom orientation sun. It enables controlling the sun independently of the model’s or geoposition and current time. It feels great swinging that old sun around the sky like a plaything of the mind.
⚡ For the most realistic lighting, use a hdr image.
💡 To use a hdr in V-Ray, add a light dome to the scene and drag a hdr bitmap to the dome’s texture slot. To rotate the hdr, simply rotate the dome object in Sketchup’s viewport. The dome itself is a placeholder and invisible to V-Ray. But since domes, like most V-Ray lights, are Sketchup object, their visibility can be tied to a Sketchup tag, or a scene, which in its turn controls light visibility. This makes it easy to instantly switch between or combine different light setups.
Hdr images reflect an empirical sky rather than a synthetic one. A good hdr image gives a richer and more nuanced background and total light source compared to the synthetic sun. This is especially apparent in reflective surfaces, where source and surface shine together. An external hdr can be heavy, and you typically need to dial in gamma, intensity and position manually. On the other hand, an hdr is often the superior solution and affords both more subtlety and drama.
There are plenty of both paid and free sources of quality hdr images. Some of the best sources include Hdrihaven which is free and Peter Guthrie’s PG Skies which is paid. 😎 – Now, with your lighting in place, next week it is time to start a party! And you are invited!