Kent Trammell (theluthier)

109 replies · posted

Match your favorite lighting example

If you're like me, as you scour the internet for inspirational 3D art, you run into some amazing CG lighting setups. You know, the ones that make you want to be better! Well why should we let them have all the fun? Why can't we give it a go?

Therefore, the challenge here is to select one of your favorite lighting examples and do your best to match it in Blender. If you don't keep a collection of your favorites, feel free to use mine. Analyze light colors, number of lights, position, etc and recreate. Use either lamps or HDRi's or both - whatever you need to get the result.

Once you select your favorite, open up one of your models (or download this posed Baker model), do your best to match the lighting and materials, and post it here. Here's my attempts:

Original by Julien Kaspar

Source render by Bruno Ortolland

Image Credit: "Lüfor"by Alexandre Aroul

Image Credit: "Super Mario" by Mark Henriksen

Image Credit: "Sci Fi Pilot" by binqi chen

Image Credit: "Female sculpting session 01" by Daniel Crossland

Image Credit: "Tribal Frog" by Paul Braddock

Image Credit: "Danbo in Autumn" by tomatoes

Image Credit: "The Mad Professor's Ride" by Ruairidh MacNeill

  • Great idea Kent!

    I have an inspirational folder of my favorite images and a lot of them are in there purely because of lighting. I am keen to give this a try asap :)  

    • I have an CGI Inspiration folder as well, it is full of inspiration, it inspires me. Though you have to be careful, some days you can go in there and have the opposite effect. I'm giving this a try also. 

  • crew

    frikkr dostovel Excellent! I'm quite keen to see what you guys do 🤘

  • Ok so I had a play around in the free couple of hours I had last night. I didn't have a suitable HDRi so I had to adapt one in Photoshop. I also added the rain effect in post processing as I did not have time to do any blender magic with that. 

    It was pretty tricky getting a similar result to this because I think a lot of the lighting is affected by the atmospheric elements going on in the scene. But it was really fun to do. I thought the toy plane model I had from one of my first ever tutorials would be a fun one to use for this scene. If you are new to Blender and want to give it a shot at creating the plane model, the tutorial by Jonathan Williamson can be found HERE

    The final lighting setup included a lot of hidden "mask" planes behind the model to stop the light that was creating the big glow behind the cockpit glass from interfering with the beam cast on the floor. I also had to use some volumetrics to get a visible glow and a simple displacement wave texture on the floor for the rippled , puddle feel.   As usual in CG, a lot of trickery was needed.

    I chose this reference because I love the balance between the detail that is revealed from the lighting on the front of the plane, and the form that is shown from the silhouette at the back , which  is all cleverly divided up by the strong beam of light that is cast across the wet floor.

    Thanks for inspiring me to have a play around, Kent. I'm going to try to do a few more of these in the near future. 


    Image credit "Spitfire" by Jama Jurabaev


    Click here for FULL SIZE IMAGE

  • Oooh, fun!! I might try it, myself! But I have a LOT of inspirational images...hmmm... Been awhile since I did any...well, lighting studies! I also haven't been doing any 3D stuff because of other stuff, but wow, it would be fun!

    I don't know where to many lights...I love lights...

  • frikkr Did you use any of the render passes Blender has? You know, to do some Compositing extravaganza. 

    I'm becoming more and more certain that those images with kind of a film look are heavily post-processed and our render passes are great for that control. Here's a link to what I mean, that kind of HDR toning

    • Wow Omar, those tutorials look great, i'm actually gonna sign up for them straight away because I really need to learn more about post processing. I always feel my work stops dead at the PP stage as I just haven't enough knowledge to do much to it once its rendered. 

      And yes I completely agree with you, but I felt that theluthier 's challenge was to replicate the lighting mainly,  so I stayed away from PP as much as possible. I even felt bad adding the rain effect in Photoshop because I felt like doing anything other than using lights in Blender was cheating a bit in regards to the actual challenge. But yes, I think to have got my attempt any closer to the goal image, I would have had to use a lot of render layer/compositing trickery... 

  • Apologies for such a small sample but my PC is down so I had to do a small preview grab on my Mac.

    The image on the right is from an old MaxCookie tutorial if I am not mistaken and I always liked the contrast in it.

  • First attempt. I'll try a simple one next. That was way too much hours of tweaking. At the end you always just give up and post away. 

  • Yeah Kent, thanks for the initiative, this has proven really fun, I'm in my third one already and can't seem to stop. Again, rehab clinic soon.  ;)

  • Yay, I tried lighting! It may be flawed, and this is just the render without post processing, but considering how little I've been doing with art-related stuff, it makes me happy to see that I'm not so rusty!

    I used an image I found from hcortz at Blender Artists. The post is here: I also used Kent's posed model.

    I wanted to get a few more elements of the image in, just the idea of it. I want to do better at lighting! I still have much to figure out! I do like how it turned out! It was really hard, though, so...first try after too long!

  • I should be in bed, and I will soon be. BUT I thought I'd try this lighting match for Halloween! The HDRI is from Greg Zaal. The image is from Fernando Telles: Also, I did a TINY bit of post-processing with the glowy face part, in Photoshop.

    I'm miffed because I tried getting rid of the noise, the fireflies...I think I made the fireflies worse, but I can't retrace my steps now! Also, the lighting is a bit complicated here; I wasn't sure where a lot was coming from. Looks a touch more purple than I meant. The glowing orifices were tough because I still need to figure out how to make lighting work and not go through a mesh... So many issues...

    But I came kind of close! That's great... What can I do to make it better? :D

    • crew

      Second submission, jjazze - Excellent! You mentioned something that I agree with: The goal you chose doesn't have the most discernible lighting in the first place. By my estimation, it's got a low-light HDRi and a top-down lamp. But I'm not 100% sure because the lighting doesn't feel particularly impressionable to me. Which would make it difficult to match. You did a pretty good job of it though.  

  • crew

    Here's my second attempt using the goblin I finished sculpting this week. I believe the chat named him Arnie Goblinenager or something 😆

    Goal image: "Female sculpting session 01" by Daniel Crossland

  • Looking good there Arnie. So awesome with that lighting and tone. There seems to be only one light at the front, according to the shadow... was the purple tones in the dark areas with RBG Curves in post?

    So here's my third exercise, I got some insights while working this bad boy... that lighting is a lot like painting, it's light-painting. You turn off all the lights, then you just light up the scene with only one light to see what it is contributing, what reflections it is pinning, what bump maps it is highlighting... when you are satisfied to its contribution, then you turn that light off so there is no more influence and you turn on another light you have in the scene and see its influence and reflections is pinning, etc... and light by light you start to paint the reflections you want. In the end you turn on all your lights, see if they work in unison and you have your scene lit up. Some post production to crank up the contrast and try to set some realistic de-saturated tones and hopefully those are good choices and it looks good.

    • crew

      dostovel There's one key light my scene: A bright orangy-yellow one from [screen] upper left. But also there's a very subtle blue fill/rim light coming from [screen] right. I see one suggested in the example particularly on the back of the thighs in the example.

      And yes, I definitely boosted the purply-blue levels of the dark spectrum with the compositor.

      Oooo very pretty 3rd lighting match, Omar! That ground texture is pretty spot on. Love the wet glossy breakup. Also the mountains, sky, sun - it's all really close. Great job!

      I've got 2 critiques. First is the vehicle model. It's kinda funny being so simplistic, which may be the intention. But I think it detracts from the effectiveness of the lighting. Something more complex and realistic, like the airplane, would do the most justice imo.

      Secondly, the brightness of the sun is dimmed in your render. Feels kinda like the viewer is wearing sunglasses. Compare it to the 100% brightness in the example and the 85% in yours:

    • Great work Omar :) 

  • You guys who did the wet ground reminded me...I don't know how to make that texture happen! Rather, I forgot. -_- I should try a wet ground type one, I don't have any 3D images like that.

    • crew

      <hint>It can be as simple as a tileable concrete texture plugged into glossiness roughness</hint>

    • In my case, Jasmine, since I wanted to have the ground reach far into the horizon, I had to do a composite of many textures in photoshop, a massive HD texture map with enough of variations, so I could avoid the always noticeable tiling effect if I use just a single texture. The ground plain was too large and with a single texture pixelation is visible very quickly.  

  • Kent, oooooh, that's right about the glossy roughness! ...I almost forgot that I'd done that! Thank you for reminding me!!

    Omar, that sounds like a good amount of work, and I should try that as well sometime! It looks very convincing! :D

    Man!! I wish I could watch one of those live streaming videos, because there will be a lighting match one. But I'm SO glad we can participate here!

  • You guys are doing really nice stuff!
    I'm just warming up here...

    Here's the original photo by Dean Kezan

    Here's my result

  • And another one before I go to sleep.



  • I guess it's up to us individually if we want to fully emulate the exact image, but in my mind it's more of a "see if you can emulate the feel, character, atmosphere, overtone" kinda deal, instead of 100% xerox it.

  • Very cool challenge everyone's work so far is great.

    Here is my reference a great piece by Julien Desroy

    Mine doesn't have a large flat top surface to soak up the light as his does but it works. It was a lot of back and forth trying to balance the green and blue tone. Think mine is a tad bit on the green side

    • Great work Cody :) , also, is that one of your sculpts? Was it done in Blender? 

    • crew

      Ahhhh yes, that's an awesome example. Just added it to my pinterest lighting board. And you are so authentic with your recreation! It looks like you even added subtle red SSS. Fantastic job codywinch!

      My one crit is the singular god-ray coming from the top key light. It seems like your hinting at the effect in your render, with some bloom, but the distinct vertical god-ray in the example is pretty sweet.

      Anyhoo, totally a nit-pick, but when you've already done such a good job, why not nitpick? 😜

    • Dude, Cody, that sculpt is awesome! love it, and the lighting scheme works great in it. Also I bet other werewolf's are jealous of his six pack.  

  • Wow...that's amazing, Cody! As for the lighting, really close there, and I also notice the SSS!

  • Okay, I did another one, and though it didn't turn out exactly how I wanted it to, I got pretty close!

    The original image is from Ewa Wierbik:

    I used an image of rocks for a light texture almost depicting tree leaf shadows. :D That was a creative twist for me! It took a while to really get the right angle as well, and I still was off some. Also, getting an HDRI that could closely match that background, hard stuff. I had to actually use an overcast image! I may try this one again sometime, because the challenge was good! (I even used parts of a black cube to bring out more of the tree shadows' "shadow".

    • crew

      Nice one jjazze. The lighting-through-leaves is a tricky thing to pull off, so well done! Not sure I've ever had to use a light texture before. Good solution 👍  Perhaps the mug shader could be critiqued a bit, but that's not really the focus here.

    • Great work Jazze, Perhaps crank up the exposure and contrast a little to darken the shadows and brighten the highlights? Although that is really post-processing so not technically required :) . I love the light filter you used, you got it spot on!