Blender 3D Lighting and Rendering Basics

In previous articles we have told you how to make basic objects and texture them. Now we take on the final third of the journey and tell you how to light them.

In this article we will teach you to light your scene using virtual lights inside Blender 3D and render your scene as a still.

If you don’t have Blender, then go to www.blender.org and download it so you can follow along.

First, delete the cube and the light in the default scene. Right click on each and press the Delete key on your keyboard. Press Return to accept the delete.

Before you start, choose “Cycles Render” from the drop-down at the top of the screen. This is a much higher quality rendering engine which we’ll be talking about in a subsequent article when we talk about rendering.

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Now add an object, in this case a sphere. Use “Shift + A” to open the floating menu and “Add -> Mesh -> UV Sphere.”

blender-lighting-basics-addUV

To smooth the ball, click the Modifiers button on the Properties menu (the little Spanner). Add modifier, choose the Subdivision surfaces and crank the Subdivision Surface up to 3 on View and 6 on Render.

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Right click on the object you created to select it. Now on the Properties editor, select the Material button.

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Click the New button on the default material to assign a basic texture to the object. The default surface type is Diffuse BSDF. Click on Diffuse BSDF and choose instead Glass BSDF.

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Give it a colour, say a blueish hue:

Red = 0.036
Green = 0.036
Blue = 0.800

Now add the first Plane. Press “Shift + A” and “add Mesh -> Plane.” This will be our ground. Select it with the right button, and press Tab to enter edit mode.

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Resize the plane by selecting the edges in turn and stretching them out using the arrows to make your stretching snap to a particular axis. There’s no need to add subdivision surfaces because it’s a flat plane.

Reposition the ground from a side view so it is just touching the bottom of the sphere.

Right-click on the plane to select it. Select the Material button. Click the New button on the default material to assign the surface Diffuse BSDF. Leave the plane as the default light grey.

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Duplicate the ground plane with “Object -> Duplicate Objects” or press “Shift + D.” The duplicate plane will be stuck to your mouse cursor until you click the left button.

Rotate the plane 90 degrees so it is upright by pressing R and using the mouse, keeping an eye on the degrees you are turning it at the bottom left of the screen.

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Position the new plane on the back or side of the ground plane (depending on which way you rotated it). Make another duplicate as before and rotate that 90 degrees so you can make another wall. You have made the corner of a room.

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Note: the reason for all this wall building is that light in Blender needs something to bounce from in order to create a well-lit scene. If you have no walls, then the scene is lit as if it’s in space.

Now add another plane as before. This will be our light. Click on Diffuse BSDF and assign it a surface type of Emission. Crank the strength up to 10. Position it above the sphere and out of the frame so the camera can’t see it.

blender-lighting-basics-emission

We’ll cover rendering in a bit more detail in a future article, but for now, we just need to do a quick render of the scene to check our lighting. Click on the Render properties tab (the little camera).

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Set the image size in the Render panel

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and set the Sampling to Final on the drop-down.

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Click 1 on the keypad, and zoom out with the scroll wheel. Select the camera by right-clicking on it. Change the view to camera by pressing 0 on the keypad.

By default your camera should have been pointing at the spot where the Sphere was created (at coordinates 0,0,0), so it should be in the frame. To line up a proper shot, press R twice and use the mouse (without clicking or holding down any mouse buttons) to frame the shot.

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When you are ready press F12 to render a picture on screen. To save the image, press F3 and select a filename and location for the image.

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Beautiful, yes? When you’re done, save your Blender file for future use.

Once again it’s not a lighting rig worthy of an Academy Award, but it’s the basics. The most basic kind of lighting setup in Blender is the kind of flat plane emission surface we’ve made here, as this gives even lightbox-like light radiation a lovely even light, akin to daylight.

If you have any questions about lighting in Blender, please let us know in the comments below.