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Quick and Pretty Environment Lighting using Image Based Lighting

So this is a pretty common environment lighting setup, but I wanted to share it just in case. The setup is called Image Based Lighting, something that has been asked for in Blender for some time, and is common in most other 3D render engines. Now, that’s not to say it’s not possible in Blender, it just takes creativity, like most of the things you see done with Blender’s Cycles Render engine. So, let’s get on with it, and take a look:

First off, this was influenced by the IBL setup used by Raynante Martinez, and Andrew Price at Blender Guru. Now that we have that out of the way, there was something I added to the setup, because most of the time I found I just didn’t want to look at the environment background. Instead I wanted it to be a single color, but still receive the realistic effects from the HDR image. If you need an HDRI, you can download some free on my site here.

So, let’s take a look at the node setup:

Blender Image Based Lighting Environment Node Setting

The IBL Environment World Node Setup

The way that this works, is that you rotate the image along the Z axis until you position the image to where the lightest part of the image is facing where you want it to be on the subject. Think of this part of the image as the sun (sometimes it is the sun in the image). You can then change the math nodes labeled, “Intensity“, and “Fill“, to do exactly what they insinuate; increasing the intensity of the light, and filling the scene with light, making less shadows.

Then we have the Reflect node, which is simply another background node in which we are mixing with Intensity/Fill nodes, and is being assigned to only effect the glossy parts of the scene. This is thanks to the “Glossy Raylight path being set as the factor of our Mix Shader.

At this point, we have finished the Image Based Lighting setup in Blender, and you will receive lots reflections and shadows based on the HDRI, giving the scene that extra added realism. Of course, you may want to use a different background for your scene, or just a single color for your background, and that’s where the rest of the nodes come into play.

So to change the background, but keep still the HDRI influence, we add another background, and Mix Shader before we output everything. This time we use the Light Path node again, and choose “Is Camera Ray“. This means that the only thing the camera is going to see, is what is plugged into input 2 of the Mix Shader (the background node). If we wanted to change the image, we could replace the background node with an Image Texture node, or even a Texture node. Basically, that is the link to use when you want something different.

So, there you go, the simply, but great environment lighting setup for Blender. This exact node setup is my default world setup on my startup file. There is no reason to use anything else, and you can alter it to your liking. So, there you go, enjoy!