Final render looks so dull [Archviz - Cycles]

Hey guys. Recently I found myself being interested in visualization related stuff and have modeled some scenes to see how they would come along in Blender. The problem is, almost all interior/exterior renders I took look very very dull. I’ve been using Blender for a long time and I do not have this problem with product renderings. But when it comes to exteriors/interiors, it seems like I am missing out on something.

Original render:

Bumped up contrast to see whether it is a lighting/shadow related problem:

I am aware of that exposure values that we see around the window would be much higher and the imperfections achieved via roughness maps on the bricks look too bright. But I don’t think it is that “thing” that makes this scene feel very dull. I tested the scene with different lighting setups, checked the scalings of the objects, replaced some of the textures, increased/decreased the values of imperfections but nothing helped. The scene is rendered in Cycles, with Filmic Encoding enabled, and the light bounces are set to 7. I’d be so grateful if you know and guide me on what might be happening here.

Additional image: (The following scene is not finished but I see the same dullness here as well.):

So maybe you lights are just not so different or interesting (slighlty different color )? You may even use a non HDRI to give some different reflections… ??

Having a big window also means very different ligth from extern… so this almost crys for HDRI…

  • If you are using filmic, you may want to go set it to a slightly higher contrast option. Instead of the default medium contrast, put it at medium high or high contrast.

  • I would also try increasing the saturation a bit on the final render, just to see if it looks good.

  • I would increase the brightness of all light sources, your images are a bit dark. Especially in the street scene: sunlight is much brighter than that. Don’t be afraid of going bright, the filmic color space can handle lots of light before clipping.

  • The interior scene needs more light from the light bulbs, they are really weak. The outdoors could stay as they are right now (if you want an evening scene), but the lamps would then dominate the lighting much more.

  • Both scenes seem to have light coming from behind the camera. Be careful about that, this visually flattens objects.

  • The scenes lack a clear point of interest. What is the point, the story of the image, what is it trying to show? Right now, they both look like someone just took a random photo in a random, empty place. What if there was a colorful or important object that stood out?

  • Image composition is also a part of it. The street scene has a very flat camera angle and few elements to add depth in the image.

  • Camera effects: add a little bit of depth of field, lens distortion and glare. They will make an image look more realistic, like it has been taken from a real camera (though keep them subtle).


Do you have light clamping enabled?

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I don’t think I got the right lighting
Artificial light cannot be brighter than natural light.

That’s why the window side should be the brightest.

It can be, if that image is intended to be set in the evening. But in that case, I would make the outdoors more blueish and the artificial lights more intense (with bloom).

That light you have from down to the right really needs to go, it have a very bad angle, is to cold and is way to small/sharp. And then maybe take up the exposure a bit on those bulb lights to the right. That’s where I would start at least and see where it’s at after that :slight_smile:

Also a heavy overcast can be quite dark, as well as max sun elevation during winter at northern latitudes is quite low darkening the sky further (if even above the horizon at all). Indoor lighting can “compete” with outdoor lighting, even a clear blue sky, especially further into the room. When adding direct sunlight however, that’s when they start losing their purpose as far as “lighting up the space” goes, even if you’d typically leave them on for an office space.

But yeah, giving a dark blue tint on the background and bright orange indoor lighting adds a massive complementary color boost to the image. I recently got sent some reference images done the other way; night city scape outside in bright orange (unnaturally so) and dimmed down blue interior lighting with blue content on monitors - looked absolutely gorgeous.

Note that if choosing to neutralize the orange of the indoor lighting, that pushes the already blue (should be, but isn’t here) even further into the blue. I’m not a fan of this style myself, as imo the image becomes too “sterile”. I prefer to have “some warmth” left.

Agree about that low right light source. If that is supposed to be spill from a window, it’s not setup correctly, as the shadows on the cabinets and unaffected floor doesn’t make sense.

As for other tips, try to render out lights in isolation to see approx how much they contribute wrt to each other and if there are any problems (glass and shadows can be an issue), but only as a preview. If some lights become far less influential (or suddenly adds a lot of noise - test without denoiser) with everything turned on compared to the preview of that light source, you might have to reconsider “how” the light emits light, as sometimes MIS can screw you over. You can also render out separate light types into separate light groups and tweak coloring and intensities in post rather than having to re-render everything each time once any problems have been dealt with.

If that is a projection screen (snowmatte?), keep in mind the darkest dark can never be darker than the ambient light that falls upon it - so please add some curtains or blinds to get back some projection contrast. And the luminaries above the table would be better fit with a more focused light to prevent lighting up the screen. Practical question, but how is the projector mounted so that it looks good?

Hi. If you don’t share a .blend file you force other users to simply try to guess about the causes of the problem.

If you don’t want to share the entire scene, you can delete the elements you don’t want to share, leave the Lights and Cycles settings and share that .blend file saved with a different name than the original project.

But the more elements you can share, the better the help you will receive.

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The scene outside the window is at an angle that makes me feel it is wallpaper and not scenery outside of a window.

The very first thing I notice is that the bricks appear to have depth but the streaky texture overlayed on the bricks make them feel extra flat to me. (I’m kind of colorblind, my eyes never go where people say they’re supposed to be going.)

I don’t like the strong light coming from the lower right behind the camera.

Put something on the work board.

I suggest:

remove the background image

turn off all light sources

add Sky Texture Nishita for the environment.

ADJUST COLOR MANAGEMENT EXPOSURE to control the strength of the sunlight, do not change the sun/sky strength value.

Play with the sun position and size for soft/hard shadows and find something that looks interesting.
Now you can reduce the sun strength slightly (or mix the sky texture node with an hdri image) to simulate a less sunny / more overcast day.

Now you can add the practical lights. I suggest the free Extra Lights addon for real world value based lights.

Don’t have any off-camera light source acting as a strong primary light source.

Get the sun/environment and visible practical lights to look nice together and then add some low power lights wherever you feel is necessary.

If you choose to go with an HDRI instead of nishita sky, increase the hdri strength to be comparable to the light emitted by nishita sky.

Notice how I don’t have to keep changing the strength of the light bulbs every time I change the time of day. I just need to change the Exposure:

Refer to the behaviour of the auto-exposure of the camera on your phone. @oo_1942 image is a good example. The more details you can see indoors, the more the sun-lit world outside of the window will look over-exposed.

You pretty much always have to take your renders into something like photoshop or instagram to really make it pop. Real world photographers often have to do the same. You can’t always make the magic happen in-camera or in-blenders-camera. At the very least I typically do white balance (warmer or cooler) and sharpening. Go in your bathroom at night and take a photo with your phone. If the photo looks white where you see off-white/yellow from the light bulbs in real life with your eyes, that’s white-balance happening on your phone automatically.