How to make realistic soft shadows

Hi. I’m a brand new member to the forum, but am inspired by what I see everyone creating. I’m just learning Blender, and I have a question about lighting. What I’m trying to do is probably simple, but I can’t figure it out. See the images below (attached). The top image is someone else’s… I’m trying to create a similar type of shadow… well, two shadows actually… one is a softer, more diffused shadow cast by the figure as a whole, and the second is a more pronounced shadow, found right under the figure’s feet. The combination of the two make the figure – in this case a clay man – look realistic, like a photo. I’m trying to emulate this shadow combination in Blender, but all I can get is the diffused shadow cast by a spot lamp. Anyone have any help for a newbie? Thank you!


Try using AO or AAO (Ambient Occlusion or Approximate Ambient Occlusion). These options are located in the World settings on the Amb Occ tab. Click the Ambient Occlusion button and change RayTrace to Approximate. Approximate is not ray traced so it is a faster, but less precise option. If you have the time, try out the Raytace option to see the difference. The wiki has some good info on AO, but the site seems to be down right now.

Thanks for the tip. I clicked Ambient Occlusion and let it rip. It’s been running over an hour, even though the image isn’t too complex. Maybe I set too many samples. I’ll cross my fingers. In the meantime… do you think I can achieve this effect with one light – just the spot light – or is it OK that I’ve also placed a sun lamp to prevent the rest of the floor plane from being dark. What settings would you recommend for the spot light casting the shadow? thanks again!

For the dark shadow by the feet, use AAO (Aproximate Ambient Occlusion.) It is much faster than raytraced AO and is noise-free.

For the soft general shadow go to the ‘shadow and spot’ settings on your spot lamp.

Set ‘Soft Size’ to about 5, and the samples to about 8 for the final render. Lower the samples for faster test renders.

Well, I’ve had mixed results with AO. See my new render below. It does seem to have given me a bit of darker shadow under the feet, but the wider shadow cast by the figure has been blown out. Also the texture on the figure seems to be all distorted now. I guess it’s going to be a trial and error process to get what I want, but at about twenty minutes per test render (generating images at just 300 x 240 pixels – just big enough for me to see the shadow detail), I’m afraid I’ll be at it forever. Could you please look at the settings of my spot lamp to see if I’m on the right track? Also, you’ll see I have three other lamps. These are all suns that I’ve placed aiming at different angles to keep the rest of the floor white. Do I just need one? Should I get rid of all of them? Any help is greatly appreciated! THANK YOU ALL!


AAO adds its own light, so you can reduce the number of lamps in the scene. Try using just AAO and one shadow casting lamp to see what it looks like.