Using a HDRI file to control object lighting?

I’m using Blender 2.61.1 r43312

I’m trying to use two world EQ maps, one as a background plate and one as a lighting control. The background plate is a 8 bit jpeg, the lighting control is a hdr file or 32 bit image.

I’ve deleted any lights from and am trying to find how to use the hdr file to light the single cube object I have in the render. The cube has been UV unwrapped and a texture applied. It’s currently being made visible by setting the materials shading, using emit 1, ambient 0.

If I use any ambient lighting it simply turns my cube lighter shades of white as a up the setting to 1.0.

I’ve looked at all the hdri tutorials I can find here and on youtube and most seem to want to use HDRI as a reflection engine on a shinny or reflective object. This is NOT what I’m looking for. I’m looking to use the hdri file as the light source for any object included in the render so it appears to be “there” or completely natural.

Anyone have any ideas on what I’m missing? I’m a very new user so I’m using the Blender internal render engine. Right now, the only light source on my cube seems to be the texture map of the cube by using the emit setting in shading. If I need to combine the world texture into one hdr file I can do that too as I’m completely comfortable with hdri - I’ve been using in photography for almost 8 years.

any ideas?



I would recommend using the cycles render engine instead of BI. It’s just so much simpler to use…

In the World settings you’ll have to enable Environment Lighting, set to Sky Texture and the gather set to Raytrace. Up the samples to get a cleaner result. In the render layers panel you can turn off sky so it does not render the background. You can then composite onto your background.
See attached blend with basic setup


light.blend (263 KB)


have looked at both, tried both, still not working.

any ideas on how I can help you help me?

best regards,


I tried another test, added a couple simple objects with no UV based texture maps and they do appear to pick up the environment or world map lighting. So I’m beginning to think the Blender’s internal render engine can not use a hdr file a a light source on a object that has a UV wrapped texture applied.

I guess I’ll have to try playing around more with the Cycles render.



I’m still not making any real progress here. Am starting to think perhaps it’s not me, but Blender that’s not ready for full or real hdr lighting. I’ve tried every option I can find with a UV texture mapped object and nothing seems to make any difference or work as I expect it to, this includes both BI render and Cycles.

Any one ever looked at making a add-on for sIBL type of environment lighting?



It’s Blender, but mostly you.

First you need the latest SVN version of Blender, the one one on only supports angular maps, while the svn version now also supports equirectangular maps for BI. Cycles supports equirectangular maps from day one.

Just open a blank file.
Go to the world tab, enable [x] real sky
Enable environment lighting, set to sky texture.
Make sure Gather is set to raytrace.
Go to the (world)texture tab.
New>Image>Open>load equirectangular HDRI
Mapping> Equirectangular
Influence: disable [ ] Blend, enable [X] Hori


If you want a meshlight with texture emission you’re out of luck. I think there’s a addon somewhere but in BI it only works with approximated indirect lighting, no way to use raytracing as gather method.
After all BI is no GI renderer.

My experience (mostly with 2.5x but should be the same for 2.6x) with Environmental Lighting also required that certain settings in the Materials be used to optimize Env. Lighting as the illumination source, though I usually use some Lamps as well – gives better modeling & directional lighting.

In World, set your Ambient color to RGB = 0,0,0 (solid black). In your Materials, set Ambient to 1.0. This sounds contradictory but it seems that with Env. Lighting the samples source replaces (or maybe ads to?) the Ambient in the rendering process, so you can use the Ambient parameter in Materials to control how much Env. Lighting affects your scene.


that is one beautiful ship, but I don’t really see much in the way of an environment lighting. Perhaps I’m expecting too much here? If you placed this in a very high contrast HDRI environment, like it was close to a sun I would expect to see strong shadows, highlights, etc. based on the world map.


I think I’ve tried this but will try again.


I’ve been using Blender 2.6.1 and it has options for Equirectangular mapping. And I’ve tried many times to do what you note, but again, like Richards example perhaps I’m expecting too much? And I’m too new to Blender/3D work to understand what your second paragraph is telling me, I’ll do some research into GI Render.

And Thanks Folks!



Image lighting in blender internal does not cast shadows.

Yes, image360, I think you’re expecting too much of this Blender Internal feature, but perhaps it’s a misunderstanding about the nature of “illumination” as opposed to “lighting.” In photography those terms are more or less synonymous because in all cases light is more or less directional, though that can be overcome by certain methods or circumstances such as diffusers of some sort. But in 3D rendering they actually have very different characters from the get-go. Lighting, as provided by Lamps, is always directional. Cast shadows are optional but objects will always have a definitive lit side and a shadow side, even with a Hemi lamp, the most diffuse available in BI. Illumination, on the other hand (as in forms of “global illumination” like Environmental Light) is nearly always non-directional and infinitely diffuse, affecting all areas of a scene more or less equally, though some color & brightness variations in the sampled source image can affect the impression that gives. Rays from dark samples of the source image will have a different effect than rays from brighter Samples, but this is not the same as directional light, which is what’s needed to cast shadows. Like traditional Ambient light, this kind of illumination is essentially omnipresent.

If you want to use Env. Lighting very heavily and also have "shadows, you need to use Ambient Occlusion/Multiply, and adjust those parameters to fit your need for thin or dense shadow tonality. But AO is not by any means a form of lighting, it is more like an inverse illumination based on surfaces proximity, so the shadows are not truly cast as much as generated by object placement relationships in the scene.

For this reason if you want the effect of cast shadows and explicitly directional light sources you’ll have to combine Env. Lighting with Lamps. Balancing these is not trivial but the result can be very convincing. Take a look at the more recent renderings posted in my Nezina thread (link in my sig – start around post #135) for some examples of standard lamps heavily influenced by Environmental Lighting (and vice versa). The images show a number of different lighting situations, from a brightly-lit beach scene to a dappled forest to a late-fall sundown, and all have a character in them so you can see how such things as flesh tones (lots of flesh tones :smiley: – there are a number of nudes) are affected.

OK, are there any options to use a full HDRI world as the light?

That’s what I want, Blender, add on’s or not.

Is 3Ds Max a solution here?



What is the reason not to combine the Environmental Lighting with a Lamp (or two or three or whatever)? It’s not at all difficult to set up and gives greater control over the end result.

And no, here, on, 3DS Max is not a solution, it’s the problem :wink:


I’m looking for a simple, world backplate-photo-bracket-to-hdri->world lighting-solution. If Blender can’t do that, then I have to look for additional options. AD is not a solution I prefer, as it’s purchase of Realviz produced much of nothing.

So, are there other options?



If you’re looking for a push-button, no-brainer all-in-one solution to lighting 3D scenes from static 2D imagery, then you’re looking in the wrong place, but I really doubt there is a “right” place that isn’t just as expensive as anything Autodesk might offer – those kind of comprehensive solutions generally come with significant price tags, I’d think. But I can’t see why using an HDRI image to provide an Environmental Lighting base coupled with a Sun Lamp (for direct outdoor lighting) or perhaps an Area or Hemi Lamp (for more diffuse situations) to round out the gamut is so terribly complex, particularly for someone with photography experience. “Simple” rarely applies to any 3D lighting/illumination solution, but with a basic toolbox and a bit of experience it’s not hard to build a set of techniques that can be applied to many situations.

Good luck finding your particular grail (sincerely!).

There are plenty of solutions in combination with Blender.

Cycles can do it, Yafaray, Luxrender (thoughest as it has barely any leverage to “cheat”) for the free ones, the commercial renderers able to do it would be Octane, Indigo, Vray.

But just like chipmasque already pointed out, there’s no oneclick solution. You got to know your renderer to achive the results you want.

Thanks again guys, as I’ve said many times before, I’m new here, trying to learn. And yes, Arexma, as a photographer I sometimes find the 3D vocabulary/use quite confusing.

Have any of you looked at iSBL? What do you think?

Is world lighting in Blender much the same as using a traditional HDRI light probe?

In Blender 2.6.1 only BI and Cycles seems to be installed by default, at least that those are the only options I see now.

And there are no grails, only directions :slight_smile:


And what might that be? I only know IBL which would be image based lighting.
It’s the lighting method with environmental maps, the lightrays are colored based on the image information, hence the name.

The other often used thing is IES profile lighting, which are lightprofiles. BI and Cycles do not support it, cycles not yet, but many other raytracers. IES is “illuminating engineering society”

A light probe usually is just the fancy name of a reflictive ball you photograph.
You usually generate a series of images stiching them toghert. The stiched together result usually is either an angular map or an equirectangular map and is remapped on the inside of a “invisible ball” in the renderer to enable IBL.
Rarely “lightprobes” are mapped to a cubemap, the inside of a cube, which is often used for game engines.

Also often used are simple panoramas, especially for games, where you have a cylindric “horizont” around the scene and map the 360° panorama to it. Often you pull the top inside to be able to tilt the camera up further, kind of a truncated hemisphere.

There are many options, but any raytracer that can use image textures either on lamps or on emission objects, or use environmental maps is able to cast rays of light colored by the image information. Which method and what renderer you use is soley based on the requirents of your project.

sibl, look here, (sorry about the mix up, s/b sibl, NOT isbl)

So, BI and Cycles do not currently support IBL or…?



From the chapter “Smart IBL” on – “Another common problem is the sun. It’s just too bright, which makes it notoriously hard to capture. It’s even harder to render with, because it causes the worst render artifacts. Much more convenient is a regular 3d directional light, allowing more control over intensity and shadow. Such advanced lighting rigs result in better renderings in less render time, but they can be a pain to set up. Aside from preprocessing the HDR images the right way, you have to pull a dozen hidden levers in a 3d application to make it work. Even if you know exactly how to set up an advanced IBL rig, it becomes tedious and repetitive work.” (my boldface)

So it seems Smart IBL is a set of presets that do the “3D directional light[ing]” for you. All well and good if you want to surrender control of your lighting to a preset. But this seems to be exactly what I described above, using Environmental Lighting (Blender IBL process) to generate the illumination “presence” an environment can bring, plus direct Lamp lighting (with or without modulating imagery) for the directional modeling and shadows.

Thing about IBL as I understand it is that it does not really cast light rays as a Lamp does, originating at a source and impinging on a surface. Instead, it casts a “probe ray” (my terminology, not jargon) from an area on the IBL image (resolution dependent on the image and the Sampling settings) towards an illuminated object that determines how & where a pixel from the IBL source image will impinge on the object, then “colors” the surface accordingly using standard or HDR values. This is the form of raytracing used by IBL, but afaik it does not include calculation of cast shadows or explicit volume modeling based on light direction – it cannot, because it is in essence omni-directional (hence the term “global illumination” or GI), the rays being cast from all points in the “invisible sky” formed by the IBL image.

And I strongly disagree that using direct 3D lighting (i.e., Lamps in Blender) requires pulling “a dozen hidden levers” – this is sales pitch hyperbole in my opinion (not so humble, either). In many of my Env. Lighting setups (see again the Nezina renderings) I use only two lamps, one for direct sunlight (tinted and angled for time of day and surroundings, plus adjustments to shadow softness as appropriate) and one for specialized fill, such as bounce from beach sand or boosting the saturation of the green component in a dense forest scene. All the controls for such Lamps are present in a single panel in the Blender UI, not hidden, and while there are quite a few, maybe even a dozen, not all need be used all the time.

One of the reasons I learned how to use Env. Lighting in Blender is because it provides a much more naturalistic method of lighting the human figure (my spesheealitee) than traditional key & fill light setups, but as with any image-making situation, the scene determines the lighting requirements, so IBL becomes just another tool to choose, not the be-all and end-all of lighting solutions.

I’ve done both traditional film photography (many formats, studio & location)) and film-making (mainly 16mm), with all the lighting hassles that involves, and 3D lighting is much, much simpler, with a great deal of control over the situation that the real world isn’t polite enough to allow :wink: But like all disciplines, it must be learned to be used effectively. Or, you can rely on presets.