Lighting for Nerds #01: Light Texture or How to Breathe Life into Dull Scene

Discover how to use Light Texture in Blender to create excruciatingly evocative pictures. Being boring is no good, and with Light Texture you will, hopefully, breathe life into renders that suck. I do it literally every day and I like this technique so much, that I want to share it with you, folks.

As a bonus, I included some tricks that will help you along the way.

Lighting Book Open Project: I need Your Feedback

I want to make a plug here and tell you about my plans regarding this series of tutorials about lighting.

I will publish lighting tutorials in my blog every two weeks (or weekly, if possible). Along with making of’s, work in progress and other exciting stuff, that will go straight to social media, namely TwitterFacebook and Youtube. After publishing around 10 articles I’ll start packing it into a book, full of interesting things.


I want to keep this project open in terms of communication. I need to hear your voice, so please leave a comment and tell me, what do you like/dislike about the article, and what do you want to see in THE NEXT one.

Let’s keep it open and do this book together.

Highlights of the Tutorial:

1. 5 Good Reasons to use Light Texture.
2. Can I play with madness lighting?
3. Using Light Texture VS blocking the light (video)

What is Light Texture?

I bet you won’t be surprised, if I say that light texture is nothing more than texture, applied to light source.

We all know, how textures look on 3d model, but how on the Earth it relates to lighting?

Basically, it works like a projector in cinema. Honestly, I can’t come up with a simpler example: it just works like a projector.


Light Texture in Blender

In Blender, we can either add texture to light to fake the variance (as you see in the picture above), or we can take another route.

In photography the similar effect is accomplished using gobo, or cookie. These are the means of blocking the part of light or reflection.

Of course, we can recreate gobo in 3d. You know, that’s convergence. I find it very interesting and productive to adapt photography techniques to virtual scenes.

light texture blender

5 Good Reasons to Use Light Texture

It’s no secret, that dull lighting often leads to dull picture. Indeed, lighting alone can transform otherwise monotonous scene to mysterious, evocative environment.

Rich on atmosphere and goosebumps (hopefully, you feel the same about my Hobbit: There and Back Again tribute).

Compare these two renders and see for yourself. Light texture breaks up the monotony of the ambient lighting. That said, I should mention that ambient lighting is the best creative decision in MANY cases, just not in this one.

light texture ambient lighting

Personally, I see enormous potential to use light texture in these situations:

1. Scene lacks the subject

2. Subject needs to be emphasized

3. Scene has a cool rhythm to geometry

4. Lighting is a HERO of a scene

5. You need to invoke certain atmosphere (dusty attic with light coming through the holes in the roof)

Play, not Reveal

We often speak about lighting as the way to reveal the form.

While it’s true, and every photographer will tell you that, lighting can be the subject of the scene. And light texture manifest lighting as the subject.

Thus, not only can lighting reveal the form. It can play with the form, make fun out of the form, and spill the paint all over the form.

dappled light 01

If your 3d Scene sucks, try Light Texture

Think formal, think playful.

Break your pictures into areas, filled with value. Convert the picture to black and white to take the color (chroma) out of the equation.

Squint the eyes and try to see what shapes does lighting produce. See Pools of Light, not 3d models.

blender lighting cycles

Preview pure value to evaluate lighting

Blender tutorial: Light Blocking vs Light Texture

Compare the results of these 2 techniques, highlighted in the video and see the difference. As for me, the biggest pro of light texture is that we can play not only with value (luminance), but also with color (chrominance). And that’s something to keep in mind while planning the lighting for your scene.

light texture Blender

Placing the obstacles VS using light texture

Bonus Tips for Nerds:

Show your World

Shadows indicate what is going on outside the camera view. The character of shadows give us the clue about the setting. It’s montage in static.

Eliminate Noise in Cycles

Soft shadows are going to be noisy. That problem can be solved in Branched Path Tracer. Turn up the light samples count in the light source.

Art perspective: James Gurney and Dappled Light

James Gurney, I call him lighting guru artist, talks about Dappled Light in his book “Color and Light – A guide for the Realist Painter”.

“As sunlight passes through the upper leaves of a tree, it covers the ground with a hodgepodge of circular or elliptical spots of illumination, called dappled light.”

Essentially, that’s art implementation of light texture.

If you consider yourself to be an artist, I strongly encourage you to read this book. It’s the most full and comprehensible reading on lighting from the art perspective, that’s it.

Albert Bierstadt: Sunlight and Shadow, 1862

What comes next in Lighting series?

Thanks for reading/watching this tutorial. Leave a comment and tell me, what do you desperately want to learn about lighting?