Building Iron Man out of Lego in Blender Part 9 – Lighting
All image credit supplied by Paul Hatton
With our basic materials in place we’ll move on to talk about lighting. It’s important to note that as you introduce a more final lighting solution you may want to adjust the settings in your materials. This is completely normal. In this stage of the process there is a lot of back and forth because your lights will affect your materials. It is at this stage that you can get really creative and play with the dynamic between materials and lights. We won’t be adjusting the materials again in this series but feel free to as you go if you like.
Our point light revisited
Back in the last part when we were setting up the materials we created a simple Point light. We didn’t go into any of the settings and simply positioned it to give us an idea of what our materials would look like. We’ll now proceed to go through the different light types along with their properties. You can see your light properties by selecting a light object. The properties will appear on the right-hand side panel.
So far we’ve focused in on just a single point light.
Point light properties
The Point light object is an omni-directional light type which means that it casts light in all directions. It has a number of settings with the main ones being the Color, Power, and Size. The Color and Power properties are fairly self-explanatory in that the Color sets the Color and the Power is measured in Watts and will have a greater intensity the higher the number. It’s worth noting the size property will affect the softness of the shadows with higher numbers making them softer.
Use the Point light to recreate something like a light bulb.
Multiple point lights
Now that you’re in control of a single point light, you might want to start to think about adding multiple point lights to add a more interesting dynamic into your visual. By adding two or three point lights around your model you can control how much each part of your model is exposed. If you want a ‘darker’ looking theme then you could drop the lighting down so that it is shooting up on the face of the character. Alternatively, you could use a nice 3 point-lighting setup.
Use multiple lights to bring your scene to life.
Introducing the sun!
This light is cool. You can either use the add menu to create a sun object or you can select an existing light and use the properties panel to change it over to a ‘Sun’ type. You’ll see familiar properties such as ‘Color’ and ‘Strength’ (Was ‘Power’ in the Point light type). Note that moving the light won’t affect its intensity. To adjust the direction of shadows from the light simply use the ‘Angle’ property.
The sun light gives you a quick lighting solution with nice light and nice shadows.
The humble Spot Light
The Spot light emits a cone-shaped beam of light from the tip of the cone, in a given direction. This is a more advanced version of the Point light with many similar properties. This light gives you much more control on where the light is cast though. Rather than it shining in all directions you can ensure that it casts in a specific direction enabling you to bring out specific parts of your scene. Under the ‘Spot Shape’ rollout you can adjust the ‘Size’ which is really the angle of the cone. The ‘Show cone’ check box in there is super helpful for seeing where your light is casting.
Use the Spot Light to focus your light in a specific part of your scene.
The Spot Light continued
The cone of the spot light has some inner beauty though(!) in that on top of adjusting the size of the overall cone you can also adjust its inner cone. This inner cone determines when the light being emitted begins to blur or soften. The ‘Blend’ property is found in the ‘Spot Shape’ rollout and the larger the value the more blurred the edges of your spot light will be.
Increase the Blend value to give you a softer light.
The Area Light
This light is probably my favorite. Why, you ask?! Every light obviously has its purpose but I love this light in particular because of the beautiful soft shadows that it creates! This type of light emits its light from a surface rather than a point. This type of light is particularly useful if you want to re-create a studio soft box or have a custom type of light coming in through a window. You can change the Color and Power as you can with all the lights. On top of that you can change the shape of this light using one of the presets.
The area light produces beautifully soft shadows.
Multiple area lights
If you’re creating product visuals then you’ll want to use multiple area lights to re-create the soft box lights in your studio. Having two lights at the front of your object and one behind will replicate the classic 3-point lighting setup. Each light can be moved around in the scene and its Power adjusted to create just the right look.
Create a 3-point lighting setup using area lights.
This is beyond the scope of this series on Blender but it is possible to animate your lights so that they change over time. This could include their position, direction, strength, color, and so on. Animating of lights is particularly effective when doing a time-lapse for example.
Planning your lighting setup
We’ve utilized a fairly simple lighting setup for our Iron Man model but however complex your lighting solution is, you’ll want to plan ahead. Think about the feelings you want to invoke in those enjoying your work. Consider how you want the light to fall and whether you want it to be harsh or soft. Answering questions like these will help you identify the type of lights you want to use, where they should be located and what properties they need to have.
Plan your lighting setup to save time during the creation process.
We’ve taken a few minutes in this part of the series to cover the four basic light types. Each light comes with its own set of properties and you’ll want to be familiar with each one’s pros and cons so that you can make the right choice every time. With this knowledge up your sleeves you can create simple and complex lighting setups.
Read the previous parts to this 12 part tutorial
- Building Iron Man out of Lego in Blender Part 1: interface and navigation
- Building Iron Man out of Lego in Blender Part 2: modeling basics - object creation
- Building Iron Man out of Lego in Blender Part 3: scene organization
- Building Iron Man out of Lego in Blender Part 4: modeling basics - object editing
- Building Iron Man out of Lego in Blender Part 5: Advanced modeling – modifiers
- Building Iron Man out of Lego in Blender Part 6: Advanced modeling – curves
- Building Iron Man out of Lego in Blender Part 7: finishing touches
- Building Iron Man out of Lego in Blender Part 8: creating your materials
- Building Iron Man out of Lego in Blender Part 10: Setting up your cameras
- Building Iron Man out of Lego in Blender Part 11: Rendering
- Building Iron Man out of Lego in Blender Part 12: Post-production