Lighting in Boxshot

Boxshot has two main types of lighting: environment and directional. There is a third one — omni lights, but it is rarely used and is not covered by this tutorial.

Environment Lighting

This is the main light source for any Boxshot scene. It is enabled by default for new scenes and provides the “ambient” lighting. The best analogy would be the light coming from the sky in a cloudy day: everything is lit up, but there are no shadows and you can’t point to a specific light source: the light just come from all directions. That’s the environment lighting — the lighting provided by the environment.

Boxshot uses high definition range (HDR) textures for environment lighting. Such a texture has all the lighting “baked” into an HDR image and Boxshot simply uses that image when it needs to estimate the lighting from a given direction.

Controlling Environment Lighting in Boxshot

Here are the environment light controls in Boxshot user interface:

Environment lighting controls in Boxshot

The image selector shows the currently loaded HDR environment texture and you can change it to achieve a different scene look. Boxshot comes with some built–in environment images and here we loaded a different one, so you can see the difference:

Another environment image loaded in Boxshot

Notice the book looks darker as the environment image is not that bright as the initial one. You can load your own HDR images — any HDR image in lat–long format should work. Here we loaded a different HDR image from Koru and also enabled displaying it in the background:

Third environment image in Boxshot displayed in background

The book now has a blue tint from the environment image, the environment itself is also visible as the background mode is switched to Environment.

Environment image is also used for reflections, so selecting a proper image is the key to a nice rendering. Read more about realistic rendering in this tutorial.

Environment Lighting Parameters

You can adjust the tint of environment image using the color–picker next to the file selector. This helps if you need to color the environment up say to make it warmer or colder.

The other three parameters are: Intensity, Horizontal Offset and Vertical Offset. The first one controls the brightness of the image and so lets you adjust the lighting level. The other two let you rotate the environment image around the scene to find the best highlights and shadows. They are also useful for reflective surfaces, as you can make sure the objects reflect exactly what you need.

Directional Lighting

Directional light is the light coming at a given direction and making a shadow. It is quite similar to the light made by the Sun, so its another name is “Sunlight”. It is disabled by default in Boxshot, but you can turn it on with a single click:

Enabling directional lighting in Boxshot

You can control the light direction with Height and Rotation parameters mostly to position the shadow the way you want. The next Intensity option is pretty much the same as for the environment light and lets you control the brightness of the light source.

Then goes Angular size parameter which effectively controls the shadow blur. The more it is, the softer is the shadow.

Finally, the Color parameter lets you color up the light, which is again helpful to make cold or warm effect, when needed.

Both Lights Together

As in real life, Boxshot adds up lighting coming from both environment and directional light sources when rendering scene. This means that if you enable direct lighting the scene might look too bright:

Enabling both light sources may make the scene too bright

You need to balance both lights sources using their Intensity parameters to make the lighting fit the scene. Here we reduced environment lighting to zero:

Environment lighting turned off in Boxshot

The scene is now only lit by the directional light and the shadow is completely black as there is no light sources there at all.

Shadow Intensity

You can control the shadow contrast by balancing light intensities. Here we balanced both lights to make a very light shadow:

Very light shadow in Boxshot

And here we re–balanced the lighting to make the shadow darker by increasing the directional lighting intensity and decreasing the environment lighting intensity.

More visible shadow in Boxshot

Now the shadow area gets less light and looks darker, while the front part of the book gets about the same amount of light as before. Finding the perfect balance may be tricky, but it is well worth the time spent.

That’s All

As in photography, lighting is essential for good rendering. Consider spending some time to get used to both lighting options in Boxshot to add more realism to your renderings.

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