This Daz3d Iray Lighting Tutorial will teach you everything about creating realistic lighting for your your render.
If you prefer watching a video see below, otherwise keep reading.
Lighting sometimes can be the main asset of your scene and render. Almost always good lighting can improve your scene in every way. You can emphasize the advantages of your scene and remove attention from disadvantages with the light. And your scene can’t be realistic without good lighting.
Let’s compare the render that used only the default lighting:
And scene that we lighted with the use of techniques from this article:
You can clearly see how flat the first picture looks compared to the second. It is bland and absolutely not interesting. And the only difference between the two renders are the lighting.
That is why we decided to make this article. Article, where we will look into all of the basics of lighting setups. You will learn about Environmental lighting and HDRIs especially. And about the most known lighting setup – three point lights.
We are going to work on a simple scene for beginners. This means anyone can follow this article as Daz3d Iray Lighting Tutorial. We will only use free assets that are available for everyone with installed Daz Studio. About products that you can buy to help you with lighting setups you can read at the end of this article.
A good starting point for this daz3d iray lighting tutorial would be to find in the Render Settings menu right at the bottom the “Auto Headlamp” option and to turn it off. Headlamp is the lights everything you look into on the viewport. And this even shows on renders. After setting it no “never” everything would be dark. But that is exactly what we want, because we are going to light a scene ourselves.
First of all, let’s look at the environmental lighting. Environmental lighting is something that adds an environment to your scene. And your scene would obey the laws of this environment. For example, you can add sun and sky. Obviously this will make your scene lit like it is outside.
Everything about environmental lighting can be found in the Render Settings menu under “Environment” tab. We already looked into environmental settings in our article about Render Settings in Daz Studio..
Sun and Sky Settings
At the beginning of this daz3d iray lighting tutorial, let’s look into the Sun and Sky settings and how to set up them yourself. Firstly, let’s create the simple scene without any lights. Everything used here can be found in Daz Studio right after install for free.
Scene, that we are going to light up (headlamp used)
All the Sun-Sky settings in the environment menu have their name start with SS(sun-sky). If you look at them, you can see that it is possible to choose the longitude and latitude of the real place in the world. Also to choose the time. And Daz Studio then will simulate the position of the sun at that time in that place. It is an interesting thing. But it’s quite hard to just place the sun at the position where you want it. It will need some fiddling with all the numbers and sliders. So this setting is not an optimal way to set up the sun.
A better alternative would be to create the sun yourself. And it is quite easy to do so too. Firstly you need to create an object that will play the role of the sun. The best object for this role is the Null object, basically nothingness as object. You can find it in Create > New Null. After that you simply need to choose this object as the sun in the Environment menu, under SS Sun Node.
Then you just need to move this object wherever you want it, and it would move the sun on your scene. Place it lower so it would simulate the sunset or sunrise, higher for noon. Simple.
Other available settings for the Sun-Sky would be changing the horizon height and its blurinnes. But the more important one would be “SS Haze”. It controls how hazy the weather and the default is set to 0. Note that the sky is never absolutely clear, so it would be unrealistic. This means that it is a good idea to set it to a 1 or higher every time. Also haziness controls sharpness of the shadows. Hazier the the sky – softer the shadows.
In the screenshot you can see how our scene has changed when we added the sun. You can check used settings on the left. Also notice the position of the Null object that is playing the sun(in green circle).
HDRI (Image Based Lighting).
There is a much simpler way to add environmental lighting to your scene. That is an image based environmental lighting. And it’s called High Dynamic Range Images or just HDRI.
HDRI is a 360° image that contains info about the environment and its lighting. So any source of light from the picture, be it sun or softbox, also would illuminate your render. Imagine that your scene is transported into place from the picture. That is basically HDRI.
There is a default HDRI just from get go available in the Daz Studio. To find it you should use the “Environment map” option.
Just click on the left arrow and find the “DTHDR-RuinsB-500.hdr” in the drop-down menu. This will add the HDRI and override all of the other environment options we made. Even the sun that we added as a null object.
Here how our daz3d iray lighting tutorial scene looks with the default HDRI and its settings:
This added lights to our scene and they are quite soft, though overall not looking too good. Maybe if we added lights ourself, it could work. But right now let’s try to find a better HDRI. It is not very hard, you can easily find them on the internet. Some are even free.
For this daz3d iray lighting tutorial we are going to use assets from the HDRI Haven website. We plan to make a warm colored scene, like a sunset. After a little search, we have found the HDRI that should work well with our scene. We chose this image called “the sky is on fire”. You can download HDRIs in different resolutions, the higher the resolution, the better it would work. But beyond 4k it is not a big difference, so we chose 4k resolution.
Here is the result of adding this image based lighting. Render looks much better than previous examples. You can clearly tell that it is supposed to be sunset there, lighting is very warm.
Just adding the environmental map is not all. One should also look at the settings. Mainly things like “Environment intensity”, “Environment Lighting Resolution” and “Dome rotation”.
First one is simple, if your HDRI is too dull or too bright for you – then change it to compensate. Lighting Resolution is making shadows sharper on lower numbers or softer on higher. Good idea would be just to match this setting to your HDRI resolution. Lastly, “Dome Rotation” is for rotating your HDRI image relatively to the scene. In our example we rotated the HDRI a bit, to make lighting more orange, because in other rotations it even can be blue.
Three Point Lighting
So far we figured out the environmental lighting and HDRIs in this daz3d iray lighting tutorial. Now let’s add some light sources ourselfs. Notice that HDRIs and added lights work together. And we are adding them to aid our scene and not to override the image based lighting. But for clarity of tutorial, we are going to turn off our environmental lighting for now.
In this daz3d iray lighting tutorial we are going to use the most recognized lighting technique – three point lighting. This setup is the most popular lighting setup that is used in all kinds of media such as films, theatres, photography and even 3d renders. Main advantage is that by using three separate lights in different positions, you have a lot of control over the illuminations of the subject. So it can easily be adapted to a lot of different cases.
Standard setup for three-point lighting – source Wikipedia
First of all, we need to add light to the scene. To do this, just press the “Create a new Spot Light” button on the panel. Or go to the Connect > New Spotlight 
We are using only the Spotlight option because other lights don’t work so well with the Iray. Also spotlights are the best choice for Three-point setup anyway.
After you create a light, you will need to place it in the right place. First option would be to move the light just like any other object on the scene. Meaning, either with the Parameters menu or the Translate tool.
Another, objectively better option, would be to change your view to the light and control it like a camera. For this just choose it in the top right corner of your viewport.
After placing the light, you will definitely need to change its parameters. Simply because default parameters are too low, so your picture would be way too dark
You can find the light parameters menu on the right side of the interface, under the “Lights” section. Or, as any other window, you can open it from the Window > Panes from the top bar.
We are especially interested in the settings for the size of the light, its strength(Luminous Flux) and temperature.
Changing the Height and Width of the light source works just as it would in a real life studio. Bigger the light – softer the shadows. Though, you would need to compensate for size with the strength. But this is not a real world, so it is just a matter of changing some numbers.
Luminous Flux or Lumen, though sounds unusual, in reality just controls the strength of the light. Higher number – more light is produced from the lamp. As we already discovered, the default setting of 1500 is an extremely low number for this. To make your light noticeable it should be at least 10000 lumens.
Temperature of your lamp controls the color of the light. If you lower the number, your light becomes “warmer”. Meaning its colors are now closer to orange and yellow. On the other hand, higher numbers make colors “colder”. In other words, it becomes really snow-white with a tint of blue. You can change the temperature to 0. Then your light would be without any coloration, just plain white.
Guide to lights temperature – source PhotographyPro; White Balance Explained
Setting the Three Point Lighting Yourself
After this first part of the daz3d iray lighting tutorial you should now understand how to add source lights to your scene. As well as how to change their parameters. This means you know everything you need to set the three-point lighting up on our scene.
Setup consists of the main light – Key light also Fill light and Back light. First, and usually the most important comes the Key light.
Key light is a primary light source of your scene, meaning strongest. Usually it is placed in front of the target. But at a small angle, most commonly at 45 degrees. This implies that it will illuminate only one side.
There are no strict rules about placing the Key light. As long as it is in front of the target. Where and how you place your key light will affect the placements of other two sources.
In the screenshot you can see where we placed our key light and its properties. We have made it a rectangular and much bigger from default to soften the shadows. Changed Lumens all the way up to 400000 to compensate for its size. And since we plan to have a sunset scene, we changed the temperature to 4250. It gave a warm orange color that will match the theme
Here is the result render of this setup. Only Key lighting is present. Notice how dark all the shadows are. We almost can’t see part of the face and other details of our character.
Second source that we need to set is the Fill light. Main purpose is to complement the key light. As we saw from the screenshot, when we have only one light source, we will get really rough and dark shadows. To improve this situation one should place the fill light
Common placement for the fill light would be also in front of the subject at a small angle. It should just be the opposite side to your key light. This allows us to bring out details that were lost in shadows.
You don’t need to match the angle of fill light to the key light. As you can see in the screenshot, we placed it closer and at a bit another angle. You can make your scene asymmetrical. Though sometimes a symmetrical look can give a really even and polished look.
Other properties that we changed: made the same size as Key light and also rectangular. Reduced the spread angle to 40. Changed the strength down to 90000 because it is closer to subject and has lower spread, so we need less lumens to achieve needed effect. Usually you want you fill light at 50-70% of your key light strength. But depending on the situation it can be even lower, as in our case. Lastly we made temperature 3800, so it is even warmer than the fill light.
Last, but not least is Back Light. Also sometimes called rim light. Its objective is to add dimension to your scene. Since two other lights both illuminate the front of your subject, making it look a bit flat. Adding a third light that lights the back – will improve the situation and add volume.
Usually back light is placed on the same side as the key light. The difference would be that this light should be at the back, instead of the front. In other words, it would be right in front of the fill light, aimed at each other.
Back light is the weakest from all three strength wise. But in our example its lumens match the fill light, because fill light is closer to subject and has lower spread, so overall it is stronger. Also back light does not need to be that big, so we made it half the size of others. Last main thing is the temperature. To add more details and to make your subject stand up more, you might want to make the temperature opposite to other lights. As in our scene front lights are warm, that means we are making back light – cold colored.
This is how our scene looks with all three lights present. There are no pure black shadows that lose details because of the fill light. And notice the glare on the left hand and hair from the back light. Though the background is a bit dark. One might want to add more lights to improve on that. But we don’t need to do this, because we will have an HDRI.
Other Information About Three Point Lighting
You might want to add more than 3 lights, while still using the main techniques from the three point lighting setup. For example, you can add one light that points on the background if it is too dark. In our case HDRI will light everything good enough, so we don’t need to have more lights. Besides, each light source makes renders quite longer.
Depending on your goals, you can use less than 3 lights too. For example, use only the key and back lights to make a dramatic scene, where half of the object will be in the shadow. Or you can compensate for other lights with the use of HDRI.
Indoors lighting. Is it any different from outside lighting? Not really, all the main aspects still apply. Only difference you might want to think about is the placement of lights. You can match the lights to your scene. For example, place a big light just behind the window to simulate the sun coming through. Also might want to place lights in places, where there would be lights in the room, like from the center of the ceiling.
Add-On Products beyond this Daz3d Iray Lighting Tutorial
In this daz3d iray lighting tutorial we are making a scene with the use of only free assets available in the Daz Studio. But one of the main advantages of this software is that you can download more assets at any time. And these assets can and probably will improve your experience with different aspects of the Daz Studio.
We are going to look into a couple of different products that are directed into working with lighting. We will inform you about HDRIs, Lighting setups and other products.
- HDRIs. As we said earlier, you can easily find a lot of HDRIs on the internet. Some are even free. The problem with using free HDRI is that absolutely everybody has access to it and can use it. So there is a good chance that your scene is not that unique. That is why it can be a fine idea to buy HDR images, so it would be less accessible to everyone. Also HDRIs from Daz3d Shop are made with Daz Studio in mind and will have some advantages.
- First is the Studio Light PRO Iray HDRI – 180 Maps. It is a set of 180 different HDR images. These images simulate studio settings and studio lights. So if you want your characters to look like studio models – it is a perfect choice.
Examples of differently lighted images – source Studio Light Pro 180 maps
- Second goes product from the same author as the last one. Called Studio Light PRO HDRI Wow Lights. This pack offers 96 designed HDRIs, 3 backgrounds and, most importantly, one soft and intense light with movable backlight.
Robot lighted with the studio light – source Studio Light PRO HDRI Wow Lights
- One more product from the Studio Light Pro collection – Studio Light PRO Iray HDRI – Soft Light. Similar to previous ones, this set offers you a lot of different custom HDRIs with studio lighting. Main difference is that these environments provide a very soft lights that result in smooth shadows.
Lighting comparison – source Studio light Pro – Soft lighting
- Previous products simulated studio lights. But what if your scene is set outside and you need real-life lighting from the sky and sun? Well Iray HDRI Hazy Sunsets and Desert is exactly what you need then. Set includes 6 render presets for Iray that show sunsets and sunrises. These environmental maps would be perfect for the scene we made in this tutorial.
Pink sunset scene – source HDRI Hazy Sunsets and Desert
- Last product in the HDRI section is the Iray HDRI Toolkit. It is a bit different, as it is not a set of presets or images. This product is a tool that lets you simulate interactions with HDRIs. To clarify, when you place something in the HDRI, it looks like it floats in the air without shadows or reflections. This toolkit allows you to change that.
Toolkit in action with the setup – source Iray HDRI Toolkit.
- Lighting and scene setups. This is not too different from the HDRIs. The difference is that these products are not only environmental lighting presets. They are whole scenes.
- First good example would be the iRadiance. Particularly iRadiance – Light Probe HDR Lighting for Iray – Expansion 5. It includes 90 HDR Based Render Presets. They are .DUF files that you can open and will have a full scene ready for you. 45 of the presets have Directional Light, the other half – Soft Light.
Scene made with the iRadiance – source iRadiance Expansion 5
- Iray HDR Magix Fashion Lights. Similar to the Studio Light collection, this product is aimed at the studio lighting. Main difference is that here you can receive not only the environmental maps, but the whole scenes that you can alter.
Studio lighted scene – source Iray HDR Magix Fashion Lights
- Last scene setup collection is a bit different. Inside Linday’s Daz Studio Iray Scenes. It provides the user with the 9 fully done scenes. Characters, cameras, lights, objects, textures and everything you would need for a render – is already done. These scenes were made by a professional Daz3D artist. Goal is that the user could use these scenes to learn how to create something similar himself. Or change some things up and come up with your own render based on these scenes.
Bathroom Chill Out – source Inside Linday’s Daz Studio Iray Scenes
- Other useful products which do not belong to other groups.
- First we are going to mention ghost lights collection. These are the sets of different volumetric lights. Volumetric lights are invisible lights that light your scene without a visible light source. Especially useful in lighting the indoor areas. Collection consists of the first, second and newest, third iteration of Ghost lights. Obviously, newest is more advanced, but previous versions are cheaper and still are pretty good.
Volumetric lighting comparison – source Ghost Light Kit
- Iray Distance Fog. Simply gives the ability to add fog. By default Iray has a similar function, but it is much more expensive to render. Also this tool allows a lot more customizations than the default one.
Foggy city – source Distance Fog
- Similar to the Ghost lights, we have an Iray Light Probe Kit. This product allows users to set up omni-directional, invisible, ambient lights. Main use is to illuminate areas that may be problematic for Iray by itself. Also this lights lower render times.
Scene with Light Probes and without – source Iray Light Probe Kit
- Last product for this article is the Iray Light Manager PRO. Important to know that it is not just a light set or HDRI pack. This is one of the most useful light tools available for the Daz Studio at the moment. With Light Manager you can control any lights on your scene in a single interface.
Example of how Light Manager works – source Iray Light Manager PRO
Daz3d Iray Lighting Tutorial -Conclusion
In this article we tried to explain all the main aspects about the lighting in the Daz Studio. Talked about environmental lighting and especially HDRIs. Explained what three-point lighting is and how to use it properly. And at the end put all this information in use to produce this final scene:
As you can see, when we combined the HDRI and three-point lighting, we received a warm-colored scene with a tint of pink sunset. There are no too dark shadows, our character stands out from the background and feels voluminous.
In conclusion, we want to say that proper lighting techniques come from experience. So don’t worry if your scene does not look that good or you are having problems. Just try more and some day you will be the expert and create the perfect daz3d iray lighting setup. To speed up this process you can also try to use the products that we reviewed in this article.
For future have a look also at our Daz3d Render Settings article, Daz Night Render Tutorial, Daz3D Emissive Lights, Daz dForce review and many beautiful 3d assets such as the Top 11 Car 3d Models.