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How to Use Overlays in Lumion

By default, Lumion renders with an aspect ratio of 16:9 which is perfect for many traditional applications.

Image Title 'How to Use Overlays in Lumion

In this article, we’re going to take a look at how we can use overlays to get more out of our Lumion renders, allowing us to customize our approach in order to suit a variety of aspect ratio’s and compositions.


What are Lumion Overlays?

Simply put, overlays are transparent images that are applied to our renders during the production process in Lumion. These images act as a template that can be used to define a specific area in our 16:9 image that can later be cropped using an image editor.

Image showing a bathroom design by Graya Construction. Rendered in Lumion by The Lumion Collective.

So why would we want this? Well, although the standard 16:9 aspect ratio is great for traditional horizontal uses it doesn’t translate well to other platforms such as Instagram which uses specific aspect ratios for images.

Similarly, these same requirements apply to other uses such as this blog. Which sometimes requires specific formats when displaying images within an article.

Now the usual workflow for this is to render the image using the traditional 16:9 aspect ratio and then crop that image in a way that suits the required format.

The problem with this is that by cropping a portion of a horizontal image it’s likely that we’ll lose some of the elements in the scene that may otherwise be important to the overall composition of the render.

Take this render from the Farnsworth scene as an example.

Image showing a 3D render of Farnsworth house by The Lumion Collective.
Original 16:9 Lumion Render

The original render uses a 16:9 aspect ratio which perfectly frames a perspective shot of the building. It provides ample room on either side of the subject, as well as a reasonable amount of negative space above the building.


Image showing a cropped 3D render of Farnsworth house by The Lumion Collective.
4:5 Crop of Original Render

Now if I were to render scene and crop it down to a 4:5 aspect ratio (perfect for Instagram), I start to run into some issues with the composition.

Parts of the building now sits out of the frame and the entire image feels much more cluttered than in the original composition.

This look may work in some cases, however, it's far more efficient to have some idea of how the image composition will look prior to rendering out the image.

This is where Overlays come in.

With an overlay applied, I can use the boundaries of our new aspect ratio as a guide to help create a more balanced composition. I can re-position the scene slightly to better align all aspects into the correct aspect ratio. This gives me a more balanced vertical composition that is guided by the overlay boundaries.

In doing this, I can render the scene with the overlay applied and then use the black squares as an outline for where to crop the image so that it will be perfect when used in a vertical format.


How Do We Apply Overlays?

Applying an overlay in Lumion is a fast and easy process. To do this, we need to have access to a PNG image that has our subject area, that is, the area that we want to show in our final image, as transparent.

Image showing a semi-transparent template image by The Lumion Collective.
4:5 Template Image

This essentially creates a window for us to look through when composing our image in Lumion.

With our PNG template ready, we’re able to import this into Lumion. To set this up, simply move into photo mode and apply the “Image Overlay” Effect.

Image showing Lumion Image Overlay Effect by The Lumion Collective.
Select Image Overlay Effect

This will allow you to import an image that is then applied over your camera view-port.

From here, select the ‘Choose File…’ function, and then select your preferred overlay.

Image showing Lumion software dialogue box by The Lumion Collective.
Select Desired Overlay Image

The overlay will then be applied to your scene and can be used when composing your render!

Image showing Lumion software dialogue box by The Lumion Collective.
4:5 Aspect Ratio Overlay Added

With the overlay now applied, we’re also able to adjust the Opacity of our overlay image. This can be useful when exploring compositions as it allows you to stay aware of what’s in the frame and what’s not.

Image showing Lumion software dialogue box by The Lumion Collective.
Use the opacity adjustment to make more transparent

Once the overlay is in place, we can adjust the render to suit the composition we desire.

Image showing Lumion software dialogue box by The Lumion Collective.
Camera adjusted to suit new image.

Image of Farnsworth house Rendered in Lumion 12 by The Lumion Collective
Final Cropped Image with New Composition!

Now it’s just a matter of cropping the image to size using the overlay as a border for the final render.

This can be done in almost any image editing software, or if you’re using the image on a social media platform, these often have cropping capabilities integrated.

We now have a composition that has been tailored to suit a unique aspect ratio and can make full use of the scene we've built.

This is a perfect way to get more out of every render that you create in Lumion!


Free Overlay Pack!

Cover Image for Lumion Overlay Pack by The Lumion Collective

To help make this process a little easier, I’ve put together a free overlay pack that includes a handful of my most commonly used Overlays. As well as the Aspect Ratio overlays mentioned above, you’ll also have access to a series of composition overlays that make use of popular compositional rules.

To use these, simply follow the same process as listed above and import the overlay you wish to use from the downloaded library.

These overlays are semi-transparent, which makes it easy to frame your image using some of the most commonly used compositional guides.

Image showing Lumion interface with Golden Ratio Overlay Applied. Image by The Lumion Collective.
Golden Ratio Overlay Example

To download the pack, click here to check out my Gumroad. If you'd like the pack for free simply enter '$0' in the price and follow the prompts to download!


There we have it! That’s how you can use the Overlay effect in Lumion to quickly and easily compose your images in a variety of different ways.

These are great tools to implement if you’re sharing renders that require unique compositions and aspect ratios, or if you’re looking for a little extra guidance when composing your scenes.

As always, head over to The Lumion Collective facebook page where I'll be available to discuss any questions you might have about the information here, or anything Lumion related!

See you next time!


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