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Leveraging Lighting in Lumion

In this article, we're going to take a look at how we can leverage the light objects in Lumion to create some dramatic lighting in a scene.

Image showing lighting/render pass from The Lumion Collective

In my previous article, I discussed the ins and outs of the new Omnilights and IES features that were released as part of the Lumion 11 updates.

I think having a solid foundation of what these tools are and how to use them is key to effectively putting them into practice in your own scenes. If you haven’t yet had a chance to check that article out, I recommend taking a look there first, as it contains some great background knowledge that will help ensure that you can adapt the following methods to your scenes.

Let’s take a look at what we’re creating!

Image showing hallway from The Lumion Collective

This is a quick scene that I recently put together to show of the interesting ways that we can leverage the lighting tools in Lumion.

In this article, we’re going to break down how I went about lighting this project, what to look out for when lighting your scenes, as well as a few tips and tricks on how to get the most out of these tools.

This scene makes use of the features that were released in Lumion 11/11.3, so keep in mind you’ll need the latest version to make full use of this method.

If you’re looking for some information on lighting scenes in older versions of Lumion, definitely check out my Lighting in Lumion PDF for all the info you’ll need to get started.


The Process


When approaching the lighting for a scene, it’s important to take into consideration the overall shape and size of the space we’re trying to visualize. This almost always influences the lighting choices for the scene and can play a big part in how realistic the final result will be.

To help navigate this process and remove some of the trial and error, I like to separate the areas that will need to be lit into designated zones.

Zoning, in this process, consists of separating the space into smaller areas that we can focus on lighting individually to ensure that the light is spreading evenly, and accurately throughout the area. This zoning process differs depending on the type of lighting effects we’re attempting to achieve.

For large open spaces, the primary focus should be on creating even, well-distributed lighting that can reach the different ‘zones’ within the space.

Let’s take a look at this example that is included as part of the Lumion 11 demo scenes.

Render of Museum designed by Obravisual. Image by Lumion.
Museum - Obra Visual (Lumion Demo Scene)

The benefit of having large areas within the space is that the accuracy of light direction and overall spread is less important than what would be required in a smaller space.

Image showing render of Museum designed by Obra Visual. Image byThe Lumion Collective
Splitting the Museum into Lighting Zones

The zones in this design can be easily identified by simply following the general shapes of the interior.

Image showing lighting in Museum designed by Obra Visual. Image byThe Lumion Collective
Spotlights for Directional Lighting

Each zone has some strategically placed spotlights to provide some subtle directional lighting, and then uses Omnilights and fill Lights to help fill in areas that may appear darker.

Image showing Area Lights in Museum designed by Obra Visual. Image byThe Lumion Collective
Area Lights for Feature Lighting

In addition to this, Line lights were placed based on the architectural recesses which provide a lot of visual interest to areas that would otherwise be empty.

This is where the name of this article comes from.

Leveraging the lighting types to suit our needs in the scene is the key to making lighting appear accurate.

Let’s apply the same methods to our sample project.

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Putting it into Practice


The goals for this scene differ quite a bit when compared to the museum scene.

Rather than using light to illuminate the space, I’m going to be using lighting as a primary design feature. I decided to adopt a much harsher contrast here, emphasizing the balance between light and shadow to add some dramatic effect to the final image.

Image showing different lighting zones in a hallway scene. Image by The Lumion Collective
Identifying Different Zones in the Scene

Once again, I'll start by identifying the zones within the scene that will need to be lit. The primary focus of the lighting design here is on the left-hand side of the image (Green Zone) where we’ll be illuminating the feature wall.

This wall has a rough-textured surface which responds well to the fine-detail shadows from the spotlight objects.

Pro Tip: When using the spotlight, try to avoid reducing the light cone width. By forcibly reducing the light cone, we remove some of the lighting information from the lamp. This results in a harsh unrealistic lighting pattern.

In order to achieve the repetitive beam that extends along the wall, I decided to use the IES profile from my library called 'TLC_DisplayLight', which is perfect for small profile display lighting.

Image showing light cone angle in a hallway scene. Image by The Lumion Collective
Extending the Light Cone Angle Fully

Because this IES profile is specifically designed for this use, I’m able to extend the light cone fully, ensuring that I get the most accurate falloff as the light spreads across the surface.

Image showing spotlight refraction in a hallway scene. Image by The Lumion Collective
Notice the Refracted Light on Either Side of the Beam

As well as providing the correct fall-off and pattern that the IES profile has to offer, utilizing the entire light cone also allows the IES profile to simulate the refraction that would occur from the lamp lens itself.

This is a great way to boost the realism of the spotlights in Lumion, and make the most of the information that the IES profile contains.

Image showing spotlights in a hallway scene. Image by The Lumion Collective
Final Spotlight Placement and Brightness

By default, I like to set all spotlights to a brightness of 15 to start. This isn’t an exact science, but starting with a low value and subtly increasing this as we build up the scene will prevent us from accidentally over-lighting the image. After applying the effects, I ended up turning these lights to a brightness value of 52 which seemed to be the sweet spot in terms of contrast.

Image showing reference to render comparison in a hallway scene. Image by The Lumion Collective
Checking in with Reference Imagery

References play a huge part in this as well, and it pays to keep a collection of references close by to refer back to. I had a primary reference that I used for this image, which meant I had a very clear idea of how I wanted the end result to look based off certain elements from the original image.

Image showing feature lighting in a hallway scene. Image by The Lumion Collective
Lighting the Right-hand Side Objects

The next zone to light was the right-hand side display (Blue Zone). This includes a small floor shelf with some antiques, and a wall-hung artwork.

For the display lighting, I set these a little further from the wall so that the lamps could be angled back and down towards the wall. The result is a stronger light on the painting, and a more subtle fall-off onto the objects below. To help create a stronger shadow on the objects, I added a low brightness Omnilight between the two vases.

I used the 'TLC_ADLW150_01' profile here which has a wider light cone and a more diffused edge, allowing for a softer transition between each light. When grouped like this, the result is an interesting cluster of lights that aren’t too overpowering.

Image showing lighting in a hallway scene. Image by The Lumion Collective
Both Sides Lit with Spotlights and Omnilights

With both sides lit, I’m now able to get a clearer idea of how strong the lighting will need to be. I started by increasing the spotlights along the feature wall slightly to accentuate the shadow areas. This is further emphasized by the effects stack that I’ve created.

On the display side, I wanted to keep the lighting as subtle as possible so that the artwork and artifacts remained the primary focus. Over-lighting this area would have drawn more attention to the walls and floor which is counter to what I’m trying to achieve.

Image showing final lighting in a hallway scene. Image by The Lumion Collective
Final Light Settings for Both Walls

After tweaking these lights and effects, I was happy with how the hallway lighting was looking, however, I felt that with no lighting at the end of the hallway there was little else to direct the viewers attention to.

Image showing lighting the end of a hallway scene. Image by The Lumion Collective
Adding in some Additional Lighting to Draw the Viewers Attention

With this in mind, I decided to open the door slightly and add a glow that extended from inside. This is one of my favorite aspects of the new Omnilight. It’s as simple as dropping a single Omnilight object behind the door and all of the shadows and falloff are automatically calculated.

It’s just a matter of tweaking the brightness to get a believable ‘glow’ from behind the door.

To finalize, I added two more of the display spotlights that extend from the left-hand return.

As well as being an architectural feature, this also served a compositional purpose as it guides the viewers’ eyes towards that corner before finally meeting the door at the end.

Image showing final render in a hallway scene. Image by The Lumion Collective
Final Render of the Hallway

There we have it! The result here is a classy and dramatic use of the IES spotlights and Omnilights to create a dynamic-looking image.

The possibilities for this are essentially endless, and with literally thousands of IES profiles available online there’s always going to be a solution for any lighting need you may have in the future.

By following a zoning style that lets us identify each section of the space and light them independently, we can ensure that we don’t go overboard.


Some Extra Tips


Here's a couple of bonus tips that I use to light my scenes:

  • When using the spotlight, try to avoid reducing the light cone width. By forcibly reducing the light cone, we remove some of the lighting information from the IES profile. This results in a harsh unrealistic lighting pattern.

  • Avoid using a high brightness for any given light. Remember the goal is to have all of the lights work together to illuminate the space rather than having any single light be overpowered.

  • Use lighting to help tell a visual story as well as an architectural one. By adding an off-screen glow, or a leading line of lights, we’re able to add drama and compositional flair to an image.

  • Experiment with different IES profiles for different purposes. Using the wrong lighting type can lead to confusing and messy-looking designs that detract from the overall image.


The Freebie!

Thumbnail Image for Free Scene by The Lumion Collective

If you’d like to download this scene and try it out yourself you can find it free on the Resources section on The Lumion Collective website.

Be sure to let me know if this tutorial helped you and feel free to use the #thelumioncollective on Instagram if you’d like to share your renders, I’d love to see them!

Happy creating, and I'll see you in the next post!


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