thought dump revolving around art+tech

lessons in lighting

Recently, I took a dive into lighting in UE5 over the course of 10?ish weeks under the guidance of Peter Tran. WARNING: Image heavy post…just for this post, I’m adding post truncation to the site.

First Attempt

For my first delve into studying lighting, I took the old Elemental scene and did two lighting scenes. The goal was primarily to do something that looked different with it and to familiarize myself with the tools available to me in UE5. In particular, I experimented a bit with volumetric lighting and getting some nice light shafts. I also played with the skybox a lot for the first outside image and it was very interesting to try to get a nice sense of depth without losing immersion by manually tweaking blur to emulate depth of field. In this case, I think I would have preferred the mountains to be less clear while not losing too much detail on the clouds, even if that isn’t super physically right I suppose. For the second image, in hindsight, the bottom right corner is a little too dark, but I liked the mood of this scene.

Second Wind

This time, I spent a ton of time brainstorming on what kind of project I could do. I browsed through Artstation and decided to pick my favorite artists and do a top-down lighting like in Dota2 or League of Legends.


I struggled a lot to find my next footing. I was changing my point of view and thinking hard about composition, camera angles, and drawing out a scene. But I had difficulty breaking down the ideas of composition between composing with shapes in lighting, and being able to arrange the scene in 3D with geometry. It was kind of like a choice overload, thinking about composition with the pure geometry while simultaneously brainstorming ideas on how to light the scene. I wanted to go for something cinematic, but had a lot of trouble finding the specific direction.

I think it was important to have this struggle. It means that I’m improving and learning to see something differently. But that doesn’t mean it’s not painful! It felt super bad to be in that spot. So I decided to move on and do something that I really wanted to create.

I had this vision for a really long time and had collected all sorts of references over the course of several months. Coming from Singapore, I wanted to do something that was like a greenhouse, but in a solarpunk world.

I spent a super long time on this and it still isn’t done - I want to try the new lighting on foliage that was released. Lumen Backside Illumination for Two-Sided Foliage was released in the UE5-Main branch, which means that Lumen now scatters indirect light through foliage. Plus, I have a few more ideas for this environment, like a moody, abandoned vibe, or underwater, a night time, etc. So I will take my time with this one and kind of make a little progress on it every now and then.

I will make a separate post about it as I go!

Moving forward

Beyond that, I went on do one more lighting exercise which was to light a scene with the character as a focus. I took some inspiration from Liam Wong’s photographs and threw together some assets from the Unreal asset store. You can see the final work on my artstation here!

I think I have learnt so much from this. I actually wanted to learn a lot more about the technical side of things, but I think I gained much more than that by growing a lot as an artist and re-learning how to make art, how to make good images, and improve my eye for lighting.