The Dome light is a type of VRayLight that provides somewhat even lighting to a scene.


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A Dome light is a type of of  Area Light (VRayLight)  that shines inward at the scene as if from a spherical or hemispherical light source outside the scene extents. This light is frequently used for  Image-Based lighting using panoramic HDR images used as environments.



UI Paths:

Create menu > Lights > V-Ray > V-Ray Dome Light >
Click and drag in a viewport

||Create panel|| > Lights > Choose V-Ray from dropdown > VRayLight >
click and drag in a viewport > Change type to Dome

 ||V-Ray Toolbar|| > V-Ray Dome Light button >
Click and place in a viewport





Sample Use

In the images below, a dome light is positioned and is the only source of light in the render.


Dome light in the scene


Rendered image of Dome lighting




Parameters - General Rollout




On – Turns the VRayLight on and off.

Type – Specifies the shape and function of the light:

Plane – The VRayLight takes the shape of a planar rectangle. See the Plane, Disc, Sphere Light page.
Sphere – The VRayLight has the shape of a sphere. See the Plane, Disc, Sphere Light page.
Dome – The VRayLight emanates from a virtual hemispherical or spherical dome larger than the scene extents regardless of the Dome light icon's size. The light emanates from above the Z-axis of the light, where the light source actually surrounds the entire scene. Additional parameters specifically for this light are under the Dome light rollout. A dome light is commonly used with a texture to produce image-based lighting. 
Mesh – Allows the usage of any mesh object as the shape of the light. See the Mesh Light page.
Disc – The VRayLight takes the shape of a planar disc. See the Plane, Disc, Sphere Light page.

Targeted – When enabled, a separate target object is attached to the light source. This target object can be moved separately from the light source, making it easier to point the light within the scene. The value specifies the distance from the light source to the target. While any type of VRayLight can have a target, the target is truly useful only with Plane and Disc lights. This option can be changed only on the Modify panel.

Units – Specifies the light units.Using correct units is essential when you work with the Physical Camera | VRayPhysicalCamera. The light will automatically take the scene's unit scale into consideration to produce the correct result for the scale you are working with. The possible values are:

Default (image) – The color and multiplier directly determine the visible color of the light without any conversion. The light surface will appear with the given color in the final image when seen directly by the camera (assuming there is no color mapping involved).
Luminous power (lm) – Total emitted visible light power measured in lumens. When this setting is used, the intensity of the light does not depend on its size. A typical 100W incandescent light bulb emits about 1500 lms of light.
Luminance (lm/m²/sr)
 – Visible light surface power measured in lumens per square meter per steradian. When this setting is used, the intensity of the light depends on its size.
Radiant power (W)
 – Total emitted visible light power measured in watts. When using this setting, the intensity of the light does not depend on its size. Keep in mind that this is not the same as the electric power consumed by a light bulb for example. A typical 100W light bulb only emits between 2 and 3 watts as visible light. 
Radiance (W/m²/sr)
 – Visible light surface power measured in watts per square meter per steradian. When this setting is used, the intensity of the light depends on its size.

Multiplier – Multiplier for the light color, and also the light intensity for some Units settings.

Mode – Specifies the mode in which the color of the light will be determined:

Color – When this option is selected, the Color swatch specifies the color of the light rays and of the light source itself when visible in renderings. For Units settings other than Default (image), this color is normalized so that only the color hue is used. 
 – When this option is selected, the color of both light rays and the light source itself is specified by the Temperature value expressed in Kelvin.

Texture – Enables the use of a texture for the light surface. The button under this option selects the map to use. The texture intensity is also affected by the Multiplier value.

Res – Specifies the resolution at which the texture is resampled for importance sampling.


Parameters -  Dome Light Rollout




The Dome light supports texture maps that determine the amount of light coming from each direction on the virtual dome hemisphere based on HDR images. For more information, see The IBL example below.

Spherical (full dome) – When enabled, the dome light covers the entire sphere around the scene. When off (the default), the light covers a hemisphere only.

Affect alpha – When enabled, the virtual sphere on which the dome texture is mapped is visible as a solid object in the rendered image's alpha channel.

Lock texture to icon – When enabled, the texture placement on the Dome light is controlled by the rotation of the Dome light icon in the scene.

Ray Dist – Specifies the method of determining the maximum distance to which shadow rays are going to be traced.

None – Does not specify a maximum distance.
From GI Settings – The maximum distance is determined by the Ray Dist parameter in the GI settings. 
Explicit – The maximum distance is determined by the Distance parameter.

Target radius – Defines a sphere around the light icon where photons will be shot when photon-mapped caustics or the global photon map are used.

Emit radius – Defines a sphere around the light icon from which photons will be shot towards the target radius area.

Note: Using a far clipping plane on your camera will hide the light dome from being visible in the final render.




Example: IBL (Image-Based Lighting)


V-Ray uses importance sampling to trace more rays in the directions where most of the light is coming from. This ensures speed and quality that were never before possible with pure gathering GI methods.

  • Easy setup for image-based lighting (IBL).
  • Importance sampling of the dome texture for fast and clean results.
  • Support for photon mapping for fast and accurate caustic effects.

In the following example we will show how this works with a HDR image. You can reposition the texture by enabling the Lock texture to icon option in the Dome light rollout and rotating the Dome light. The background is set up as a V-Ray Bitmap Texture (VRayHDRI). 



Initial position of the Dome light. Z axis is perpendicular to the ground plane.


Rendered image




Dome icon is rotated along its Z axis by 90 degrees, causing a different part of the HDR texture to show in the rendering.


Rendered image




Dome light icon rotated by 90 degrees along X axis.

Rendered image




Now we are going to show how the HDRI parameters also can affect the rendered image. We will rotate the HDRI from within the 3ds Max Material Editor.









Rotating the HDRI to -200 degrees.


Rendered image








This time we will reduce the HDRI multiplier. Notice how the multiplier affects the overall scene lighting. We haven't changed the dome position.


Rendered image








Adding 50 degrees vertical rotation to the HDRI. See how the light and shadows have changed a lot. The highlight position is different now.


Rendered image




Example: IBL and Caustics







Activate the Caustics from the VRay Caustics rollout in the GI menu.


Rendered image








We are using a HDRI with -100 horizontal rotation.
The caustic effect is almost not visible. We will raise the multiplier to 30.0


Rendered image. Now the effect is visible, though the light's caustic subdivisions appear to be few.



 Under the system's rollout, open the Lights Settings.






Increase the light's caustic subdivs from 1500 to 15000


Rendered image. Now the effect appears to be clearer.




Set the Caustics multiplier to 30.0. Search distance 5.0 units. Max density 0.3cm





Rendered image

Rendered image





Parameters -  Options Rollout




Exclude – Opens the 3ds Max Exclude/Include window for selection of objects to be excluded or included in illumination and/or shadow-casting for this light.

Cast shadows – When enabled (the default), the light casts shadows. Turn this option off to disable shadow casting for the light.

Double-sided – This option has no effect for Dome light sources. 

Invisible – Controls whether the shape of the light source is visible in the rendered image. When this option is disabled, the light source is rendered in the color specified by the Color or Temperature setting in the Intensity rollout. This option only affects the visibility of the light when seen directly by the camera or through refractions. The visibility of the light with respect to reflections is controlled by the Affect reflections option.

Note: Regardless of whether this option is enabled, the light source will still be taken into account by Global Illumination calculations, which might cause secondary GI rays to be blocked by or bounced off the light's surface. To make the light completely invisible to GI, place a VRayColor texture map into the light's texture slot and set the alpha value for the VRayColor map to 0.0.

No decay – This option has no effect for Dome light sources.

Skylight portal – When enabled, the light behaves as a portal or conduit for the environment behind it. With this option, the light takes its intensity and color from the environment behind it rather than from the Color and Multiplier parameters. For more information, see  The Skylight, Self-Illuminated Panels and VRayLights example on the Plane, Disc, Sphere Light page.

Simple – Available only if the Skylight portal option is enabled. When this option is enabled, the portal will only use colors from the environment map and not from any scene objects behind the portal. When this option is disabled, the portal light takes its color from both the environment map and objects behind the light source. If this option is disabled, the light traces additional rays to render the objects, which might slow down the rendering. Enabling this option makes the rendering of portal lights faster.

Store with irradiance map – When enabled and Irradiance map is used as a GI engine, V-Ray will calculate the effects of the VRayLight and store them in the irradiance map file. The result is that the irradiance map is computed more slowly but the rendering takes less time. You can also save the irradiance map file and reuse it later.

Affect diffuse – Determines whether the light will affect the diffuse portion of the materials. The Multiplier value on the Intensity rollout controls the light's contribution to the diffuse portion of the materials.

Affect specular – Determines whether the light will affect the specular portion of the materials. The Multiplier value on the Intensity rollout controls the light's contribution to specular reflections.

Affect reflections – Specifies whether the light source will appear in reflections.


Parameters -  Sampling Rollout




Subdivs – This parameter is disabled by default since most users will not need local control of subdivs, however this parameter controls the number of samples V-Ray takes to compute lighting locally for this light. Lower values create more noise, but render faster. Higher values produce smoother results but take more time to render.

To activate this parameter and specify a value, use the Use local subdivs parameter under the V-Ray tab > Global DMC rollout in the Render Setup window. Note that the actual number of samples also depends on the Global DMC Settings. By default, this parameter is controlled by the Min samples parameter in the Advanced user mode of the Global DMC rollout.

Shadow bias – This value moves the shadow toward or away from the shadow-casting object (or objects). Lower values move the shadow toward the object(s) while higher values move it away. If this value is too low, shadows can "leak" through places they shouldn't, produce moire patterns or make out-of-place dark areas on meshes. If this value is too high, shadows can "detach" from an object. If the value is too extreme in either direction, shadows might not appear in the rendering at all.

Cutoff – Specifies a threshold for the light's intensity, cutting off the light's effect on a surface when it falls below this value. Lights lose intensity due to GI bouncing or decay. When light hits a surface but its intensity falls below the cutoff, the effect of the light on that surface is not computed. This can be useful in scenes with many lights, where you want to limit the effect of the lights to some distance around them or reduce computations (and thus reduce rendering time) where the light's impact is negligible. Larger values limit the light's effect on objects to a smaller area around the light source, while lower values increase the range of the light's effect. If you specify 0.0, there is no cutoff and the light will be calculated for all surfaces regardless of intensity loss. The default value is 0.001.


Parameters -  Viewport Rollout




Enable viewport shading – When enabled, the effect of the light is visible in the viewport.

Viewport wire color – When enabled, the light's wireframe is displayed in the specified color in viewports.

Icon text – Enables or disables the preview of the light name in the viewport.


Advanced Options Rollout




This option does not generally need to be changed. 

Use MIS – Enables or disables Multiple Importance Sampling for the light. When MIS is enabled (the default), the light's contribution is split between direct illumination on the one hand, and GI (for diffuse materials) or reflections (for glossy surfaces) on the other, providing both direct illumination and GI are enabled for the light. This means that portions of the light's contribution will end up in the GI render elements (or the reflection render elements respectively). In certain specific situations this is undesirable and this option can be used to always calculate the light contribution through direct illumination. For an example, see Example: Multiple Importance Sampling of Area Lights on the Mesh Light page.

Note: Disabling the Use MIS option might increase noise, especially in glossy reflections. Only disable it when you have a specific reason for doing so.



  • To enable the preview of the Dome Light illumination through the Nitrous preview in the viewport, the following windows variable has to be manually created VRAY_DOME_VIEWPORT=1
  • When the Store with irradiance map option is check on any V-Ray Light it is then no longer treated as a direct light source and will not be available within the Light Select Render Element.



Total emitted visible light power measured in lumens. When this setting is used, the intensity of the light does not depend on its size. A typical 100W incandescent light bulb emits about 1500 lms of light.