This page provides a step-by-step introduction to lighting an exterior nighttime scene in V-Ray for Rhino.

Page Contents



In this tutorial we’ll go over lighting techniques for an evening architectural exterior scene using both V-Ray’s Sun and Sky System, as well as Image Based Lighting with a High Dynamic Range Image with a Dome light.

To follow this tutorial, you will need to have the V-Ray for Rhino plugin installed. This tutorial page is a companion that goes with the QuickStart video posted on our YouTube channel, and is available here:







Tutorial Assets

To download the files used in this tutorial, please click on the button below. This Rhino scene is provided by Matúš Nedecký.

Tutorial Steps

Open the Example Scene

Begin by launching Rhino. Open the project file QS_03B_Night.3dm, which can be downloaded from the Tutorial Assets section above. The scene setup to use the default Rhino lighting using an HDRI for the illumination.




Launch the Asset Editor from the V-Ray Toolbar.




In the Settings tab, turn on Material Override. This allows you to judge the lighting by itself with a simple gray material assigned to everything in the scene.




Expand the options below the Render icon and choose Render with V-Ray Interactive to launch an Interactive Render.




The V-Ray Frame Buffer (VFB) opens as the house render resolves with that default Rhino lighting.




Setting up the V-Ray Sun and Sky System

In the Rhino UI, click on the Options gear icon.




Select Sun from the list.




In the Sun Options, enable the Sun with the On check box.




The VFB updates, showing more light in the scene.




To add the V-Ray Sky, we need to remove the current HDRI first. In the Asset Editor, expand the Environment section and right-click on the Map icon for Background. Choose Clear to get rid of the existing default HDRI environment.




Click on the Map icon.




Select the Sky texture from the list, then click Back.




This creates a nice sunny day.




To create a night scene, return to the Sun Options change the Time to about 9:30pm.




The VFB updates:




General Lighting with V-Ray Sphere Lights

Stop the Interactive render using the Stop button in the VFB.




In the viewport, switch to the Top view.




Middle mouse click in the viewport, and then right-click on the Display Mode icon to switch to the Wireframe viewport.




The scene should look like the image below, in the viewport:




In the V-Ray Toolbar’s V-Ray Lights tab, click the Sphere Light icon.




Inside the top room of the house, click to place a sphere light in the scene and click again to define its size. Click the light to select it.




At the bottom of the Rhino UI, bellow the viewport, enable the Gumball option.




This allows you to duplicate the light by holding the Alt key and dragging the light in the scene. Make a duplicate of the light near the dining room table.




Alt click and drag two more times and place these lights at the other side of the house.




With all four lights selected, adjust their positioning as needed. Then hold down Alt, and drag over four additional duplicates to the right toward the front of the house.




Select all eight lights and group them together under Edit > Groups > Group or the shortcut Ctrl + G. This allows you to change properties on just one of the lights, and have it propagate to the other lights in the group. You wouldn’t want to do this if you wanted more individual control of the lights inside the house.




Go to the Right view and adjust the height of the lights, bringing them up toward the ceiling.




When the positioning is satisfactory, switch back to the Render_Camera_Night view. Start an Interactive render by pressing the Render with V-Ray Interactive button in the V-Ray Toolbar.




Notice that nothing changed! This is because the material override is affecting the glass, and thus blocking the lights inside the house.




In the Material tab of the Asset Editor, select the Glass_Tinted_Blue material.




Open the properties section by clicking the arrow on the right edge of the Asset Editor. Open the Options rollout and uncheck Can be Overridden to get the glass material back in the scene.




Stop the Interactive render and then restart the render to see the material update.




In the Lights tab of the Asset Editor, select any one of the sphere lights. Expand the properties and set a yellowish Color (RGB: 254, 233, 194) for this light.




Notice all the other lights in the group adopt that change. That is one of the advantages to grouping lights.




Set the Intensity to 500 and under Options, make it Invisible.




The light gets stronger while the sphere shape of the lights disappears.




If we zoom into this part of the image, the sphere shape of the light is still visible in a reflection.




To fix this, click the Region render button in the VFB and draw a region around the left window of the house. The interactive render will only update this portion of the image now.




In the Sphere Light settings, under the Options rollout, disable Affect Reflections.




This will hide the light source from reflections as well.




Click the Region render button again to disable it. Here is the scene so far:




Setting up IES Lights

Stop the Interactive render. Return to the shaded view and zoom in to better see the podlights by the windows. These are perfect for using IES lights.




To position the lights easier, go back to the Top view and set the view to wireframe. Adjust the view to get closer to the podlights.




In the V-Ray Toolbar, click the IES Light icon.




Click once to place it in the scene. Click again to define its diameter and once more to define its angle. You will need to switch to the Right view in the middle of creating it so you can set the height up into the overhang. Move it down to just below the podlight geometry.





Make two duplicates and place them at the other podlight locations. Group the IES Lights together, to make it easier to update them simultaneously. Move them down so they are just below the podlight geometry.




In Lights tab of the Asset Editor, select the first light. In the parameters, enable Override Intensity. This allows you to specify the brightness value and override the prescribed value from the IES profile. Set Intensity to 1000 lumens.




Click the icon for the IES Light File option to load the IES profile IES_TS_01.ies, which is provided in the downloadable assets.




Notice these changes propagated to all three lights in the group. Return to the Render_Camera_Night view and start an Interactive Render with the Render with V-Ray Interactive button.




As the render resolves, notice that the IES lights are not very visible. Increase the light Intensity to 100,000 and their profiles become visible on the wall.




Setting up the Final Render

In the Layers, enable the BG_Plate to put a geometry plane in the background with an image to fill out the background.




In the Geometry tab of the Asset Editor, select the Grass. Set its Distribution Per area parameter to 0.005 to enable some grass on the ground plane.




In the Settings tab, turn off the Material Override.




Turn off Interactive and Progressive to enable the final rendering of our night scene. In the Render Output rollout, set the Dimensions to 1280x720. Of course, set your Quality and render output dimensions according to your system’s comfort level, as this render will take a bit of time.




Now select the Render with V-Ray icon.




When the render completes, this is the final result:




Post-Production Tools

In the VFB, click the Show Corrections Control button to work on adjusting the final image.




Start with adjusting the Curve, so you can add a lot more contrast for the night, boosting the highend more than usual.




Set Color Balance to Shadows to add blue to the dark values.




Then push the Highlights toward the warms for a great contrast.




Next, add vibrancy by boosting Saturation overall.




Now, click the Lens Effects button.




Add a Bloom Effect for a photographic feel.




Adjust these values as you prefer, and you’re all set.




To save your image, use the Save button in the VFB.


Lighting with a V-Ray Dome Light

Now let’s try a different approach and use an HDR to light the scene. First, turn off all the color corrections in the VFB by unchecking them. Turn off the BG_Plate in the Layers tab.




In the Geometry tab of the Asset Editor, select the Grass. In its properties, set the Distributions Per Area value to 0.0 to get rid of the grass.




In the Settings tab, set the Dimensions back to 960x540 in the Render Output rollout.




Then enable the Material Override.




Start an Interactive Render.




The scene is back to the sun and sky lighting from before.




In the Environment section, turn off the Background to get rid of the sky lighting contribution.






In the Lights section, disable the Rhino Document Sun.




This leaves the scene with just the sphere and IES lights. In the V-Ray Toolbar, click to create a Dome Light and place it in the scene.




In the file dialog that pops up, choose the default HDR file, Default Dome Light Texture.exr, for the environment. The scene returns to day.




If you decrease the Intensity in the Lights tab to 0.5 the scene gets only a little darker, but set it to 0.05 to make it much more night-like.




Select the dome light in Rhino and rotate it to change the orientation of the cloudy sky to taste.




Here, we will set it to nice late night look.




Stop the Interactive render.




Turn on the BG_Plate in the Layers tab.




In the Geometry tab, turn the Grass back on by setting its Distributions Per face value of 0.005.




In the Settings, increase your resolution as you prefer. For this example, A resolution of 1280x720 is used. Next, turn off the Material Override as well as the Interactive and Progressive options.




Press Render to start the final render. Here is the result:




Enable the Show Corrections Control and turn on the corrections from before. Feel free to tweaks settings as you’d like.




When you are satisfied, open the Lens Effects and turn on the Bloom Effect.




Here is our final image:




Now that you have a grasp of lighting workflow basics, you will want to motivate lights inside the house with lamps or other architectural details like we have for the pod lights for a more realistic look.