Spice Up Your Lighting in Cycles with IES Lights

What can make your scene more interesting? It almost always comes down to lighting. A powerful and FREE way to add interesting lights in Blender is with IES lighting. The bad news first: This only works with Cycles (Sorry Eevee).

IES light files contain data that affects how light is dispersed from a light source. Real world lights are affected by the shape and thickness of the bulb, the housing around the light socket and many other factors. You can easily recreate these with IES lighting and add some realism to the lights in your scene.

The “IES” in IES Lighting stands for “Illumination Engineering Society.” Manufacturers of real-world lights (like in buildings and streetlamps) create digital files which demonstrate how light from their products is distributed. Cycles supports these files and they’re easy to use. They’re also completely free and can be used for any project, personal or commercial.

IESLibrary.com is a website that has compiled thousands of IES light files form different manufacturers, created thumbnails for them and categorized them.

To use IES lights, go to IESLibrary.com. You can browse or sort by manufacturer or search by tags (like “outdoors” or “recessed”) to find files that represent lights of all different types.

Find one you like and click on it. It’ll open up a details page. Click “Download IES” at the bottom.

A very small file will download to your computer. Now go to Blender. Change your render settings to Cycles, then add a point lamp to your scene. With the lamp selected, go to the lighting properties tab. Turn on “Use Nodes.”

Now go into your shader editor and you should see an emission shader plugged into a light output node. Press “Shift+A” to add a shader. Search for “IES Texture” or find it under the textures category.

When the IES Texture node appears, connect its “FAC” to the strength input of the emission node. Change the selector box from “internal” to “external” and a small file browser icon will appear.

Select the file browser icon and navigate to the location on your computer where your IES file was saved. Select the IES file and press “Accept.” Now your IES light is set up. Take a look at it in the viewport. The default strength of 1.000 is usually WAY too high. Try turning it down to about .01 and experiment from there.

You can rotate and move the light like you would with any other light. You can change the color of the light on the emission shader node.

These IES lights are a really cool way to spice up your lighting in Cycles. Check them out and play around with them. Consider joining my e-mail list below or visiting my YouTube channel for more tips and tricks. Stay creative!

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Published by Brandon's Drawings

I am a digital artist in Vacaville, CA. I originally created this site to display my own digital art. Now I also use it to teach others about digital art - mostly with the free 3D software known as Blender.

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