Before you even think of asking: Yes, this uses the Blender Internal Renderer – and it’s a lot simpler than you think!

HDR (High Dynamic Range) is a image format that stores data about lighting and can hence be used to light a scene in blender. In fact, you don’t even need a single lamp!

Find out how you can stun yourself with realism by watching the tutorial!

Find out:

  • how to use HDR lighting with the Blender Internal Renderer
  • where to get HDR images
  • how to set up HDR lighting without any lamps
  • the meaning of life

Blender Version: 2.56


hdr cubes


HDR images and HDR time-lapses:
Just a few more:
A useful thread with lots of links:
A nice collection of 58 HDR images (not tested):




  1. 1 Feb ’11  2:47 am by Andy Reply

    You must be psychic. I have been looking into using HDR lighting for the mug I made (link below). I didn't think to use environment lighting with it. Great idea. I will definitely look into that if I do a scene rather than just the object which I consider finished now and won't be tweaking again. Thanks again for this.

  2. 1 Feb ’11  8:15 am by Greg Zaal Reply

    Haha awesome... HDR is so simple, but brilliant

  3. 2 Feb ’11  5:50 am by Bernieman Reply

    As always - Thx for that ...

  4. 3 Feb ’11  6:28 am by jordan Reply

    Oh lord. I cant believe I didnt know this yet.
    Thanks very much for the info.

  5. 3 Feb ’11  6:33 am by Greg Zaal Reply

    Haha yeah thats what i thought too...

  6. 3 Feb ’11  10:55 pm by Jikz Reply


  7. 4 Feb ’11  3:42 am by Ciccio Mirabella Reply

    Thank you very much! GREAT tutorial.

  8. 5 Feb ’11  4:35 pm by greg p Reply

    Hello there nerds,
    the hdr tut was fantastic, i am re learning blender, i was very familair with 2.49, now i cant use 2.5, because the interface changed so much!
    I couldnt work out stuff like this(which i can do in 2.49 easily), so thanks, this is the stuff i think you could do for your tutorials maybe, all the standard and even not so standard stuff from 2.49, and how to do in 2.5, hope that makes sense.
    keep up the great tuts. (the game engine had me perplexed due to the interface change, took ages to work out all that!)

  9. 5 Feb ’11  4:37 pm by greg p Reply

    In addition to the last post, what i mean is how to transition to 2.5 blender?
    I think there is a whole missing area of knowledge there.
    thanks guys.

  10. 5 Feb ’11  11:03 pm by Greg Zaal Reply

    My pleasure :)
    Yep, we do want to make a series of tuts for the transition, I think a lot of people have asked - the only problem I have is that I wasn't very good with 2.49 so theres a lot I couldn't tell you

  11. 6 Feb ’11  4:11 pm by Mike White (3dementia) Reply

    Sup Greg! This tut is your best yet, getting lots of fine coverage all over. I was aware of this feature, but never tested it out. And there is no way I would have thought to adjust the brightness and contrast to achieve the desired result...brilliant!

  12. 6 Feb ’11  9:26 pm by Greg Zaal Reply

    Thank you very much Mr White :)

  13. 15 Feb ’11  2:00 pm by Neil Brewer Reply

    Thanks for taking your time out to help the community, we all truly appreciate it. One thing I'd like to see is a more in depth tutorial series on the modifiers. Some I use all the time, like subsurf of course. But others I've never touched, nor seen any tutorials on. I've not went in search of them either, but I've just never seen anyone dedicate a series of tuts to learning the modifiers. In paticular, I have no idea how to use the following:

    UV Project
    Mesh Deform
    Simple Deform

    Thanks again!

  14. 15 Feb ’11  9:35 pm by Greg Zaal Reply

    Thanks for that Neil! We will definitly be covering the modifiers in tuts to come

  15. 18 Feb ’11  6:43 am by Mbmt13390 Reply

    thx , very nice tutorial
    i think this site will be one
    of famous tutorials sites

    Go Go
    Go Go
    Go Go
    Go Go

  16. 9 Mar ’11  12:10 pm by claas Reply

    HDRI with raytraced ambient occlusion is sadly a very slow process.
    Fortunately 2.5 is much faster with Raytracing then 2.4.

    However color bleeding etc still is skiped.

    The render branch offers some nice additions and also indirect light in 2.5.

    However again all miss other functions ... darn ...

  17. 17 Mar ’11  6:59 am by hani Reply

    Thanx mate ,, simple but brilliant
    keep it coming plz

  18. 17 Mar ’11  8:50 pm by Jonathan Reply

    I'm sorry to put a break on all the positive comments, but I can't seem to get this to work. When I render (16 sample EL), all I get is a group of dots around the border of the cube in an otherwise black screen.

    The HDR was applied to the sky and every other option was checked... does the ground plane settings matter?

    • 18 Mar ’11  5:35 am by Greg Zaal

      Maybe try a different image?

    • 18 Mar ’11  8:22 am by Jonathan

      I did, no luck.

      Ok, this may seem a bit presumptuous of me, but I really wanna get this rolling, so, here's a link to the blend file.

    • 18 Mar ’11  10:25 am by Greg Zaal

      Thats very odd - I opened your blend file and rendered it without changing anything, and it worked perfectly fine (result: )

    • 19 Mar ’11  4:40 am by Jonathan

      Thanks a lot, Greg. Turns out it was a blender version problem. Incompatible addon or something. Works fine with the trunk.

    • 19 Mar ’11  5:02 am by Greg Zaal

      awesome, glad I could help

  19. 17 Mar ’11  10:19 pm by Martin Reply

    You were wanting some suggestions for tutorials: How about a good tutorial on using Freestyle or NPR in Blender? Especially for creating a sketchy look.

    Great simple and clear tutorial on HDR.

  20. 18 Mar ’11  2:19 pm by Jan Larmann Reply

    what computer do you have greg?
    i have a core 2 duo with 2x2.23

  21. 18 Mar ’11  2:19 pm by Jan Larmann Reply

    what computer do you have greg?
    have a core 2 duo with 2x2.23 but a 1gb nvidia gt 240M graphics card

    • 18 Mar ’11  2:26 pm by Greg Zaal

      its similar - core 2 duo with 2.66 - 1 gb nvidia geforce 8600

  22. 18 Mar ’11  7:25 pm by cc0e Reply

    Got many things from that tutorial :) especially about environment lighting.
    Mind to share the software that shows the Key pressed?

    • 19 Mar ’11  1:40 am by Greg Zaal

      That's what we're here for :)
      We use a software called Camtasia for our recordings. I think its the best since it captures mouse movement and key presses too

  23. 19 Mar ’11  5:15 am by Jan Larmann Reply

    My attempt. It took one night to render this.

    • 19 Mar ’11  8:43 am by Greg Zaal

      Nice! I can see why it took so long

      PS: Please don't put 'first' or anything on your comments, they will be deleted

  24. Pingback : Utilizzare immagini HDR per i nostri rendering in Blender « Informatiche {bubbakk}

  25. 2 Apr ’11  4:21 am by TheReaper Reply

    Do you still do these tutorials? If, so do you have one for that metallic cube you created?

  26. 2 Apr ’11  8:53 am by Greg Zaal Reply

    Ofcourse we still do these tutorials! We try do a few every week, but sadly I was away this past week. But I get next week off so I'll be doing a lot of tutorials :)

    • 2 Apr ’11  1:25 pm by TheReaper

      Also, could you tell me how you created that curved surface to place your objects and I having the darnest time trying to figure it out the good way because I am sure it is not hard

    • 2 Apr ’11  9:22 pm by TheReaper

      Nevermind I figured it out by some googling. Creating a Bezier Curve, rotating and scaling vertices, and extruding it. However, mine does not come out as nice as yours. Also, when I apply an material to an cube or object like glass or metal is really doesnt look like either just some colored object any tutorials you have about this?

    • 3 Apr ’11  7:45 am by Greg Zaal

      I recently made a basic materials tutorial that will definitely help you (look for the orange monkey). As for the curved floor, its just got a subdivision surface modifier on to make it curved

    • 3 Apr ’11  7:52 am by Greg Zaal

      More detail on the floor - its a plane, then i extruded one edge up a bit, and then added the modifier. viola, nice smooth floor

  27. 17 May ’11  1:52 am by Nicholas Reply

    Great tut.

    So much to learn :D

    Tutorials on bones, applying them to models and weight painting.

  28. 17 May ’11  11:11 am by Andreas P. Reply

    Useful tutorial! Another source for HDR images: and specifially the section about smart Image Based Lighting is interesting, with lots of sIBL files (HDR collections) for free.

  29. 19 Jun ’11  6:05 am by Gary Parkin Reply

    Thanks, Greg. I downloaded this and watch it from time to time, when I need a hdr reference. :-)
    It's quick and informative!

  30. 7 Sep ’11  7:00 pm by Mitchell Moore Reply

    hey Greg...very nice tutorial...

    as for the tutorial would be awsome to see(been looking everywhere) for some volumetric lighting of text...the only good tutorial i have found is at blender diplom.... it is very vague to say the least....

    as a newbie...i think i speak for alot of NEW blender users when i say title intros and stuff are cool and mostly what draws us to 3d to begin would be cool to see some tutorials on lighting from behind...and maybe how they(pros) do the glare across the front of the text in title intros...


    • 8 Sep ’11  12:32 am by Greg Zaal

      Hey Mitch,
      Title sequences are very unique and I don't quite understand what you're referring to. Could you show an example?

      I'll look into glare effects sometime soon, but for now you might like to take a look at tutorials like this one

  31. 28 Sep ’11  7:00 am by Pieter de Pater Reply

    Thx Greg, this really pushed up the realism of my renders. I didn't even know you could do that in Blender :)



  32. 28 Feb ’12  1:10 am by Michael Reply

    HDR Lighting is AWESOME!! Thank you for the tut !

  33. Pingback : iA – Chair for Information Architecture » Blog Archive » Excercise 3 – Rendering

  34. 6 Sep ’12  12:48 pm by jay27flow Reply

    nice, but you are shown that cool image with that orangy light effect, that was the only interesting thing to me(for now), and then that effect is not even in this tutorial :(

  35. 31 Dec ’12  1:25 pm by Xero Reply

    I love the narration of this tutorial.

  36. 3 Jan ’13  11:48 pm by Reply

    Hi Greg,

    Wonder if you still check the comments...why the left cube has big grain, while the right one look perfectly smooth? I have tried, it seems like when the lighting is dim, the object is in big grain.
    And another question, for hdr, the concept is using environment lighting, and there is a option beside 'image or movie' - 'environment mapping', why don't you use this? And I cannot figure out how to load hdr files if choosing 'environment lighting'.

  37. 24 Aug ’13  8:32 am by Spender Reply

    Hello. I run on iMac i5 10.8.4 mid 2011 64 bit. Which node help me to rotate and scale HDR.
    Thanks in advance

    • 24 Aug ’13  9:12 am by Greg Zaal

      Use generated coordinates and connect a Mapping node as usual

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