images/flamingotab.svg Lighting Presets

Lighting is the most important and most neglected consideration when creating images. It is not just a way to illuminate the model. Lighting sets the mood and is a key ingredient in determining the composition.

images/christophersotogutierrez.png Image by Christopher Soto Gutiérrez.

Where can I find Flamingo Lighting control?

  • images/menuicon.png Menus > Flamingo nXt 5.0 Pulldown > Show Control Panel > Flamingo nXt.
  • Right-click any tab and check Flamingo nXt.

Use the following guidelines when lighting your model:

  • Start with a lighting preset.
  • Since Flamingo nXt simulates real-world lighting, provide accurate information whenever possible.
  • Avoid using unrealistic intensity levels for light sources.
  • Set the units correctly for your model. The lighting will not be correct unless the units are correct. For example, if your model is in millimeters, set the model units to millimeters.
  • Adjust the overall brightness of your rendering by using the Brightness control on the rendering display. Do not attempt to adjust the overall scene brightness by changing the intensity of all the light sources; the automatic exposure adjustment will defeat this.

To improve lighting techniques, be aware of the light and how it affects various surfaces. Materials can mask some of the effects of shadows and reflections, so some rendering experts apply lighting to their models before applying materials. Try to see light objectively, the way a camera does.

Lighting Presets

A great starting place for lighting is the included Lighting presets that correspond to real-world lighting situations. Flamingo nXt provides lighting presets that can get you started lighting your model. There are many more lighting options available, but the presets are often enough for many different renderings. Choose the Preset scheme that most closely resembles your scene.

Lighting in Flamingo nXt uses four preset methods categories:

Studio lighting

This scheme mimics the lighting found in a photographer’s studio. It is most useful for rendering small-to-medium-sized objects in isolation. Also use it for any scene that is well lit through an HDRi environment.

images/studiolighting-001.png A high-dynamic-range (HDR) image file provides the primary lighting. The light from the HDR image resembles the interior lighting levels of the studio. The HDR settings are on the Sky tab. You can also add artificial lights to your scene using the Lights tab. The visible background in the Studio preset is black.

Studio lighting is optimized for tabletop setups for small design articles such as jewelry and product designs. In the preset scheme, the sun is off and an HDR image sky provides something for shiny objects to reflect.

For greater control, use light sources to light the scene. When lighting a studio setup, dramatic lighting is important. Create dramatic lighting by producing a lot of contrast. This means that dark areas are just as important as light areas. Dramatic lighting requires several light sources placed to create very light and very dark areas.

Lighting techniques for photography are generally the same as lighting for rendering. So a good place to start learning is one of the many books on the subject of photographic lighting. For more information about setting up studio lighting, see: Studio Lighting Basics.

Exterior daylight

This scheme simulates daylight for architectural exteriors using a natural sun and sky.

images/exteriorlighting-001.png Specify settings on the Sun and Sky tabs. Set sun angles directly or use geographical location, date, and time. The default visible background for this preset is the simulated sky.

Lighting a building exterior is the most straightforward lighting model. Most exterior lighting will need no more than the default Sun light source.

When the Sun is turned on, the scene must be designated as an interior or an exterior. This is because the contribution of the sky light, reflected light from the ground, and light reflected off other surfaces is much different when inside as opposed to outside. Using the correct Interior/Exterior setting results in effective and realistic lighting.

Sometimes it is easy to determine if a scene is an interior or an exterior. If the viewpoint is outside a building, it is an exterior scene. If the viewpoint is inside a room, it is an interior. Some kinds of scenes are not so clear. This includes courtyards, gazebos, exploded views, and sections. If a courtyard is much wider than it is tall, letting in a lot of skylight, try lighting it as an exterior scene. If it is taller than it is wide, try lighting the scene as an interior. In this case, one of the tricks is to add daylight portals at the top of the courtyard to help direct the skylight into the scene.

Lights can also simulate landscape lighting. Use spotlights to highlight architectural features and trees. This works well for night or twilight scenes. During the day, the sun normally will overpower any artificial lighting in an outdoor scene, just as it will in the real world.

Exploded views, sections, and axonometric drawings from above also pose a special challenge. The decision depends on the desired results. For an exterior scene with the quickest rendering, use the exterior rendering method. If this method is not producing an interesting enough image, try using an interior rendering. This may make the interior more interesting, but it takes more time to set up the lighting.

Interior daylight

This scheme simulates an interior lit by natural light.

images/interiordaylightnoportals.png It consists of two components: direct sunlight transmitted from the Sun and indirect sunlight transmitted via the Sky, the ground, and other exterior objects.

The Sun and Sky settings are similar to the Exterior preset. The direct sunlight component of day lighting involves a straightforward calculation – normally simply specify the time, date, and location to ensure accuracy.

Notes on interior renderings:

  • Use accurate values for your lights, sky settings, and window glass materials if possible.
  • Because the sun and sky are much brighter than other lights, you may not see much effect from adding artificial lighting when the sun is on. This is normal. Avoid artificially boosting the power of your light sources.
  • You can set the Sun or Sky intensity to a lower value. Since these settings simulate a clear sky, reducing their intensity simulates cloudy or darker day lighting conditions.
  • A multi-channel rendering may help you get the picture you want, while still preserving accurate data.

Artificial lighting

images/artificiallight-001.png This scheme provides a simulation of an architectural interior at night, lit by lamps. Use the Lights tab or Rhino light commands to insert and manage light objects in your model.

Indirect lighting, the lighting reflected off surfaces, is on when one of the two interior presets is selected and off for studio and exterior. This type of lighting is a significant component of an interior simulation. For exteriors and studio models the effects of indirect lighting is more subtle and is thus turned off by default.

Custom Lighting

Custom is the tab to mix and match parts of the lighting prelights together. For instance, if the scene is Exterior daylight, but lit with the addition of an HDRi environment, use the Custom tab to turn off and on parts of the lighting model. When the values change from the defaults for the presets, the scheme becomes a custom scheme.


Turn on and off the Sun tab in the drop down. The Sun tab contains the controls for altering the parameters of the sun position.

images/lightsunon.png Sun on and off. The sun is a very bright directional light source infinitely far from the model. The controls for the sun specify its direction using spherical coordinates. For more details, see the Sun tab topic.


Set the Sky channel to one of four options:

  • Auto
  • HDRI
  • Color
  • Image

For details, see the Sky tab topic. Defines a hemispherical light source infinitely far away from the model.


Turns the sky off. images/chromenosky.png


Provides an analytical model based on real-world sky conditions. The settings on the Sun tab control the appearance and light qualities of the sky. images/chromeautosky.png


An HDR image provides something for shiny objects to reflect. images/chromehdrbackground.png


Sets the sky to a solid color or a two- or three-color gradient using controls similar to Environment: Color and Gradient Backgrounds. images/colorsky.png


Uses an image background with a planar, cylindrical, or spherical projection similar to Environment: Image. images/chromeimagesky.png

Studio Brightness

Reduces the brightness of the sun and sky to mimic the interior lighting levels of a photographer’s studio. images/studiobrightnessoffandon.png Studio Brightness off (left) and on (right).


Turns artificial lighting on and off.

images/lightsonandoff.png Lights on (left) and off (right).


Defines the lighting reflected from surfaces. By default, it is on for interior lighting and off for exterior and studio lighting preset schemes. It is possible to turn on indirect lighting for exterior renderings.


Sets the calculation method for indirect lighting.


Turns indirect lighting calculation off.


Optimizes the indirect lighting for indoor situations.


Optimizes the indirect lighting for outdoor situations.

Indirect lighting reflected from other surfaces can add subtlety and realism to your exterior rendering. In particular, the undersides of overhanging features such as eaves or balconies render more accurately with indirect lighting.


Specifies the number of reflections caused by an indirect light.


Ambient light is a constant light added to the rendering. These settings control the intensity of the ambient light as a percentage of the total estimated ambient light in the scene.

Decreasing the amount of ambient light generally produces images with more contrast. Too much ambient light can make a rendered image seem flat and uninteresting; too little can cause excessive contrast.


No ambient light.


Optimizes ambient light for exterior scenes.


Optimizes ambient light for interior scenes.


Optimizes ambient light for studio scenes.

Saving Custom Lighting

Save lighting scheme

images/saveschemeicon.png Saves the current lighting scheme.

Open lighting scheme

images/importfromfile.png Opens a saved lighting scheme.