Working with Lights

The procedures in this topic apply to both standard and photometric lights.

Here are some general tips about working with lights:


To create a light:

  1. On the Create panel, click (Lights).
  2. Choose Photometric or Standard from the drop-down list. (Photometric is the default.)
  3. On the Object Type rollout, click the type of light you want to create.
  4. Click a viewport to create the light. This step varies slightly depending on the type of light. For example, if the light has a target, you drag and click to set the target’s location.

    Light objects replace the default lighting. As soon as you create a light, the default lighting is turned off. If you delete all lights in the scene, the default lighting is restored.

  5. Set the creation parameters.

    Like all objects, lights have a name, a color, and a General Parameters rollout.

To create shadows, do one of the following:

  1. In the General Parameters rollout, make sure On is checked in the Shadows group. Adjust shadow parameters in the Shadow Parameters rollout and the additional ( Shadow Map , Advanced Ray-traced, Area Shadows, or Ray Traced Shadows) shadow rollouts.
  2. Right-click the light, and turn on Cast Shadows in the Tools 1 (upper-left) quadrant of the quad menu.

    Turning on Cast Shadows also turns on the On toggle in the Shadows group of the General Parameters rollout, and vice versa.

    Shadows are visible only when rendered, either in a full rendering, in a viewport, or with ActiveShade.

    TipTo turn shadows on or off for multiple lights, select the lights and then use the Light Lister.

    You can set an object to not cast or not receive shadows. By default, objects do both. See Object Properties.

To control the display of light objects:

To change a light's parameters:

  1. Select the light.
    TipLights can be hard to select by clicking. You can use the keyboard shortcut H to select the light by name.
  2. Open the Modify panel.
  3. Change the light's parameters in the General Parameters rollout and other rollouts available for that light.

To position a light so it highlights a face:

  1. Make sure the viewport you plan to render is active, and that the object you want to highlight is visible in it.

    The result of Place Highlight depends on what is visible in the viewport.

  2. Select a light object.
  3. On the main toolbar, choose (Place Highlight) from the Align flyout.

    You can also choose Tools menu Place Highlight.

  4. Drag over the object to place the highlight.

    When you place an omni light, free direct light, or a photometric Free Light, 3ds Max displays a face normal for the face the mouse indicates.

    When you place a target direct light or photometric Target Light, 3ds Max displays the light’s target and the base of its cone.

  5. Release the mouse when the normal or target display indicates the face you want to highlight.

    The light now has a new position and orientation. You can see the highlight illumination in shaded viewports that show the face you chose, and when you render those views.

    Place Highlight works with any kind of selected object. You can also use Place Highlight with a selection set of multiple objects. All objects maintain their initial distance from the face.

    NoteFor materials, highlight rendering depends on the material's specular properties and the type of rendering you use.