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Lighting in Dimension

Dimension is a design tool which provides access to high-quality 3D, built from the ground up, for graphic designers. Lighting in 3D is modeled after real-world physical lighting which is different from creating lighting effects in 2D applications. This article outlines the various lighting types that are supported in Dimension.

Environment light

Environment lights are panoramic images that are spherically wrapped around a 3D scene. They can be considered to be the environment that the content lives in and provides general ambient lighting, shadows, and reflections. Environment lights are not highly editable and have a limited range of properties to adjust their content, as it is based on the image itself. They are incredibly powerful for providing quick scenes with realistic lighting and reflections.

A simple scene lit with two different environment lights.

  • Colorize Environment lights use each pixel of the image to shoot lighting information into the scene. The Colorize option colorizes the image to tint the overall lighting. Colorize works with any environment light and is ideal for studio lit environment lights.
  • Intensity The Intensity property controls how much light is generated from each pixel, as a linear equation. This affects all pixels in the image and not just the bright areas.
  • Rotation The Rotation property allows for the spherical projection of the light to be rotated horizontally around the scene. Rotating the light provides different highlights, shadows, and reflections based on its positioning relative to the camera’s view.

Directional light

Where Environment lights provide preset lighting setups that require little adjustment, Directional lights are components you can use to build custom lighting. These lights similarly exist on a 360 sphere around the scene and project light inwards.

You can add multiple directional lights and position, color, and size them independently.
You can add multiple directional lights and position, color, and size them independently.

Color: The color of the light. Choose from a standard omnipicker, or a temperature picker with input in Kelvin and a range of standard presets.

Intensity: The brightness of the light.

Rotation: The position of the light on the horizontal axis around the scene, controlling whether the light points from the front, side, or back.

Height: The position of the light on the vertical axis around the scene, controlling whether the light is high or low.

Light shape properties: In addition to the above settings which control the position of the light relative to the overall scene, there are specific light shape properties that give you more control of the light itself.

  • Shape: The shape of the light.
  • Aspect ratio: The proportion of the light width and height.
  • Rotation: The angle of the light around its center point.
  • Corner radius: The roundedness of the corners of the light. Only available for square shape lights.
  • Size: The size of the light changes the softness of shadow edges. It also controls the size of the specular highlight and the overall brightness of the scene.
  • Edge softness: Adjusts the smoothness of the light boundaries, which are visible in reflections on glossy surfaces.


Dimension also includes Sunlight, a special light type which generates an artificial Sun to provide strong directional lighting and shadows. The sunlight is similar to the Directional lights in how it works, but the effect of the light is specific to the shape and realistic behavior of the sun.

An abstract scene created with strong directional sunlight for dramatic shadows.

Colorize: By default, the sunlight has its own coloring based on natural sunlight. When the height of the sun is high, the sunlight is blue-white. As the height decreases the sun changes to yellow and red, mimicking real-world sun color temperature. The Colorize property overrides the default color of the sun with a user selected color.

Intensity: The Intensity property controls the brightness of the light generated by the sun. The sun is naturally brighter when it's high and dimmer when it's near the horizon.

Height: The Height property controls the vertical rotation of the sun. A higher height provides top-down lighting while a lower height provides strong side-lighting. When Colorize is off, the height slider maps the coloring of the sun to time of day: 90° would be noon with bright white lighting, while 0° would be dusk or dawn with reddish lighting.

Rotation: The Rotation property controls the horizontal rotation of the sun around the scene.

Cloudiness: The Cloudiness property controls how direct the sunlight is. At a low cloudiness value, the sun is directly lighting the scene and produces hard edged, crisp shadows. At a high cloudiness value, the sun is being dispersed through atmospheric elements like clouds or fog and produces soft, faded shadows.

Match lighting to a background image

Dimension has a powerful set of features for adding a background image to your 3D scene. For more details, see Match Image.


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