When you create a game or a scene in Unreal Engine, you want it to look realistic or create a certain mood, and proper lighting helps with that. It makes everything in the game or scene visible and clear, just like sunlight does outside.
Understanding how to use lighting tools lets you control how bright or dark different parts of your game or scene are. It will give you the power to make everything look just the way you want it to.
So, learning about lighting in Unreal Engine is a fundamental skill that you will need no matter what you want to create in the engine.
How to create Lights in Unreal Engine?
In Unreal Engine, there are three ways to create lights:
The first way is by clicking on the white cube with a + symbol, then choose ‘Lights‘ and pick the one you want.
The second way is pretty much the same, but you choose the ‘Place Actors Panel‘ first, then pick the light from there.
The third way is to use the Environment Light Mixer Tool.
In Unreal Engine, a ‘Directional light‘ is like a powerful sun in your virtual world.
It doesn’t act like a specific light source you place like a lamp. Instead, it functions as a super bright flashlight, illuminating everything from a specific direction to mimic sunlight.
This is why it’s commonly used to simulate the sun and moon.
Here are some common uses for the directional light:
- Simulating Sunlight: Place the directional light high in the sky and adjust its settings to simulate natural sunlight. This is important for outdoor scenes and can help to set the time of day.
- Creating Moonlight: By adjusting the properties of the directional light, you can also make it act like moonlight. This is great for night scenes or creating a specific atmosphere.
- Setting the Overall Lighting Tone: The directional light influences the overall lighting in your scene. It’s like the primary source that everything else in the scene reacts to.
- Casting Long Shadows: Because the light rays are all parallel, the directional light is great for creating long, dramatic shadows. This can add depth and realism to your scenes.
Remember, while the directional light is excellent for simulating sunlight and moonlight, you’ll likely use other types of lights (like point lights, spotlights, etc.) to add finer details and specific effects to your scenes.
The ‘Point light‘ is one of the most common types of lightning in Unreal Engine. It’s like a bright light bulb that shines light in all directions. Just like a lamp in a room that illuminates everything around it.
Here are some common uses for a point light:
- Indoor Lighting: Point lights are great for indoor scenes. They can light up rooms and spaces, just like real lamps and light fixtures do in our houses.
- Adding Emphasis: You can use a point light to draw attention to specific objects or areas in your game or scene. It’s like putting a spotlight on something important.
- Creating Atmosphere: If you want to make a scene feel cozy or dramatic, you can place point lights strategically to set the mood. For example, a warm, soft light can create a nice, welcoming atmosphere.
- Simulating Light Sources: Point lights can be used to simulate light sources such as streetlights and candles.
It’s now the turn of the ‘Spot Light‘. Spotlights behave similarly to a focused flashlight or a spotlight on a stage, emitting a strong beam of light in a specific direction.
Here are some common ways spotlights are used:
- Highlighting Specific Areas: Spotlights are great for drawing attention to a particular spot in your scene, like illuminating a character or an important object.
- Creating Shadows: Unlike some other lights, spotlights can make detailed shadows. This is useful for adding depth and realism to your scenes.
- Simulating Flashlights or Lamps: Spotlights can imitate the light from flashlights, lamps, or even car headlights. They’re excellent for adding realism to your game.
- Setting the Mood: You can use spotlights to establish a certain mood or atmosphere. For example, a dim, blue light might create a spooky feeling.
- Theatrical Effects: Just like in a play or movie, spotlights can be used for dramatic effects. They’re excellent for creating a sense of drama or suspense.
- Guiding Players: In games, spotlights can be used to guide players through a level. They can highlight paths or points of interest.
Rect Light or Rectangular Area Light
In Unreal Engine, a ‘Rect light‘ is like a flat panel that gives off light, similar to a glowing billboard. It’s different from other lights because it spreads light evenly in a specific shape, like a rectangle or a square.
So, think of a rect light as a large, flat light source that’s great for evenly lighting up spaces, like a ceiling light in your virtual world!
Here are some common ways rectangular lights are used:
- Even Lighting: Rect lights are excellent for providing even illumination across a large area. They’re like having a big, bright ceiling light in your scene.
- Indoor Lighting: They’re especially useful for indoor spaces like rooms, hallways, or offices. They can evenly light up these areas and make them look realistic.
- Architectural Lighting: If you’re creating architectural designs, rect lights can mimic the lighting from windows or ceiling panels, making your structures look more authentic.
- Light Patterns : Because of their shape, rect lights can be used to make interesting patterns or designs of light. It’s like having a decorative light fixture.
- Simulating Fluorescent Lights: If you want to recreate the look of fluorescent lights commonly found in offices or commercial spaces, rect lights are the way to go.
The Sky Light mimics the natural light from the sky. It’s different from other lights because it doesn’t come from a specific point or direction. Instead, it fills the whole scene with a soft, ambient glow.
In simple terms, this light makes sure that everything in your game scene gets lit up in a way that matches how the sky looks. So, if your game has a big, beautiful sky with clouds or mountains in the distance, the Skylight ensures it all looks just right, giving your game a really realistic and natural feel.
Here are some common ways sky lights are used:
- Natural Illumination: A sky light helps make your scenes look as if they’re naturally lit by the sky. It’s like having a gentle, all-encompassing sunlight.
- Creating Realistic Outdoor Environments: When you’re making outdoor scenes, a sky light adds a touch of realism by simulating how natural light interacts with everything.
- Softening Shadows: Sky lights can help soften the harshness of shadows created by other lights. This makes your scene look more natural and less harsh.
- Enhancing Reflections: It can improve how surfaces reflect light. This makes things like water or shiny objects look more realistic.
Unreal Engine Lighting Mobility
Unreal Engine has two lightning methods for your scenes or games:
The first is known as Baked or Static Lightning, and the second is known as Dynamic Lightning.
If you are a beginner, I would recommend starting with dynamic lighting because it is easier to use and more user friendly. If you go this route, you will set your lights to Movable.
On the other hand, Static and Stationary lights are used for Baked lightning exclusively.
A static light can’t be changed in the game. This type of light is fully baked, making it the fastest for rendering.
A stationary light will only have shadowing and bounced lightning from static geometry baked by Lightmass, all other lightning will be dynamic.
It can change color and intensity in game. However, it cannot move and only allows partially baked lightning and dynamic shadows from movable objects.
Movable lights can be moved and changed in game. These lights are completely dynamic, including shadows, but they are obviously the slowest to render.
I hope you found the information here useful. Happy creating!