Using the skies in Blender

On this page is explained everything needed for the typical use of SceneSkies. You should read in the given order if you’re discovering SceneSkies for the first time.

Managing collections

The skies / panoramas are organized in collections. So first you must get and install collections, it’s quick and easy.

  1. Download a collection, free or paid for higher resolutions. You get a zip file
  2. Unzip it in the data folder
  3. That’s it. The collection is installed. In Blender, in the addon’s panel, click List installed collections and you’ll see your new collection listed
_images/collections_folders.png

Here is an example where we have two collections installed in the data folder, Rough northern forest and Samples. Rough northern forest is available at three different resolutions (4k, 8k and 12k) and samples at 4k only.

You can have several resolutions available for the same collection. For example if you download the free 4k version, and buy the 8k version as well. In that case, you have to put the resolution folders (4000, 8000, 12000 or 16000) in the same collection folder. Then in SceneSkies you’ll see the skies listed at different resolutions. Having two resolutions available is useful in case you want to save on RAM usage if you do lower resolution renders, or if color-tweaking uses too much RAM for your machine and you have to use a lower resolution.

To remove a collection, simply remove its folder from the data directory. To remove a resolution, for instance you no longer want the 4000 version because you have a higher resolution available, remove the 4000 folder.

Note

Every time you modify anything in the data folder, such as adding, removing or modifying files, you should click on List installed collections again.

Selecting a panorama

First choose a collection from the list of collections you’ve installed, then choose a panorama from the previews, and click “Set sky”.

_images/first_sky.jpg

For Blender beginners: you can see the sky if you do a render, if you change the viewport shading to rendered mode. You can also see the background in the viewport in non-rendered mode by enabling the World background box in the 3d viewport, N-panel, Display options group.

No more sun lamps

Do not use sun or hemi lamps. You should remove or disable any exterior sun lamp that may exist in your scene, because now the sky is providing the lighting, and in a much more realistic way than a simple directional lamp.

Use filmic

The skies are intended to be used with the filmic color profile. Only filmic can accurately display them. They have a very high dynamic range, so the very bright spots in the skies, such as the sun and its reflections, and the clouds will appear completely white, or incorrectly (eg black). The colors are also generally too saturated and contrasted for a realistic look.

_images/color_profile_default.jpg _images/color_profile_filmic_high_contrast.jpg

If you need to adjust colors, contrast and brightness, still use filmic, but instead play with the exposure (not gamma), filmic look (built-in contrast options) and post-production effects either in the Blender compositor or with an external image editor.

Sky rotation

Use it to change the orientation of the sun. You cannot change the sun elevation though, but all skies come in at least two sun elevation variations.

World datablocks

Each time you choose a new sky, a new world is created and replaces the previous one. By default the old world datablocks created by SceneSkies are automatically deleted, unless you change this behavior in the addon’s preferences.

You can read more on SceneSkies’ world materials.

Tweaking the colors

If you need to change the colors of the entire sky, or of specific elements, like making the clouds lighter/darker, or the atmosphere a different shade of blue, then check the Color tweaking box. The panorama will reload automatically and several controls will appear below.

When you change the sky colors, if your goal is realism, then be subtle and don’t go overboard. It’s easy to have unrealistic colors, but it takes talent and moderation to have the desired mood and realistic feel, while having beautiful results. Especially watch out for colors that are too saturated.

To see the changes faster while you tweak the colors, you should temporarily disable multiple importance. This Blender setting makes your scene much faster to render, at the cost of some initial computation each time the world material changes. So don’t forget to re-enable it once you’re done with the color tweaking. I recommend a value of 1024 or 2048 for the best compromise speed/quality.

Sun color

Changing the sun color is especially helpful with dawn and dusk lighting because the sun elevation is the same in both cases, but its color is the key difference to give the desired mood.

Compared to the other elements of the sky, the color of the sun has the greatest impact on the color of the whole scene, and therefore on its mood.

_images/sun_dawn_1.jpg

Dawn color example

_images/sun_dawn_2.jpg

Dawn color example

_images/sun_dusk_1.jpg

Dusk color example

_images/sun_dusk_2.jpg

Dusk color example

Atmosphere color

The atmosphere is both the blue background and the fading color of far away objects. Changing the atmosphere color can also make it appear more or less thick, even to a point of having mist or an overcast weather.

_images/atmo_thin.jpg

A thin atmosphere

_images/atmo_desaturated.jpg

Desaturated atmosphere with slightly different hue

_images/atmo_thick.jpg

A thick atmosphere

_images/atmo_very_thick.jpg

So thick it’s a different weather

Clouds color

Control their intensity, to make them lighter or darker.

_images/clouds_darker.jpg

Darker cloud

_images/clouds_dark_light.jpg

High direct light on clouds, but low indirect light make them look less dense

_images/clouds_light.jpg

Both high direct and high indirect light on clouds

Surface color

Surface means the ground, the mountains, anything solid, thus not clouds nor atmosphere.

_images/surface_saturated.jpg

More saturated surface

_images/surface_low_indirect_light.jpg

Low indirect light on the surface

_images/surface_high_indirect_light.jpg

High indirect light on the surface

Direct VS indirect light

There is a distinction between direct and indirect light affecting the atmosphere, clouds and surface: direct means light rays coming straight from the sun, whereas indirect means light rays that have bounced at least once before lighting the atmosphere/clouds/surface again.

Rendering skyboxes / cubemaps

If you need to export your whole scene as a skybox, simply click the button. This is useful if you want to use SceneSkies’ panoramas in game engines.

The skybox will be rendered from the 3d cursor’s location, so make sure it is not inside an object. Also your whole scene will be rendered, not just the world background, so do not forget to hide/show what you want visible in the skybox. The current scene’s render settings will be used: number of samples, resolution, output folder etc…

Once it is done, check in the output folder you did set for the active scene, and you will find the 6 image files

_images/cube_face_pos_x.jpg _images/cube_face_neg_y.jpg _images/cube_face_neg_x.jpg _images/cube_face_pos_y.jpg _images/cube_face_top.jpg _images/cube_face_bottom.jpg

Note

Rendering will take a while depending on your render settings, and Blender will be unresponsive during that time, so to see the progress you should open the console beforehand.