Painting in Colour with Volumetric Lighting

Painting in Colour with Volumetric Lighting


Volumetric lighting is a technique in 3D software to add lighting effects to a rendered scene. Sunbeams through an open window, environmental lights and so-called god rays (sunrays radiating through the clouds) are all examples of volumetric lighting.

Besides creating volumetric lighting effects, you can also use this feature to blend together different objects in your scene and add strokes of colour as if you were painting like the great Impressionists did, many decades ago.

I find myself using volumetric lighting on a daily basis, creating mystical atmospheres and nebulous surroundings with just two or three lightsources.


In 75% of all VL-related projects I start out with one or two volumetric spotlights, castings strokes of light, fading with distance.
Use them as backlights to create a silhouette of the main object in your scene or set the right mood by using just one, posing as a rising or setting sun.

Not all lightsources have to emit light. Instead of adding patches of colour in post-production, you can easily use a volumetric, non-illuminating omnilight to set colour accents in a 3D space. 


I've listed a few of my Cinema 4D projecfiles below, illustrating the power of volumetric lighting. 

  • ATMOSPHERICAL BACKDROP - A huge pink volumetric light in combination with a central green volumetric omnilight.
  • LOW MOON - A huge blue volumetric light filling the background, setting the right mood for a bright yellow, volumetric moon.
  • MIDNIGHT DELAY - A deep blue night sky, tall grass populated by glowing fireflies and a cellphone screen saying "NOPE".
  • DECAY - Both deep orange spotlights ├índ omnilights, almost voiding the hint of blue volumetric lighting in the front.
  • TRIPPIN' BAWLS - It doesn't get more full-on volumetric than this! An orange spotlight casting rays from the left, deeper orange volumetrics from the right and the floor is covered in a bright, indigo mist.