Unless the scene you are creating is full of great objects and a broad dynamic range of lighting to reflect, there is a good chance it will look and feel like it is missing something. Mine tend to border on being called Homely looking!:-)

Here's Homely!

Here are a few materials - a fairly basic glossy chrome blend with a little noise and some 'default' glass - assigned to some objects with the idea the scene should look good ......at least presentable. But, I'm afraid, it just looks terrible - I'm embarrassed to show it to you:-)

Bland, boring, homely!

In the Environment Editor I have a Basic 'Default' Environment and it comes in looking like this with Background color set to grey.

So my Chrome/Metal objects are looking for something to reflect and find this neutral grey in the Environment - in general, that is what is reflected. No sparkle, no cool looking materials...just flat and boring - time to go home:-).


For this scene, an easy solution to fix the bland appearance was to create a new Environment - a Composite Environment was choosen. I like to use a Composite Environment as it allows me to stack and blend multiple Environments together to fine tune the exact look I want. Probably an over-kill for this tutorial but never-the-less it's here.

I very seldom strive for perfect realism as an illustrator and in this case am only looking to create 'nice' and 'believeable' reflections. I have no problem blending an indoor and outdoor scene together to get some nice reflectivity going unless it will be too obvious the match doesn't work and becomes distacting to the eye. HDRI's are my choice of map for their broad range and I most always first attach them to a GI Environment - I like the blur options available there.

As you can see there are two seperate Environments blended together with many interesting things to reflect within the images and make this scene more attractive.

Much Better Looking

All of a sudden there is some life to the objects as they have something interesting to reflect. And a nice broad range of illumination to bounce around in between objects.

Rotate that HDRI!

At times it's just so close but not quite there yet - time to move that environment around a little. I find offsetting/rotating the image by .1 in the 'U' Offset Field and doing a test render, then increasing it more, etc, I can dial in just the right reflections for my scene...it can make a dramatic difference! Not always but sometime. It does take some trial and error but well worth the trouble. I usually use a very low sampling amount (Render P1) to do my quick environment render tests.

By offsetting the top-most Map in the Composite Environment by .675 I got the scene looking how I had envisioned it would.

Here is the scene - double check that the Composite Environment is the 'active' Environment - bit of a render hit and a few good materials wirthin the scene.

Ref Map.zip

Wrapping up

I can't stress enough how important a good environment is to get acceptable rendering results - especially with metals and glass. With one, everything seems to just work well - without one or a poor one much, much effort is spent on trying to make the scene/product look good. Spend some time offsetting your enviromental HDRIs - I think there are some nice surprises waiting to be found there.


Author,  Pauls
I have worked as an illustrator for almost 30 years..... additionally, a fine artist for half of those. Some examples here: http://homepage.mac.com/sherstobitoff/PhotoAlbum.html

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Comment by Juan Escano on January 24, 2012 at 3:13am

Hi Scott,

My name is Juan, new user i use brazil a lot for jewelry render, i strougle with white flat metals and looking for help i ran into you blog i would luve to try this, i tried downloading the zip. fie but no luck would you happend to have a rhino file with this scene setup, would be greatly appreciated.


Juan Escano



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