What can make our scene more interesting? It almost always comes down to lighting. A powerful and FREE way to add interesting lights in Blender is with IES lighting. The bad news first: This only works with Cycles (Sorry Eevee).

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What Are IES Lights?

IES light files contain data that affects how light is dispersed from a light source. Real world lights are affected by the shape and thickness of the bulb, the housing around the light socket and other factors.

We can easily recreate these with IES lighting and add some realism to the lights in our scene using the IES Texture Node.

A beach scene with nature assets
Geo Scatter Add-on for Blender

The “IES” in IES Lighting stands for “Illumination Engineering Society.” Manufacturers of real-world lights (like those found in buildings and streetlamps) create digital files which demonstrate how light from their products is distributed. Cycles supports these files and they’re easy to use.

They’re also completely free and can be used for any project, personal or commercial.

IESLibrary.com has compiled thousands of IES light files form different manufacturers, created thumbnails for them and categorized them.

Where to Download IES Light Files?

The home screen of ieslibrary.com.

To use IES lights, go to IESLibrary.com. We can browse or sort by manufacturer or search by tags (like “outdoors” or “recessed”) to find files that represent lights of all different types.

Four IES lights are displayed from IESlibrary.com

Find one we like and click on it. It’ll open up a details page. Click “Download IES” at the bottom.

An option to download an IES file or an LDT file is displayed.

A very small file will download to our computer.

Two 3d human models
Human Generator Add-On for Blender

Add an IES Light to a Blender Scene

Now go to Blender. Change the render engine to Cycles, then add a point lamp to our scene. With the lamp selected, go to the lighting properties tab. Turn on “Use Nodes.”

The "use nodes" button is displayed in the Blender light properties panel.

Now go into the Shader Editor and we should see an Emission Shader plugged into a Light Output Node. Press “Shift+A” to add a shader. Search for “IES Texture” or find it under the textures category.

The IES Texture option is highlighted in the list of available nodes to add in the shader editor.

When the IES Texture Node appears, connect its “FAC” to the strength input of the Emission Node. Change the selector box from “internal” to “external” and a small file browser icon will appear.

An IES texture node is connected to an emission shader which is connected to a light output node in the Blender shader editor.

Select the file browser icon and navigate to the location on our computer where our IES file is saved. Select the IES file and press “Accept.” Now our IES light is set up. Take a look at it in the viewport. The default strength of 1.000 is usually WAY too high. Try turning it down to about .01 and experiment from there.

An IES light shines on a plane used as a background in Blender.

We can rotate and move the light like we would with any other light. We can change the color of the light on the Emission Shader node.

To learn more about lighting, see this post about all types of lighting in Blender.

These IES lights are a really cool way to spice up our lighting in Cycles. Check them out and play around with them. Please join e-mail list below and visit my YouTube channel for more tips and tricks. Stay creative!

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