Lighting in SOLIDWORKS Visualize

SOLIDWORKS Visualize uses a non-biased rendering engine, which allows for physically accurate lighting within a scene. It generates images with high amount of realism and correct set up can replicate photo studio lighting.


SOLIDWORKS Visualize lighting can be set up in a variety of ways:

  • an HDR image in the background casting light and reflecting off your model
  • a point object emitting light in all directions positioned a distance away from your model
  • a spot light with adjustable cone angle and position
  • a set of parallel beams shining along a desired direction
  • the material itself emitting light

…and any combination of those!

Below is a brief summary of the available types of light.

Scene Lighting is by far the fastest and easiest way to put your model in a pleasing environment. Visualize comes with a set of spherical HDR images that define the ambient lighting cast on the model. It can be set as a visible background (left) or hidden away but still casting light (right):

You can adjust environment brightness, rotate it, and tweak some minor parameters such as floor roughness and reflections. At zero brightness the scene becomes pitch black. As can be seen the floor shadows are extremely soft and any specular accents and self-cast shadows are rather weak.

Scene LightingTo spice up the image you can use a set of Photometric Lights available with SOLIDWORKS Visualize Professional. These come in three variety’s, each having their specific application.
The first one is the Point Light. Think of it as a bright candle shining in all directions around it. You can position it with X, Y and Z coordinates, control brightness, colour temperature and the Point Light Radius (size of the flame, if you wish). The radius controls how soft are the shadow edges. Below are two spotlights – with zero radius (left) and a radius set to 1 (right):

Point Lighting

The next one up is the Spot Light. This one can be a projector light (or a reading lamp) with a distinctive conical beam. The shadow edges do not blur out, but there is a gradient within the shadow itself. The Cone Angle controls how focused the light is, and Falloff adjusts the variation of brightness within the beam.

The position of this light can be controlled via spherical coordinates rather than XYZ, this makes it easier to control the orientation and distance from the object in contrast with Point Light.

If the Spot Light cone angle is too tight, a considerable portion of the shadow may be ‘cut off’ due to being outside of the cone. Look at the two images below and guess which Spot Light is more focused:

Spot Lighting

The last one is the Directional Light. This is a point light so far away from object all of the rays reaching the object are parallel. Closest analogy in the real world would be a direct sunlight. Spherical coordinates make it easy to manipulate, distance however has no effect on the shadow size.

Subtle shadows can be achieved by lowering down the brightness (left), go too bright and the image becomes overexposed (right):

Directional Light

Photometric Lights can be mixed together and with Ambient Lighting from the environment to achieve studio-like effects. Below are three spotlights combined to add depth to the object by inflicting self-cast shadows and make it stand out from the background via a back light:


Parts of the model with Emissive Appearance applied become light sources themselves. This is handy when a soft area light is required, or the product has any light indicators as part of its design. The light is tinted as per colour of the material (can be white!) and the tint is realistically reflected off the surrounding surfaces:

Emissive Light

This concludes our summary of the lighting types available in SOLIDWORKS Visualize.

Now go ahead and try them out yourself!

Solid Solutions Technical Team
Solid Solutions Management Ltd was founded in 1998, originally as a SOLIDWORKS training and support provider. Now a Group with over 20 offices across the UK and Ireland, Solid Solutions is not only the leading SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD reseller in both regions, it also offers expert professional design solutions and consultancy services to more than 15,000+ customers. With over 200 employees and the largest SOLIDWORKS technical team in the world, Solid Solutions is focused on growth and on its customers’ development and success.
Solid Solutions Technical Team