When working with accurate and realistic lighting and reflections, I like to use LightWave: the Surface Editor and its fast rendering speed make it the perfect tool.
I created this image, Gold Skull, to test the lighting and reflections on materials, to give me accurate control over the shine and reflections on surfaces. I wanted to give the environment a gothic atmosphere by placing a golden skull on a marble floor. To make the image more interesting, I added some antique gold coins, which fall from above using LightWave's Bullet Dynamics.
LightWave 11.6 offers you the choice of nine types of lights – even more if you install external plug-ins – making a very flexible tool to set up accurate lighting. I lit the scene with a simple set of lights helped by a HDRI environment.
The three light types are as follows: An area light is used as the main light source on for the model. This gives the skull volume and realistically casts shadows across the whole scene. I also use a linear light, as this helps to enhance the specular and bump effects on the skull. Finally I use a spotlight as a fill light to give the scene depth.
- Download the source files for this tutorial here
Creating the skull scene
01. Bullet dynamics
Use the native physics simulator in LightWave to add the coins. I place them above the skull, then let the software drop the coins in a random and natural way.
02. Metal matters
The metal elements are created with the Surface Editor controls. I achieve a good result with the help of images, bump gradients and displacement.
03. PSD export
I use PSD Export to create the necessary layers to improve the final image. I finish the work in Photoshop, adding the church background and volumetric lights.
Words: Lorenzo Zitta
Italian digital artist and freelance graphics designer, Lorenzo Zitta has won numerous awards for his photography and CGI. This article originally appeared in 3D World issue 181.