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When you create a light, you can rotate, move, and scale the light to maximize its use in the scene. There are two ways to create a light in Maya.

1. Go to create>lights>... Select the light you want to create.

2. Go to the rendering shelf (see shelves) and click on the corresponding icon for the light you want to create.

Light position is very important to the way a light will render the scene.

All lights in Maya have these attributes: color and intensity.

Color - This is the color of the light. To show the color chooser (color wheel), click on the swatch. If you were to set the color to a gray, it would seemingly reduce the intensity of the light. But to actually reduce the intensity you should use the intensity attribute.

Intensity - By default this is set to 1. You can change this value to anything to 0, simulating turning off the light. Even though the attribute's slider has a maximum value of 1, you can manually enter a value above 1. This will create a high contrast rendering effect.

There are 6 different default types of lights in Maya: ambient light, directional light, point light, spotlight, area light, volume light.

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Ambient Light

Ambient light changes the ambience of a shader on a model (this is what creates the shading around the edges). This can cause a washed out rendering effect. It's recommended that you do not use this light.

Special Attributes

Ambient shading - When set right this can help prevent the washed-out or flat effect.

Directional Light

A directional light lets you send light rays in a set direction for infinity. The position of a direction light in a scene is not relevent. This is an exclusive feature to the directional light. This light is recommended for almost all lighting scenarios; especially good with outdoor renderings.

Special Attributes


Point Light

Point lights could be compared to light bulbs. They emit light from all directions from a single point (spherically). These lights are good for simulating bulbs, and many other different applications.

Special Attributes



As the name implies, it works very similar to a real life spotlight. It lets you send light in a cone shape. This light has many uses. Example: flashlights, spotlights, headlights on a car, etc.

Special Attributes

Decay rate - This allows for the light to lose its intensity as it gets farther from the light.

Cone angle - This lets you change the angle of the cone. This is in degrees.

Penumbra angle - Imagine this is letting you adjust the softness of the light.

Drop Off - This attribute shrinks the cone of the light porportionally.

Area Light

Area lights let you emit light from a flat surface in one direction. The size of an area light affects the intensity of the light. These lights can be used for simulationg florecent lights, sunlight coming in through a window, studio lights, etc.

Special Attributes

Decay rate
- This allows for the light to lose its intensity as it gets farther from the light.

Volume Lights

Emits light from a volume shape. These shapes are box, sphere, cylinder, and cone. Good for use in special effects shots.

Special Attributes

Light shape - Changes the shape of the volume.

See also Shadows

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