HDR Light Studio Releases New Live Link Plug-in for Unreal Engine

Lightmap is excited to announce the immediate availability of our new plug-in linking HDR Light Studio with Unreal Engine 5. Developed by Lightmap, the HDR Light Studio Unreal Connection Plug-in brings an efficient and powerful lighting workflow to Unreal Engine users.

"The HDR Light Studio plug-in works great with Unreal's Path Tracer and Lumen. The LightPaint® feature allows me to very precisely position lights on the interactive SkyLight HDRI, and in 3D, with HDR Light Studio's textured Rect Lights. It's now easier and faster for me to achieve studio-quality lighting in Unreal Engine. Having all the HDR Light Studio benefits combined with Unreal Engine’s real-time feedback is amazing." Stefan Evrard, Mondlicht Studios

Lit in Unreal using HDR Light Studio Credit: Stefan Evrard, Mondlicht Studios

You can now use HDR Light Studio to light any Unreal scene, and we are looking forward to seeing your exciting and unexpected projects lit using HDR Light Studio.

HDR Light Studio has a solid reputation for allowing 3D artists to light products, jewelry, pack shots, and automotive imagery - in fact, anything reflective/shiny/satin can benefit from taking complete control of the reflections. HDR Light Studio users include many photographers who have transitioned into CGI. Photographers love how intuitive and easy HDR Light Studio is to use.

Lit in Unreal using HDR Light Studio Credit: Stefan Evrard, Mondlicht Studios

What features and benefits does HDR Light Studio bring to Unreal Engine?

Unreal has lights already, so why do you need HDR Light Studio? Here, we explain how HDR Light Studio works and its benefits to Unreal Engine.

How it works

Using HDR Light Studio with Unreal is easy. Press 'Start' on the plug-in panel to open HDR Light Studio in a live link with Unreal. The Unreal rendered viewport is then streamed into HDR Light Studio’s interface. Now, you can concentrate on lighting the shot inside the HDR Light Studio interface with the tools and content you need at hand.

As you create lighting inside HDR Light Studio, lighting is synced in real-time with Unreal, using standard environment and rect lights. The HDR Light Studio project data is also synced and embedded in the Unreal project file. So, the lighting design is automatically loaded whenever you start HDR Light Studio. Once the lighting design is complete, the HDR lighting textures are rendered in higher resolution on disk.

HDR Light Studio - Dedicated Lighting Interface

What kind of lighting does HDR Light Studio create in Unreal Engine?

The appearance of a light will determine how the light will appear in the reflections in the Unreal scene. If the light is a default solid white rectangle, it will look fake in reflections, as hardly any light is a perfect rectangle of flat light with hard edges.

HDR Light Studio is dedicated to creating perfect light appearances. It provides a wide range of lighting content types, allowing users to replicate studio lighting techniques. Each light appearance results in an HDR texture added to the lighting design - be it a light source, a lighting effect using a blend mode, or a whole HDRI map.

Lights on the Sky Light / HDR Backdrop

By default, HDR Light Studio adds new lights to the interactive HDRI map. This HDRI map surrounds your Unreal scene and is shared with Unreal behind the scenes as an HDR Cube map on your Sky Light or HDR Backdrop.

Lights are adjusted on the interactive HDRI map, and Unreal is continuously updated with the latest HDRI map texture. This single HDRI map can contain an unlimited number of lights. Lighting with an HDRI map produces realistic lighting as the reflections and illumination from the image are working in harmony. You can represent complex and subtle lighting designs using a single HDRI map.

HDR Light Studio lets you load existing HDRI maps, add new lights, and make other adjustments to shape the lighting effect creatively. Think of HDR Light Studio as a real-time HDRI map editing studio where you see the lighting edits live in Unreal. It’s a unique approach to lighting objects that's fast to work with and produces beautifully lit scenes.

Interactive HDRI Map shared with Sky Light. Unreal Engine UI overlaid top left - see the real-time HDRI map updates.

HDR Textured Rect Area Lights

Click a single check box, and the light is removed from the shared HDRI map. The light appearance is then mapped onto an Unreal Rect Light created and controlled by the HDR Light Studio plug-in. As you adjust the appearance of the light in HDR Light Studio, the appearance updates in Unreal as the HDR texture is updated. The texture contains alpha that makes parts of the light transparent - enabling lights with soft edges.

Rect Light HDR Texture Updates. Unreal Engine UI overlaid bottom left - see the real-time HDR texture updates on the Rect Light.

The LightPaint® System

A light doesn't just need to have the right appearance in reflections; it must also be in the right place. Lightmap’s patented LightPaint® system lets the user click directly on the rendered viewport to position a light's effect on the model. LightPaint® moves a light to Illuminate, Reflect, or Rim Light the clicked location on the model. The new position for the light is calculated instantly, and the light creates the desired effect. Keyboard shortcuts allow the user to quickly move between the render view and HDR canvas tools, allowing Moving using LightPaint®, Scaling, Rotating, etc. You don't need to think in 3D or switch between different camera views in HDR Light Studio. You can craft the lighting from a single camera view and instantly see the results.

The LightPaint® system in action. Light position, brightness, and size are all driven through mouse interactions with the live render.

Presets Library

HDR Light Studio comes with hundreds of Presets; you can save your own, too. There are four fundamental preset types.


Rigs are lighting designs containing multiple lights. Rigs can include HDRI maps, adjustment lights with blend modes, filter effects, and more. Drag and drop to add all the lights in the rig to your current lighting project, or right-click to replace your lights with the rig preset.

Rig Presets. They look like HDRI maps, but they are editable lighting designs.


You can drag and drop lights onto the render view, and the active LightPaint® method positions the newly added light. In HDR Light Studio a light can be a light source, an image texture of anything, effects using blend modes, HDRI maps, and procedural skies. A light's appearance is made from up to 3 pieces of content: Main, Value Blend, and Alpha Multiply.

Light Presets


Content presets are the ingredients used to control the appearance of a light. Content presets are applied to the Main, Value Blend, and Alpha Multiply light settings. Lighting content types are Bulb, Image, Scrim Light, Polygon, Gradient, Flat, Sky, and Box Gradient. You can hot-swap the appearance of a light by instantly applying different content presets.

Content Presets


Elements are specific re-usable settings that are sub-settings of content. These include colors, color ramps, gradient ramps, and image files.

Element Presets

Lighting is an art, so you need lighting tools and lots of content to support the creative process. The wide range of preset types available in HDR Light Studio allows you to explore lighting options with an efficient and creative workflow.


Lit in Unreal using HDR Light Studio Credit: Ben Walker - CreateCG

Additional HDR Light Studio Features

In addition to the key features above, here are some more essential features in HDR Light Studio 8 that are now coming to Unreal with this new plug-in.

Scrim Lights - Replicate the scrim lighting techniques used by studio photographers

Composite Lights - Group lights, mask lights, and more

Procedural Sky - Plus add cloud presets for added realism

Light Looks - Save, compare, duplicate, and edit multiple lighting designs in a single HDR Light Studio project

Filters - Diffusion Blur, Motion Blur, and Advanced Motion Blur effects.

Portable Lighting Designs - Save your HDR Light Studio lighting projects and load them into any supported 3D software; the lighting will match perfectly. Click here to see our full range of plug-ins.


Lit in Unreal using HDR Light Studio Credit: Ben Walker - CreateCG

Lightweight Texture Based Lighting

HDR Light Studio creates lightweight, efficient to render, high-quality lighting using HDR textures. HDR Light Studio provides the maximum amount of control over the appearance of your lights, as seen in the reflections of the subject of your shot. The goal is not to build clumsy physical light rigs with 3D-modelled lights on stands. These may look good in a marketing video for the plug-in. But when it comes to lighting a commercial shot, you don't want to see the lights in the view, see their stands in reflections, or deal with the rendering overhead of the additional 3D geometry. You want a fantastic amount of control over the lighting, and this is what HDR Light Studio provides.

The Industry Standard

HDR Light Studio was first released in 2009. Since then, Lightmap has been dedicated to improving the software and expanding its compatibility. HDR Light Studio is now the de facto standard for lighting products, packaging, jewelry, and automotive imagery via its interactive HDRI map. 3D artists worldwide rely on HDR Light Studio to improve their 3D lighting.

Lit in Unreal using HDR Light Studio Credit: Ben Walker - CreateCG

Pricing and Availability

The new HDR Light Studio plug-in for Unreal Engine is compatible with HDR Light Studio 8.1.1 and higher (Windows only) and requires an HDR Light Studio Automotive license. The Unreal plug-in will not work with an Indie or Pro license.

Existing customers using HDR Light Studio Automotive licenses can download and use the Unreal Engine plug-in today.

You can try the new plug-in in demo mode here.

You can purchase an HDR Light Studio Automotive license from our online store here.

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This entry was posted in HDR Light Studio - Connections News and tagged 3D Software: Unreal Engine.