Area Lights and Mental Ray

Area Lights and Mental Ray

Maya 2012 Tutorial


How to Add Area Lights for Maya Mental Ray Rendering



If you are looking for a reliable, high quality Mental Ray light, plan on using an Area Light. They project light from a rectangular plane and produce beautiful soft shadows. The also work well with caustics.

An Area Light has a front face and a back face. The front face has an indicator line sticking out. Make sure to aim the light's front face towards the scene.


Step One

Add a polygon plane to the workspace by choosing Create > Polygon Primitives > Plane.

Step Two

Add a text object by choosing Create > Text (include options).

Step Three

In the text options, enter the text, set a font, choose Bevel for Type and adjust the bevel settings. Click Create to add your text.

Step Four

Use the Scale tool (r key) to enlarge the plane object.

Step Five

Using the Move tool (w key), position the text so it sits on the floor object.

Step Six

Add an Area Light by choosing Create > Lights > Area Light.

Step Seven

With the Move tool (w key) position the light so it is above and points towards the text. Press the t key to activate the light's manipulator so you can aim the light.

Step Eight

Select the light, open the Attribute Editor, areaLightShape tab. Set the Decay Rate to Quadratic. The light's intensity now decreases as it travels away from the light source.

Step Nine

Open the Shadows section, Ray Trace Shadow Attributes sub-category and check Use Ray Trace Shadows.

Step Ten

Open the Mental Ray section, Area Light sub-section and click the Use Light Shape checkbox.

Step Eleven

Click the Render Settings icon to open the Render Settings panel. Choose Render Using: Mental Ray.

Step Twelve

Click the Quality tab and choose Quality Presets: Production.

Step Thirteen

Hold Option (PC - Alt) and right-mouse drag to dolly into your scene in the perspective view. Use the left-mouse and middle-mouse buttons along with the Option key (PC - Alt key) to frame your scene.

Step Fourteen

Click the Render Current Frame icon to render your scene. If the scene is too light or dark, open the light's tab in the Attribute Editor and adjust the Intensity value.

Step Fifteen

If the shadows appear course and ragged, increase the High Samples value in the light's Mental Ray section, Area Light sub-section.

Area Light Options

Area Lights have soft edges by default. You can adjust the light's Color, Shadow parameters and activate Photons in the Attribute Editor, areaLightShape tab.

Can't Find Mental Ray?

If Mental Ray doesn't appear in the Render Settings, Render Using: menu, choose Window > Settings/Preferences > Plug-in Manager. Make sure Mayatomr.bundle is loaded.

Want to See Your Area Light?

To make your area light visible, click the Visible checkbox in the Step Ten options. You can also set your area light to be a Rectangle, Disc, Sphere, or Cylinder.