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A Guide on Setting Up Cyberpunk Lighting in UE5

Jeppe Mygh shared with us how he created the End of the Line project using Unreal Engine 5, discussed the rendering setup behind the scene, and shared tons of useful resources that will help you get started with environment art in UE5.


My name is Jeppe Mygh. I am 28 years old, and I am an Environment Concept Artist from Denmark, currently working freelance on some exciting projects. However, I am looking for a studio to join! I primarily use Blender and Unreal Engine to create my works, and I really enjoy using Blender's Geometry Nodes and Unreal's Procedural Content Generation tools to create concepts that can do a little more than just be a pretty image.

The Way into 3D Art

I have always wanted to get into art, but never dared to apply to art school, as I did not think I had the skills to get in. So, I ended up taking a degree in marketing and web development instead. However, during a brief introductory course to 3D, I picked up Blender just as it got the amazing 2.8 update to its UI, and I was instantly hooked. I learned a lot from watching everything Ian Hubert put out on his YouTube and Patreon, and I just kept playing around with it, doing everything from animations, product rendering, and VFX, while also trying to learn a lot about art and digital painting. 

I was lucky enough that my hard work paid off, and I got picked up by a small outsourcing concept art studio called Vizlab Studios. There, I had the pleasure to work on an unannounced AAA project by a major publisher, Superfuse, by Stich Heads Entertainment, and a string of smaller projects until the studio, unfortunately, had to close down in October last year due to the turmoil the game industry finds itself in right now.

Getting Started Unreal Engine

When one door closes, another door opens, and I have since used the downtime between freelance clients to finally start learning Unreal Engine! And man, am I having fun with it! Unreal Engine is like the ultimate sandbox game in itself – you can make anything you want with it. For environment art, being able to use Nanite and Lumen to have huge scenes with millions of polygons and realistic lighting in real-time, allows you way more time to iterate on your composition, design, and storytelling, without waiting for a path tracer to render your frame. It really enables you to spend that extra bit of time to add a lot of fine detail and storytelling to your scene, which can make the difference between a good piece of art and a one.

The End of the Line Project

When I started making End of the Line I really wanted to make a love letter to the Cyberpunk 2077 universe, so I set about creating something inspired by what the amazing team at CD Projekt Red has created, without it necessarily being fan art. I have been playing the game a lot, and find the dystopian world and story captivating – CDPR really has knocked that game out of the park with the most recent updates, go play it! 

I wanted to show something that would seem kind of ordinary in the cyberpunk universe but at the same time almost surreal in reality. So, I came up with the idea of a dingy tram station ripperdoc that would sell you smokes and replace your biological arm while you were waiting for the tram. I was hugely inspired by the small, weird shops dotted around Kowloon city, as well as the amazing moods and lighting from the works of Skiegraphicstudio. I am usually too lazy to make an organized PureRef or Miro board for my own personal projects, but here is the Pinterest board with all the images that in one way or another inspired me.

To start the scene off, I made a quick sketch/blockout in Blender, just to organize my thoughts and figure out my initial composition. I wanted to show the Stop'n Chop shop, but I also wanted to show off the lonely structure it was located in, and how it connected with the tram station. In this stage, I tend to think a lot about how I want the final piece to feel and try my best to support that feeling through my composition. I always tend to make my images heavily reliant on the rule of thirds in regard to composition, but I am trying really hard to break out of that and make some bolder and more interesting compositions.

In order to enhance that feeling of loneliness, I placed the main focal point (the building) squarely in the middle of my image. That way, the negative space of the background city would surround my subject, and help the viewer get the same feeling. I feel like these considerations in regard to story and composition are often the most important step in any image I make, and is by far the hardest part to figure out.

I imported the blockout into Unreal, and from there on, it was essentially just replacing the blockout, gradually adding more and more details, refining the composition, and setting the lighting. I wanted to spend as little time as possible creating assets, and as much time as possible actually learning how Unreal Engine works, playing with its lighting tools, and getting comfortable with some of the amazing community-made resources available on the marketplace. I used a bunch of amazing assets from the creator Vasiliy Poryagin.

This allows me to really hone in and focus my time on learning the engine, instead of spending days modeling, texturing, and exporting assets. For the few models I did end up modeling myself, I used Epic's official Send to Unreal plug-in for Blender, which streamlines the process immensely. By using a lot of pre-made assets, I was able to create this scene in about a week from start to finish and cram in more useful experience actually using the engine than I otherwise would have if I had to do everything from scratch.

I used the amazing asset pack Ultra Dynamic Sky to fill the scene with a dark cyan color and used the neon sign of the Stop'n Chop to create a lot of contrast, while also lighting up the train tracks and the platforms. 

I tried to really separate the main building from the background using volumetric fog, but found that William Faucher's EasyFog was far easier to art direct and control, and was easily animate as well. I used the EasyFog planes to really make the shape of the main building pop, and further add to that lonely feeling in the image.

At this stage, I was pretty happy with the overall composition, mood, and tone of the image, so now I could concentrate my efforts and put as much storytelling and detailing as possible into the image. This is where I usually let loose a little bit and come up with some fun ideas, like the gantries below the platforms, the graffiti, the closed shop across the platform, and the massive waste disposal site just underneath the platform, to make the tram station feel like it is located right at the edge of the city.

I used Unreal's new Procedural Content Generation tools to scatter thousands of trash bags, clutter, and tires to quickly generate an entire landscape of trash. I added a huge mess of pipes and cables in the background to create some more leading lines up to the main building and to keep the composition centered. I did the same with the construction cranes behind the big building in the background – I made sure to point it at my main focal point to keep the composition as tight as possible. 

I also used a lot of KitBash3D assets to make the billboards scattered in the background. It was tricky to place all those bright signs without disturbing the composition too much, but after enough tweaking, I found a nice balance. Finally, I ended up detailing the Stop'n Chop interior, just because it was really fun to run around in the scene using the Third Person Template that ships with Unreal Engine.

This is the final version of the piece – I added in some sneaky soft spotlights to amplify how much light the Chop shop seems to cast, and it gave a little bit of detail, contrast, and rim light on the railway, which I really like. Lighting and Composition go hand in hand a lot of the way, and I have learned most of what I know about lighting by studying a lot of impressionist and realism painters from the past few centuries. And I always try to borrow what I can from the old masters, both because it is so good, and because I really want to learn more about the way they composed their images. Before exporting I did a little bit of work using the post-processing volume, mainly to add some chromatic aberration, and some bloom effects, add in a vignette, and control the exposure of my camera. 

Finally, I did some color adjustments in Photoshop, and I was super satisfied with the result. I ended up being so happy with it, that I decided to go the extra mile and do a little animation of the train coming into the station. Luckily the Unreal Engine Level Sequencer is super intuitive, and doing a little camera push-in, while the train was coming towards the station was a breeze! I exported the sequence into After Effects and did the Glitch Effect and sound mixing in there, using a bunch of sounds I found from some amazing people on FreeSound (credits are on my ArtStation post).


This is my first personal piece using Unreal Engine, and it's been a blast to make! There are a ton of free high-quality tutorials on YouTube to get you started if you are a beginner, but where I learned the most was from the tutorials of William Faucher and CGDealers, and just experimenting on my own and playing around. Some things might seem really hard to do at first, but once you figure them out on your own, everything becomes a little easier to understand the next time you encounter a similar problem. 

Jeppe Mygh, Environment & Concept Artist

Interview conducted by Theodore McKenzie

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