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Mimicking Prey and Alien Isolation Lighting in UE4

Junliang Zhang talked about his re-lighting exercises, which completely change the look of the awesome environments by Wiktor Öhman and Liam Tart.

Junliang Zhang (NYFA graduate) talked about his re-lighting exercises, which completely change the look of the awesome environments by Wiktor Öhman and Liam Tart.


PREY Style Lighting | Wiktor Öhman‘s Deus Ex Corridor Relight

UE4 Alien Isolation Style Lighting | Liam Tart‘s Sci-Fi Bunk – Cyberpunk ReLight

Hello, my name is Junliang Zhang. I come from Shanghai, China. I am a 3D Environment Artist currently working at 3Blackdot in Los Angeles, USA. Last year, I was working on Dead Realm (2015), where I did re-lighting, create environment assets. Honestly, I have been playing video games for over 15 years since I was a kid. Especially, I really like AAA games because the AAA games stand for high-quality graphics and gameplay, which gave me a lot of inspiration and ideas to create awesome environments on my own. Therefore, my true interest is game art.

In order to achieve this goal, I started self-learning 3D modeling, texturing, and game engines since 2010. At the same time, I went to Shanghai Art & Design Academy to study Game and Interactive Media Design Associate’s Degree major. I studied a lot of 2D and 3D game art, such as concept art, 2D/3D character design and environment modeling, and game design. To be honest, at that time, I ran into a lot of problems and troubles while trying to find some solutions. The only reason for that was English language restrictions, which bothered me for a long time. I was thinking: “How I can solve this problem? ” Continually learning the game art or start learning the language? Thus, I chose the second one because language was an ability that was invaluable.

Basically, I could learn anything without English language restrictions. I spent around one year learning the language in order to go aboard to study high-end CG technologies and techniques in the game industry. On September 2014, I went to New York Film Academy (NYFA) to study BFA in Game Design. Since then, I have been very familiar with the newest game industry art workflow, such as creating a procedural re-usable tilling texture, setting proper texel density, lighting, color-grading, shaders, and so on. In the meanwhile, I have learned a lot from many professional artists who created many awesome tutorials as well. From now on, I have been gaining a lot of great experience in 3D environment art and lighting experience after graduating from NYFA. At the same time, the game studio 3Blackdot just found me on Artstation; they said that they were interested in my portfolio. And then, they gave me an art test, and I spent less than two days. So, I turned in, and I passed it so that I started working on 3D environment internship in 2016 and then I upgraded to full-time now after graduating from NYFA.

For my recent work, I’m working on a Beyond Human Game Environment Art Challenge hosted by Artstation. It is still on very early stage right now because it’s my side project.

Re-lighting Frenzy

I think that the only reason for doing these re-lighting projects because was seeing a lot of artists who did their re-lighting projects on Artstation. I thought: why don’t I create my re-lighting projects? It can push me further to achieve my dream to take part in the production of AAA game projects. I can not only bring my knowledge and skills pushing me to a new level, but also gain a lot of experience and techniques by doing actual AAA projects. I started by playing some AAA games, such as Doom (2016), and Prey (2017) in order to get some inspiration and ideas. After getting all of the references and ideas, I made a color palette that helped me a lot during the color-grading stage. This is how I got started at first.


In general, lighting is usually the hardest things for artists. A bad lighting setup will ruin everything that you did. First of all, I always follow the main rule for the lighting in different mood situations. For instance, if you want to make a very standout environment with lighting, you need to make it contrast with colors for that. It must have a primary and secondary lighting setup, because you are creating a visual world. You need to make sure that the players can see what’s going on with the environment from the first view. Second, do not make the lighting too bright and dark because it can make the players feel confused. A good game lighting artist not only needs to use the lighting to guide the players, but also improve the game atmosphere in different environments.

In my Prey re-lighting project, I mainly used point lights and spot lights. A good spotlight will represent a very nice shadow for the environment. That is very useful for the primary lighting. I usually used point lights as an ambient light because it gives the scene a very nice gradient from bright to dark colors.


As I’ve said before, I played a lot of AAA games and watched films when I was a kid. My favorite game was Tom Clancy’s The Division developed by Ubisoft. The game world was fantastic! I learned and studied a lot from their environment lighting setup. I gained so much inspiration and ideas while playing the game, which was very useful to me to create my environments in different situations.

I usually focus on the players’ first view of sight when I set up lighting for the first time, which means that I focus on objects or lights the players will see at first glance. Generally, these would be the most important things in this area regardless of games or films. Then, I think about the secondary lighting. Using cold and warm colors represent primary lights and secondary lights.

In my scene, all of the lightings were real-time. What I did here is I represented an ultra visual looking effect with PBR materials. I used Volumetric Lighting for the spot lights. The volumetric lighting will bring a very significant effect on the environment, which can emit a light beam. After that, I added some particle systems, such as floating dust. It can give the players a feeling of a very vivid and realistic atmosphere while playing the games.

Prey Experiment

For the lighting setup of the Prey scene, I used two spot lights in the middle of the scene. That’s for my primary lighting setup. For the secondary lighting, I used the point light as an ambient light that can help the spot light to represent a soft and natural shadow. At the same time, I used “Sphere Reflection Capture” to capture all of the environment lightings from the metal materials so that it can bring a very nice reflection to the floors.


I want to share a very nice tip for Reflection Capture. By default in the project setting, the resolution of reflection capture is set at 128. I increased the number to 1024. It gave me a very nice and accurate result for the glass reflection.

It is in the project settings; you can search by typing “resolution”. It will pop up!

Different result between Resolution 128 and 1024.

Spot Light Settings

By default, the spot lights turned on “Use Inverse Squared Falloff” option, it can show a very nice volumetric lighting effect. At the same time, you will be more flexible to adjust all of the detail settings of the spot light.

Different between “Use Inverse Squared Falloff” OFF/ON

Post-Processing Settings for Prey Style Lighting:

A perfect lighting can not leave a great post-processing settings. In my Prey scene, I used DaVinci Resolve 14 to generate a great color-grading Lut, which can rapidly help me improve the color and mood quality. After that, I just needed to simply adjust some setting in the post-processing settings.

Using DaVinci Resolve 14 generated a great color-grading Lut.

I simply adjusted saturation to light blue color because it worked pretty well with this scene. Meanwhile, I added a little bit warn color as a contrast color, which you can see as the orange chair materials.

I increased the brightness setting in the color grading section of the post process.

I changed some setting for the lens effect.

Depth of Field setting in Unreal Engine 4.

Rendering Feature setting in Unreal Engine 4.

With/Without post-processing setting in UE4

Liam Tart’s Scene

Lit Mode

Lighting Only Mode

For the Liam Tart environment, I wanted to achieve a cinematic style lighting effect. I searched a lot of film lighting pictures as a reference. I gained a lot of inspiration from Blade Runner and Alien films. That were amazing references for this re-lighting project. In the meantime, I wanted to take advantage of Volumetric Lighting for the project. Therefore, I modified the original window by adding a lot of bars so that it can show a very nice volumetric lighting effect to go through the bars. In the meantime, I added a spot light behind the window in order to increase the volumetric lighting intensity.

Using volumetric lighting effect go through the bars.

I increased the volumetric lighting intensity for a better effect.

Post-Processing Settings for Alien Isolation Style Lighting:

In my Prey scene, I used DaVinci Resolve 14 to generate a great color-grading Lut as well, After that, I just need to simply adjust some setting in the post-processing settings.

I slightly adjusted contrast color to light yellow color because it presented a sense of purple color. Meanwhile, I added a little bit warn color in the Scene Color Tint.

I changed some setting for the lens effect.

Depth of Field setting in Unreal Engine 4.

Rendering Feature setting in Unreal Engine 4.

With/Without Post-Processing Settings in UE4

I have tried Bade Runner style lighting as well.

How does different lighting work with different materials?

For different lighting work with different materials, I think that different materials have different lighting effects in the real world. For the games as well, I have to represent this feeling.

For the Prey environment, I heavily modified all of the material settings. Thus, I adjusted the roughness intensity of the metal material. It helped me to cast a very beautiful reflection with lighting.

How can lighting become a more interesting part of the scene?

I usually use lighting to tell a story, because different lighting colors and moods will represent different feeling. I always need to think about how to set up a good lighting effect from the player’s perspective. That’s very useful for the lighting artist to think about what kind of moods and colors you want to achieve.

In the end, I would like to thank 80.lv for this great interview and all of the readers. I hope this article can help you and your projects. For me, I think that I learned a lot about lighting by doing something!

Junliang Zhang, 3D Environment Artist / Lighting Artist at 3Blackdot

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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Comments 6

  • Jianwen Liu

    Guess what, I asked a question on a forum and the interviewee sent me this link. Alright, I guess this works.


    Jianwen Liu

    ·6 years ago·
  • Anonymous user

    Very cool, pretty helpful English is a little broken but screenshots help support what he means.


    Anonymous user

    ·6 years ago·
  • Bulat

    Man, could you please tell your age, I just wanna know whether I'm not too old to learn this stuff



    ·6 years ago·
  • chibo




    ·6 years ago·
  • ZHO

    It's great!!!



    ·6 years ago·
  • Alice

    Very cool!!! all of the tips and tricks are very useful!! Thank you for sharing!



    ·6 years ago·

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