Hey Unreal Devs,

So i’ve hit a point in my design that I’m not really sure WHAT to add next to give it that “Next level of detail”

I’ve looked through the unreal forums on Realistic Lighting, Materials, etc. and I have quite a bit of knowledge in almost every area of Unreal (besides the c++. Blueprints I love <3)

I’m wondering if anyone here has some tips/tricks for creating realistic environments. I absolutely love to delve into the psychology of how things are laid out, how certain things make you feel, etc. When I create environments, I go for the most immersive thing possible, as I feel that’s how games should be.

I’m working on a superdupersecret project that will be coming out in a few weeks publically, but I want it to be a perfect demo. It’s a horror game. Not a jump scare game. Environment and psychology are everything to me when I make a game. So i’m not looking for “how to keep the player distracted so you can jump scare them around this corner”. I’m looking for “How do I keep this player interested in the environment, make them feel comfortable, and then alter their KNOWN version of what the environment is”. I want them to feel comfortable like they know the place, and then use that “knowledge” against them by distorting their reality. It’s much more terrifying and off putting.

The environment i’m currently working on is a house. I just feel like it’s lacking SOMETHING.


  1. What techniques do you use to create realistic lighting? What seems to work for you? e.g. How you decide where to place lights in your level, or how you decide how much lighting

  2. How do you place items to make them feel more natural? e.g. How should I place an item in the world to felt like someone just left it there, or placed it there?

  3. How do you make your levels feel less “empty”?

  4. What is your thought process like when you’re creating environments like this? (indoor environments, homes, etc.)

If you can’t answer questions but know of articles/other posts I can read up on, I would absolutely love that as well. I’m not really looking for one solid answer, I’m looking for thought processes.

The screenshots I’ve included are just one room, and that’s all I want to focus on right now. I’d like to learn how to perfect that room so I can know how to do the rest of the house myself.

Thank you everyone very much for your time!!

Screenshots -

Decrease lamp intensity and add a skylight if you don’t have already is what I suggest.

Also look into postprocessing and make use of reflectioncaptures.

Well when it comes to rendered images there are two types. Realism is going outside and taking a picture with a camera and realistic is hyper imagery where the photo is processed to make it interesting by design that ignores the physics of natural lighting in favor of staged lighting with little regard to point source.

In photography a common technique that works well as to CG staged lighting is called “Painting with Lights” that ignores point source in favor of getting the image (in CG case the render) and is a technique that’s been used, with out the time laps of course, to build interesting game environments that does not require the realism look.

One of my favorite examples.

As a general rule of thumb though the best place for advice are forums that practice the art that you are interested in with in the box so to speak and no one knows better about lighting than a professional photographer so asking the same question where photographers hang out or even YouTubing tricks and tips they use should give you a lot more ideas as to what type of lighting setups you can “copy” beyond looking for the make it look good button.

As a personal preference for interiors I would avoided the use of a Skylight as it is a GI element and instead use as many point lights to make an area look interesting even though not physically correct as to the point source.

  1. mostly I just place some lights and then I test different positions till I think that I have found the perfect place for it :slight_smile: In other cases I also take a look at pictures and the real-life
  2. study the world! e.g when you want to create a forest scene, go to a real forest and take a look at everything and think about it (why does it look like that?, why is the grass under a tree lower?,…)
  3. mostly I try to find a good combination between the size of a room and the things that I want to add. But depending on how and where you place the assets, you can let the room feel “full” or “empty” e.g a table in the middle of the room = feels more full; a table in one of the corners = feels empty

Thanks for the replies! They both really help. I’ve looked into YouTube and searched google quite vigorously, however I haven’t been able to find anything specific to lighting that isn’t meant for beginners, so it’s way less advanced than I’d like to be.

Any thoughts on filling the environment with different actors? What could I add in the scene to give a better sense of a “full home”?

Thank you!

@fighter5347 Lots to think about!

Thanks so much for that explanation. I guess I just need to take a bit more in when I’m looking at environments around me, seems as though I’m not grabbing the detail that I need.

Awesome reply. Thank you!

Physics :slight_smile:

I recommend Particle Effects like Floating Dirt or Pollen. I think they add a fair dose of realism and busyness to a scene.

The blizzard particle on the Effects Cave Demo makes for a great Dirt Particle when tweaked right.