Houdini’s lighting workflow provides a flexible and powerful environment for creating lights, building shaders and defining the look of a shot. Light and material shaders are created using Houdini’s procedural node-based shader builder featuring dozens of shader operations.

Control Lights across many Shots. Senior lighters can set up lighting for a family of shots then bundle them up into light rigs that are distributed as Houdini Digital Assets. This ensures that each shot has a common starting point while parameters can be tweaked on a shot by shot basis to perfect the look.

New Material workflow. Houdini now includes a material workflow that begins in the Material Palette where you have access to a rich gallery of materials can be applied as is or edited using the shader builder. To create different looks for your objects, you can override material properties on a per object basis.

Build Shaders and Materials Interactively. Whether you use Houdini’s Mantra renderer or RenderMan, shaders can be created using the interactive shader builder. Connect nodes to define the look of the shader then bundle up one or more shaders into Materials. You can even set up both Mantra and RenderMan shaders in a material with a switch node being triggered when the appropriate renderer is used.



  • Easy shelf creation of multiple light types including point, spot, distant, ambient, environment and area
  • Ability to look through lights for easy positioning
  • Interactive light handles allow artists to easily control light position, look-at position, and cone angle
  • Light and object centric Light Linker pane for easy control over light, shadow, and reflection masks
  • Define light passes as separate Takes within the same Houdini file, and automatically generate a script to execute batch rendering of the chosen passes
  • Multiple area light shapes including Line, Grid, Disk, and Sphere
  • Instance lights to geometric objects

Environment Lighting

  • Create an Environment light for fast, high quality Ambient Occlusion
  • Image based lighting with support for HDR maps


  • Ray-Traced Shadows for physically correct shading, and transparent shadows
  • Depth Map Shadows for fast, quality shading, and transparent shadows

Material Palette

  • Choose from a library of default textures
  • Import custom galleries and textures
  • Simple drag and drop application to surfaces
  • Set up local material properties to define custom looks for objects that share the same material assignment
  • Includes default customizable fluid materials such as smoke, flame, liquid, etc.


  • Houdini’s VEX Network allows the creation of complex custom shaders using a node-based workflow without programming knowledge
  • Create sophisticated shaders either interactively or programmatically, then share the results with other users throughout the pipeline
  • Creation of shaders in three different programming languages: RenderMan’s RSL, Mental Images’ mental ray, and Houdini’s native VEX language
  • Create RenderMan shaders interactively, using a node-based system, without writing code


  • Use Mantra’s native shading language to create Houdini operators: geometry operators, particle operators, composite operators, channel operators. e.g. convert a displacement shader to modify geometry with identical results
  • Fully threaded
  • Uses the CPU’s vector engine(s) for extreme performance. In many cases VEX will out perform Houdini operators written with C++
  • Visual programming interface (VOPs) that allows artists to construct complex shading networks without writing code>