I am going to create some hand painted HDRI's to use in my 3D scene to light my models.

I am going to use Photoshop in 32bit to paint and save out as EXR.

Before I begin, I am looking for the best workflow to do this.

The photographic HDRI's I have all range from brightness value of 0.00-15.00.

So I am looking to paint within these values.

THE QUESTION: Is it possible to make selections based on a range of pixel brightness values?

Is the best workflow for this, to start bottom layers dark and each layer progressivly get brighter as I get closer to light source?

Sorry if this is confusing, I looked around and I dont see many people doing this.

2 Answers 2


You can use the Select > Color Range option to make masks for the highlights, midtones and shadows.

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Then you can limit the painting to each of the masks.

  • Good Idea, I just tested real quick and it works pretty good, the only thing I will add, color range is not available in 32bit. So I seperated out all the layers/mask in 16bit then converted back to 32bit and started changing the exposure from there. Thank you.
    – icYou520
    Commented May 29, 2018 at 21:07

I'm somewhat perplexed, I admit:

Typical workflows around HDRIs don't usually involve hand-painting them.

The ones which are not purely photographic in origin tend to be derived within a given 3D DCC app, and are done using a spherical camera render of the scene setup - which may often include hand-painted textures on scene supporting geometry - and then that spherical render is used as an HDRI in subsequent renders.

I haven't heard of anyone else doing this at this point - there are a lot of folks painting textures in quixel, substance painter, marmoset, et al, and many even doing that in their 3D DCC of choice (Maya, modo, Blender and 3DS all have decent 3D texture painting built in) but I'm competely unaware of anyone with a published workflow for handpainting an HDRI for scene lighting.

Good luck, and I'd be interested to see the results!

  • 1
    Yea just trying something different. I have a cartoon scene that has a very close shot of some metallic objects and I want it to reflect my "Cartoon HDRI" I have a feeling I am going to have to keep the painting simplified because of the light values. Thought I would try something different. I know there are "cheats" to get the reflections I want but I figured i will go this route and see what happens.
    – icYou520
    Commented May 29, 2018 at 20:44

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