The Online POV-Ray Tutorial
Tips and Tricks
We've provided a list of useful tips and tricks to help you in learning and
using POV-Ray. We came up with most of these as a side-effect of frequent
POV-Ray use on our part (when we really should have been doing other things,
like homework), so they're worth looking at.
- Developing POV-Ray Scenes
- Being Artistic
Developing POV-Ray Scenes
- Develop a good coding style. (A coding style is the way
you format the source code in the file -- where you place the tabs and
such). If you ever go back and work on a scene you made a month ago, this
can be invaluable. We personally like the one we've used in the examples in
this tutorial, but you should feel free to develop one you like... just be
- Be prepared to spend some time. Not even the fastest
computers will be fast enough for you once you really get going. Ray-tracing
is a slow process. Make yourself a cup of coffee, or go on a month's
vacation (if it's a really complex scene), or, better yet,
multitask! (Sorry, DOS users, you're stuck with waiting).
- Low-quality images generate faster; use them.You can
save yourself some time when developing a scene by generating low-quality
output (see the +Q switch and the +A switch documentation in the
Command Line Reference.
Generate high quality output for the final scene.
- Make small changes, and render frequently. Although
this seems like it will take more time, you will have actually saved
yourself time that would have otherwise been spent debugging scenes where
many changes have been made. If you rotate the camera, add three more
objects, and change the lighting all in one go, the chances of you getting
lost are a lot greater than if you render a quick image in between each step.
- Experiment. This tutorial can't teach you everything.
Experimenting with objects, textures, and everything else about POV-Ray is
the best way to learn. It certainly can't hurt anything. And hey, if you
make anything interesting, submit it to the Texture Library or the Object Library for others to see!
- Don't start out with a modeller. Only start using extra
tools once you have a firm understanding of POV-Ray and have had plenty of
experience just using the text editor -- otherwise, you won't learn some of
the most important things and you'll be very stuck down the road.
- Zoom way back if you've lost an object. The best way to
find "missing" objects (objects that you put in the source code but that
aren't appearing on-screen) is to pull the camera far back. You may be able
to find the objects. Another possibility is that the object has no
texture. POV-Ray will usually give you a warning in this case, but sometimes
it'll just go ahead and color the object black.
- Be aware of the defaults. Sometimes default values for
things can mess up a scene. For example, putting "reflection
1.0" in an object's finish statement
will not make that object a perfect reflector. You also need to add
"ambient 0.0" and
"diffuse 0.0". You can use the
default directive to change
the default behavior of an object.
- Bound complex objects. POV-Ray is only able to do
so much with automatic bounds. The
automatic bounding algorithm won't even touch really complex objects (like
polynomial objects). You can really
speed up rendering by specifying a bounding object for these, if applicable.
Of course, if you have an infinite cone (for example), it'll be difficult
to find an object which contains it. By far the best objects for bounding
are boxes and spheres. See bounded_by.
- Surrealism is easy. Because of the way ray-tracers
work, scenes tend to come out looking a little surrealistic. Try maximizing
this effect. Use it to your advantage.
- Try adding some fog. Just a little bit of fog can make
your scene look a lot more three-dimensional, and it's not very
computationally expensive. Try it.
- Use your light sources wisely. Lighting can make and
break a scene -- especially if you're working with glass or
mirror-like objects. Bad lighting can make your image seem flat and
two-dimensional, too dark, too bright, or just plain boring. Experiment, and
find just the right configuration for each scene you create. Remember, if
your light source color is <2,2,2>, it will be twice
as bright (this trick can save you a lot of time).
- Avoid infinite ground planes. Planes which stretch or
appear to stretch off to infinity will give your scene an empty feeling.
Unless you can find a way to populate this space with something, your scene
will feel unbalanced. Of course, we've broken this rule many times throughout
the Tutorial... but only when we're not trying to be artistic. Really.
- How something appears is more important than how it is.
A scene needs to look right. If something is mathematically correct but doesn't
look like it, that doesn't help you much. This is art -- the ends justify
- Concentrate on what can be seen. This is related to the
above tip. Don't agonize about perfecting things the viewer is never
going to be able to see. As stated above, things only need to look
- Use a sky sphere. In scenes where you're going to have
a visible "sky", a sky sphere is very effective. This is a sphere of
a very large radius (the edge is maybe 1000 times further than any object in
the scene), which you can texture to give a sky-like appearance. To keep
things from casting a shadow on the sky sphere, use only
ambient lighting on the sphere;
turn off all the diffuse lighting.
If you just want a sky that's a single color, you can just use the