[Visualize] Using HDR Images as Environments

In order to improve the photo-realism in SOLIDWORKS Visualize, the software provides the ability to import HDR (High-Dynamic-Range) images as environments. Instead of using a standard digital image as an environment (i.e. a backplates), this method can reproduce a realistic virtual environment that provides accurate lighting, background, and reflections on models that make the project more immersive. It creates the ability within SOLIDWORKS Visualize to rotate your view orientation and engulf yourself and the model into this environment. Aside from lighting and reflection effects, this is a great way to create several snap shots of the project from different views without having to replace the background with several standard digital images. This article discusses how to apply and use an HDR environment in SOLIDWORKS Visualize.


You can load a HDR environment image with file extension .HDR or .EXR by doing one of the following:

  1. Project > New HDR Environment.
  2. Drag an HDR image from the Environments library into the 3D viewport.
  3. Double-click an environment icon in the Environment library.
  4. Use the options provided in the Scenes tab.



By default, a Visualize project is set to be within a globe which has an HDR environment (Chrome Studio) already applied. When you use a new HDR environment, it will be applied to the globe. When the model is imported, you'll notice that it appears to be floating, as by default it is placed in the center of the environment. You can adjust this setup by highlighting the environment in the palette and selecting the “Flatten Floor” option.







If you wish to keep the lighting and background within the reflections, but use a different environment image (“backplate”), you can simply import a backplate




In the image below, you can see that I have changed the backplate to be a light-grey studio but the lighting and reflections on the model still show the environment of the HDR file we imported earlier. 




Usually, you’d want to have the backplate to match well with the HDR environment. However, de-selecting the “Show Environment Image” option can be beneficial if you want to keep the lighting provided by a studio-like HDR environment but want a slightly different backplate. Note that the reflection will however not match the new backplate’s environment.


If you have any questions regarding HDR environments in SOLIDWORKS Visualize, please contact Hawk Ridge Systems Technical Support at 1-877-266-4469 (US)1-866-587-6803 (CAN), or support@hawkridgesys.com.

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