13 FREE Forest HDRI Environment Maps – 100% FREE from Shutterstock

13 FREE Forest HDRI Environment Maps - 100% FREE from Shutterstock

Whether you’re creating a moody deep-forest scene or need lush green grass and sunsets, these 13 FREE HDRIs have what you’re looking for.

Since Turbosquid is now part of the Shutterstock family, it’s time we started giving away some FREE tools for CG artists, as well.

One of my favorite things about working in CG is how you can take your surroundings and things you come across in life, and find interesting ways to include them in your work. Capturing HDRI light-maps with a 360 camera is a perfect example of this. Anytime you’re out in the world and just happen to notice interesting patterns of light, or a certain mood and tone created by your surroundings, just pull out a 360 camera and capture it to use with your renders. This is exactly how we created these FREE forest HDRIs.

One thing that I’ve noticed when going through HDRI sites is that they often shy away from trees and objects with the potential to create a lot of movement. This is because to make an effective HDRI, you have to stitch and merge together multiple exposures of the same place, and if the wind blows surrounding the grass or trees, you get some “ghosting.”

However, to me, all HDRIs should really be used for is reflections and lighting. If you have a scene where the HDRI is so visible and central to the scene that a bit of ghosting or artifacting throws everything off, you’re probably relying a little too heavily on your HDRI.

Included ImagesA selection of some of the different looks included.

As a result, I’ve always found it hard to find good HDRI of forests. Especially deep forest looks. This is what set me on a mission to go and grab some of my own to give away here.

So, enjoy these FREE HDRIs that I captured on a few different hikes and camping trips.

Click to download these FREE HDRIs. Plus, get a 15% discount on video clips and images from Shutterstock (inside the FREE HDRI pack).


By downloading this FREE HDRI pack, you agree not to resell or redistribute these assets.

What Is an HDRI?

Lion StatueOne of my personal favorite looks from this pack.

So, if you aren’t familiar with CG or VFX, you might not be familiar with the concept of an HDRI, especially as it relates to computer-generated design. So, what exactly is an HDRI?

HDRI stands for High Dynamic Range Image, which can really mean a lot of things in different contexts. But, in this context, it refers to a raw 360 degree image that contains an extreme amount of light detail from the high end of the spectrum all the way to the low end.

Light ExposureA perfect HDRI can go all the way from almost black to fully blown out.

To make an HDRI, you take different exposures of a scene at various shutter speeds so as to capture the highest amount of light information possible. Then, when you take that information into your CG software of choice, you add this environment map to a dome light or sphere, and allow it to light your scene.

When done correctly, this will provide extremely realistic tonality and shadows on your subject.

Lion StatueWith this HDRI, the statue receives a strong backlight with a natural falloff.

When creating photo-real renders, in almost every case, you’re going to have a more realistic starting place if you begin the process with an HDRI. With photo-realism, the name of the game is introducing enough of that natural randomness that happens when light starts to bounce all over the place. Even if you augment your scenes with a lot of CG lights, you’ll still be helping yourself out a lot if you start out with a HDRI base layer.

How to Use HDRIs

How to use an HDRI in Blender

To use an HDRI, you’re going to need to go into some CG software like Blender, Cinema 4D, or one of the long list of others (Maya, 3DS Max, Unreal, etc.).

It’s generally pretty straight forward, but the process is different for all software and renderers (such as Redshift, Octane, Cycles, etc.).

Regardless of your 3D package of choice, HDRIs are going to make your renders better in almost every case. They just add that intangible bit of realism to every scene.

Boat RenderA little render thrown together with the HDRI called “LakePath.”

So, get out there and make some moody outdoor renders. I’ve been having a lot of fun playing around with this pack, and I hope you do, too.

For more tech-inspiring articles, check these out:

Learn How to Make 3D Text in Illustrator With Simple Drop ShadowsWhat’s New In Cinema 4D S24 and Redshift Rendering Comes to MacWays to Use 3D Mockups and Renders to Market Your Artwork OnlineNew Maxon Subscription, Including Cinema 4D, Red Giant, RedshiftHow to Get Started with Motion Capture Right Now

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