The sky shader is considered deprecated. You should use the visibility options in the Skydome light instead.

This scene uses a background Sky shader with a constant color which is sufficient to 'light' the scene with GI Diffuse rays




Hardware Texturing

Texture Resolution

Texture resolution used to display sky shading in the viewport.



Sky Radius

The size of the sky in the Maya viewport.


The direction that the HDR image faces in the viewport. Choose between Front, Back or Both.

Note that Hardware Texturing in Maya's viewport will only work when using a Maya file texture with the Ai Sky shader. Using an Ai Image, for example, will return black in the viewport.


The following information demonstrates how to render a scene using the Ai Sky shader with an HDR map.

Note that all the examples below are rendered with the Sky shader plus one quad area light acting as the key light. The Dragon model has around 7 million triangles and is rendered as is without any displacement/bump maps. The following sampling settings were used in all the examples:

Below is a version of the dragon with the Sky shader's color set to blue. 

Dragon model lit with sky shader set to a flat blue color.

This section is mostly obsolete, you should use the Skydome light to light your scene.

If you select the sky shader on the pass and open the render tree, you can use any image to illuminate the scene by simply hooking up a normal Image node to the "Color" slot of the Sky shader. 

Note that it's important to set the proper mapping format in the Sky shader. We'll use the following HDR image in "lat-long" format:

Dragon model lit with sky shader using a high-contrast HDR image 

Even though this image is using the exact same GI sampling setting as the previous one, you can see that it has a lot more noise. This is because the environment map has a lot of high contrast areas with bright spots (windows, ceiling lights) and dark shadows, which is difficult to sample.

Reducing Noise Using The Ray Switch Node

This section is mostly obsolete, you should be using the Skydome light instead.

Using a very high contrast HDR image for lighting a scene can produce noise which can be hard to get rid of simply by increasing the Camera or Hemi/Glossy samples. An HDR image contains a tiny sun disc whose pixel values are in the hundreds of thousands or even millions, is going to need a lot of samples for Arnold's brute-force hemispherical sampling to find. On the other hand, an HDRI of a thick overcast day with no sun at sight is very easy to sample.

One way to fix the excessive sampling noise would be simply to blur the environment map so that it's easier for the GI and glossy rays to hit bright areas. However, that would cause the render to lose all the nice highlights seen in the reflections from the environment map. Instead, we will be using different environment maps for each ray type in the scene.

Typically, you will need 2 or 3 different versions of the same environment:

For this purpose, you can use "Ray_Switch".

Below are the images used for the different ray types, using a gaussian blur in PhotoShop.

Depending on the dynamic range of the HDRI you may need to blur more or less to achieve optimal results. Also, how blurry the map used for glossy rays should depend on the material; for very sharp materials (almost mirror-like) you don't need as much blurring, but if your glossy reflections are very soft you should use a bigger blur.

Here's the resulting image from this setup:

Dragon model lit with sky shader using separate HDRIs for each ray type.

Note how with this setup the noise is now gone and the illumination is very similar to the version using a single high-res map for all ray types.

Different Amounts of Blur for the Diffuse Environment Map

This section is mostly obsolete, you should be using the Skydome light instead.

The following images illustrate the effect of varying the amount of blur in the HDRI's used for Indirect Diffuse rays. To make things simpler, all the illumination comes from the HDRI - there is no explicit key light. As expected, the more you blur, the lower the noise, at the cost of reduced lighting detail (for example, softer shadows):

Ray Depth

The scene below is lit solely using an Ai Sky shader with the color set to white. The number of Diffuse rays has been increased to 4 to reduce noise from the Ai Sky around the floor. You can clearly see the effect increasing the Diffuse ray depth has on the amount of bounced illumination in the scene.

A ramp texture that is set to the U direction will render incorrectly when connected to the Ai Sky. This can be corrected by scaling the Ai Sky -1 in Z and setting Facing to back.