7 websites with free HDRI images for your next 3D project

In this article, I give an overview of 7 websites on which you can find free HDRI-Maps to use in any of your 3D projects. HDRI-Maps are said to be images containing the light information of it’s captured light, and are great for creating realistic lighting in 3D rendering.

What are HDRI-Maps?

Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, uses the following explanation for HDRI:

“In image processing, computer graphics, and photography, high dynamic range imaging (HDRI or just HDR) is a set of techniques that allows a greater dynamic range of luminances between light and dark areas of a scene than normal digital imaging techniques. The intention of HDRI is to accurately represent the wide range of intensity levels found in real scenes ranging from direct sunlight to shadows.”

That actually means that HDR images are capable of showing images that physically corresponds more with the real world, so you actually have more ‘real’ images. Possibly for that reason HDRI maps are used in 3D software, to render an accurate and realistic lighting. Are you looking for textures? Read this post which discusses 6 places to find free quality textures.

List of HDRI collections

Accustudio ›

Accustudio is also offering some free HDRI maps, which differ in quality. Since HDRI are used for lighting and not as a real physical background in a render the quality is not always as important. However, smaller HDRI images may produce a less convincing lighting.

  • Filesize: Medium to Low
  • Use? The site itself states: “Everything downloadable from this site should be free of copyrights and trademarks unless specifically noted otherwise”.
  • Watermark: No
  • Rectangular

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Paul Debevec’s Probe Gallery ›

Paul Debevec is offering some good HDRI Probes, which even can be downloaded in one pack. They differ in ranges and a file size, but have a good overall quality.

  • Filesize: Medium
  • License? They suggest emailing when you like to use the HDRI Maps.
  • Watermark: No
  • Format: Probes

HDRMaps.com ›

HDRMaps.com offers a great deal of HDRI Maps. While the majority of their textures is paid, they have a section with free HDRI maps.

  • Filesize: Medium
  • License? The images are Royalty Free with a non-transferable license.
  • Watermark: No
  • Format: Rectangular

HDRLabs ›

HDRLabs offers a quality of several HDRI maps, from which most are in US locations.

  • Filesize: Large
  • License? The HDRI maps on the given section are all licensed under Creative Commons Attribution – Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.
  • Watermark: No
  • Format: Rectangular

HDRI-Hub ›

HDRI-Hub has a shop combined with a small section of 11 free HDRI samples.

  • Filesize: Large to Medium
  • License? The HDRI maps are Royalty Free images, free to use commercially.
  • Watermark: No
  • Format: Rectangular

3D Weave ›

3D weave offers some free medium sized HDRI-Maps, but it must be noted that these are watermarked.

  • Filesize: Medium
  • Use? You can use the images for your work ,but by downloading the files, you agree to not distribute any of the images or the complete collection on a commercial CD or in any electronical way without the permission of the Copyrightholder!
  • Watermark: Yes
  • Rectangular

Smashmethod on DeviantArt ›

At last smashmethod from deviantart is offering 20 HDRIMaps in one single package to download. This package can cover your basic HDRI needs. In his account, more packages are available for download.

  • Filesize: Medium
  • License: Can not be used commercial, selling and redistributing not allowed. The author insists to say thanks when using.
  • Watermark: Yes
  • Rectangular

Other sources of HDRI Maps

Similar to what you can do with Textures, you can make HDRI Maps by yourself using pictures with different lighting conditions. This article on Tutsplus explains how to shoot HDR images. Please note that there are many software Tools, such as HDRshop, Photomatrix and Adobe Photoshop in which you can generate HDR Images.