Designing Skyboxes and Skyspheres for 3D and VR Environments

By Courtney Artuso | Posted June 8, 2018

Learn Sumerian
Designing Skyboxes and Skyspheres for 3D and VR Environments



In this you will learn about:

In the past few months designing scenes in Amazon Sumerian, I’ve learned the importance of environment and creating a world for your scene to exist in. When I sat down to write this article, I wanted to share some best practices for creating skyboxes using Adobe Photoshop.

Look up into the sky. There may be clouds, sun, mountain ranges in the background or the ocean. This is the real-world skybox. Skyboxes and skyspheres are methods to create a background environment for 3D and VR experiences. They create a foundation for your environment and a space in which the people viewing your experience see it from the inside. These environments are created so that a user experiencing an environment can have spacial context. Although the user can’t move closer to it or touch it, they can see and understand it.

A skybox is basically a 360-degree background surrounding everything else in your scene. By looking at the scene, you can view the entire panorama. When you use a skybox, the most common method to create a 360-degree view is by using the cube map, and mapping it on a 3D cube. Equirectangular images are the most commonly used format for Game Development, You Tube, and Facebook. We’ll take this 360-degree photo of the Amazon Spheres and show you how to create a skybox from it.

Image found on HDRI Haven

How this environment will look on different reflective surfaces

Digital Painting Best Practices

For painting, I like to use Adobe Photoshop. Once you have a digital painting, you’ll want to bend and convert spherical panoramas into HDR cube maps and skymaps. A popular Photoshop plugin is Flexify 2. Flexify can do a variety of panoramic conversions, but for our case, we only need Equirectangular to Horizontal Grid.