For 3D scenes, GLMakie offers several attributes to control the lighting of the material.

  • ambient::Vec3f: Objects should never be completely dark; we use an ambient light to simulate background lighting, and give the object some color. Each element of the vector represents the intensity of color in R, G or B respectively.

  • diffuse::Vec3f: Simulates the directional impact which the light source has on the plot object. This is the most visually significant component of the lighting model; the more a part of an object faces the light source, the brighter it becomes. Each element of the vector represents the intensity of color in R, G or B respectively.

  • specular::Vec3f: Simulates the bright spot of a light that appears on shiny objects. Specular highlights are more inclined to the color of the light than the color of the object. Each element of the vector represents the intensity of color in R, G or B respectively.

  • shininess::Float32: Controls the shininess of the object. Higher shininess reduces the size of the highlight, and makes it sharper. This value must be positive.

  • lightposition::Vec3f: The location of the main light source; by default, the light source is at the location of the camera.

You can find more information on how these were implemented here. Some usage examples can be found in the RPRMakie examples and in the examples.


GLMakie also implements screen-space ambient occlusion, which is an algorithm to more accurately simulate the scattering of light. There are a couple of controllable scene attributes nested within the SSAO toplevel attribute:

  • radius sets the range of SSAO. You may want to scale this up or down depending on the limits of your coordinate system

  • bias sets the minimum difference in depth required for a pixel to be occluded. Increasing this will typically make the occlusion effect stronger.

  • blur sets the (pixel) range of the blur applied to the occlusion texture. The texture contains a (random) pattern, which is washed out by blurring. Small blur will be faster, sharper and more patterned. Large blur will be slower and smoother. Typically blur = 2 is a good compromise.


The SSAO postprocessor is turned off by default to save on resources. To turn it on, set GLMakie.activate!(ssao=true), close any existing GLMakie window and reopen it.


A matcap (material capture) is a texture which is applied based on the normals of a given mesh. They typically include complex materials and lighting and offer a cheap way to apply those to any mesh. You may pass a matcap via the matcap attribute of a mesh, meshscatter or surface plot. Setting shading = false is suggested. You can find a lot matcaps here.


using WGLMakie
using JSServe
Page(exportable=true, offline=true)
xs = -10:0.1:10
ys = -10:0.1:10
zs = [10 * (cos(x) * cos(y)) * (.1 + exp(-(x^2 + y^2 + 1)/10)) for x in xs, y in ys]

fig, ax, pl = surface(xs, ys, zs, colormap = [:white, :white],

    # Light comes from (0, 0, 15), i.e the sphere
    axis = (
        scenekw = (
          # Light comes from (0, 0, 15), i.e the sphere
          lightposition = Vec3f(0, 0, 15),
          # base light of the plot only illuminates red colors
          ambient = RGBf(0.3, 0, 0)
    # light from source (sphere) illuminates yellow colors
    diffuse = Vec3f(0.4, 0.4, 0),
    # reflections illuminate blue colors
    specular = Vec3f(0, 0, 1.0),
    # Reflections are sharp
    shininess = 128f0,
    figure = (resolution=(1000, 800),)
mesh!(ax, Sphere(Point3f(0, 0, 15), 1f0), color=RGBf(1, 0.7, 0.3))

app = JSServe.App() do session
    light_rotation = JSServe.Slider(1:360)
    shininess = JSServe.Slider(1:128)

    pointlight = ax.scene.lights[1]
    ambient = ax.scene.lights[2]
    on(shininess) do value
        pl.shininess = value
    on(light_rotation) do degree
        r = deg2rad(degree)
        pointlight.position[] = Vec3f(sin(r)*10, cos(r)*10, 15)
    # TODO get back record_states
    # JSServe.record_states(session, DOM.div(light_rotation, shininess, fig))
    return DOM.div(light_rotation, shininess, fig)