Use Custom Paths

With custom paths enabled, you can specify a separate path for each category. This needs to be ticked before you can access each of the Scenes, Hierarchies, Objects, etc. buttons below.

Presets Location List


Clicking on this button in the Paths tab will open a fresh window with Preset location paths. New Locations can be added and chosen between and locations can be set as default or made read-only. This also makes possible a network- wide presets system that can be carefully managed.

Image Cache


LightWave 2019's new Image Cache system path can be chosen here, but care needs to be taken especially with network rendering. See the Image Caching section on the Layout General Options page.

Content Directory

LightWave's content directory system is an essential part of how scenes are constructed in LightWave 3D. All content consists of a scene containing objects (either geometry-based or procedural), surfacing for said objects (again, image- based or procedural) and all the animation, lighting, and other information necessary to recreate how a scene is intended to render final images - the end goal of creating a scene.

LightWave defaults to looking in certain directories under the Content Directory when you load scenes, objects, surfaces, images, envelopes, motions, previews, etc. This defaults to the user documents folder for the machine you installed the LightWave software into. The Content Directory is LightWave’s master directory; LightWave expects to find all of the appropriate subdirectories within this master directory.The Content Directory allows you to create a truly portable LightWave scene, including all object and image files and essentially acts as a pseudo root directory. By saving all your object and image files in subdirectories below the Content Directory, your LightWave scene and related files can be moved from drive to drive, from system to system, and even platform to platform, and still load properly.

Portability is important because LightWave scenes are often rendered on multiple machines or shared for education or fun.

Relative Links

When you save a scene, LightWave tries to save only a relative link to image and object files. So an object stored on your hard drive as C:\MyProjects\StretchPrincess\Objects\Jo.lwo where the Content Directory was C:\MyProjects\StretchPrincess, would be saved in the scene file as only Objects\StretchPrincess.lwo.If you use objects or images outside of the Content Directory, those links are hard-coded (e.g., F:\Stretch\Princess\Jo.lwo). If you never move the scene and support files to another computer, the scene will load fine, but this isn’t the way you should do it.

Object File Links

Like scenes, objects can also have linked files. These are usually Image Maps used for surface textures. The Content Directory concept is also relevant here. Using image files below the Content Directory will avoid loading problems.

If you make any changes to object surfaces, you must save the object file - a step separate from saving a scene.

To set the Content Directory:

Open the General Options Tab of the Preferences Panel (Edit > General Options) and click the Content Directory button. A file browser will open and you can navigate to and select the folder you wish to use as your Content Directory.

You can also choose Set Content Directory from the Edit button, or choose from among the Content Directories that you’ve used lately by using Edit > Recent Content Directories, or by using the keyboard shortcut Alt + F12.

You can also change it in Modeler, on the General Options Panel. (If the Hub is active, Layout and Modeler will sync any changes to this setting.)

Ways to Use the Content Directory

Here are a couple of different ways to use the Content Directory feature:

  • Use a separate directory as the Content Directory for every project. You’ll need to create subdirectories for Objects, Images, and Scenes beneath it. All files relevant to the project would be stored here. As you change from project to project, you must also change your Content Directory. (Note that your project could contain a multitude of scenes.)
  • Create subdirectories called MyProjects in the Objects, Images, and Scenes subdirectories that are created when you installed LightWave. (e.g., C:\ Lightwave\ Objects\ MyProjects, C:\ Lightwave\ Images\ MyProjects, etc.). Then, for each project, create identically named subdirectories in each of the MyProjects subdirectories and store your files accordingly.

Production Data Files

Subdirectories other than Images, Objects, and Scenes (e.g., Surfaces, Motions, etc.) are generally important only during the production stage. The information from these files is incorporated in the scene or object files and is not tracked independently. For example, when you apply that cromulent silver surface file to your spaceship’s skin, the settings are saved in the object file. The surface is not referred to again, unless you use it again.

In Layout’s File Menu, Package Scene can be used to collect a scene’s supporting files and ensure correct compliance with your content directory.

Layout CS (Color Space) Tab

Since LightWave 10, LightWave has been able to use Color Space information to give better results, above all with images used for texturing. Color space conversion is performed in four places in LightWave.

  1. On loading, an image can be converted from its native color space format to linear.
  2. When sent to the Image Viewer, an image can be converted from linear to another color space.
  3. When saved from the Renderer, an image can be converted from linear to another color space.
  4. When picked from the Color Picker, a color can be converted from and then to linear color space.

By default, LightWave is set not to do any conversion - the Linear setting, but to better suit work for the monitor, switch to sRGB. For better work for widescreen high-definition TV choose Rec709. These choices will help convert images that may already have color space definitions and keep their colors pure.

LightWave provides presets for sRGB and rec709 but a personalized mix can be set up with the dropdown choices for each of the different elements and saved as a preset for future use. You can also load in color space definitions to exactly match existing setups. A color table can be loaded by using Load Table from the pop-up. The color tables are stored in the project directory, in a directory called ColorTables.

The options are as follows:

Convert Color Space to Linear

  • Picked Colors - Colors chosen from the LightWave or other color picker
  • Light Color - The color chosen for lights
  • Palette Files - Palettes loaded into LightWave
  • 8-bit Files - 8-bit here refers to images that are 8 bits per channel such as JPGs, PNGs or TGAs, previously known as 24-bit or 32-bit. These benefit the most from color space conversion.
  • Float files - Images using floating point colors schemes don’t benefit from color space conversion, indeed it would cause severe banding and thus this should always be left on Linear
  • Alpha - Again, alpha images need to be preserved exactly as they are since the level of gray indicates distance. As such they don’t require or want color space conversion

Apply Color Space

  • Display Color Space - What Layout looks like. Normally, this should be left at sRGB unless you are working on a cinema screen or loom or something
  • Default Final Render- This is the color space for your renders. Again, if they are for the monitor choose sRGB
  • Default Buffer - These should be left as Linear
  • Embedded Alpha Channel - This should be left at Linear as for the conversion settings

Other Options

  • Auto Sense on Load - when you load a scene LightWave detects what CS setting were already in use and changes to them automatically when this option is activated
  • Color Correct OpenGL - to better match the colors of polygons and lights when not viewing in VPR or a render
  • Affect Color Picker - Best left checked since otherwise the colors you choose in the color picker won’t be those you get in the render
  • Convert 8-bit to Float - Converts 8-bit per channel files, otherwise known as 24-bit, to floating point files. This increases the memory overhead a lot for textured images. It will increase the fidelity of the results but is not always needed

Layout OBJ Options

The OBJ tab contains options for importing and exporting OBJ file objects.

  1. OBJ One Layer - imports the object as a single layer
  2. OBJ One VMap - imports the object with a single vertex map
  3. OBJ Pivot at Center - creates the pivot of the object at the center of the object
  4. OBJ Write Normals - writes the normals associated with the object when saved
  5. OBJ Merge Points - merges points sharing the same space
  6. OBJ Reverse Ka & Kd - Reverses Ambient Occlusion and Diffuse channels
  7. OBJ Double Sided - Creates double-sided geometry
  8. OBJ Parts - Keeps LightWave Part Polygon tags
  9. OBJ Foreground Layers - Only saves layers marked as foreground to OBJ
  10. OBJ Continuous UV - UVs have shared points rather than duplicated


11. OBJ Smoothing Groups - Supports the new Smoothing Groups system

12. OBJ Remove Hidden - Polygons that are hidden will not be exported (Hiding layers does not have any effect)

13. OBJ Import Scale - sets the scale of an object when it is imported

14. OBJ Export Scale - sets the scale of the object when it is exported

Navigation Options



The Preferences window for using 3D mice and other HID (Human Interface Device) controllers with LightWave can be found in Edit > Navigation Options. 2019.1 has added keyboard and mouse-based gaming methods in addition to specialized CAD equipment for use in Layout and Modeler.


To enable the new navigation options, press X while in the main Layout or Modeler window. You will see a message appear at the top of the viewport or viewports indicating which Navigation mode is being used. In this new navigation mode, the traditional game keys of W, A, S, and D move in the X and Z directions with Shift speeding movement and Ctrl slowing it down. E and Q move in the Y-axis, while mouse movement controls rotation around Y and X axes. The vertical scroll wheel controls the field of view, while in Layout, the horizontal scroll wheel controls the scene playhead.

Device Settings

Below the Device Settings button is a dropdown list of devices to choose amongst. There will usually be at least Device 0: Keyboard and Device 1: Mouse but you may have additional 3D pointers, etc. For the keyboard and mouse, clicking the Device Settings button will bring up one of two panels:

Keyboard and Mouse settings

Clicking the buttons in the keyboard settings window will permit changing the keys used for the actions described on the buttons, and the mouse settings cover mouse down and up functions and support up to two additional buttons.

By default, the vertical scroll wheel controls the field of view in both Modeler and Layout in the new navigation options. While it is easy to reset Modeler's default 500 just by opening the Modeler Display Options (D) and tapping in the Perspective Amount field, there is no such setting in Layout. It is suggested that you disable the vertical scroll wheel setting for the mouse in Device Settings in the Navigation Options... panel.

(If you have already scrolled the wheel before disabling this setting and want to recover your zoom manually without restarting Layout, exit the new navigation mode by hitting X. Select an item in Layout, hold down Ctrl and Alt and move the LMB. In the X field at the lower left of Layout you will see a number. 4 is the normal field of view. If the number you have is greater than four, then hit X again and roll the scroll wheel backward. If less than four, X and scroll forwards. Check that you haven't overshot.

<4 scroll forward. >4 scroll back

Subjects and Styles

There are several Subjects and Styles:

  • View - Acts like using the Viewport navigation controls. If the view is a camera or light, you will be controlling the camera or light in the scene.
  • Grab - This attempts to emulate grabbing the world as you see it.
  • Orbit - This is similar to grab but using a point of interest in front of the viewer that it will rotate about.
  • Helicopter - This attempts to emulate flying a helicopter
  • Walk - similar to helicopter but with limits on the pitch and bank. It attempts to emulate walking.
  • Current Item - Moves and rotates the currently-selected object.
  • Grab - This emulates grabbing the item relative to what the viewer sees.
  • Helicopter - This emulates flying the item from the point of view of the item (as if the user were inside the item flying it like a helicopter).
  • Timeline - A mode that uses the Twist on a Space Explorer or equivalent to act like a jog/shuttle dial on a video control surface. Holding the Alt key while rotating the device’s puck will result in faster scanning through the timeline. The difference is more noticeable when the scene length is longer - a 120-frame scene is only barely noted, whereas the difference between normal scanning and Alt-scanning a 600-frame scene is pronounced. The changes for 2019.1 mean that this separate Subject is not as needed as a horizontal scroll wheel can move through the timeline while in the View or Current Item subjects.


You can create presets for settings to be able to quickly store and retrieve settings for different devices. References to a puck’s X, Y and Z axes consider the navigation device to be laying flat on a table and the x-axis being to the right, the y-axis being upward, and the z-axis being forward away from the user. The Sensitivity and Scaling can be controlled for individual channels for your external control device. You can stop specific channels from being evaluated completely if you choose by unchecking the channel concerned, or reverse a channel’s direction.