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Light refers to the density of light levels in Minecraft. Lighting affects how easily a player can see the environment, and where mobs will spawn.

Overview

Torches

Torches are the most common source of light during the night.

There are 16 levels of light (0 to 15), the highest being produced by Sunlight, Jack o' Lanterns, Beacons, End Portal Blocks, Fire, Glowstone, Lava, Active Redstone Lamps, Sea Lanterns, and Lanterns. Light is decreased (or blocked entirely) when a block is situated in front of a light source (this doesn't apply with glass). The block which decreases light the most is the base of a piston. The light level of a block affects whether or not certain hostile mobs will spawn on it. The light level depends on how many blocks the light can extend until it goes to light level 0, every block reducing a light level. If you were 3 blocks away from a Torch, then the light level would be 11.

Sun

The Sun is the main source of light in Minecraft.

Levels of Light

The light level determines if hostile or passive mobs will spawn. For example, a cow will spawn in light level 7 or higher on grass blocks. This is also the case for pigs, chickens, and sheep. Hostile mobs, such as skeletons and zombies, will spawn in light levels 7 or lower. A player can keep hostile mobs from spawning in an area by lighting up the area with torches or other light-emitting objects.

List of light levels in Minecraft:

Block Light Level
Sunlight 15
Beacon
Cauldron containing lava[BE only]
End Gateway (block)
End Portal (block)
Fire
Lava
Glowstone
Jack o' Lantern
Redstone Lamp (lit)
Sea Lantern
Sea Pickle with four bodies (when in water)
Shroomlight
Conduit
Lantern
Campfire (lit)
End Rod 14
Torch
Colored Torch

[BE and EE only]

Underwater Torch
Furnace (lit) 13
Blast Furnace (lit)
Smoker (lit)
Sunlight (during Rain or Snow) 12
Enchantment Table

[BE only]

Glowing Obsidian

[BE only]

Sea Pickle with three bodies (when in water)
Nether Portal (block) 11
Sunlight (during a Thunderstorm) 10
Crying Obsidian
Soul Fire
Soul Fire Lantern
Soul Fire Torch
Redstone Ore (when touched) 9
Sea Pickle with two bodies (when in water)
Ender Chest 7
Redstone Torch (lit)
Sea Pickle with a single body (when in water) 6
Moonlight 4
Blue Ice

[BE and EE only]

Monster Spawner

[BE only]

3
Magma Block
Brewing Stand 1
Brown Mushroom
Dragon Egg
End Portal Frame

Smooth Lighting

SmoothAnimSmal

The differences between on and off smooth lighting (click to see)

Smooth lighting is the lighting engine added in Beta 1.3. This lighting engine is on by default (it is always on in Minecraft: Pocket Edition) and can be set to maximum, minimum or off by accessing "Video Options" from the "Options" menu.

The engine blends lighting to add semi-realistic shadows and glow from light sources. It darkens inside corners, resulting in small spaces appearing much darker. Before Beta 1.3, the feature could be only obtained by modifying the game with the help of MrMessiah's BetterLife Mod.

The "maximum" smooth lighting toggle fixes bugs with stairs. However, this is an optional toggle. The "minimum performance" does not fix the bug.

History

Minecraft has been evolving over time, and the lighting system itself has changed along with it.

Pre-Classic

Lighting was very simple, although there were only two light levels, bright and dark.

Classic

Smooth lighting didn't exist in Minecraft Classic. Instead, light spread out on dim-lit areas. "Sunlight" was emitted by the top edge of the map and would hit any block that was under it. It would pass through transparent blocks to light blocks underneath. Blocks that did not receive light were in a dim shadow that remained at the same level of brightness, no matter how far the block was from a light source.

Indev/Infdev

In Indev and Infdev versions, there were 16 levels of brightness: 0 for almost complete darkness, and a maximum of 15 for full daylight.

Alpha - Beta 1.2_02'

Lighting in Alpha through pre-Beta 1.3 worked similarly to Indev and Infdev, except the light scale was not linear.

Beta 1.3 - Beta 1.7.3

Lighting from Beta 1.3 to Beta 1.7.3 worked the same as it was in Alpha, but was optimized to allow "smooth lighting."

1.7.2

Black patches in world generation and structure generation were fixed in update 1.7.2.

Trivia

  • Even though the light level is 10 during thunderstorms, hostile mobs can still spawn.
  • When a player obtains Blindness, the Sun is one of the only things you can see, but it won't produce light.
  • Rarely, a Lightning Bolt can emit a light level lower than 5.
  • When a player drinks a potion of Night Vision, light sources (excluding the sun), gain a dim color.
  • Zombies, Skeletons, and their variants can only burn at light level 15. 
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