Lighting has a crucial impact on the appearance of 3D objects and on the ability of an image to communicate information about a 3D scene to a human observer. This paper presents a new automatic lighting design approach for comprehensible rendering of 3D objects. Given a geometric model of a 3D object or scene, the material properties of the surfaces in the model, and the desired viewing parameters, our approach automatically determines the values of various lighting parameters by optimizing a perception-based image quality objective function. This objective function is designed to quantify the extent to which an image of a 3D scene succeeds in communicating scene information, such as the 3D shapes of the objects, fine geometric details, and the spatial relationships between the objects. Our results demonstrate that the proposed approach is an effective lighting design tool, suitable for users without expertise or knowledge in visual perception or in lighting design.