Sunday, December 31, 2017

Twas the Night Before Star Wars

I took a little holiday break to have some fun with this illustration (it was an entry for the "It's Raining Men" contest over at -- the contest focuses on "the male form," meaning that all renders must have a male figure as the main focus).

In this case, I decided to throw in a little scene of "domestic bliss" with two brothers. I'm pretty happy with the differences in their body types and apparent ages. The younger brother is the Paul figure which ships with Poser, and the older brother is based on the current morphs I've been working with for the Michael 4 figure. As you can see, I kept their names in the caption text. I'm also pretty happy with the expression on Mike.

As usual, the scene was rendered in Poser 11, then cleaned up in Photoshop and final composition was in Manga Studio 5EX (aka Clip Studio Paint).

Hope you enjoy this and have a Happy New Year!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Days Gone 12 - Location, Location, Location, pt 4

Last time I showed you the unretouched render that Poser 11 created. As you could see, the basic shapes were there, but it was nowhere near a finished illustration. It lacked detail, and anything that would really give it a sense of scale. Not to mention the cave near the top where the dragon lived.

So, I then started on a process that surprised me with how long it took to get something solid that I really liked. Oh, I was able to generate a few images that were kind of close to what I wanted, but since this was the first page of the story, I really wanted to make an impression with it. Plus, even though my deadline was rapidly heading toward me (so much so that I was pretty darned sure I was going to miss it), I spent the extra time to figure out what I wanted and how to get it.

Here are a few examples of the early drafts that I was able to create.

1. My first attempt at page 1
Note the dark shadows on the distant mountains
and the tick horizon lines.

This first look (and all subsequent designs) include a hand-drawn trail going up the side of the mountain to a small cave opening. I struggled for a long time as to whether there should be a path leading directly up to the mountain, or off to the side. I finally decided to forego logic (why would anyone in their right mind make a road leading to the home of a fire-breathing dragon?) and just focus on the illustration itself. The composition was simply stronger with this path, so it stayed.

2. This was a very experimental look, with a very
strong tint of gray sand and a less
dramatic sun effect.
My first attempt at darkening the sand was promising, as it made the road really stand out and enhanced the sense of "dramatic scale" that I was striving for. Alas, it was just too dark. And when I showed the illustration to some people at the Daz3D forums, they thought it looked more like a vortex than the sun, so this experiment was very short lived.

3. A later attempt. Note the thinner horizon lines
and the obvious addition of the gray tint to the sand.
This helped make the road "pop" more, but
ultimately I didn't like the effect.

Other experiments included lightening the sand, editing out some of the ground lines, and working to add another layer of shadow the dunes. This one survived for a long time, but I ultimately decided that the ground was still just too dark, so I scapped it and moved on.

4. Getting much closer to the final version.
Note the addition of the mountain's shadow,
and toning down the shadows on the
distant mountains.

The image above (No. 4) is very close to the final piece. I added the ground shadows to the dunes, leaving the barren sands mostly white. And, of course, the mountain's shadow helps deliver the "pop" that the previous "dark sand" versions did. I also simplified the plants in the foreground, and greatly lightened the distant horizon. As I said, a lot of work, but I'm finally mostly happy with it, and that means I was finally able to move onto the interior of the cave.

Next Time: Building a Better Cave

Monday, December 11, 2017

MS Word – Find Text, Replace with Clipboard Contents

Here's a useful tip that can help in a variety of situations.

  • Scenario 1: You want to replace a string of text with a graphic (maybe replace the company's name with a graphic version of it, or want to replace a mathematics formula with a PNG graphic of it so that it will not be changed across mobile devices.
  • Scenario 2: You want to find and replace a string of text that has formatting in it, like a subscript or superscript (H2S = H2S, or 1st = 1st).
Here's a way to quickly do that.
  1. In the word doc (or elsewhere) find the thing you want to copy (graphic, properly formatted text, whatever).
  2. Copy it (CTRL+C, or from the menu).
  3. Use the Find/Replace command in MS Word (CTRL+H)
  4. In the Find What field, enter the string of text you want to find.
  5. In the Replace with field, enter this: ^c (the first character is found by typing SHIFT+6).
  6. Now, whenever you use the find/replace, it will paste the contents of your clipboard.

HOW IT WORKS: This technique replaces whatever you are searching for with whatever you have in the clipboard.

That's it. A very simple solution to an annoying problem.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Days Gone 11 - Location, Location, Location, pt 3

With the landscape props selected (see last week's post), I then set about creating the base image. I set the camera up with the correct page dimensions, yielding me an image with the dimensions of 5,300 x 8,200 pixels. This is for an 800 dpi resolution.

Some of you who do 3D on a regular basis might be freaking out about the size of the image. I can't count the number of times I've had "experts" tell me that anything above 300 dpi is a waste of time. Even some of the more "enlightened experts" think that going above 600 dpi is a waste. But here's the reality, folks: for you to get the most out of Poser and Manga Studio, YOU NEED TO HAVE ENOUGH PIXELS TO WORK WITH. Yeah, I shouted that because it's important.

The Comic Book Preview in Poser works better when it has a lot of pixels to work with. And, because it is only rendering in b&w, even an image of that size will render in less than 3 minutes (often half that time).

A screenshot of my Poser environment for creating
the opening page of my story.
I also find that the pens in Manga Studio (aka Clip Studio Paint) work better with more pixels. There's simply more pixels for it to use when calculating the end tails (the thin part at the end of a stroke) as it goes from thick to thin.

The groundscape was a bit of a challenge, and I do wish I could show you a link to what I chose, but I can't find the original product. I suspect it's something that's been in my Runtime directory for a long time. I didn't find any ground or desert plains that I liked, but I did find patches of snow that I liked. I distorted them to be very flat and then moved them around until I came across something I thought looked like desert dunes...more or less. If I do ever track down the source for the snow, I'll provide it to you.

With the basic shapes in place (using the distorted Cliff Demon for the front, and other ones for the background), I was ready to render and then move it into Manga Studio to start working with it. As you will see, this process produced a lot of variations as I struggled to find a look that I liked and that captured the sense of scale I was trying to convey.

Next Time: A few rough drafts

Friday, December 1, 2017

Days Gone 10 - Location, Location, Location, pt 2

As an artist who uses 3D as the basis of my work, I face a few problems that are more closely related to film making than they are to traditional comic book illustration. That is to say, a comic book artist can pretty much draw whatever he imagines, whereas a filmmaker needs to scout for locations, or build a set on a studio.

In terms of 3D, these two options can be equated to buying a ready-made 3D resource (prop, set or scene) or modeling one from scratch (or paying someone else to create it for you). Modeling anything, even something as relatively simple as a mountain spire, is a time-consuming task, and one that I would rather avoid whenever I can. So, I hit the 3D asset stores and started looking for both the mountain and the cave. The three places I searched hardest were:

The first two of those vendors should be very familiar to anyone who works with either Poser or Daz Studio. The third store is tied to the Unity game development platform. Despite not having content specifically geared for use in Poser, there are a LOT of useful models and assets there that can easily be imported into any 3D program, including Poser.

After a fairly long search, I finally settled on Cliff Demons Landscape Props by Poisen.

Cliff Demons Landscape Props by Poisen
Available from
The thing that I liked was the general shapes, not so much the faces (although I did consider using them). These were sold as OBJ files with associated textures (which I did not use). Ultimately, I selected one that had the general properties and then stretched it up nice and tall, and turned the face away from the camera.

This is the one I selected. I stretched it very tall
and then turned the face away from the camera.

I also used some of the others, stretched out short and wide, as the distant mountains that you saw in last week's post of my initial rough draft.

Next Time: A few drafts of the first page