Today I'll show you, step by step, how my Star Wars fan art Chiss Operative
was created, using the software programs Poser 7, Vue 6.5 and Paint.NET for post-work. Overall, the entire process took around 4 hours, plus render which lasted almost 5 hours. I use mostly pre-made 3D content purchased from DAZ 3D
The first step of the process is always creating the characters themselves. For that I use Poser exclusively. Both characters in this case are female figures, Victoria 4 from DAZ. The process of building them is fairly straight forward, and includes loading up textures from pre-made characters, along with outfits from Pretty3D and Aery Soul, both from Renderosity. The morphs, or body shapes, are custom made by myself directly in Poser, with a process known as dial turning.
Basically, the Victoria 4 character Morphs++ package allows me to move hundreds of different settings to create the faces and body morphs I need, along with the right expressions. In this case, my goal was to portray the Chiss Operative as a strong figure, both physically, with a fit, powerful body, but also through her expression. Some of the features that convey that include well defined cheek bones, wide open eyes, and a hand on her hip. The victim instead needed to be shown in a submissive pose, including eyes looking down, her head turned to the side, and her hands bound behind her back.
Once the figures are done, along with expressions, hair and clothing, then I do everything else in Vue. The scene creation can start, and the first step is importing the saved Poser files. Vue can import .PZ3 files directly which helps a lot, since there's no conversion to go through. I still go through all of the materials and adjust shaders for all of them, but we'll go over that later. First, once the characters are in the otherwise empty scene, I set the camera and basic render settings.
The first setting I change is the Light Balance
in the Atmosphere Editor
. I like to use very high values for this, which provides a sharper look with more contrast, and doesn't look washed out.
Then, it's time to add environment props. The walls, chairs, table, shelves and windows are part of the Modern Bedroom set by C-D-C at Renderosity, and I typically position each element manually to go well with the scene that I want. In this case, I wanted something that looked like a sci-fi Coruscant apartment, a living quarter, so I positioned them in this way. For the outside view, I actually used a previous render I already had, using an Alpha Plane
in Vue. One handy trick here is to change the settings of the material in this Alpha Plane, and set the Lighting Effects
to Diffuse: 0%
, Ambient: 0%
and Luminous: 100%
. This makes the image look much more realistic and prevents the scene lights from affecting this back plane.
Speaking of lighting, the way I like to do my lighting is to use point lights, and position them pretty much how I would expect lights to be placed around a real room. I deleted the sun, and added 6 point lights across the scene. I try not to use too few or too many, and position them to get good shadows. As for the light settings, I adjust the power so the scene is nicely lit, then change the shadows to 75%, and add 5 degrees of Soft Shadows
. This is very important to not get very sharp, unnatural shadow edges, or have them be too dark.
Once that's done, the longest process actually starts, and that's manually adjusting every material shader to look just right. The problem with a lot of pre-made 3D content is that the shaders are made for going around some of the limitations of the Poser renderer. For example, almost every metallic surface uses a grey reflection map. This creates a very bright, unnatural look. I always get rid of them, and instead use ray-traced reflections. Some of the settings I change for most materials include bump maps, specularity, reflection and color reflected light. For the Chiss skin, I simply change the Overall Color
to a tint of blue that I like, and do the same with the eyes with red, and max out the Luminous
After I'm satisfied with the shaders and the overall look, I go through a few test renders and then do the final render. One tip here is to always render at twice the resolution than what you need. This helps reduce aliasing. Here, I render at 2560x1600 to get a result of 1280x800 pixels. After that, I apply very few post-work filters in Paint.NET. Mostly, I add sharpness and change the saturation. Here's a before and after of the post-work process. You can see the overall look is sharper, and the silver necklace looks more like actual metal.