To produce illustrations that have the appearance of all 3 dimensions (height, width, depth), I use specific software apps. Images produced with such apps are called 3D art or digital art.
The phrase 3D refers to tricking the viewer’s brain and eyes to perceive of 3 dimensions that are depicted within a flat, two-dimensional illustration with realistic light and credible shadows. This 3D is not the kind of experience where you put on plastic glasses to view a movie projected on a screen.
If you’re interested in creating digital art, you should jump right in and try it. Don’t merely “think about” creating. Go ahead and do it.
The essential tools you will need to produce 3D images using today’s contemporary methods are a computer, of course, various apps and digital assets. All of these elements are intended to work together to produce realistic illustrations featuring human characters in credible scenes.
Starting in 2007 and continuing through 2018, I have been exclusively creating male characters with computer-generated imagery or CGI. Here are some of my secrets:
I start by envisioning myself working within my artist’s studio or some other location that could exist in the physical world. Then I craft male characters and their behaviors within that imaginary space.
I see my character or characters in a scene as if I were using a single camera that I can move into any angle as needed to photograph them with the best possible composition. In addition to being the cameraman, I also work as the director. I have full control over what my characters do in a scene and how everything looks within the frame.
Here is a demonstration of how it all comes together:
3 Guys vs. 1 Ladder
YouTube Video (2 minutes)
Step by Step
The first step in my particular creation process is to start with a solid foundation.
The foundation I start with for creating men in digital art is to show respect for masculinity. I’m convinced that it is essential to demonstrate admiration and awe for masculinity if you are going to take the time to express yourself visually or artistically on the subject of men.
I show that the man has hands and feet worth admiring. He fills out his jeans impressively. He looks confident and comfortable in his own skin.
Then, I use each of these essential elements:
One valid criticism of many digital illustrations is that the faces of the characters often all look alike or look bland like robot faces. This is not true of my work.
I go the extra distance when creating my character faces to make sure they look like men who could exist in our physical world.
The men that I create show emotion on their faces and in their body language. Some digital illustrators depict characters who look robotic or who lack emotional value. I deliberately jump in the opposite direction so that my characters vividly demonstrate very clear emotions.
I want you to remember how you feel about my characters and not just that you saw them.
My illustrations frequently depict male nudity. I focus on those viewers who enjoy seeing male nudity in art and illustrations rather than thinking about people who do not like seeing depictions of male nudity.
My creative works serve a purpose for you, the viewer. I always focus on the outcome of the story or stories told by my illustrations. I intend to elicit an emotional response from you, the viewer, to that outcome no matter what the illustration depicts.
- What will happen to that guy in the illustration?
- How did he get into that situation?
- How will he get out of that situation?
- What is he feeling at the moment that you see him?
The reason for producing digital illustrations instead of shooting photographs using human models is to create scenes that are impossible for a camera to capture. This may seem obvious, but it is not easy.
I take extra steps produce digital illustrations that approach or embrace photorealism. My illustrations depict situations and characters that cannot exist in our physical world, but my illustrations certainly look realistic and believable compared to many other digital illustrations you might find online today. My characters are strong, yet vulnerable—a combination of human traits that often emerge as being in direct opposition.
Every element in my illustrations—from male nudity, to lighting and shadows, and composition—must work together to offer you storytelling of high emotional impact. Telling stories in my illustrations that have some emotional impact upon you is the whole point of creating male characters as I do.
What I do is create concept pop art—visual pop culture artifacts that convey ideas. It is entirely make-believe. It is not real. I do not want anybody to mistake my photo-realistic works as representing real, living people. This is entirely made-up stuff. It is fiction.
I am not advocating that anyone should view young men in our physical world merely as sex objects. I am not a proponent of powerful men in our physical world taking advantage of and hurting vulnerable young men. All that I create is pure storytelling for enjoyment within your mind.
Behind the Illustrations
I create masculine male characters that are intended to look like guys you might actually see in your everyday life.
As a starting point, I use digital assets that are available online for purchase. These typically include human body shapes, various skin tones, ethnic and racial characteristics, eye color, and so forth.
Unlike what you may have thought, using digital assets is NOT merely a “cut and paste” way of creating characters. The reality is that those illustrators who do the “cut and paste” approach risk ending up with character faces and bodies that look unoriginal. Sometimes, the faces all look alike. You never want your characters to be recognizable as an “off the shelf” purchase that you made.
I develop an unlimited array of facial expressions and depictions of human body language from digital assets. I insist that each character I create must communicate particular and clearly-recognizable emotions to the viewer. So, I cannot use any producer’s digital assets “as is” and I typically spend several hours fine-tuning all elements of a scene until I get things exactly the way I want them to look and feel.
I use a vast library of digital assets such as props and sets that are similar to those you would find in stage or motion picture or television productions. That digital library provides the ability for me to set exactly the right tone I want and to tell a specific story visually. Because one image is worth at least a thousand words, I believe an image better be produced so that it is worth viewing in the first place.
Digital assets also include costuming for characters. What’s available for costuming tends to follow current trends in both television and motion picture productions. For example, once Game of Thrones on HBO became a huge ratings success, almost immediately costuming based on that series was offered online as digital assets.
What I like most about working in the digital realm is that it gives me the power to create images that are not possible using a camera and human models. In this demonstration image, I depict two versions of one character interacting with his counterpart in the same scene. (Okay, this shot might be possible with a camera and human models without post-production special effects provided that two guys and their identical twins were all photographed together.)
If you are interested in my coaching, training, and mentoring in digital art creation, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Skills and Talents
I hope you can accept the reality that merely acquiring a device and apps will not necessarily enable you to produce visual works that are any good. Getting a basketball won’t make you an athlete who is ready for the NBA. Getting a word processing app won’t make you a best-selling writer. The same holds true about using devices and apps for producing digital illustrations.
You must be born with certain specific talents relative to all others so you may succeed at a professional level in any endeavor that requires sharp coordination between your brain, your eyes, and your hands. That is simply one of the rules of real life that cannot be altered merely by wishing something else were true.
Required Talents for Producing 3D Images
It may be beneficial for you to learn tactics and techniques through classroom or online instruction and training. You can also refine your skills if you can find and emulate best practices of people whose works you respect and who may have influenced you. Just jump into it and keep trying to convey what’s in your mind onto the screen using apps. But, you genuinely must be someone who was born with aesthetic, narrative, and technical talents to enable you to create 3D illustrations if you expect to be taken seriously.
If you want to produce 3D illustrations, you must use a computerized device. Personally, from the very beginning of doing this kind of production in 2007, I have favored Apple devices. This preference of mine is due to the operating systems and the devices that Apple has sold over the years. I also am attracted to the simplicity and elegance of Apple devices and apps. It is also true that I have never met anyone who uses Apple devices who is unhappy about that choice!
While it is possible to work in visual production using hand-held devices, I recommend that if you are serious about producing 3D illustrations, you should accept the need for working using a sufficiently large monitor on which to display your works in progress. Creating works using only a four- or five- or eight-inch screen ultimately will constrain your output and without a sufficiently large monitor, you won’t be able to see the overall context or the level of detail in your visual creations.
Using Devices and Apps
If you are serious about producing visual works, my belief is that you also must develop and demonstrate a true flexibility using devices and apps. This is why I recommend that you should work diligently to become comfortable using devices and apps that are created for the Windows operating systems once you master the Apple operating system and devices. At this point in my life, I use Apple and Windows devices and apps interchangably without any adjustment issues in switching back and forth. This is a skill set that you, too, can learn if you apply yourself.
When I started out producing 3D digital illustrations, I initially used software named Poser that was developed in 1995. Learn more about Poser.
Shown below are some of my earliest attempts to create illustrations of men from 2007. I have to admit that these look very primitive and awkward. At that time, I had not yet arrived at the level of skill that I have today.
Because I came to feel very restricted by the way Poser works, I went in search of some other software that would better suit the way I work. I’m pleased to report that I found it! DAZ (Digital Art Zone) 3D Studio is what I use exclusively today and what I recommend to anyone.
Watch this short (two-minute) video and you will see why I am excited to recommend this particular software: