Monday, November 15, 2010


One of the most fun and user-friendly programs that I have used in a long, long time. A life saver when tight deadlines come flooding in and I don’t have time to shoot proper references. And it’s FREE!

DAZ was originally developing content for POSER and became an independent company in 2007.  They have created various applications such as:  DAZ STUDIO, BRYCE, CARRARA, and HEXAGON. DAZ is very similar to POSER, but it’s much more accessible by offering a simpler interface with the ability to create very complex poses and dramatic lighting in just a few minutes. 

Here is a 2 min setup of my reference in DAZ for the HULK drawing above.

And here is another quick example I did of Lara Croft using DAZ as reference for the pose.

As a commercial illustrator, I deal with very tight deadlines every single day. My process involves taking reference photographs almost every time I do an illustration. Even though my style is cartoony, having the proper reference can add a hint of realism to the piece. Drawing folds (for example) that flow correctly on a figure in motion will look more convincing when using a reference than when making it up. This is especially the case when you are dealing with extreme angles and difficult foreshortening.
Of course there’s those that have a photographic memory and can draw all kinds of things out of their head (ehm… Marko Djurdevic), but I’m definitely not one of them. Don’t get me wrong, I love photography and still feel that it’s the primary option for shooting references. Unfortunately, there are times when finding the right model, setting up the lights, getting the right pose after a hundred shots, (or even having the proper outfits for your models) and finally matching it with your original thumbnail composition can take a bit more time than is available to me. 

Start with a simple model:

Start morphing the model:

Go crazy with the morphs:

This is where DAZ3D STUDIO comes in handy. Not only does it take just minutes to set up the right pose (once you familiarize yourself with all the tools and program navigation), you are able to use figures that would be impossible to find in real life. (Check out that beastly muscle man above) :)

Once you install the program, you have an entire warehouse of free files on the DAZ website that you can download and use as a starting point. They have simple male, female, and children base figures. These figures can be manipulated and morphed like a polygon sculpture.  (Think of Z brush ,but not as detailed) As you can see, the figure above is a morphed version of the Michael-Base character. You can morph his muscles in so many different ways that just a few clicks here and there make a completely new figure. 

  • POSING:  
Not only is posing the figure easy, it’s extremely fun.  The image below shows you the tool that pops up once you have a body part selected. You can pull, push twist and squeeze every joint in the figure’s body, creating poses that would take several hours to photograph if using a real life model.
This is where having a MAC is an advantage. For some reason, the pressure sensitivity of the WACOM tablet goes crazy when using a PC and trying to pose the figure. Also, using the camera rotation tools is almost impossible because the slightest click of the pen will send the camera flying.  On a MAC, however, it is super smooth and easy, like drawing in Photoshop.

  • VARIETY:  
I remember reading a lot criticism by some users claiming the expressions of the figures are limited and look very stiff. While this is true to some extent, the new version of the software and the many plugins allow you to adjust every facial muscle and create any expression you desire.
Reviewing this as an illustrator, I don’t have a big problem with that because I can exaggerate the expressions when drawing.
The screen shot below shows you some of the base expressions that can be manipulated and stretched. You can create custom ones as well if you have the time.

Each base figure offers various poses to begin with if you already know what kind of scene you’ll be working with.   You can mix and match the poses from the different figures giving you a very large selection of movements to choose from. 

There is also an animation section that enables you to animate and record your figure, but this is more useful if you’re working with animation and/or film.

There is a large section on the right side of the working area (see below), which gives you the actions to morph your characters. Depending on the base model and the amount of plugins you have installed, the manipulations of the figures can go anywhere between making the model taller or shorter, skinnier and fatter, to stretching them out resulting in monstrous proportions.

If the figures alone are not enough, DAZ offers a ton (and I really mean an almost unlimited amount) of downloadable clothes and gadgets to dress up your figures.
From simple street clothes to science fiction outfits, there are add-ons for every imaginable project. (And again, don’t forget, everything can be morphed, manipulated and adjusted to your own desires.)

Here are a few images of the working area and the various tools you use while posing:

Unfortunately, the program is not perfect and has a few small problems that I’m hoping they will fix in the future.  First, if you are new to the program and wish to download new content, you might find yourself lost for a while. There are no clear explanations of where to download the various files (Each package contains multiple downloads) since the automatic location when installing the file does not work and you cannot locate the file in the program itself. It’s sad that it actually take more time to figure out where to download and how to locate things than how to use the entire program. The various tutorials online are completely useless because half of them have descriptions for an older version with a different layout and those supporting the new version don’t always have the right information. (Meaning- following most of the steps won’t work)

Second, some of the functions (like the texturing of the various renders) do not work, or rather they work randomly. I am not sure if this is a bug or if some of the functions are simply broken.
Having said that, the program is still new and it’s being constantly updated, so I am sure that these issues will be resolved in the near future. 

Since I am reviewing this from an Illustrator’s Point of View and I’m mainly using it as a posing for reference software, I’d say that this is a must have! Most of the reviews I’ve read about DAZ3D STUDIO were from people who have used the program to create fully rendered CG scenes with minimal touch ups in Photoshop. (Such as the wonderful examples from the artist below.)

If you decide that this program is for you, DAZ 3D Studio has a really cool premium membership option that allows you to purchase most of the add-ons for really cheap and has a very active online community of DAZ users.  I hope that more drawers give this program a shot and spread the word so that the developers can make it even more useful for those that only use it for reference. 

Some sample artwork by GENESN.

One of the free city environments available for download. There are tons of sets and scenes that can be downloaded from the DAZ site:

The rating is based on a 5 globe scale.

Thanks for reading guys, 

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