Goshtac's 3D Computer Artwork Page 1 - Basics for Beginners


Goshtac Site Logo
Welcome to Page 1
 of my 3D Artwork Guide.

I hope that by showing some of the art that can be accomplished with a home
computer, the right software and your
imagination, that others may develop an interest in the fascinating new art form.

Whenever possible, I will attempt to give you a little insight into the images and to promote the various software and also the techniques used.

I hope you find these images of some interest and that it may spark your own imagination to create.

Thanks for Stopping by
Comments Always Welcome


3D artists already involved in this artform can skip the following longwinded explanation of 3D art - This portion intended as instructional for interested beginners only

.In 1933 while motion picture effects work was still in its infancy, a talented pioneer in stop motion animation stunned and sometimes frightened the movie going audience with his work in the classic original version of King Kong. Willis Obrien also known as "Obie" to many had brought the world of this giant ape and extinct creatures of the past to life on the silver screen. For decades, stop motion photography became the standard as a means to create fantastic effects and bring creatures alive. Over the years many now famous animators like Ray Harryhausen followed in the footsteps of Obrien and perfected the craft of stop motion animation where articulated and finely detailed miniatures of both extinct and fantasy creatures were blended into live action scenes with actors. Although similar to the technique used to create cartoon animation, the stop motion photography in these films used articulated 3D Models which were moved ever so slightly between each frame of film shot to obtain the final result. Work of this nature is slow and painstaking, but it was the state of the art for many years and is still being used today by some filmmakers. When films such as Star Wars by George Lucas were made, filmmakers were still using stop motion animation to create many special effects, but the computer was also coming into use in the motion picture industry. Back in the days of the early Star Wars films, special computer rigs were being created to handle camera moves through motion control for both effects and live action shots. The day of computers being a major part of filmmaking had arrived.

Today, computers no longer just control camera movement. CGI ( Computer Generated Imagery ) has allowed filmmakers to leap forward with much more sophisticated and realistic effects than ever before. Not that many years ago, CGI software was strictly the realm of professional graphic and motion picture studios, but today, anyone with a decent computer, the right software and a little imagination can create both still and animated images that would have been too costly and difficult for the average person not that long ago. In recent years, thousands of people world wide have gotten into 3D art as well as animation. Many web sites and user groups online are now dedicated to this new and fascinating art form. Those of us who with pen and paper may be artistic enough to create simple stick figures, can now create wondrous scenes in our computers - Limited only by our imagination.

I guess I need to address the terms 3D or digital art since this is just another name for CGI created images. The final product is just one dimensional image like a photograph. But it starts with computer models that can be manipulated like any 3D object in real life. The beginning of a 3D art project starts with a computer modeled mesh which is designed to look and act like a real or imagined object. This can be a person, animal, car, building, clothing, etc. Objects like people and vehicles can be rather sophisticated and artists much more talented than myself create these. These model meshes are quite detailed and have numerous manipulation points designed into the model much like real people have joints in their arms and legs and can show facial expressions, etc. But even those of us with some of the basics of 3D design can create simple objects such as buildings, etc. with the right software after some practice. Over the years I have learned many of the basics and have created a number of 3D models which like many others in the computer art world I share with others. See my link for my free 3D models.

But a 3D model is not just a mesh created in the computer. Once the mesh of an object is created, it requires a texture to be mapped to its surface - much like a person needs skin over their skeleton. This in itself can be a complex process depending on the software used and the detail in the surface textures assigned to the mesh. But, enough about the basics of what a CGI / aka 3D Model is. These models once created can be put into a scene of the artists creation and manipulated to produce an image much like a photographer or filmmaker setting up a scene with various actors and props in front of a camera. Once the scene is set, lighting assigned and any other touches the artist wants to add, the computer then takes over and renders the scene into a final near photo realistic image. This image once complete can be saved in anyone of various graphic formats such as JPG, PNG, TIF, etc. An artist can then use the image as is, or do post work in the computer using graphics software to make corrections, retouch images, add effects or anything else they desire. Once the artist is satisfied with the final product, he or she can print and display it, just use it for a computer desktop background, sell the image as a commercial product such as a book cover, etc.

So now you have the basics of 3D or CGI art, but are asking yourself how do I get into this? Alas, this is the easy part. In recent years, anyone with some artistic flair, some imagination and a modest budget with a modern home computer can easily get involved in 3D art. First and foremost you need to obtain a program which will work with 3D models and render the final image. There are quite a few choices available with regards to software that does this. A couple of good programs for starting out are DAZ Studio which has a nice free version ( I use this program quite a bit ) or you can go with a program like Poser which can cost a few hundred dollars and the list goes on into the thousands of dollars depending on your budget. There are also various programs out there that will allow you to create your own models and terrains. Personnaly I use a number of these programs which I like and the prices are fairly reasonable. There are also some free programs and very expensive ones out there, so you need to do your homework if you decide to get into creating basic models and/or terrains, etc.

But if just starting out with 3D, you might want to just check into a free program like DAZ Studio to get your feet wet and see how you like doing 3D art, before opening your wallet and diving in with more expensive software. Just for the record, my current software that I use in addition to DAZ and sometimes Poser are 
Bryce which is a landscape program which I also use to create many of my 3D models, Hexagon which is a 3D modeling program, Vue which is a landscape and terrain program - a version of which was used to create some of the fantastic environment in James Cameron's Avatar  and I also use VistaPro which is a nice and fairly inexpensive program for creating terrains. In addition to these programs, I sometimes use the free version of UVMapper for texture mapping of models I make and probably my most used software is my Photo and Graphics program which I use for editing images. That program is my beloved Paint Shop Pro ( Recently renamed Paintshop Photo Pro )  Although I have several versions of this software, my workhorse is PSP 9 which I use daily for everthing from editing photos to retouching my 3D artwork.  Unlike some of the purists out there, I find PSP to be just as good in many respects as Photoshop which for many is the industry standard. In addition to the cost difference (Photoshop is much more expensive) I find that PSP is more than sufficient for my purposes and I guess it comes down to both personal taste and what your wallet can handle. Being retired and on a tight budget, I try to keep my costs down on all my software and frequently purchase my programs when on sale or when they offer low cost upgrades.

Now that you have found a 3D software program, you need to find models to go with it. You can get models in many places online. I will only mention a few that I use since a person could devote a major website to just all the sites out there with 3D models. Some of these are commercial products which you pay a reasonable amount for and there are also thousands of free models on the net from both other artists like myself who donate them to the community as well as commercial sites that provide free models. As an example, DAZ 3D which created the free program DAZ Studio also provides free content with the program and has quite a few free models on their website for download as well. I must admit it that the DAZ website is probably the place where I spend most of my time with the online 3D art world. In addition to their various software programs that they sell like Bryce and Hexagon, etc. they also have an extensive model line as well as some great forums to hang out in. For those wishing to display their art to others, DAZ3D also has a sister website Artzone  where members can set up online galleries of their work.  Another favorite spot of mine with regards to everything 3D is the Renderosity Digital Art Community which also lists a large number of models both commercial and free, commercial software and has online galleries where you can post your creations once complete. Finally if looking for large amounts of free models, you need to check out ShareCG which in addition to models has images for download, tutorials, etc. This is a website where many of us post our free models to share with the 3D art community. NOTE: Membership in all of the above mentioned 3D online sites is free.

Two more items I must address before ending this background on 3D art. First of all, learn your formats before downloading models. The various models out there have specific formats and some programs can only use specific formats. For many users, this gets easy if they hang out at DAZ as the majority of DAZ models will work with DAZ Studio or the Poser programs. Also some programs have cross over with other program formats. As an example, you can't pose a model person in Bryce but you can pose it first in DAZ Studio and then export it to Bryce. Models made in Bryce can be saved in a number of Formats, but the proprietory Bryce OBP format can only be opened and read by Bryce whereas a model made in Bryce but saved as an OBJ file can be opened with DAZ Studio as well as a number of other programs. Although you will run into issues with texture maps from one program to another as a texture map in Bryce will be read differently when opened in DAZ Studio. Or at least they have in the past as I just purchased the new Bryce 7 and have not yet checked out this particular issue between the new Bryce and latest version of DAZ Studio. So when this occurs, you need to create the model in Bryce but after exporting to DAZ Studio you need to assign textures there. Using a program like the UV Mapper is very helpful in this regard.

The final and one of the most important issues with 3D art and models is that you need to respect the copyright policy of models you use. As a rule, if you purchase a model from a commercial site such as DAZ 3D or Renderosity, you normally hold full copyright to the final images you create. The copyright to the original mesh on the other hand remains with the company or person who created it, so you cannot use the mesh itself for any commercial purpose. But an image you create with that mesh and textures may be used for commercial purposes. As an example, you create a fantastic looking fantasy world image using DAZ models you purchased. Since you hold the copyright to the final image, you can sell this image to be used as a poster, book cover, etc. by a publisher. But the rules with regards to free models you download are different. The model creator sets the copyright policy as to what use is permitted with a final render. The artist who created the model may only allow personnal use of the model which means once an image is completed you can display it online or print out for your wall at home, but you cannot sell the image commercially. But many artists like myself allow our models to be used for unrestricted use. In other words we still hold the copyright to the model, but you can use the final image for commercial purposes such as a book cover as mentioned above. So please, respect the policies and rights of the artist who freely donates these models to the community. It is not only the right thing to do, but is the legal thing to do.  Nuff Said!   Bruce  / Aug 2010

Dino in Woods Mesh scene
Here is a DAZ Dinosaur Model within the software working frame. It is shown here in mesh form only to give you an idea what model meshes look like. As a rule, I set up my scenes in the full texture mode rather than mesh mode. But this is my personal preference and some people like to work in the mesh mode while setting up.
Dino in Normal Layout mode
Here is the same scene but with textures showing. It is in the layout mode so the ground grid is showing and an adjustment point on the leg is showing. Probably not all of the correct terms, but I just wanted to give you an idea as to what it looks like when posing a scene.

At this point in the process I had not added any additional lights to the scene.
Dino Scene after rendering
Here is a final rendered image after lighting has been added to the scene. I did not add shadow maps and this is just a quick and dirty example of how 3D artwork works, so the pose and positions of the animal and props are by no means
 a well set up scene. But you get the idea how this works.

It should be noted, that in addition to still images, these models can also be animated and the DAZ Studio program will do much of the tedious animation work for you by use of key frames.

NOTE: Software can be customized to your own choices of color and layout
DAZ Studio program image
The above is what DAZ Studio looks like on my own computer. I have in this scene added the model Witch House from DAZ as well as adding a distant light and a photo background. If this image was to be rendered, the area within the working frame in the center would be what the final image would be. On both sides of the model window are the various settings for adjusting the scene, camera position, size, textures, etc. On the left hand side is the model content list of the various models I have available to use in my creations. The top area shows menus for adding lights, etc. You may recognize the Witch House model from my scenic photo gallery where I used it in the background of  " The Pumpkin Family Outing"

Bryce Interface image

Here is a another quick and dirty example of a 3D project - This time created with Bryce 7 and I only took about 15 minutes to set it up. For the ground, Pyramid and the dunes in the background I used some of my own textures to create the flowing sand and also blocks of the pyramid. Since many theories abound over ancient egypt and alien contact, I threw a UFO hovering above into the mix. All of the objects shown in this scene are standard models and terrain that come with the program and just modified slightly for this scene.

Above is the GUI (Graphical User Interface) for Bryce and to the right is the final image after rendering. I was not overly impressed with the texture of the palm tree trunks as straight from the program, but made this image just as an example and didn't want to spend the time assigning new textures. But this gives you an idea what the program can do. You can also add water, rocks, mountain ranges, adjust the sky and add lighting. to the scenes in Bryce and this all done with often just simple clicks of a mouse for the most part.
Bryce Image rendered

Final Rendered Image of scene to the left. Total time spent including rendering was only about 20 minutes. When doing serious artwork, many people - myself included can spent a few weeks setting up certain scenes to get just the right look.

As I mentioned earlier on this web page, I also use Bryce for creating many of my own 3D models for use in my artwork. I have created everthing from old west hanging gallows, to modern buildings, to construction hard hats. The majority of my free models that I share I save in 2 versions so other artists can use them. I save these in both the Bryce OBP format and the more common OBJ file format.


These models can be downloaded from my CGShare Free Models link. Note: Some are only OBP (Bryce Format) and others are in OBP as well as OBJ file format
More models also available at the link pages

Bryce Building 3D Models
Individual Building Models
Bryce 3D Camera Gear Models
Individual Camera Gear Models
Deck and Grill 3D Model
Deck with Gas Grill Model
Old West Gallows Model
Old West Gallows Model
Construction Hardhats Models
Construction Hard Hat Models
Table Saw Model
Modern Table Saw Model

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