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


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If you have survived my long winded descriptions and the information I presented on page 1, congratulations. This web site is primarily intended to showcase my Photography and 3D Artwork, but I also wanted to promote the medium to generate interest for others who may wish to try their hand at this new and fascinating way of creating art. I wanted to show those with no former background in computer art what some of the potential is in creating artwork from the wildest depths of your imagination if you so desire. By its very nature, 3D or CGI art frequently leads artists to create worlds of fantasy and science fiction. I have had a life long love for Still Photography as well as Filmmaking and especially the creation of Special Effects or the fantastic in both of these mediums. What I would have given to have the technology available to me 40 years ago that I have now. Back in my early days, I frequently created Science Fiction type still images using miniatures and what ever effects I could create in the camera or darkroom. Even back then, if I were to show friends a photo of an alledged UFO, they probably would never believe me even if it were real due to my hobby of creating such images as exercises in effects work. I remember back in my newspaper days when we set up a scene of a UFO over the main street in my home town and got locals on the street to stand there and point into the air at nothing. A UFO was then added to the photo hovering over the street and we published the photo in the paper with an article - Not as an actual news event, but as a promotion for an upcoming 4th of July celebration. Today, it is almost scary the type of scene I could create using the software and computer techniques available to me now. 

Before I go on, I would like to mention that these Basics of 3D Computer Art for Beginners pages are not intended to teach you this medium. This is better left to software owners manuals as well as the countless tutorials available online. My intent is to only create a spark of interest and show what anyone is capable of creating with this artform. In addition, I wanted to share some bare bones basic information on some of the issues and techniques involved in creating this form of artwork. So with that in mind, I wish to discuss a little about model creation, texture maps and background images


Ok, let's say you have gotten bitten by the 3D Art bug. picked up a free copy of DAZ Studio and bought the latest version of Bryce. You intend to create a scene in DAZ Studio of an old western saloon and have gathered all of the set pieces and props, but realize you are short of drinking mugs to sit on the bar. ( Did they even use mugs back then?? But then again this is just a hypothetical scenerio )  So lacking your beer mugs, you open up Bryce and decide to create your mug from simple primitives ( A 3D Primitive is just a basic shape such as a cube, sphere, pyramid, etc. )  Many models can be created from just using Primitives as your building blocks. Since a simple mug is nothing more than a hollow cylinder with a handle on it, we will use cylinder and torus primitives to create our model. This process may appear complicated at first glance but is actually quite easy. A model as simple as this can be easily made in less than 5 minutes.

First we select a cylinder primitive from the CREATE menu - then we resize it to give it a proper height to diameter look. The resizing is done in the EDIT menu. Once this is done, we go to the small line menu and select OBJECTS - In the drop down menu, you will find ATTRIBUTES - Click on this and then click on POSITIVE. This gives the clylinder a Positive Attribute. Now we go back to the CREATE menu and select a TORUS which looks like a donut. Using the sizing and positioning tools we size and place the torus into the side of the cylinder so it now looks a bit like a mug handle. Once you are happy with the size and position, making sure the Torus is selected, you return to the Objects Attribute menu and also set the Torus to POSITIVE. In creating models, when 2 positive items are later grouped together, they lock together and act as a single unit. Now it gets interesting -

Mug Model Image Mug Model Image
Mug Model Image
Here you create a Torus, resize and position it into side of cylinder 1. You then set the Attributes of the Torus to Positive.
Mug Model Image
Using the Edit Menu at top left of screen you copy the original cylinder, resize it as well as move it up slightly. Then you set the Attributes of 2nd cylinder to Negative.

You now select the cylinder again and go tothe small Edit menu and you COPY the cylinder. This creates a duplicate of the original cylinder in the same space as the original. Using the resizing tool, you reduce the size of the new cylinder so it basicly looks like it is sitting inside of the original. Then using the positioning tool, you move the copy of the cylinder up a bit so it sticks out of the top of the original. Once this is done, while the cylinder copy is still selected, you go back to the OBJECTS ATTRIBUTE menu and set the 2nd Cylinder Attribute to NEGATIVE. Remember how I said that 2 Positive items once grouped will appear as one object. Well, when you add a Negative Object to a positive, the negative removes any area where the Negative and Positive items meet. Now that you have set Cylinder 1 to Positive, the Torus to Positive and Cylinder 2 to Negative, you will select all 3 at the same time. You will then go to the Objects Menu and Select GROUP. Once this occurs, you now have a hollow mug with a handle.
Mug Model Image
After Selecting all 3 Objects and making sure the correct attributes are set for all 3, you then group the items together. When grouped, the attributes set on the various parts will create the models final shape and lock the model together as such. If saving this mug as just an item for use in a future Bryce scene, you are now finished and can save the mug in the CREATE menu as an OBP object. But if you wish to export the mug to use in another program, you need to turn the grouped mug into a Boolean mesh. The command for doing this is located in the OBJECTS menu. After creating your Boolean, it can be exported from the file menu as a number of various model formats such as an OBJ file.
Mug Model Image
Here a material ( Colored Glass ) has been selected for the mug and it has been rendered to show the final model.

NOTE: For simplicity sake in this example, I just assigned a green glass material to the final grouped mug. But I could have easily assigned a silver metal material to cylinder one and a wooden texture to the torus before grouping to create a silver mug with wooden handle. So the use of multiple materials / textures is easily done on any models.

You can now go to your MATERIALS lab and assign a material / texture to the mug such as a colored glass. Then you can render the item to see what the final product looks like. If you like it, you can save it as a Bryce OBP object. But if you wish to export it to another program such as DAZ Studio, the grouped items must be converted to what is called a Boolean Mesh. A Boolean Mesh in simple terms is when the grouped items are all converted to one mesh and no longer can be ungrouped. Once a Boolean is made you can export it as an OBJ file or other format to various programs such as DAZ Studio. But fair warning - if planning to export a Boolean mesh to another program, don't bother to assign a material or texture in Bryce as materials especially transparent ones like glass don't translate well between programs. You are better off making your model using the default gray material, export the mesh and then assign textures and / or materials in the program you will be using the object. .Also, Booleans can be a pain to work with on complicated models. If you forget to set an attribute along the way, it can really mess up the final model. I would again like to remind you that this is not intended as a tutorial of 3D Model making. Although a model of this nature can be made in just a few minutes, my presentation of this process was quite simplistic to just give you a basic example of how some models are made.

One thing I would like to add is don't let model making with simple primitive shapes fool you. The above was a very simple model, but primitives can create much more complex shapes. It just boils down to lots of patience and practice to create items like my camera gear, gallows, etc. on the previous page. Over the past several years, I have been amazed when even some very talented artists who have been around awhile are suprised when they come across complex models made totally from primitives. Even the simple mug above could be made more realistic by placing evenly spaced negative indents around the outer surface for a type of cut crystal style of mug. Also a Boolean mesh can be remade again to add more parts to a final model. In other words a Boolean can be added to another Boolean which is then grouped and turned into a final Boolean mesh for exporting. But Attributes have to be added every step of the way or your model won't work.

Here is a 3D Model of a Drill Press I started working on about 2 years ago. It is strictly made from primitives in Bryce. There are quite a few Boolean meshes involved here and I had stopped working on this after a major computer crash. The drill chuck assembly and the support table are individual parts so these parts can be raised and lowered as needed in a workshop scene. Some online friends have been kind enough to help me with some models of drill bits to be included later whenever I get around to completing this project. Once completed, it will beoffered as a free model online to other artists.

Drill Press model image

Finally I wish to touch briefly on Textures and Background scenes. Frequently the final steps in creating a realistic image. The world around us is filled with color and textures. In order to create artwork with the look of reality, we must add these colors and textures to the models we create. Many of the 3D programs out there have basic colors or textures for an artists use. Also programs like Bryce allow you to modify these material settings to create new looks, but many artists including myself are never satisfied with this. Over the years I have created a few dozen directories in my computer where I store various color and texture mixes I have created or gathered.

I create many of these in house with my PSP program. But I also make a point of gathering textures from the world around me with my digital camera. So it is not unusual for a neighbor to look out of a window and see me taking photos of such mundane things like bricks on the side of my home, blacktop on the street or closeups of bark on the nearest tree. In addition, I also use my digital camera to capture scenes which I may use later as background images in my art. This includes photos of swamps, woodland scenes and images of clouds in the sky. In fact at this time I probably have close to 300 cloud formations stored in my computer.In shooting many of these, I frequently brackett my shots ( Shoot with various exposures ) so when the time arrives to include lets say a sky in the background I have several of the same cloud formations with varied light values to choose from to match with my foreground scenes.

In doing this type of adding backgrounds, an artist must also be aware of the direction of lighting. A scene will not look correct if the sunlight hitting the clouds in the background appear to be coming from the right, but the foreground lighting implies the sun is on the left. Little issues like this can make or break the realism in a scene. But, don't be overly concerned on your position and POV ( Point of View ) on the day you shoot your photos. Many graphic programs as well as art programs allow you to flip images so if the original scene shows the sun to the right, it can easily be changed to be appearing on the left. Bottom line is to keep a camera with you whenever possible as you never know what textures or background scenes might grab your eye in the world around you.

The only other issue you may wish to be mindful of when taking background scene photos is your perspective as well as the focal length of your camera lens. Consider how you may use the image in the future when shooting it. An odd perspective shot at the time may not look right when used as a background. Also using a wider angle lens is usually best to create a nice background scene for your art. Use of a telephoto lens zoomed in could create an odd look when used as a background. But  never be afraid to play around with different POVs or lens settings as you never know what kind of final look will work in a 3D scene.

When it comes to applying a texture and colors to a 3D model, quite often this work has been done for you in advance. For those of you who use only commercial or free models made by someone else, the textures and colors may not be an issue as models usually come with these already mapped out for the model by the artist who created it. But what if you bite the bullet and decide to create your own models or you wish to modify a commercial model such as adding alien looking skin to a normal human model. This is when the learning curve goes up and sometimes life gets a bit more complicated.

If you just need to assign your own unique texture and colors to basic simple shapes such as grass to a ground plane or textures to a mountain, this is usually a fairly easy project. But if you need to map out skin for a character or create book covers for a model book, this is when you really have to understand the ins and outs of texture mapping. One thing you must learn is how a particular program applies the texture to a particular model. The texture map for a cube as an example is different from the Bryce program compared to the DAZ Studio program. In Bryce if you take a texture lets say of a brick wall, the Bryce program applies that same texture to each surface of the cube. Where as in DAZ Studio, the texture is wrapped onto the cube and it is important you learn how this is done. With complex models like people, this really becomes complex at times. One trick I developed over the years is to create a number grid which I lay out as a texture on a model to get an idea where my texture ends up when I wrap it around a model. This is by no means a perfect system, but it has helped me with a number of models in positioning my own textures to a model. When doing textures for a program like DAZ Studio, use of a program like the UVMapper  is very helpful.  

I do not intend to go into details on how to texture map, as again this page is not intended as a tutorial but only an introduction to 3D model basics. But the following images are some examples of what I have made reference to above. To learn how to do texture maps, please refer to the software manuals, help files and / or online tutorials. Some great tutorials on many subjects I have covered here can be found at the DAZ3D site at this link:  Various Tutorials for working in 3D programs.

Grid Pattern image
Here is an example of one of my grid patters laid out over the face of Ms Victoria - one of the most popular 3D models around. By temporarily overlaying this grid in a semi transparent layer over a regular texture, I can get an idea where to place certain items such as if I wanted to add a tattoo to her left cheek at position Q16 as an example. Some 3D artists may find my technique here a bit bizzare, but over the years I have found this to work for me quite well in some circumstances. I don't use this trick very often, but it is handy at times.
Cylinder grid layout image
Here I created a similar grid pattern which works with a cylinder model. Lets say I wanted to turn a cylinder into a soda or beer can model. This grid would help me layout the position of colors and text on the can. No doubt there are other and or simpler methods for doing this, but I just use what works for me as I need to. When it comes to being creative with 3D Art, many of us learn our own little tricks and techniques that work for us.
Book Cover texture image
Here is a template I created for making a book cover to be mapped onto a primitive in DAZ Studio to give you a basic idea of how textures are mapped to models by various programs.
DAZ Cube Map Grid Image
The above is a map grid applied to a cube primitive in DAZ Studio. Below is the same grid map applied to a cube primitive in Bryce. I realize that due to the size of the images presented here it is difficult to make out the details on the 2nd image, but I can assure you that the layout of the grid on the cubes are totally different from program to program. In DAZ Studio, the grid wraps around and over the cube surfaces. In the Bryce Example, the entire grid appears on each and every surface. In some conditions, this is acceptable to allow each surface to be duplicated, but on others, you overcome this by creating individual surfaces and mapping each one by itself.

Bryce Cube Map image


If you have stuck with me through the last 2 pages - Thank You - I am amazed. If not, I perfectly understand as I do get to be a tad long winded at times when explaining things. Again, these 2 pages were presented to give you just a quick and basic look at 3D art models. If you want to learn how to model or to just better understand the medium, I cannot stress enough that you study the many tutorials available online. Hopefully my presentation has not confused or scared you off. No doubt there are some in the 3D Community who may glance at some of the information I have presented here and say to themselves "What were you thinking" since very often there are many ways to accomplish a task and some of my techniques may be way out there compared to others more talented than myself. It was my intent here to only spark an interest in 3D Art for those who may look upon this medium as something they could never do. I am now in my 50s and have barely learned many of the basics myself in this artform. So if I can do 3D Art, anyone can. I frequently rely on friends in various 3D community forums to help me out when a technique or trick of the trade eludes me. In the past several years I have met quite a few great and knowledgable people online who are always willing to share their knowledge with others like myself. If you decide to try your hand at 3D artwork, seek these people out as you learn by study, asking others and quite frequently just through trial and error as you play with this medium. Along the way you may discover your own techniques that someday you will be sharing with others just starting out. Most important of all - Just have fun with your artwork and along the way you may discover you have a hidden talent in the making  Please feel free to e-mail me with comments ( Good or Bad ) with regards to any of the information I present here or to comment on my photography and/or artwork. Also, I would be happy to try and help if you have questions on any of the subject matter on this web site. Have a Great Day and Happy computing!  Next Stop - My 3D Artwork galleries...  Bruce / Aug 2010.






Link to Dinosaur Animation Clip

To Download the very short dinosaur animation clip, right click on link above and select SAVE TARGET AS - It will show a file called Dino - just save to your desktop or download folder.
Then Open the file using Windows Media Player - NOTE: This download takes about 2 minutes as it is only less than 10 seconds play but over 27 megs in size.

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