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Making 3D Comics by Genejoke

Banes at 12:00AM, Nov. 22, 2018

This is an article by Genejoke, who agreed to share some of his knowledge for anyone who's interested in
starting a 3D comic!


When I started looking at 3d software for comic making I wasn't planning to go 3d, only to use it to aid my 2d art. I found some poses and angles on people challenging and I hoped to use a 3d mannequin to help. After looking into software and learning a bit I started thinking about making a short story with the software as a test. The rest I guess is history, well kind of. Before I ventured I to making that short story I asked for some advice from the arguably best 3d artist on the duck, El Cid. The advice I received was not to bother. Not (I hope) a reflection of my ability, rather that it's a lot of work and hard to get started. Still I persevered and here I am to give you a glimpse of what is involved.

I want to make a 3d comic, but where the hell do I start?

Drawing comics is fairly easy in a sense, you put pencil to paper and go from there. Gross over simplification aside, there's a universal starting point that everyone understands the basic concepts of, with 3d it's arguably a different kettle of fish.

3d comics are in many ways like making photo comics with dolls, or action figures if dolls sounds too girly for you. The advantage is that you have greater control over everything and it doesn't require so much physical space, your hard drive may disagree though.

My examples will be in reference to using Daz studio, it's free 3d rendering software that comes with base figures (dolls) that can be posed, clothed, customized and animated. The Daz business model is best described as freemium I guess. The software is free but you don't get much to customise with. They do have free items available and there are other places to get them from, or you can pay for extras. If you have the skills you can make your own, but I won't be touching on that here.

Think of it like the character creation in some video games, like Fallout 4 and Dark souls.

With Daz studio you get the genesis male and female figures and a tiny bit of clothing. You can modify them slightly and they have a few facial expressions you can apply.

They are limited out of the box. Not a problem if you're using them as artist mannequins, not so good for making unique characters. This is where you need morphs and different skin textures, which is where Daz make their money. There are free options though and I recommend anyone starting out to look at this first. Here are a couple of links with thinks to get you started.

That will get you started with characters, but what about environments and props? Again you get a couple of bits with Daz studio but you will need more, the same logic applies to this as with the characters. You can buy them or download freebies.

Essentially you need to build a library of 3D assets, this is a big job, but loads is available free and cheap. It can also be a cash sink if you invest in a lot of paid for props, but they will generally be of better quality and more complete.

In my case I started out downloading anything free that seemed like it might be useful. One thing to watch for is quality, free doesn't mean good, that said there are some excellent freebies available. Also check usage licences, some assets may have restrictions.

I've downloaded some models, now what?
First step, import it or add it to your runtime. Assets made for poser and Daz are usually packaged up so you can add the files to your runtime folder and it will be added to you content library. These will usually be to scale and have the textures set for you. If you download a 3d object (obj format for example) it may well be to a different scale and need the textures applied after.

A little extra Information.

3d models are made up of a number of aspects.

Geometry, or the mesh if you like. This is the 3d object.

The geometry will usually have a UV map, this is what tells it where to apply the textures.

Textures are the pretty patterns that almost complete the model. I say almost as the material settings can make a huge difference.
Think of it like layers in Photoshop. The diffuse is the coloured textures and patterns.
There may be other layers which will affect how light reacts when it hits the surfaces. There are specular, bump, normal maps for example. Each one could take a lot of explaining.

By now you're probably thinking it's a lot of work making a 3d comic, and it is, but it's largely front loaded. Once you have your characters and sets the rest becomes easier than drawing out and colouring individual panels. Sure you have to pose, light and render them but that's generally less time consuming than illustration and colouring.


Check out GJ's catalogue of comics here on the Duck:



RobertRVeith at 4:26PM, Nov. 26, 2018

I work in a combination of 2D and 3D. All of the line work you see in my comics, I drew with my own hand. I draw over 3D renders, using the renders as a kind of "light table" reference. The assumption about 3D from people who don't use it is that it's somehow easier and/or faster to make comics with 3D software than it is in the "normal" way. That hasn't been my experience. If you have any drawing ability at all, you can draw a panel faster on paper than you can assemble your backgrounds, figures and props into a 3D program. There's a lot of trial and error to get the lighting right. And then there's the rendering time itself, which can take from 15 minutes to a day (depending on your settings). If you're a pen-and-paper artist and you take a day to draw a panel, you probably shouldn't be drawing comics (you're a different kind of artist!). But that's par for the course in 3D.

Genejoke at 11:15AM, Nov. 22, 2018

Indeed, blender is excellent. I use it a lot but it does have a steep learning curve.

fallopiancrusader at 8:17AM, Nov. 22, 2018

Another option is using multiple 3D packages. This will require you to export files from one package, and import them into the other.This approach requires a bit more skill at 3D, but learning those skills can be useful in the long run. I am primarily a 2d artist, but I use 3d for many of my backgrounds and props. Unreal engine is a good package for building the final scenes, as it has many atmospheric and VFX options right out of the box. Unreal marketplace also has a huge selection of props, just like DAZ. A good package for building your own props is Blender. Blender can also be used for scene set-up, as it has very sophisticated rendering options. Obviously, building your own stuff in ANY 3d program is a whole other (steep) learning curve. (all of the software I mentioned above is free)

Genejoke at 4:51AM, Nov. 22, 2018

@dpat57 I run a desktop rig. I7 quad core 4ghz with a 980gtx graphics card and 32gb of ram. That is also something I should have touched on here. There's some on it in the next part. Daz can be a bit laggy on laptops, I use one to test items on and it's just like you say, using a 386.

Genejoke at 4:45AM, Nov. 22, 2018

It gets the same with 3d assets, or you know you have it but can't find it. Haha some things never change regardless of technology.

dpat57 at 4:39AM, Nov. 22, 2018

That's a good set of starter tips and links, one thing maybe worth mentioning also is hardware requirements, my bog standard laptop (1.4 GHz dual processor, 8Gb RAM, the spec says) is a few years old now and just didn't have the oomph to let me use DAZ, the lag made me feel I was on a 486 PC again. I dunno what kind of machines you and El Cid and other DAZ users are flying, I couldn't get off the ground no matter how hard I flapped my arms. If and when I upgrade (when Old Faithful dies on me) sure, I'll try again. Right now it's a wee bit impractical lol.

bravo1102 at 2:37AM, Nov. 22, 2018

*losing? I meant to say *using but somehow "losing" is more appropriate. Can never find anything amidst all the stuff I have. :D

bravo1102 at 2:34AM, Nov. 22, 2018

Dolls and action figures? Novel idea but you could never get it to work page after page. Oh wait, some guy named Bravo1102? That's me -- so early in the morning I always think I'm just waking up from a nightmare. 3D is so front loaded that 10 years of playing and losing action figures I still am too intimidated to switch from dolls to software.

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