Using Poser to Create Artwork

Since Poser is a character-creation and human-figure program, artists can quickly and easily create artwork with people. But, then, why is it, that Poser is looked upon as a "toy" or a "hobbyists" tool? And why is so much of the "artwork" nothing more than a nude woman standing in front of a plain background? The answers range from Poser's low cost to a lack of imagination by the artist.

Why is Poser considered a "toy" by many people in the graphics community? First, the price is significantly lower than any other 3-D program. Poser 5 is around $350 (or $99.99 if you catch it on sale at, Poser 4 (with Pro Pack) is around $420 (roughly) but Vue d'Esprit is around $500 (or so), 3-D Studio Max and Lightwave are around $1,500-$2,500 and SoftImage is usually above the $10,000 level! Of course, the higher price also means higher results. 3-D Studio Max, Lightwave, and SoftImage create images that are suitable for use in movies and TV. In fact, both discreet (the makers of 3D Studio Max) and Newtek (the makers of Lightwave) have entire lists of movies that used their products for special effects and animation. Poser, on the other hand, has been limited to mostly "quickie" animations or pre-visualization. Recently, though, Curious Labs seems to be trying- their website lists "Hoyle Casino" (video game) as a major project that has used Poser. Some of projects that used Lightwave include Star Wars: Episode II- Attack of the Clones and 1997's Titanic. (Of course, Newtek's website also lists Master of Disguise (with Dana Carvey), Half Past Dead (with Steven Segal) and Scooby Doo (live-action), and the less said about these movies the better... so I think I'll just move on.)

It seems like the people who make these kinds of "it's just a toy" comments are usually "modelers"- people who spend hours creating their models and scenes completely from scratch. When they see a program such as Poser (which uses pre-made models), they tend to look down on it. Why? Some artists enjoy being able to quickly make a scene without creating everything from scratch; while others are the opposite- they enjoy creating everything on their own. The comparison I like to make is this:
 People who use modeling programs (3-D Studio Max, Lightwave, etc.) are like kids with Legos™- they like to build objects with "blocks" and then create the scenes with the objects.
 People who use "character-creation" programs (such as Poser) are like people with dolls (or "action figures")- they take the existing figures and pose them to make their own scenes.

A number of the people who look down on Poser tend to overlook the fact that Poser works great with other, higher-end programs. Poser includes the ability to export the rendered image in many file types, including Photoshop (psd) format- making it easy to composite images. Poser Pro Pack contains export features for Lightwave. Vue d'Esprit includes a "Poser scene import" feature. So, the artist can shape and pose his character in Poser and then render it in a higher-end modeling program. In fact, a number of people have half-jokingly commented that Poser is a great "plug-in" for Lightwave or Vue! And why not- the artist gets the power of human modeling from Poser and the power of the high-end rendering from the modeling program!
Note: this only applies to Poser 4. Poser 5 does not come with the same import and export features as Poser 4.

After looking at the Galleries at the Poser-community websites, I often wonder: Why do we see so much of the same stuff? Why do so many people use the same "item-of-the-day"? Where's the "artistry"? Where's the "craftsmanship"? Where's the originality? Is this due to the user's inexperience, laziness, lack of imagination, or is it just too hard for people to get the results that they want?

An as example: I saw one picture (from an "experienced" user) which was nothing but a close-up of Mike with a sour expression on his face with a title like "Mad Mike". What's the point of the picture? Is the user showing us that he can give Mike a different expression (something that every user learns to do, very quickly)? At least the "artist" could have given the picture a more imaginative title, such as "Mike gets asked to a dance by the Poser 1 female... and is horrified." The "plain" picture then becomes a humorous one... and the artist receives compliments on his originality.

If you look in any of the galleries on the major Poser community sites, you'll see that many of the pictures are fantasy-based- dragons, fairies, barbarians, wizards, and such. Yes, it takes skill and talent to create these kinds of pictures, but after a while, the viewer has seen so many of these kinds of pictures, that it's hard to tell which image belongs to which artist. Where's the imagination? Where are the other subjects?

With Poser, we can create artwork that spans the entire human history- from prehistoric scenes to the far future and all of history in-between. We can download additional models and create scenes from our favorite movies or TV shows. We can create scenes using our favorite comic book characters. We can make political cartoons that poke fun at today's events or as a form of protest. (There is a market for "adult" artwork as well, but I won't go into that subject here.) Sometimes, the lack of originality disappoints me- there is such a wealth of subject matter, yet there it is- another picture of a scantily-clad woman in a fantasy-setting. (See my list of ideas, below, to help get your imagination started.)

Now, granted, a number of pictures are made by beginners- they just haven't learned how to conform clothing to people or to pose figures in a realistic way. And, while these pictures are fine, at some point, you, as the artist, have to grow and move beyond the simple images. Instead of using a plain-colored background, try using a photograph. Have your character sit down- add a chair or a couch or a table. Add another figure to the scene. Do more than a typical "pin-up" image.

An argument could be made that these images are simply the result of the "market". Artists come to the galleries and see a lot of fantasy pictures. They think, "Hmm... there are a lot of dragon pictures. That must be what's popular. I guess I'll make a picture like that." And, after posting the picture, the artist tends to get favorable feedback, which results in "Hmm... people like this picture, I guess I'll make more like this." And so, more people post more images of the same subjects. Soon, the gallery is filled with a bland sameness.

Recently, a reader sent me an e-mail which brought up a very good point. His theory is that, when artists get good enough, they move on to bigger and better things- paying jobs, professional work, etc. Or, these artists may have achieved what they set out to do and are no longer interested in posting their art. In his words, "What you wind up with is a pyramid with no apex. You get a lot of dreck, a smaller number of middling images, a few near greats, but the masterpieces are missing altogether!" He further states "The other thing to keep in mind is that most art in any genre is dreck. Take the Renaissance. Yes, it gave us many masterpieces. But you had artists' workshops operating full time in every city of modest size, all over Europe. The artists of the Renaissance turned out a huge amount of work. Most of it is forgotten, and rightly so."

And you don't need high-end 3-D software to get a good idea or message across to your viewers. Sure, some artists create stunning photo-realistic images that look like paintings, but it takes a lot of talent and artistry. Yes, it looks incredible, but for the average person, the technical steps required to make that kind of image could become too frustrating.

I read a message in one of the forums that went something like, "If I wanted photo-realism, I'd buy a camera." The idea is true- even today's cheap cameras (and a user with no experience) can produce images that are more "photo-real" than expensive 3-D programs (and people with years of experience). Now, I'm not saying that you shouldn't make photo-real images- not at all. Just keep mind that there is a huge learning process involved. I'm all for learning and mastering 3-D software, but is that your end goal? If you want to be a master of Poser or Lightwave, that's great- learn all you can! But, if you want to create artwork, you shouldn't have to go through the steps of creating a model from scratch and worrying about surface textures, reversing the normals on a polygon, or sub-patching surfaces (the things a typical modeler would have to worry about).

After all, as I've demonstrated with some of my own images (see my Image Gallery), all you need is a good idea. Expertise will come with practice, but an average image with a strong "message" will beat an excellent image with no "message". Or, rather, which image would you remember longer- yet another fantasy picture or a "groaner" joke picture?

Some ideas to get your imagination started:

If you've run out of ideas, here are some suggestions. Try to think of an idea first, then sketch it out, and then work on making the scene in Poser.
 Adult: since this is a family site, I'll just mention that this is as a category for ideas. Keep in mind that some Poser-community sites do not allow this kind of artwork.
(Sorry, no examples in my Image Gallery.)
 Animation and Pre-Visualization: make your own animated movie or create a quick version of your higher-end animated movie to see how everything will flow together.
For examples, download the Tabby Quicktime VR Movie from my Goodies Page.
 Cartoon Artwork: re-create scenes from your favorite cartoon strips.
For examples, see: The Far Side- The Four Personality Types, The Far Side- The Real Reason Dinosaurs Became Extinct, The Far Side- My Project's Ready, The Far Side- Ambitious Frog, and The Far Side- Pull.
 Classic & Fine Artwork: re-create classic art scenes within Poser. Of course, this takes more imagination and knowledge of classical artwork.
For examples, see: Tabby 4-Panel Head and The Muse.
 Comic Book Characters: download comic book characters from a number of Poser-community websites and create your scenes and battles. How about Spider-Man and Superman teaming up to battle Magneto? Why not- it's your scene!
For examples, see: JLA: A Midsummers Nightmare and Flash.
 Comic/ Graphic Novel: one of the "best" categories- create your own online comic book/ strip. Add "dialog" balloons using Photoshop. This may take more work than a simple image (due to the fact that it has an entire storyline and multiple images), but in the long run, this will make your artwork stand out more. People will keep coming back to see how the story is working out.
For examples of one-panel comics, see: Poser Gangsters, Don and Judy meet Vicky (in Poser 5), and others.
For examples of images in a "story-arc", see: The Haunting III: Family Portrait, The Haunting II: The Loss, and The Haunting.
 Commercials: find a merchant that makes items that you like. Then, make images that show off the items. Like TV and radio commercials, these images can be funny, sad, strange, or whatever.
For examples, see: So, It's Come to This... A Shameless Plug (a commercial for my own free and for-sale items) and Everything's Gotta Go (a commercial for my free stuff).
 Fantasy: (even though this category is one of the most popular, I thought I would list it anyway)- create a scene with dragons or fairies or orcs or other such characters.
For examples, see: Not Another Cute Dragon Picture.
 History: create a scene from any period in human history- from the caveman times to the Middle Ages to the Renaissance to American Colonial Times to the 18th Century to the 20th Century, and even into the future.
 Holiday: make a holiday-themed picture.
For examples, see: What Are You Trying to Do?, Watching a Christmas Special, and Happy Holidays!.
 Horror: make a scary picture. Note: some galleries may have restrictions on "violent content". However, an image doesn't have to be gory or violent to be scary.
For examples, see: The Haunting.
 Humor: make a funny or humorous image. Of course, "humor" is subjective... you can make it "laugh out loud" funny, "sarcastic" funny, or even "groaner" funny (like a really bad pun). This category could also be mixed with almost any other category for an extra-imaginative image.
For examples, see: Poser Gangsters, This is Not a Drive Thru, Clinton Deploys Vowels to Bosnia, Don and Judy meet Vicky (in Poser 5), I can Recite the Secret Super-Hero Origin, The Day After Halloween, An Element Tree, and The Far Side images.
 Illustration: make illustrations for books, poems, songs, CD covers- anything that requires a drawing.
 Personal Expression: make an image of how you feel- use the Poser figures to expression your feelings about something.
 Political Cartoon: make a picture that pokes fun at political leaders, makes a statement about politics, or as a form of protest.
For examples, see: Have we Gone too far in the Name of Security.
 Opinion: make a picture that comments on something about society- good, bad, happy, sad, whatever. (In fact, there are now a number of "Memorial" Galleries to display the artwork created after the events of September 11, 2001.)
For examples, see: Happy New Year.
 Science Fiction: make up your own science fiction or futuristic scene.
 TV/ Movies: recreate a scene from your favorite TV show or movie. Create an entirely new scene using characters that everyone knows and likes.
For examples, see: Star Wars: Episode I Teaser Poster, Star Wars: Episode II- Attack of the Clones Movie Poster, Star Wars Movie Poster, The Empire Strikes Back Teaser Poster, Revenge of the Jedi Movie Poster, Return of the Jedi Movie Poster, and Tabby Gump.