I've been writing all my life, as far back as I can remember. I've tried my hand at everything: short stories, poetry, short film scripts, novels, picture books… you name it. I always had this incredible thirst to try everything I could in terms of creative output, so I guess it was only a matter of time before I moved to graphic novels.
My first couple of comic projects I drew by hand. One of them, Academaesthetics, was good enough to get published, but I was never entirely satisfied with the results of my hand-drawn work. A further issue that I had was trouble coming up with original designs. For my graphic novel, I would need to design cities, spaceships, costumes, weapons, you name it. I knew that I wasn't capable of producing designs or artwork on a professional scale for those kind of things… and I didn't particularly want to hand my script over to an amateur artist and be beholden to their busy schedule.
It was time to get creative, not just with content, but with process. DAZ 3D products ticked all the boxes: designs that I had the right to use once purchased, and a procedure for generating artwork at a very fast pace. Once a scene is set up, I can produce three full and completed pages of artwork in an hour.
The actual process goes something like this
- Buy models from the DAZ 3D web site
- Use DAZ Studio to set-up a scene in 'cartoon' preview mode
- Export image
- Adjust brightness, contrast and image size
- Run image through India Ink filter
- Copy image into page template
Experimentation is key
Taking a few weeks and really finding out the best ways to combine the resources you have at your disposal is crucial. Use online tutorials, too - there are so many for DAZ Studio, it's crazy... and even more for programs like Photoshop and Paint Shop Pro! For example, the camera tools are far more potent than they appear. Experiment with the different settings in the parameter box, see what they all do.
I think it would be fair to say that I am a casual user of DAZ Studio. It might be more correct to say I am an 'alternative' user. I don't do anything complicated with regards to 3D work, and I have barely scratched the surface of what the software or the models are actually capable of. I don't even use the software to render. And yet, even when using just the most basic functions (import figure, pose figure, position lights and camera, export image), I found it to be an immensely powerful way of doing things that gave me a huge amount of creative freedom. I also don't mind that the base version of DAZ Studio 4 is free. I have learned a lot about 3D work from using DAZ Studio.
Another thing that I love about DAZ 3D is the huge variety of models. The quality of the products and the talent of the Published Artists is just unbelievable. I'm going to single out Stonemason as a particularly talented artist, because I used a lot of his work in The Lesser Evil. And there are so many others like Kibarreto and Uzilite and Jack Tomalin (and dozens of others), whose work has inspired me and made my work possible. I wrote an entire 40-page script just so I could use Jack Tomalin's Sacrament model.
The DAZ 3D store is also very user-friendly.
Everything is at your fingertips: landscapes, buildings, rooms, vehicles, weapons, costumes, characters and of course the versatile base figures.
I also found the DAZ 3D's return policy to be a significant draw. As I work in 'cartoon' preview mode, there is always the chance that a model may not meet my needs (if, for example, all the detail is in the textures), but a 30-day, no-questions-asked return policy means that I can try-before-I-buy, making it a risk-free transaction. I should add that I have bought several hundred models from DAZ 3D, and have returned an extremely small number.
And it would be remiss of me to not mention the highly accessible pricing. The constant sales, freebies, and stream of vouchers and coupons (for Platinum Savings Club members especially) mean that I have been able to accumulate a ton of DAZ 3D product at an incredible savings.
In summary, just remember that there are ways to turn weaknesses into strengths. In my case, I couldn't draw anything even approaching a professional standard, but found a way to make the artwork in my graphic novel innovative and, arguably, the greatest creative achievement of my work.
I hope that this article encourages other potential casual or 'alternative' users to experiment with this kind of thing, to brave the learning curve and develop new uses for the software and models. I think that there are some real surprises out there we haven't seen yet.