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About Digital Art / Professional Core Member ShalenFemale/United States Recent Activity
Deviant for 7 Years
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Previously I did a journal entry on the elements of a great storytelling render in 3Delight, which you can find here.

A vast majority of artwork rendered in Poser and Daz Studio is either somewhat formalist in the sense that it's still roleplay portraits, or else it's just a series of bad pinups.  I have a different article on what makes a better pinup.

It's been a while since I did one of these, but today RawArt3d put up this render.

Critical Systems Failure by RawArt3d

Visual storytelling is difficult in every medium - comics, animation, renders, painting, sculpting.  But there are elements of composition that make it easier, and RawArt is a master of these.  As he pointed out to me in the render's comments, a Daz Premier Artist can't always make renders that tell a story and also strongly promote a product, so sometimes it's only in these "extra" renders that we really get the chance to try.

So let's unpack what's going on in this render, starting with the lighting.  I've never been to art school, but there are things you can teach yourself over time and by learning online, and I'm going to do the best I can with that.

There are three distinct color areas in the render's lighting: the blue foreground, the purple background and the red from the cryocontainer.  Now, red is a "look at me!" color.  In American culture, the culture to which RawArt and I both belong, it's the color of stoplights and alarm displays and ambulance lights (yellow is used more in Europe, I gather; in Asia red can instead be a celebratory color so the connotation is more ambiguous).  And of course all humans have red blood, red viscera, we flush red when our nervous system is kicking into high gear.  So the red part of the render is where we're usually going to look first. 

Not only that, but the camera is literally tilted upward to the right, another way to draw the eye upward toward that skeleton in the cryotube.  The line of composition leads upward to the right as well, from the bot's head across the female figure's head and shoulder and straight up to that skeleton again.  You could lay a ruler along those elements or hold your finger up to the screen in a line and see what I mean. 

Everything about the way this is constructed and lit urges the eye toward the skeleton first.  This is clever as well because the tendency is also to look at white areas and human figures first, so the artist has strongly compensated for that with the lighting and the composition.

And after that, after we have time to register that we're looking at a dead person, there's a big dark space to the right of the container.  Space can also be used to suggest time in a still image: the bigger the open space, the longer the suggested time that is passing.  The lower left hand side of the image is crowded with figures, where life is still happening, but everything is over up there on the right - time is endless because time is ended.  We're looking at death.

When we finally move past that to the lower left side of the image, we find this woman in a posture of complete dejection and the little robot with the quizzical tilt to its head.  Her face is so small in the overall image that we can barely see her expression, but we don't really need to: her entire pose is indicative of unhappiness.  This is not a pose directly from the artist's library.  At the very least it's been tweaked extensively to make sure it fits the body morph and the body is in solid contact with the surfaces, and to pose the hands naturally around the helmet.  This is a very tedious but very important part of building a scene, as I've mentioned before and undoubtedly will mention again. 

And finally, the robot's expectant posture - and it's a nice job, that pose, it gives life to an inanimate thing - indicates that life still goes on.  In the next moment she's going to get up and go on, no longer crushed by the weight of that cryotube that hovers over her in the composition.  It's not an image of complete despair, it's just a pause.

There are two final things that I'd like to address about the effect of this render: depth of field and postwork.  You probably all know how much I love fog; I've done an entire product around it and have another one coming out soon.  The need to tilt the camera has actually created a sizable space in the lower front of the render, but painted fog has been used to obscure it, nudging the eye away.  Fog is not just atmospheric, it's a great way to guide the lines of a composition.

Careful use of depth of field in the rendered camera is what allows the cryocontainer and the figures to be in focus while the deep foreground and background are not.  This can be done in post, but it's much harder.  This helps keep those big spaces from distracting from what's going on in the image as a whole and it should never be neglected by a render artist.

I'd like to thank RawArt3d for his permission to use his render in this article and all of you for reading it.  I'm still a novice at telling stories with a render, but the more often and the more closely I analyze renders that I love, the more I hope to do better over time - and so should we all!
  • Listening to: Spotify
  • Reading: Blogs
  • Watching: Nothing
  • Playing: Nothing
  • Eating: Chewing mentos gum
  • Drinking: Water


Artist | Professional | Digital Art
United States
I'm a 3d modeler, texturer and rigger. I work with making conforming items, characters and props for the Genesis figures in DAZ Studio.

My DAZ store:

And at Renderosity:…

Regrettably, I am no longer able to accept commissions for models. I just have too many projects going at any one time.


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Grim-Red Featured By Owner 6 days ago  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you so, so, so much for the fave wave.
Greatly appreciated and is an honor. :blush: :aww:
fjumregoj Featured By Owner 6 days ago
Thank you so much for your always amazing and very useful tutorials and hints here and everywhere. It is of great help for a humble novice.
SickleYield Featured By Owner 6 days ago  Professional Digital Artist
SimonJM Featured By Owner Jan 8, 2017
Just hoovered up your unconscious/dragging/carrying pose and prop set from DAZ and am looking forward to using them!
SickleYield Featured By Owner Jan 8, 2017  Professional Digital Artist
Explanoite Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2017  Hobbyist
Daz and Iray have updated to a new edition, and you know what that means: time for everyone to run around like chickens with their heads cut off until Sickleyield makes a tutorial for all the features that Daz fails to document or explain.
You have your mission, Sickleyield: save us from our ignorance!
SickleYield Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2017  Professional Digital Artist
XD That's putting a lot on a dim schlub like your humble obedient?
Explanoite Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2017  Hobbyist
You really only have yourself to blame. If you didn't want people to have such high expectations of you, you shouldn't have done so much awesome stuff!
jerife Featured By Owner Dec 28, 2016  Student Digital Artist
Finally I was able to use your shower. Water was warm and nice, thanks ;)

Mature Content

South Hemisphere Summer by jerife
SickleYield Featured By Owner Dec 28, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
Glad you liked it! :)
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