Create a Humorous Rat Race Illustration Using Poser and Photoshop


The great thing about Photoshop is it allows us to create almost anything, but sometimes it can be struggle; imagine trying to make this image without the help from a 3D application. In today's tutorial, we will show you how use a 3D render as the basis to create a humorous rat race illustration. Let's get started!

Tutorial Assets

You'll find some files in the "source" folder. You'll also need the following 3D model and free stock images to complete this tutorial.

Step 1

In the first part of this tutorial, we'll concentrate on the background; I'll demonstrate a variety of retouching techniques to remove the athletes, so we can add our 3D rats. While at first this may seem a daunting task, knowing which tools to use will make all the difference.

Download and open the runners image. When retouching, it's good practice to work on a copy of your original – so if mistakes happen you've always got a back up. To do this, drag the default layer thumbnail over the Create new layer icon at the foot of the layers tab to duplicate it.

Now use the Lasso Tool (L) to roughly select the area around the foreground runners foot, then press Shift + F5 and select Content-Aware from the drop-dowm menu. The Content-Aware feature is great for fixing large areas with less information to deal with.

Step 2

To fix larger areas with more detail, it's best to copy as much pixel information from your original image. Make a rough selection from the background track as shown at the top of the screenshot and hit Shift + F6 to access the Feather window and enter 2px (this will eliminate any hard edges and make the next step easier). Now press Cmd/Ctrl + J to copy the selection to a new layer and reposition/stretch as shown.

Step 3

Add a layer mask, then hit Cmd/Ctrl + I to Invert mask to negative. Now use a medium, soft-edged white Brush (B) to reinstate only what's required. My mask is shown at the bottom of the screenshot for clarity.

Step 4

When you're happy with the patch layer, hit Cmd/Ctrl + E to Merge Down and click Apply in the following window. Repeat this process to cover the feet of the other foreground runner.

Step 5

Copy further selections of track to new layers, mask and merge them.

Step 6

Now copy segments of white lines and Transform them to cover the missing parts. Mask these layers and merge them too.

Step 7

Use the same technique to fill the missing sections of the hurdle, then add a new top layer. Set the Clone Stamp Tool (S) to Current & Below and use a small, soft-edged brush to fix any small flaws. When you're happy, merge this layer as well.

Step 8

Duplicate your retouched layer, then stretch it horizontally as shown. This will be your working file for the third stage of this tutorial, so save it to a memorable location. Now save a flattened JPG version ("Template.jpg") to use as a guide in Poser.

Step 9

Consult the "readme" files after installing your Poser downloads because depending on which version you're running, you may need to follow different instructions. Launch Poser, select the default figure in the main viewport and hit delete.

Step 10

Highlight the Figures tab and go to Poser Pro 2012 Content > Monster Rat, highlight its thumbnail and click the Create New Figure double-tick icon at the foot of the tab to load the model.

Step 11

The 3D model has some fantasy characteristics we need to remove, such as the horns over the eyes and spikes on the tail. First, use the Camera Controls drop-down menu to switch to the Left Camera, then use the hand camera control icons to zoom into the rat's head.

Select the entire model by either clicking the large circle surrounding the figure, or via the top-left drop-down menu. Activate the Materials tab, then go to Poser Pro 2012 Content > Monster-Rat, highlight the M-Rat NoHorns thumbnail and click the single tick button to apply the preset.

Step 12

Zoom in to the tail, then activate the Pose tab. Go to Poser Pro 2012 Content > Monster-Rat > Tail No Spikes and click the single tick button to remove them.

Step 13

We want our rats running on two legs, so go to Poser Pro 2012 Content > Animals > Cat and apply the Pose 5 preset. Although the geometry of this pose is designed for a different model, it gives us a good starting point.

Step 14

Choose the Main Camera view, then use the trackball to move the camera. Select the Right Thigh and change the Bend dial to -30 and the In-Out dial to -1 in the Parameters tab. Now select the Right Shin and modify the Bend dial to -41.

Step 15

Now copy these settings for the rAnkle, Right Foot and rToes.

Step 16

Switch to the Posing Camera, then bend the Lft Thigh, Left Shin, lAnkle, lFoot and lToes in the opposite direction. Now open the Pose tab and apply the Tail Up preset.

Step 17

Now copy these settings for the rShoulder, rArm and rForearm, then move the lShoulder, lArm and lForearm in the opposite direction.

Step 18

Click the hand icon to quickly access the Right Hand camera, then change the Right Hand Parameter dials as shown. Now bend each finger and thumb part to create a clenched fist.

Step 19

Switch to the Left Hand camera and copy these settings for the Left Hand, then bend the finger and thumb parts again.

Step 20

Switch to the Face camera and close the jaws slightly. Now move the rEye back and down.

Step 21

To ensure the figure is not floating in the air, choose Figure > Drop to Floor.

Step 22

We now need to save the pose. Open the Monster rat folder in the Pose tab (1), then click the plus button at the foot of the palette (2). Name the pose "Running" in the following window, then check both boxes (4) and Single Frame (5) in the next window. Your pose will now appear in the Monster Rat folder.

Step 23

With the pose now saved, delete the figure and load a fresh Monster Rat. Now repeat Steps 11 and 12 to remove the horns and spikes.

Step 24

Switch to the Props tab, navigate to Clothing > James Clothing, select Shoe Athletic L and click the tick button to add it to your scene. Now switch to the Posing Camera. This prop is obviously designed to fit a human and not a rat, so we'll need to modify it.

Step 25

Select the whole shoe, then copy the following settings in the Parameters tab. Rotate your camera angle to ensure a snug fit over the left foot. Don't sweat if parts of the foot protrude outside of the shoe, as this can easily be fixed later.

Step 26

With the shoe selected, choose Figure > Set Figure Parent. Now scroll down and highlight the rat's Left Foot In the following window. This will force the shoe to follow the movements of the foot.

Step 27

Now select the rat's Left Foot and uncheck the Visible and Visible in Raytracing boxes. Repeat this for the lToes. Any protruding parts of the rat's foot should now be hidden.

Step 28

Add the right shoe to your scene, then repeat steps 17 and 18 (although you'll need to modify the shoe's Parameter dials to fit the foot correctly). Now parent the shoe to the Right Foot and make the same parts of the right foot invisible.

Step 29

We'll duplicate this rat in a new Poser file to create our scene. There are various ways to achieve this, but I find the following the most stable, as importing several figures in a scene can sometimes throw up errors.

First, choose Display > Guides and switch off the Ground Plane (Cmd/Ctrl + G). Now drag all the lights into the trash icon, so they won't duplicate when imported into a new Poser scene. Now Save the Poser file as "Rat unposed with shoes import.pz3" to a memorable location.

Step 30

Open a new blank Poser file and go to File > Import > Poser Document/Prop, navigate and select your "Rat unposed with shoes import.pz3", then make the Ground Plane visible again (Cmd/Ctrl + G).

Step 31

Now apply your saved pose preset from Step 22. Because the shoes are not designed for this figure, they'll probably shift position very slightly.

Step 32

Select each shoe in turn and modify their Parameter dials until they fit. To make this part easier, view in different camera modes and drag the trackball around.

Step 33

Now choose File > Import > Background Picture and navigate/select your "Template.jpg", then click Yes the following window to change the window proportions to match.

Step 34

Switch to the Aux Camera view, then position the camera to match the background image. Now select the rat and modify the Rot Heading, Move Side To Side and Move Front-Back Parameter dials to reposition as shown.

Step 35

To make the following steps easier, go to Display > Hide Background Picture (Cmd/Ctrl + B). Now use the same method as described in Step 30 to import a second rat. Ensure the Body of the new rat is selected, then modify the Rot Heading, Move Side to Side and Move Front-Back Parameter dials to move the model away from the first one. Remember to switch cameras to see view the result better.

Step 36

Apply your saved running pose to the second rat. Now choose Figure > Symmetry > Swap Right and Left. Feel free to adjust any body parts. We'll be adding more rats later, so making the pose unique will avoid them all looking the same.

Step 37

When you're happy with the second rat's pose, adjust the shoes to fit better.

Step 38

Reposition the second rat as shown, then add the pose to your library.

Step 39

Import the "Rat unposed with shoes import.pz3", again and apply the last saved pose. Now adjust the Move Front-Back and Move Side to Side parameter dials to distance the figure in the scene. Now increase the Move Up-Down and Rot Heading dials to make him jump the hurdle (we'll mask his trailing foot). Finally, modify the pose slightly, so it's not an exact copy, then tweak the position of the shoes to fit.

Step 40

Repeat the import procedure to place a fourth and final rat. Distance him in the scene as shown and apply either one of your pose presets and adjust the shoes again.

Step 41

We now need some basic lighting and shadows to compliment the background image. Open the Light tab, highlight the Default Poser 2 thumbnail (in the Basic Lights Sets folder) and press the single tick icon to apply the setting.

Step 42

Check all your figures are resting on the Ground Plane (Figure > Drop to Floor). We're now ready to perform a test render, but first choose Display > Clear Background Picture, then ensure the Ground Plane is visible (Cmd/Ctrl + G) so the shadows render. Hit Cmd/Ctrl + R and after a few seconds your render will appear in the Render tab. Switch back to the Preview tab and carry out any modifications as required and render again. Once you're happy, the next stage is to create separate high-resolution renders – for the figures and shadows.

We'll render the figures first, so hide the Ground Plane (Cmd/Ctrl + G). Choose Render > Render settings (Shift + Cmd/Ctrl + Y) and enter the dimensions of your Photoshop template (1024px x 768px), then change the Resolution to 300. Now go to Render > Render Settings (Cmd/Ctrl + Y). Click the Acquire from Auto button, then choose Render Over Background Color, also check Smooth polygons, Use displacement maps, Cast Shadows and Raytracing boxes. Finally, click the Render Now (Firefly) button.

After a short while the render will appear in the Render tab. Now use the top-right arrow to export and save to a memorable location. I called mine "Rats_render_final.png".

Step 43

Enable the visibility of the Ground Plane (Cmd/Ctrl + G) and open the Render Settings window again. Keep the settings as before, but check the Shadow only box and perform a render. Now export and save as "Shadows_render_final.png".

Step 44

Revisit your Layered Photoshop file, then open both renders (or the supplied ones in the "source" folder). Shift-drag the shadow render thumbnail over to create a new top layer, change its Blend Mode to Multiply and label it "Rat shadows". Repeat this for the figures render, but keep the Blend Mode as Normal and name it "Rats". To remove any edge halos on this layer choose Layer > Matting > Defringe and enter 2px.

Step 45

Add the first landscape below the "Rat shadows" layer and name it "Background fields/sky". Hit Cmd/Ctrl + T to access Transform and resize/position as shown.

Step 46

Set the Pen Tool (P) Path in the Options bar, then disable the visibility of the "Background fields/sky" layer and draw a closed path around the back of the track.

Remember, you can fine-tune your path at any time by pressing Cmd/Ctrl to access the Direct Selection Tool (A) to adjust individual direction/anchor points as required.

Double-click your path thumbnail to save it, then Cmd/Ctrl-click its thumbnail to generate a selection. Switch the layer visibility back on, then with the selection still active click the Add layer mask at the foot of the tab. Now target the mask thumbnail and choose Filter > Blur > Blur More to slightly soften the hard edge.

Step 47

Open the second landscape and select a portion of grass with the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M). Copy > Paste the selection above the "Background fields/sky" and resize/position to hide the yellowness of the underlying grass. Name this layer "Additional background grass", then reduce its Opacity to 76%.

Step 48

Opt/Alt-drag the "Background fields/sky" mask thumbnail over the new layer to copy it.

Press D to reset your Foreground/Background colors to black and white. Set the Gradient Tool (G) to Foreground to Transparent and Linear in the Options bar. Target your duplicate mask, then Shift-drag a short gradient as indicated by the length and direction of the arrow to blend the top of the grass.

Step 49

Disable the visibility of both 3D render layers. Open the grass image and press Cmd/Ctrl + A to select All and Copy > Paste to make a new layer below the "Rat shadows". Resize, squash down to create a thin strip and position over the bottom right-hand corner of the track.

Duplicate this layer a few times and reposition to create a more natural grass pattern. Now use a small, soft-edged Eraser (E) to remove any horizontal sharp edges. Now merge these grass layers to a single layer and label it "Foreground grass".

Step 50

Click the Create new path icon, highlight the Custom Shape Tool (U), then from the fly-out menu, select the Ellipse. Set the tool to Path in the Options bar, then drag an elliptical path roughly into position.

Now use the Path Selection Tool (A) to move the entire path and access Transform to resize it. To make the shape a little less regular, use the Direct Selection (A) move individual points and handles.

Step 51

Use the same path selection method to mask this layer. Hit Cmd/Ctrl + to reapply the Blur More filter on the mask, then use the Brush(B) with a small, soft-edged tip to give the mask some irregularity.

Step 52

We can still modify the content of the "Foreground grass" layer whilst keeping the mask intact. Switch off the chain icon between the layer and mask, target the layer thumbnail and access Perspective from the Transform menu. When you're done, link the mask back again.

Step 53

Over the next few steps we'll add some non-destructive tonal and color edits. First, highlight the "Background copy 1" thumbnail and select Levels from the Create new fill or adjustment layer icon situated at the foot of the tab. Activate the clipping option, so the adjustment only affects the target layer and copy these settings.

Step 54

Now clip a Color Balance adjustment to the same layer and apply these settings.

Step 55

Clip another Color Balance adjustment, this time to the "Background fields/sky". First, modify the Midtones, then use the drop-down menu to adjust the Shadows and Highlights.

Step 56

Now clip a Hue/Saturation adjustment to the "Foreground grass" layer, then modify the Yellows and Greens as shown.

Step 57

Finally, clip a Levels adjustment to the "Foreground grass" layer as well.

Step 58

To keep your layers organized, first, double-click the bottom default layer to release it. Keep it highlighted, then hold Shift and highlight the "Levels" adjustment clipped to the "Foreground grass" layer (this highlights all the in-between layers too). Now choose New Group from Layers from the top-right fly-out menu in the layers panel and label it "BACKGROUND".

Step 59

Next, we'll adjust the color and the contrast of the figures. Target the "Rats" layer, clip a Levels adjustment and modify all three Input sliders as shown.

Step 60

Now clip a Color Balance adjustment to the same layer and copy these settings.

Step 61

To avoid all the shoes looking the same, use the Lasso Tool (L) to roughly select the nearest rat's trainers. Ensure the "Rats" layer is the target layer and choose Image > Adjustments > Replace color and apply the following.

Step 62

Clip a Levels adjustment to the "Rat shadows" layer and set the midpoint to 1.06 to slightly darken it. Now we'll add some smaller, darker shadows under the trainers of both foreground rats. Place a new layer in Multiply Mode below the "Rats", then use a small black Brush (B) set to around 50% Opacity. Repeat this on another shadow layer as required.

For more realistic shadows, target the first one and choose Filter > Noise > Add Noise and copy these settings. Now repeat the filter on your remaining shadow layers.

Step 63

Add a mask to the "Rats" layer, then use a small, black Brush (B) to hide the trailing foot of the rat jumping the hurdle.

Step 64

At the moment the rat's trainers look a little too white. To fix this, clip a Color Fill adjustment to the "Rats" layer and choose # eff0d1 as its color. Now change the Blend Mode to Multiply and reduce the Opacity to 80%.

Step 65

As I mentioned before, the rat has some fantasy features including some strange looking ears, which we can easily replace. Open the rat, then Lasso (L) a rough selection around its ear and Copy > Paste to create a new top layer.

Transform over the front rat's existing ear, then use a small Eraser (E) at around 50% Hardness to remove the excess. Don't bother with adjustment layers here, just hit Cmd/Ctrl + L to access Levels and darken the ear to match the rat. Now press Cmd/Ctrl + U to access Hue/Saturation, then tweak the colours.

Step 66

Duplicate and Resize, flip the same ear for each rat as shown. You may need to add a mask to the "Rat" layer and hide any parts of the original ears with a small black Brush (B).

Step 67

Load the "PSDTUTS_Fur_brushes.abr" from the "source" folder. Add a new layer called "Fur 1" at the top of the layer stack. Grab the Brush Tool (B) and Opt/Alt-click to pick up the underlying colors. For best results, use a small brush size and paint sparingly over selective areas of the foreground rats.

Step 68

Now paint some more hairs around the edges of the rats on a new layer ("Fur 2") below the "Rats".

Step 69

At this stage the composition looks a little bottom heavy, so press Shift + Cmd/Ctrl + C to open the Canvas Size dialogue box. Anchor the crop to the bottom middle and change the Height to 21cm.

Now place all your floating layers into another group folder and label it "RATS".

Step 70

Next, we'll apply a non-destructive dodge and burn technique. First, add a top layer and label it "Highlights/shadows". Press Shift + F5, select 50% Gray from the Contents drop-down menu, then choose Soft Light under Mode.

Ensure your Foreground and Background colors are set to black and white. Set the Brush Tool (B) to 20% Opacity. Cmd/Ctrl-click the "Rats" layer thumbnail to create a selection. Ensure your "Highlights/shadows" is the target layer, the paint inside the selection with black for shadows and white for highlights.

Step 71

Now to add some overall sharpening. Press Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + Alt + E to create a new merged layer at the top of the stack. Go to Filter > Other > High Pass and enter 1px in the following window. Now change the Blend Mode to Soft Light to render the grey invisible.

Step 72

Finally, place a Hue/Saturation adjustment at the top, but this time, disable the clipping option, so it affects all layers.

Conclusion and Scope

Now you know how it's done, why not create your own humorous illustration with a different 3D model – the rat I used is just one of thousands available from DAZ 3D.

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