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Create a Futuristic Cyborg with Poser and Photoshop

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In this Tuts+ Premium tutorial, we will show you how 3D renders can be combined with Photoshop to produce a stunning sci-fi composition. In the initial part, we will explain the process of setting up a Poser scene and preparing three separate renders. You'll then learn some clever Photoshop tricks, such as advanced masking, lighting and digital painting techniques to assemble a fusion of man and machine. Let's get started!

Tutorial Assets

You'll find most files in the "source" folder. You'll also need the following 3D models, stock images and brushes to complete this tutorial.

Step 1

I've supplied all the Poser renders in the "source" folder, so if you want to skip this part of the tutorial jump to Step 22.

Consult the "readme" files after installing your Poser downloads. Launch Poser, select the default figure in the main viewport and hit delete. Go to Figures > James > Full Body Morphs, then highlight the JamesHiresFBM thumbnail and click the Create New Figure tick at the foot of the tab to load the model. At this point we're not concerned with textures, so select the Smooth Shaded icon under Document Display Style.

Step 2

Select the entire figure (indicated by the red circle), then set the ectomorphFBM parameter dial to 0.480 to give the figure a slightly emaciated appearance.

Step 3

The different camera views are located in the Camera Controls drop-down menu. Most views can also be accessed with keyboard shortcuts. Press Cmd/Ctrl + comma to switch to the Posing Camera, then select Poses Library > James Pose > Walking. Highlight the Walk 10 thumbnail, then click the single-tick to apply it. We'll use this preset as the basis to create the required pose.

Step 4

The left arm and hand are ideal for the body language we're after. To mirror this on the other side, choose Figure > Symmetry > Left Arm to Right Arm and click Yes in the following window to copy the joint zone setup as well.

Step 5

Next, we need to arch the figures torso, so select the Chest and modify the Bend parameter dial to -25 degrees. Now select the Abdomen and change the Bend dial to -2 degrees.

Step 6

In this step we'll float the figure off the ground plane. For this to work and look natural, check Inverse Kinematics are selected for both legs under the Figure menu. Now select the Hip and set the yTran dial to 0.494.

Step 7

Choose the From Right camera view (Cmd/Ctrl + apostrophe), select the Right Foot and copy these settings to move the leg forwards and inwards.

Step 8

That's the basic body posed – any minor adjustments can be carried out just before rendering. Hit Cmd/Ctrl + equal to switch the Face camera, then select the Head and apply the following expression and morph settings.

Step 9

Activate Texture Shaded under Document Display Style to preview how the figure will appear when rendered, then set the EyesUp-Down dial to -5.500 to roll them upwards.

Step 10

The next stage is to add some lighting. Poser is set up with three-point lighting which is the standard used in visual media such as video, film, still photography and 3D applications.

Go back to the Posing Camera, open the Lights tab, then highlight the Silver thumbnail and apply the preset. The best way to understand how Poser's lights work is to have a play. I changed the middle light color to pale blue and the remaining two as neutral grey. I also dragged their points to reposition them and adjusted their Intensity as indicated by the arrows.

Step 11

Take some time to view your figure from different camera views and carry out any minor tweaks as required. Open the James Pose library, ensure the figure is selected, then click the plus icon to save it and copy the settings in the following pop up windows. Your new preset will now appear in the library as circled.

Step 12

Next, we need to add the cyborg figure. You'll find him under Figures > DzFire > CyberM4. Highlight the relevant thumbnail to your version of Poser and click the double-tick icon to load as a new figure.

Select the whole cyborg figure, then set the zTranslate parameter dial to to 0.335 to move it slightly closer to the camera.

Step 13

With the cyborg still selected, apply the saved pose from the previous step, then change the yTranslate dial to 0.886 to move the figure up. You'll notice the cyborg's feet have gone a little strange, but this is not relevant, as they do not appear in the final image.

Don't sweat over the cyborg's geometry not fitting the human model – we'll use Photoshop to fix this later in the tutorial. Matching the cyborg's head to the human will be the most important factor, which we'll tackle next.

Step 14

Switch to the Face Camera, select the lowerJaw and set the Up-Down Rotation dial to 8 degrees. Now select the rEye and change the Up-Down Rotation dial to -19 degrees. Repeat this for the the cyborg's other eye.

Step 15

We now need to add a material to the cyborg. Ensure the correct figure is selected, then go to Poses > DzFire > CyberM4 and apply the Construct preset.

Step 16

Now load the CryoTube_1 (found under Props > Scenery) into the scene and modify the yRotate, Scale and yTran dials as shown.

Step 17

It's now time to perform a quick test render. Press Cmd/Ctrl + Y to open the Render Settings window, choose the Firefly tab and copy the following settings. Save this preset for the future renders, then hit the Render Now button. Once you're happy with your test render move onto the next step.

Step 18

Select the select the Ground plane, open the Properties tab and uncheck the Visible and Visible in Raytracing boxes. Repeat this for the regenerator (CryoTube_1) and the cyborg (Figure 1) so only the human (JamesHiRes) is visible.

Step 19

Press Shift + Cmd/Ctrl + D to open the Render Dimensions window, copy these settings and hit OK. The red bars in the screenshot indicate the excluded render zones.

Step 20

Open the Render Settings window again and copy these settings, save the preset and hit the Render Now button. This render will take some time, so sit back and relax!

Step 21

When the render statues bar is complete, click the arrow to view (1), then click the triangle drop-down menu (2) and choose Export image and save (as a .png) to a memorable location.

Now use the visibility options in Properties panel as you did in Step 18 to create separate renders for the cyborg and regenerator, then save to the same location.

Step 22

Open your regenerator render with Photoshop (or "HIRES_Render_3.png" from the "source" folder). Now open your human render (or "HIRES_Render_1.png") and Shift-drag its layer thumbnail into the first document to create a new layer. Repeat this with your cyborg render (or "HIRES_Render_2.png"), then label them accordingly.

Step 23

Snap across a central vertical guide, then set the Crop Tool (C) to Delete Cropped Pixels in the Options bar and crop the image to approximately 16cmm x 105cm from the centre.

Step 24

To remove the yellow tones on the cyborg, target its layer thumbnail and choose Image > Adjustments > Replace Color. Now use the eyedroppers to select the colors as indicated and copy the remaining settings.

Step 25

Now we'll introduce some background textures. Open the "Brass_plate.jpg" from the "source" folder and place it at the bottom of the layer stack. Hit Cmd/Ctrl + T to access Transform and resize to fit the canvas. Name this layer "Texture 1".

Step 26

Duplicate the "Texture 1" layer, then change the Blend Mode to Soft Light and reduce the Opacity to 65%.

Step 27

If you zoom in, you'll notice halos around the edges of the 3D renders. To fix this, target the "Cyborg" layer, then choose Layer > Matting > Defringe and enter 3px in the following window. Repeat this for the "Human" and the "Regenerator" layers also.

Step 28

Add the "X_ray.jpg" image from the "source" folder as a new layer above the second texture and label it "Texture 2". Resize to fit, then change the Blend Mode to Soft Light.

Step 29

Import the "Polaroid.jpg" image from the "source" folder as another layer above "Texture 3" and name it "Texture 3". Transform, then change the Blend Mode to Color and lower its Opacity to 21%.

Step 30

Select Levels from the Create new fill or adjustment drop-down menu at the foot of the Layers tab. Now disable the clipping option to affect all underlying layers and copy these settings.

Step 31

Now add an unclipped Color Balance Adjustment Layer with the following settings.

Step 32

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, then add a new layer above the last Adjustment Layer.

Hold down Shift and drag a gradient indicated by the length and direction of the arrow. Name this layer "Top grad", then change the Blend Mode to Multiply and reduce the Opacity to 48%.

Step 33

To reduce the banding effect of the gradient, choose Filter > Noise > Add Noise, then enter 3% and check the Uniform button.

Step 34

Place a new layer above the "Regenerator" and drag another longer gradient from the bottom. Set this layer to Multiply/77% Opacity and label it "Base grad 1". Now press Cmd/Ctrl + F to reapply the Noise filter.

Repeat this on another layer, but drag a shorter gradient. Name this layer "Base grad 2", change it to Multiply/56% Opacity, then add Noise again.

Step 35

Next, we'll remove the lettering from the top of the regenerator. Target this layer, then set the Patch Tool (J) to Normal and activate the Source button in the Options bar. Now drag within selections in stages until it's all gone.

Step 36

Set your Foreground color to # b9dbc0 then place a new layer called "Glow 1" above "Base grad 2". Set the Gradient Tool (G) to Radial, then drag out from the centre as indicated.

Step 37

Access Transform and squash the gradient into an elliptical shape.

Step 38

Choose Filter > Blur > Motion Blur, then set the Angle to 90 degrees and the distance to 438px.

Step 39

Change the Blend Mode of this layer to Screen and reduce the Opacity to 85%.

Step 40

Now apply the the same amount of Noise as you did for the other gradients.

Step 41

Add another layer, then repeat Steps 36-40 to create a larger central gradient and name this one "Glow 2". This layer should also be set to Screen with the Opacity at 32%.

Step 42

Now we'll darken the "Regenerator" layer. Clip a Levels adjustment to it and apply the following settings.

Step 43

Next, we'll modify the tonal range. Clip a Color Balance adjustment to the same layer with these settings.

Step 44

In this step we'll modify the Levels mask from Step 42 to create the appearance of shafts of light. First, set the Gradient Tool (G) to the Transparent Rainbow preset and copy the remaining settings. Ensure your Foreground color is black, target the Levels mask and drag an angled Linear Gradient as indicated.

Step 45

Press X to swap your Foreground color to white, then drag a Linear Gradient from the bottom. Finally, grab a medium, soft-edged Brush (B) and paint with black to add some extra highlights over the pipework at the top.

Step 46

Now to add some hair. Switch off the visibility of the "Cyborg" layer, then import the "Hair.psd" from the "source" folder as a new layer above the "Human". Name this layer "Hair", then Defringe by 3px.

Step 47

Move the hair into position and Transform it to fit. Add a mask, then use an assortment of soft-edged Brushes (B) to blend the edges as shown.

Step 48

Clip a Hue/Saturation adjustment to the "Hair" and set the Master Saturation slider to -54. Now select Reds from the drop-down menu and change their Saturation to -33.

Step 49

Next, clip a Levels adjustment to the same layer and apply these settings.

Step 50

Finally, clip a Color Balance adjustment to the same layer again and copy these settings.

Step 51

The final image will only show the man's left eye, which we need much lighter. Target the "Human" layer, grab a small soft-edged Brush (B) and carefully paint over the eyeball with an off white (# dde4d7) color.

Step 52

Next, clip a Color Balance adjustment to the "Human" and apply the following settings to blend it with the rest of the composition.

Step 53

To keep your layers organized, highlight your "Base grad 2" thumbnail, then hold Shift and highlight the "Texture 1" thumbnail (this highlights all the in-between layers too), then choose New Group from Layers from the top-right fly-out menu in the Layers tab. Name the folder "BACKGROUND" in the following window, then switch the visibility of the "Cyborg" layer back on.

Step 54

Pixel edges of 3D renders can sometimes appear a little harsh. To remedy this, Cmd/Ctrl the "Cyborg" thumbnail to create a layer-based selection. Go to Select > Modify > Contract by 2px, then press Shift + F6 to open the Feather window and enter 1px. Now press Shift + Cmd/Ctrl + I to Inverse the selection and hit Delete to create a small soft edge. Repeat this step on the "Human" and "Regenerator" layers as well.

Step 55

At this point I felt the lower part of the regenerator was too prominent; to fix this, add a mask to the relevant layer, then set the Gradient Tool (G) to Linear/50% Opacity and Shift-drag on the mask as indicated.

Step 56

Place both glow layers within another folder and name it accordingly, then add a mask to the folder. Now create a selection from the "Regenerator" layer and paint with an assortment of black, soft-edged Brushes (B) to reduce the haze effect slightly.

Step 57

Now for the fun part of fusing human and machine! For this to work successfully, I'd suggest using some natural-media brushes – such as the brush pack listed at the beginning of the tutorial.

Add a mask to the "Cyborg" layer, then zoom in and start removing selective parts from the head and chest as shown. To make this stage clear, my mask is shown at the bottom of the screenshot.

Step 58

Next, paint away the cyborg's right arm and most of his torso. Now use a white brush to reinstate the metal rods – the aim here, is to create the illusion that they're piercing the skin; also, keep your mask fairly precise around the base of the regenerator when you sink his legs into the hole.

Step 59

The next stage is to start painting away parts of the man's anatomy. Add a mask to the "Human" layer and concentrate on the face and torso to begin with. My mask is again shown at the bottom for clarity.

Step 60

Now mask both legs, parts of the lower torso and his left arm.

Step 61

Place a new layer above the "Cyborg" and use a small, soft-edged Brush (B) to paint over the robotic eye with pale green (# d4e4a7). Change this layer to Hard Light and label it "Eye glow".

Step 62

Next, we'll add some subtle gore; open "Stain_1.jpg" from the "source" folder and place it as a new layer above the "Eye glow". Resize/position over the chest area, change the Blend Mode to Multiply and name it "Blood 1".

We'll modify the color and tone of this layer directly without Adjustment Layers. First, press Cmd/Ctrl + U to open Hue/Saturation and copy these settings. Now hit Cmd/Ctrl + L to open Levels and apply the following.

Step 63

Add a mask to this layer, then press Cmd/Ctrl + I to Invert the mask to negative. Now use an assortment of white Brushes (B) to paint back selective areas of blood as shown.

Step 64

Duplicate this layer, then Transform to make additional layers. You can also apply the same adjustments (as Step 62) on "Stain_2.jpg" to create some variations as circled. When you're done, rename these layers accordingly.

Step 65

The cyborg now requires a little modification, so clip a Color Balance adjustment to it and copy these settings to boost the yellow. This adjustment only needs to affect figure's top half, so drag a Foreground (black) to Transparent Linear Gradient (G) from the bottom as indicated.

Step 66

In this step, we'll intensify the color of the fluid in the transfusion tanks. Clip a Hue/Saturation adjustment to the "Regenerator" and use these settings. Now Invert the adjustment's mask to black, then use a white Brush (B) to paint back the fluid. Finally, change the adjustment's Blend Mode to Soft Light.

Step 67

Place the "Human", and "Hair" layers, along with their adjustments into a folder called "HUMAN". Now add your remaining relevant layers into two more folders called "CYBORG" and "BLOOD".

Step 68

Over the next few steps we'll add some additional pipework. Disable the visibility of all folders/layers apart from the "Regenerator" and its Adjustment Layers. Place a new layer at the very top of the stack and hit Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + Alt + E to convert it to a merged layer.

Step 69

Target the merged layer, then grab the Lasso Tool (L) and draw around the fist hanging pipe. Press Shift + Cmd/Ctrl + J to cut the selection to a new layer. Repeat this for the remaining hanging pipes, as well as the two nuts at the top of the chamber. The merged layer can now be deleted.

Step 70

Position the pipes around the figure's neck and abdomen, then place the bolts where they penetrate the skin and remove unwanted areas with the Eraser Tool (E). Place all these pipe and bolt layers within a folder called "EXTRA PIPES". Add a folder mask, then hide/remove parts as required.

Step 71

Position a new layer called "Pipes shadow" at the bottom within this folder. Now fill a layer-based selection from your first pipe with # 2a3a34 on this layer. Repeat this for the remaining pipes, then nudge the layer content slightly to the left.

Step 72

With the "Pipes shadow" the target layer, choose Edit > Puppet Warp and click to add several pins as indicated. Now drag each pin in turn to allow the mesh to follow the contour of the figure.

Step 73

Change the "Pipes shadow" layer to Multiply and reduce the Opacity to 71%. Next, add an Inverted mask, then paint back the required shadows with a small white Brush (B).

Step 74

Place a new layer at the top of the stack above the "EXTRA PIPES" folder and name it "Paint 1". Choose a small, soft-edged Brush (B), then Alt-click to sample underlying colors and paint within layer-based selections from the "Regenerator" and pipe layers to add shadows/highlights and smooth out irregular 3D rendered pixels. My layer is shown in isolation at the bottom of the screenshot.

Step 75

Add another layer called "Paint 2", then use the same technique (minus any selections) to paint some broader strokes with some custom Brushes (B).

Step 76

Reduce this layer to 57% Opacity, then add a mask. Now paint freely and also within layer-based selections to reveal the focal point of the composition.

Step 77

Add a final paint layer, then use the same techniques to cover up any minor blemishes.

Step 78

Now place this rust texture (image 1) as a new layer over the top of the tank and Defringe by 3px. Flip Vertical, then modify with Hue/Saturation to remove most of the color. Change the Blend Mode to Overlay and name it "Texture 1". This layer, along with the paint layers can now be placed within a new folder called "PAINT/TEXTURE".

Step 79

Finally, set the Blur Tool to 50% and use a small soft tip to paint over any remaining hard-edged 3D render areas on the "Regenerator", "Human" and "Cyborg" layers.

Conclusion and Scope

Now you know how it's done, why not create your own composition with Poser and Photoshop. DAZ3D offers thousands of different themed humanoids and creatures, so you'll be spoilt for choice!

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