Smith Micro Graphics Software Blog

What's Your Flavor of Realism?

Posted by Smith Micro Blogger on May 24, 2017 8:15:00 AM

By James W. Rook 

“Realism” has a lot of different definitions in computer-generated art. Everyone has their own understanding of realism in Poser and what that means for them in their artwork.



Rook 1.jpg

For some it means creating a pristine render with perfect exposure and contrast. For some it simply means being able to use a physically based renderer like Poser’s own Superfly. And for others, the definition is more literal: producing art that doesn’t look cartoon-like. Of course, there are a lot more opinions on this. I think all of these views are valid, and I’m glad Poser gives us the tools to create what we want with almost any level of realism we prefer. What’s your “flavor” of realism?

My own brand of realism is based on the premise that real life is not perfectly composed, perfectly focused, or perfectly illuminated. The world is full of blown-out highlights and glare. Shadows aren’t often perfectly black, yet sometimes you can’t see into a dark corner. Chrome isn’t a perfect mirror though it is mirror-like. The world is gritty and grainy and flawed — and that’s all right! Choosing to show this in your art is okay, too. I think there is a kind of beauty in that imperfection and in my opinion, learning to show those imperfections is a way to make your Poser art more realistic.

Rook 2.jpg

Light (and Dark)

For a long time we’ve been told to light our Poser scenes “like a movie set,” strategically using fill lights to highlight certain objects and to create shadows in order to obscure other objects. That’s good advice a lot of the time and when it’s done right it works very well to add depth or bring out details. But if it's not done well, it can suck the depth right out of your scene.

A lot of my illustrations emulate the kind of photographs I enjoy taking using "available light." I'm accustomed to working that way, so I very rarely (almost never) add lights to a Poser scene beyond what would be present in the real world. Sometimes working with available light requires creative problem-solving, but adding too many fill lights can make things look too bright, flat, and artificial. Shadows can actually be your friend!

Poser and Superfly have made realistic lighting very easy. With Superfly, I use one Sun light and a skydome or sphere with an HDRI image or sIBL file and no fill lights. It’s a simple, flexible, and effective setup. Related to this, Snarlygribbly’s free EZDome plugin is a great tool for working with sIBL files or HDRI images. With EZDome installed in Poser, I can have the lighting in a scene set up in seconds and I can adjust it where necessary.

When it comes to realism, don’t be afraid of a few dark shadows and blown highlights. You may not have a "perfectly" exposed render as a result, but the viewer’s eye is more familiar with an imperfect world with its highlights and shadows. Observe what you see around you and experiment for yourself.


Try using depth of field for some extra realism. Depth of field can draw the viewer’s attention to a certain object or part of a scene, especially if the scene is crowded. Look around your room. Your eyes see a lot of the room, but you can only focus on what you are looking directly at. Everything else is blurred. You don’t need to use super-blurry depth of field for a convincing effect in Poser. Subtle depth of field that adds just a bit of blur to the objects that are not the main focus of your
image can often be more convincing.

Rook 3.jpg

That's it from me. Thanks for reading. I hope you found some of this helpful, or perhaps it gave you some ideas to try. Experimentation is half the fun of Poser. One nice thing about digital art: you can't really break it when you play with it!  The bottom line for me is that Poser Pro 11 and Superfly equip me with the tools I need to create rendered images that meet my expectations of realism. Poser can do this for you, too. Have fun!

About The Author

James W. Rook is a Canadian artist and digital illustrator living in Saskatchewan, Canada. He has produced gaming figure concept art, book cover art, and is currently illustrating a series of educational children’s books. In his personal projects he explores a variety of genres, but usually finds himself working in some flavour of science fiction. He also enjoys photography, music, classic cars and like everyone else in the world, is working on a novel. He is married and has two grown children.

You can view James’s work at, on Facebook, and on Instagram—as well as here in Smith Micro's Poser Gallery.

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Topics: Poser

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