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David Ho- How To Create "Block Figures"

Follow artist David Ho as he steps through the process of creating his signature 'block figures'

For Poser 5, 6 or 7 and Photoshop CS, CS2 or CS3My series of block figures deals with themes on the disintegration and integration of man. The human form is portrayed within a series of blocks.

It took me roughly 6 months to nail down this technique, and I've never shared it with anyone until now. Creating this effect requires some skills in Photoshop and Poser and some textures that can be created digitally, traditionally, or from a digital camera.

I'll demonstrate this technique with the artwork "Letting Go." (See Figure 1.12.) To start out with, it's usually easier to work on this style with a close-up of a figure (as opposed to showing the entire figure).

1.Beginning with Figure 1.1, the pose is quite standard. It's always easier to create this "block" artwork when the figure is close-up. For the lighting, I use a single-source light. For the background, I pick a color that's entirely different from the figure. Later on, I'll select the figure separately from the background. I render the figure over black in Poser without texturing it. For this technique, I will add my own texture on top of the figure in Photoshop.

Figure 1.1

Close-up of stock figure.

Tip- If you're an artist who is just starting out with Poser, begin with more static poses. Users who aren't too familiar with Poser often end up trying to create figures in dramatic gestures, but those usually appear unconvincing.

2.After rendering the figure, I set the Document Display Style to Hidden Line. (See Figure 1.2.) Again, the color of the wireframe is drastically different from the background color. Output a high-resolution wireframe/hidden line view render of the figure. (See Note.)

Note- Depending on what version of Poser you are using, either output a high-resolution wireframe/hidden line view , 6, or 7), or capture the screen if you are working with an older version. (On the Mac, press [Cmd]+Shift+3. For Windows, use the Print Scrn key.)

Figure 1.2

View Hidden Line and use contrasting line color.

3.Using Photoshop, I open the Poser screenshot or high-resolution render and go to Select, Color Range and pick the background color. (See Figure 1.3.)

Figure 1.3

Select the background color in Photoshop.

4.Then I delete the background color so that only the image of the wireframe remains. (See Figure 1.4.)

Figure 1.4

The wireframe with no background color.

5.Next, I open the rendered Poser file with a black background in Photoshop. Notice in Figure 1.5 that the file is still in grayscale at this point. For this technique, I do not convert to RGB or color the image until later.

Figure 1.5

Open the rendered Poser file in Photoshop

6.Now I bring in the previous wireframe file, color it black, copy it, and paste it onto the new file. Using the Scale tool, I adjust it so that the wireframe is the same size as the rendered figure. (See Figure 1.6.)

Figure 1.6

Add the block layer.

7.Notice in Figure 1.7 that the wireframe doesn't look all that great because it's been enlarged. Steps 8-12 show how I improve the look of the wireframe.

Figure 1.7

The enlarged wireframe.

Tip- Photoshop works great with Poser. I always create hair in Photoshop. Also, any 3D program has areas you need to clean up. Photoshop is effective at managing those touch-ups.

8.In Figure 1.8, I apply the Gaussian Blur filter to the wireframe (Filter, Blur, Gaussian Blur).

Figure 1.8

Apply the Gaussian Blur filter.

9.I go to Filter, Other, Maximum to sharpen the wireframe. If it appears a little light, I might want to duplicate the layer. (See Figure 1.9.)

Figure 1.9

Duplicate the layer to darken it.

10.Figure 1.10 shows both of the rock textures I used in this piece. I don't think that any one texture is particularly better than another. The only manipulation that I did on the textures was probably adjusting the brightness and contrast. I place these two different textures in Overlay mode on top of the file.

Figure 1.10

These rocks were scanned to create realistic overlay textures.

11.In Figure 1.11, I duplicate the wireframe and then color it white. I move the entire white frame a little and erase certain areas where the shadows were erased.

Figure 1.11

Offset the wireframe layer to give the illusion of depth.

12.In a nutshell, that's how I create the block feel. After I'm satisfied with the file, I convert it to RGB and color each layer individually. (See Figure 1.12, which is the final image.) I created the blocks in Bryce and then duplicated and rotated them.

Figure 1.12

"Letting Go" final image.

This tutorial can be found in the Thomson Publishing book,