Here are the apps & tools I currently use (as of January 2018) to produce 3D graphics.
I’ve been a devoted Mac user since 1993, when I switched from a “laptop” (or “lap crusher”) with an 8088 processor and MS-DOS to a Mac LC III. I get along OK with Windows when I have to use it in various contexts, but my mind works much more like a Mac.
My current machine is optimized for working with 3D, at least as far as a laptop can go:
2017 MacBook Pro 2.9GHz i7 16GB RAM Intel HD Graphics 630
Poser Pro 11
Poser is my primary “workhorse,” as this is the app that lets me set up and render 3D characters and scenes to use for the graphic novel.
No single app can do everything, however, so I also use the companion apps noted below.
I can modify material settings within Poser, but if I need to create or edit a texture I do that in Photoshop.
I can also make minor modifications to meshes, such as improving the way clothing fits or adding new style options, using Poser’s Morph Brush, Grouping Tool, etc. But if I need to make a more substantial modification to the mesh for a figure, clothing item, or prop, I do that in either Cheetah3D or Blacksmith3D.
Photoshop CC 2018
I use Photoshop to create or modify texture maps and tillable textures, apply adjustments to renders, and composite images as needed.
Photoshop can also extrude 3D objects from line art, which I’ve used to create wall plaques and signs, but for the most part Photoshop’s 3D capabilities aren’t that useful for a Poser user.
Photoshop can also import OBJs with material zones intact, so that you can easily modify texture maps for each zone while viewing the object in 3D. But I find the lighting in Photoshop to be too different from what I’ll see in Poser for this feature to be useful as a way to texture props. For props, I prefer to load the PSD files as texture maps for the object in Cheetah3D, and whenever I make a change to a map and save it, I can then switch over to Cheetah3D to see what the edited map looks like on the object.
I do use Photoshop’s 3D workspace to modify texture maps for figures, with the figure imported as an OBJ, for two reasons: to make sure all skin maps have the exact same adjustments applied; and to get immediate feedback on where to place modifications, since I can’t always tell from the image map itself. For example, eye shadow doesn’t always go where you might expect once the image map is applied to the figure! (at least for less common or fairy-type figures)
I love using Cheetah3D so much that I sometimes wish I could do everyone inside the app. But alas, while it’s a very capable app for modeling, animating, and rendering, it doesn’t support the universe of content I have for Poser.
I use Cheetah to create original meshes for props, sets, accessories, etc., to modify meshes I’ve downloaded, and to re-map meshes as needed so that I have better control over how textures are applied. I also occasionally make or modify clothes or hair.
Cheetah3D is Mac-only, which makes the interface friendly and familiar and the app very stable.
Blacksmith3D is a companion app for Poser and DAZ Studio users that makes it easy to create morphs for existing meshes (like changes in face shape or the style of a clothing item), create or modify textures (by “painting” directly on the mesh), and create or modify hair.
I don’t use it that often, but it’s a very handy tool to have available. I look forward to playing with the new hair tools, to expand my already large collection of hair meshes for my characters!
Blender is a free, open-source 3D graphics creation suite that can do just about everything, including modeling, morphing, UV mapping, and even rigging and animation. Someone on a more limited budget and with more time to spend on creating and rigging figures could do everything required for a graphic novel using only Blender.
You might be surprised by how often my work on 3D graphics involves using a text editor, but there’s a lot of nifty things you can do if you’re able to edit the files Poser uses to store characters, props, materials, and so on and if you can open and edit other files like OBJ and MTL. For these needs I use the best free text editor available for the Mac: TextWrangler by Bare Bones Software.
In the early days of 3D graphics, Poser was the only app of its kind and the folks at DAZ3D made figures and content to use in Poser. At some point they created their own 3D studio app as an alternative to Poser, and they gave the app away for free in hopes that users would be enticed to purchase content for it.
Like most Poser users, I have a copy of DAZ Studio installed, but I’ve never liked the interface or the way the app works, so the only time I use it is to load DAZ-only content that I then export for Poser in OBJ or CR2 format.
By far the bulk of the work I’ve done on the Lumen stories has been in the form of brainstorming and writing, which I do in Scrivener. Scrivener doesn’t produce renders or fancy visuals to share on a blog, but I can’t imagine trying to write a long-form project without it.