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Poser Tip: Toon Shading

Toon Shading is a cool and often overlooked function in Poser 4 and 5. In some ways it's more forgiving than working with photorealistic character, but it does have it's own quirks. Here's a few tips to get you started. Please note that this tutorial was written with Poser 5 in mind, so a few things might be a little different in P4.

  • Modes
    There are two modes to Toon Shading: Cartoon, and Cartoon with line. Unlike sketch render and regular render, you work in this mode, so what you see is what you get. You can select which one you prefer from the Document Display Style controls on the Poser desktop.
    the document display controls

  • What doesn't work
    You can forget about reflections, image texture maps, and ambient for the most part. In this mode, they don't work. Neither does transparency. The best you can get is a dashed line in Cartoon with Line mode.
    transparency example
    What does this mean? It means your favorite hair model might not work like expected, depending on how much the shape is dependant of transparency. It also means if you want to hide part of your model, you're going to have to do it by turning off its visibility instead of using a transparency map. This is one of those rare cases where things designed for Poser 3 work very well. A good place to get Poser 3 hair is Greylight Studios, so you might want to check that out.

  • Specular Hilights
    Unlike above, these work, though they behave differently than they do in the photorealistic mode. Luminance is the key here. It doesn't matter what color your hilight is, the luminance is what makes the difference.
    Color highlight example
    If you want a hilight based on a color other than white, you'll have to fix it in Post unfortunately. For hilights, most of your control is going to come from the specular value control. The higher the number, the more banding and the larger the effect. Most of the time, you're going to want to keep it low unless you're trying for a metal of plastic effect.
    Value highlight example
    Speaking of lights, a little goes a long way. Don't be afraid to turn off all your lights but one directional light or spot light. In this case, less is more, and more means lots of white patches.

  • Where did my eyes go?
    Remember what I said about transparency not working? This becomes an issue on any character that has a transparent cornea because suddenly, you can't see what's behind it. This does not mean all your characters will be forced to wear glasses or you'll have to be painting in eyes later. Select each eye and then go to the Display Element style menu and select Texture Shaded.
    Eye Example
    In some cases, for best results, you're going to want to apply the eye texture directly to the cornea and forget about everything underneath, which I did in this picture. The same technique can be use to bring out patterns on otherwise flat colored things, but be warned, some things just won't look right in Toonshade mode.

  • Antialias Render
    First things first. Go to your Display menu and make sure "Show Camera Names" is UNCHECKED. The last thing you want to do is paint out the word "Main Camera" in your finished work.
    Camera control
    Now, while you're working in Toon mode, either one, the image will have ragged edges. To get rid of them you'll have to do an antialiases render. This is an often forgotten tool in Poser since you hardly ever need it. It's under your render menu and it renders amazingly fast and clean.
    Anti alias example
    Once you're done there, export the image as a TIF if you want to add a background and fix the shadow (no matter what your lighting, it will always be as if from above) or if you like what you have, just export it in your favorite image format.

    Note: if you need a really large toon shaded render, you're going to have to do it in the Make Movie mode. Just set your Movie size to the size you want, and render one frame using "Current Display Settings" with "Anti aliases" checked. One thing to remember is if you're using Toon Shade with Line in this situation, your lines will not get bigger, they will always be the same thickness no matter how large the image, which means a large image is going to look like it has thin lines while a small one will look like it has fat lines. This is a mixed blessing - on the one hand, you may lose the effect you wanted on large renders, but on the other, if your details are getting all muddy because of line thickness, just render larger using this method and resize down.

Hope that helps.

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