How to Make Your Content More Realistic Using 3D Assets

"Autumn's Glow" by Artienne in the Daz Gallery

One of my favorite things about Daz Studio is the community. The ability to make more realistic content with Daz 3D assets honestly wouldn’t be possible without it. Whether it’s interacting in our forums or outside of Daz in places like YouTube, I always enjoy my interactions with fellow Daz users. We truly have some of the most talented 3D artists among our ranks, and it’s awesome to walk alongside them on my own 3D journey.

This vast pool of talent directly translates to Daz Studio’s amazing marketplace. Our marketplace is as diverse as any. You can find literally just about anything, often ready to go out of the box with awesome quality. When I first started this journey, I was a bit wary of using marketplace assets. In the game development world, there seemed to be a culture of criticizing them, and some went so far as to call other devs “asset flippers.” I am pleased to see this stigma being erased though. Indie creators and AAA studio employees alike have been helping to dispel this stigma by making it very clear: there is nothing wrong with using assets!

In Daz culture, this has never really been a problem. It is foundational in how the program works, and we as users have fully embraced the efficiency and beauty of using assets. Maybe that is part of why we have such a supportive community. From the beginning, we have been sharing our talents with each other through the assets we create and sell in the marketplace. That said, we are all at different stages in the journey, and all assets are not created equally. While some might develop assets for a very specific, stylized look, others may develop assets with hyper-realism in mind. If creating more realistic renders is your goal, this article will help you know what to look for and how to make the most of the tools Daz Studio has given you.

What Makes an Asset Look Real?

It doesn’t take a technical degree to notice when one asset looks real and the other looks fake, cheap, or just bad. It is important though to note in this discussion that we are limiting the topic to simply how realistic something is. 3D modelers often make stylized models that aren’t realistic, though they do usually have to be believable to be effective. The work of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios is a solid example of that. Stylized art usually works because, at its core, the design is good.

In the case of making realistic assets, let’s just assume the obvious: abstract and bad proportions aren’t going to make the cut here. So first and foremost, a good asset starts with a well-made mesh. Proportions and shapes should closely match the object’s real-life counterpart. That’s easier said than done, of course.

But a finished 3D model is so much more than just a mesh. It’s a combination of multiple things, starting with the mesh and ending with the surfaces that dictate how the model appears when you render it. So, this isn’t a guide on how to make perfect, realistic assets — that would take up way more space than we have here. It is, however, a guide on what to look for in quality, realistic assets, and how Daz 3D can help you obtain hyper-realism with relative ease.

"Powernap" a realistic render by Eggs Actly in the Daz Gallery
“Powernap” by Eggs Actly in the Daz Gallery

What Makes Daz 3D Look so Real?

Daz Studio uses an amalgamation of advanced technologies to make your renders look as good and realistic as possible, while still allowing users a vast amount of flexibility and freedom. There are several factors that go into making your content more realistic. Some of these are totally in your hands and Daz Studio handles others, but you need to know how to tweak settings to get optimal results. First, let’s take a look at the aspects that are largely under your control.

Posing: Posing is a very important aspect of realism. Unlike many programs where you would have to go through a rigging process to be able to animate and pose models, Daz 3D characters have this ability built in. This allows you to focus on posing instead of worrying about the technicalities of rigging. Unless you purchase realistic-looking poses, it would solely be up to you as the artist to pose your character in a lifelike manner. You can learn all about posing here. Another excellent tip for realistic posing is all in the eyes. Make sure your model is either looking directly at the camera or very clearly looking away from it. Often, if the subject is just barely looking off-center from the camera, it creates a dead-eye look in a render that will scream unrealistic.

Lighting: Lighting is another aspect of realism that will greatly improve the quality of your content. Daz Studio has a lot of built-in features surrounding lighting that make the process easier, but ultimately, it is up to you to know when, where, and how. You can learn all about lighting in this post, then check out our video tutorial to learn more.

Surfaces: Surfaces are the visible parts of an object, so how they look is crucial to realism in your content. Surfaces play hand in hand with light, because light is reflected, or interacts, with surfaces and affects how the surface appears. In Daz Studio, a material consists of a collection of colors and/or texture maps that are combined to achieve a desired look. You can use multiple maps to simulate things like bumpiness, highlights, opacity, and more. Using these carefully and using high-resolution texture maps is necessary to achieve realism. Fortunately, our asset store is full of such textures and surfaces. When trying to decide which products to choose to achieve the highest level of realism, don’t just trust the sample image. Take a look at the features and product description. Check the resolution of the maps and make sure it meets your personal criteria for having a high enough resolution. Learn all about surfaces in this video tutorial series.

Render Engine: The render engine is the technology that captures your 3D scene, adds post-processing effects that you choose, and ultimately, renders it into a 2D static image in most cases. Daz Studio offers two render engines, Iray and 3Delight. Which engine you choose is largely up to your personal preferences, though Iray seems to be a user favorite and has massive amounts of support in compatible products in the Daz Store. The most important thing here is to be sure that all of your surfaces and materials are set up properly for the render engine that you are using. If you have 3Delight surfaces but are rendering with the Nvidia Iray engine, this will greatly impact the realism of your render, because the surface properties will not function the way they are intended. Learn all about rendering in this video tutorial series.

Genesis 8 Characters: While previous iterations of Genesis characters are no doubt excellent in quality, there are enough advancements in the new Genesis 8 line that there is no reason not to update your library with Genesis 8 compatible items. The Genesis line is so powerful because it isn’t just a figure, it is a character system that allows you to easily customize and change the physical appearance of the character with dials. Genesis 8 has more HD elements possible than any previous Genesis edition, which is a must for the highest levels of realism possible. With the PowerPose plugin, you can achieve realistic facial expressions with ease. You will find Genesis 8 characters have vast improvements in how they organically bend and articulate. Join the community discussion as Daz users weigh in their opinions on which Daz 8 characters are the most realistic from 2020.

dForce Technology: dForce is a powerful physics engine integrated into Daz Studio. dForce excels at cloth-based simulations in loose-weight items like clothing or hair. However, you can use it in many other ways. It is a simulation that works intelligently with collision, gravity, and other principles to help simulate realism in your renders. Imagine painstakingly trying to shape clothing in a realistic way over your character—it could take hours in most cases, and who knows what the results would be in the end. Running a dForce simulation lets the technology carefully handle all the work and produces stunning results. You can view helpful free video tutorials on dForce here, check out dForce enabled assets in the store, or even get this detailed webinar by a Daz artist.

"Gone for good ...?!" a realistic render by Q-Ri S in the Daz Gallery
“Gone for good …?!” by Q-Ri S in the Daz Gallery

Picking the Most Realistic Assets

As you increase your understanding of how Daz Studio works and what it does for you on the backend to create stunning, realistic results, this will help you know what to look for in a realistic 3D asset. Ask yourself, does this asset support the render engine I am using? What are the resolutions of the maps associated with the asset’s materials? Does the mesh accurately represent this item if it were real? Does the asset come with poses, and if so, how realistic are they?

Asking questions like these doesn’t have to be critical of the asset itself either. Everyone is in different stages in their 3D journey and has different needs within their projects. Developing your own style will inevitably require you to create your own expectations and requirements for the realistic Daz 3D assets that you decide to use so that you can maintain consistency in your results.

Additional Resources

These six aspects of Daz Studio are imperative to your success in making your content more realistic. Next time you shop for realistic Daz 3D assets, consider these aspects of rendering in Daz Studio to achieve the highest results.

If you want to learn more about how to make your content more realistic in Daz Studio, try out the Reality plugin for Daz Studio. This is an advanced rendering solution plugin that just may help you take the realism in your 3D art to the next level. Learn everything you need to know about it in this ten-hour course! You can also learn more about our Genesis 8.1 character system and all of its improvements, including textures from Texturing XYZ.

If you are looking for inspiration or want to join the discussion with fellow community members, check out this conversation on which Daz Genesis 8 characters are the most realistic/beautiful.

Featured Image: “Autumn’s Glow” by Artienne in the Daz Gallery

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