Make Comic Book Quality Cartoon Drawings with Daz Studio

a render of two people in white suits and a large vehicle in the snow

Daz Studio is a powerful 3D rendering software that is super easy to use. Anybody, regardless of their skill level and experience as a 3D artist, can create stunning 3D images with the help of Daz and our awesome marketplace. But did you know that you can create professional-quality 2D cartoon drawings with Daz Studio, our 3D software?

That’s no joke! There is a little-known feature built into Daz Studio that every cartoonist and 2D artist should know about. If you are like me and you have used Daz Studio as a reference for 2D drawing before, you are going to be blown away when you learn this one simple trick that has been hiding inside Daz Studio for years. It’s simple but powerful and could completely change your pipeline for creating cartoons and comics. It really has the potential to save artists a ton of time!

Why would an artist use 3D software to make 2D cartoons? 

It may seem strange at first glance, but when you think about it, whether art is in 2D or 3D, keeping the proper angles, perspectives, and proportions is crucial. If you are doing illustrations for comic books, cartoons, manga, or graphic novels, you are probably drawing the same objects and characters from different perspectives constantly. Depending on how detailed your art style is, this could become extremely time consuming.

On the other hand, if you are a beginner or an amateur artist like myself, you may be looking for ways to improve your craft or speed up your pipeline. Regardless of your skill level, you should do anything you can to enable yourself to tell the stories you want to tell.

I am a big believer that 3D can help with that. Using a 3D model as a reference is no different than doing a human study in an art class or purchasing a wooden posing doll to help you draw the human figure. The amazing thing about Daz Studio is that you can quickly create, design, and pose a character in minutes. With countless presets, customizations, and morphs available, it’s easy to create something unique. There are hundreds of amazing poses already designed by skilled 3D artists, and all you have to do is click on them for Daz Studio to immediately apply these poses to your characters.

With Daz Studio, you can create the entire set for a scene in 3D. Objects, buildings, trees, you name it. Create your world, place and pose your characters, and then move the camera to any place you want it. When you hit render, your computer will generate an image with flawless perspective, every time.

Drawing from a 3D Reference

When I first started using Daz Studio for my 2D art projects, I was doing just this: setting up a scene, positioning the camera at the perspective I wanted, and then using that image as a reference. In some instances, I even dragged the image into Procreate or Photoshop and traced directly over the image.

If you are a better artist than me, you probably find that this is enough. Having references for complex figures and poses can be extremely helpful. For me, while it helped, it didn’t do anything to save me time or speed up my pipeline. As a hobbyist, this isn’t a huge deal. On the other hand, for artists who are working in a professional setting, time is money. That’s why I was so amazed when I discovered this simple secret to make 2D cartoon drawings with Daz Studio!

Using a Toon Shader

This is a popular option for making stylized graphics in video games, television, and movies. Generally, most toon shaders have a lot of flexibility and can create a lot of cool and artistic looks. Think video games like Breath of the Wild, Okami, or even Fortnight. If you want to make cartoon-style 2D art in Daz Studio, you can use a toon shader to your advantage. There are quite a few toon shaders available on the Daz marketplace, such as Line renderer 9000 and Sketchy – Toon Edge and Art Style Shaders for Iray, so if toon shading is a route you want to take, this may be a good place to start.

You can also accomplish some basic cartoon effects right out of the box with the 3Delight render engine. To do this, you will have to enable it in your render settings. Navigate to Render Settings, and then in the upper corner, click the arrow and lines button. Click preferences and turn on show hidden properties. With that enabled, you can click on general and see Render Style as an available option now. Change it to cartoon. When you are ready, hit render!

an animated GIF showing how to change your render settings to cartoon style

Definitely experiment with the options and how lighting affects your results. Again, consider using one of the paid shaders if this doesn’t satisfy your desires! Without changing any default lighting at all, I was able to get some fun results in my own scene.

As fun as playing with cartoon shading is for me, I would still prefer a way to speed up my 2D drawing pipeline using 3D with the ability to colorize with my own style and art program of choice. Unless you spend a lot of time mastering the cartoon shader and find a style that you like, this is probably going to take a ton of experimentation and playing with different lighting setups. You may instead be interested in line rendering and outlining. This little-known feature, in my opinion, is a huge game-changer for 2D artists who also like Daz Studio!

a shaded cartoon based on a Daz 3D scene

Line Rendering in Daz Studio

Daz Studio uses two different render engines to generate images: Iray and 3Delight. These engines handle materials, surfaces, lighting, and more to create realistic images. Mastering these engines for optimum results is difficult and takes dedication. That said, if your goal is simply creating 2D cartoon drawings with Daz Studio, you don’t really have to worry about any of that. It is possible to generate detailed lined outlines of anything in our 3D software!

In my opinion, this is an awesome and powerful secret hidden within Daz Studio. By generating these outlines, you save yourself having to trace over an image yourself or redraw the same items over and over again. With the outlines created, in perfect perspective and size, you can get right into the fun stuff, such as coloring and finalizing your cartoon drawing. This could seriously save artists a ton of time, and any level of artist could use it to accelerate their pipeline.

How It’s Done

Step One: Set up a character or scene in Daz Studio. If you are new to the program and need help doing this, check out our collection of tutorial videos. Again, don’t worry about placing cameras or lights, customizing surfaces, or anything like that. We will use the default lighting and camera. For my scene, I used some sci-fi elements I had in my library, posing the scene as if this were a shot in a graphic novel — perhaps a high-speed chase!

Step Two: Once you have set up the scene you want to draw in 2D, maneuver the camera so that you are viewing the scene from the perspective you want to use in your drawing.

Step Three: If you are only drawing a single figure or object, skip this step. If you are drawing a complex scene that has multiple “layers” that would overlap — for example, a city scene with a car driving down the road and a person walking on the sidewalk beside it — you are going to need to render the image in groups. Don’t stress; it will be easy! On a side note, this may not be an issue for you either. It was for me in some rare cases, though in most of my tests, I was able to get good results in a single render.

If you want to do groups — and in many cases, you may want to do this from an artistic perspective for layering down the road — identify the parts of the image that overlap. You are going to have to hide everything from view by clicking on the eye within the scene tab. Start with having only the background visible. With everything else hidden, proceed to Step Four!

Step Four: Once you are ready to “render” or capture the scene you want to make in a 2D cartoon style drawing, click on the render setting button. Make sure you apply the following settings: In Render Preferences, select Scripted 3Delight. By Render Script, select Outline. Finally, in Render Files, click Browse, and then create a new folder anywhere you would like in your computer’s directory. Be sure to put it somewhere that is easy to find, and label the folder accordingly.

NOTE: If you are rendering a complex drawing as described in Step Three, be sure to label the folder with some indication as to which group it belongs to. You are going to have to repeat Step Four and Five for each group and save each group into its own unique folder. A good naming convention will help you keep track of what is what when you are ready to reassemble the image in Photoshop, Procreate, or whichever drawing program you prefer.

Step Five: When you finish with Step Four and have set up a destination folder for the render, all you have to do is click on the render button. Now sit back, and let your computer do the heavy lifting. Depending on your computer’s performance, this could take a minute or so, but it shouldn’t take long.

a black and white 2D rendering of a scene in Daz Studio

NOTE: Don’t panic! When your computer is done rendering, your image is going to look solid black like this. Don’t worry. It will work! You can name it, and go ahead and save it as the default PNG. Once you save it, head over to the folder you designated. Inside you will see a series of files. The black image, an actual 2D rendering of the surfaces, a rendering of the shadow areas, and most importantly of all, an outline!

If you were doing a complex scene, go ahead and head back to Daz Studio. Now you can hide the layer you already rendered, and reveal the next one. Render it out the same way you did before, just make sure you create a new folder so the automatically rendered images don’t conflict with each other because Daz gives them the same name.

You can repeat this process as many times as you need. With all of these “layers,” you can rebuild your scene as you work in your own favorite art program! I was very pleased with the final outline of my image.

the 2D line art of a scene in Daz Studio

Just for fun, I took this same scene and repositioned my camera for a second more dramatic action shot. I decided to change the angle of the motorcycle slightly upward, just to give it that extra feel of the action. In all, it took me just a few seconds to adjust and re-render up close. If I wanted to make an entire comic sequence of this scene, I could have my outlines done in very little time at all!

a closeup of the line art

While the lines don’t always come out perfectly, and sometimes, depending on the lighting, some lines and details may be overlooked, I still love this method. There are several render settings you can work with as well in the Renderer Options tab. If you want to play around with the line thickness, you can easily do this by adjusting the Normal Line Width. Besides that, there are dozens of other settings that I will most certainly be looking into and reading up on.

I would love to hear what you think in the comments. Special thanks to the YouTube channel 3D Quill for providing some much-needed insight on cartoon drawings with Daz Studio.

Cartoon Drawings with Daz Studio is Free and Easy

This is a powerful technique that is fast and easy. It has the potential to seriously speed up your pipeline and improve the realism, proportions, and perspective in your work. This technique will enable learning artists and professionals alike to work smarter, faster, and better. For me, I am able to draw perspectives, angles, and action shots in ways that are beyond my current skill level, elevating the quality of my work as an end result.

What do you think? Were you as surprised as I was to learn about this little-known technique? Do you think 2D outlining cartoon-style drawings in Daz Studio is a good idea?

If you want to learn more or check out some awesome rendering tools to achieve 2D and cartoon effects entirely within Daz Studio, have a look at these cool tools: Line renderer 9000 and Sketchy – Toon Edge and Art Style Shaders for Iray.

Featured Image: “Snow Patrol” by Photomutant in the Daz Gallery

  • Luis Canibe says:

    I cant make it work, its just a horse, followed the steps but i only got a white shape of the model, no outlines… is there something i am missing?

    • Reset your render settings to default and try again. Make sure you choose “Scripted 3D Delight” as the render engine, set the renderer script as “outline,” and select a destination in the Renderer Files outline directory. Making your desktop as the destination can make it easy. Once you hit render, one file will go to your render library (in this tutorial, this was the black image) and three other files will go to the destination chosen in the renderer files. Of those three files there will be a “ColorID,” “Depth,” and “Normal” file. The Normal file is the one with the perfect outline.
      Let us know if you are still having issues!

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