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Creating Anime with Poser

Author: SnowSultan

Tools Needed

  • Poser


Hi, and thanks for reading this tutorial. First, I would like to thank Studio Maya for the original inspiration to help me explore and further develop this technique. Please visit his site at

The reason that 3D renders never look like traditional anime is largely because anime uses simple shading. Anime shadows generally do not become darker as they receive less light; an area is either shaded or it is not. Shadows are also usually hard-edged and rounded or triangular on anime figures, while realistic shadows do not have well-defined edges. Poser's Cartoon w/Line mode can create these style of shadows to some degree, and we will put them to use in this tutorial.


Step 1 - Step 1


We will be using an anime Poser figure created by justfit at Play With Poser. If you do not already have this figure, you can download it for free at Please be kind and do not complain to the webmaster if you are unable to download the figure immediately. This technique will work with any figure, and you can achieve some interesting American-style comic images by using a more properly proportioned human figure anyway. In this example, we loaded the figure, put some clothes and hair on her, and posed her. DO NOT use transmapped hair, use an old “plastic-style” one (like the hair props that come with Poser). Don't worry about the lighting or texturing just yet either, just get the figure posed and ready for now. I'm also just using a white background in this example to keep things simple.

Step 2 - Step 2


Go into the Materials screen and CLEAR ALL TEXTURES AND HIGHLIGHTS from the actual human figure. Textures may remain on clothing, but different textures can sometimes yield unpredictable results. You may also leave eye textures on the figure if you want, but again, the results can sometimes be unusual. Exit the Materials menu and the figure's skin should be white. Switch to Cartoon w/Line mode and the figure's skin will appear grey. Now choose the Fill tool and choose a flesh tone near the center of the “flesh bar”, as shown in the image. Something right near the vertical line is a good choice. Fill in the skin tones in this flesh, including the lips. You may choose a dark brown or black for the eyebrows though, but be careful not to simply color Victoria's eyebrows this way or you will get the dreaded “Groucho Marx brows”. :) Try using a brow thinning morph first for best results. Color the clothing and hair the same way.

Step 3 - Step 3


OK, now for the most important part - lighting. Delete all but one light and change the remaining light to solid white. In Cartoon w/Line mode, Spotlights and Infinite lights give the same results, but you still need to make sure the one light that's left is an Infinite one because we will also be using the regular Textured Preview mode as well. Positioning the light is the most important step in this tutorial, and here are some basic tips to keep in mind.

  • Positioning the light slightly to the left or right usually gives the best results. The objective is to place the light so that you create smooth but not excessive shadows on one side of the figure. Do not try to cast complex shadows here, Poser's Cartoon mode tends to create blocky, geometric shadows when they fall on the middle of the figure. You can add shadows in postwork much more accurately than Poser will create for you when creating this sort of image.
  • The nose should cast a VERY SLIGHT shadow, at least when using the Play With Poser anime figure. If not, you'll have to add it yourself in postwork or her nose will be invisible.
  • YOU DO NOT WANT HIGHLIGHTS ON THE SKIN. If you are seeing white areas on the figure's body, either go into the Materials screen and make the highlights solid black, or hold Ctrl (on a PC) and click on the body part with the Fill tool to change the highlight color interactively. You shouldn't have to choose more than a very dark gray for Poser to create bright highlights. It is your choice whether to let Poser cast highlights on the clothes, but painting them in postwork is always more accurate and will give better results. In the example here, we only let Poser cast highlights on the skirt.

Take your time placing the shadows and adjusting the colors. The final image will be determined largely by how you have illuminated and colored the figure in Cartoon w/ Line mode, so don't hurry through this part. When you think you're ready, it's time to start the “rendering”.

Step 4 - Step 4


Choose any adjustment tool and click on a body part. This clears the Light direction guide (if it is visible), otherwise it will appear in your image when you anti-alias the scene. Choose Render - > Anti-alias Document, and Poser will smooth out and polish your preview. Save this image by choosing File - > Export - > Image and saving it as a TIFF.

Step 5 - Step 5


You're finished with Cartoon w/ Line mode now. Switch back to Textured Preview mode (the one we usually use when rendering) to view the figure. It should be pretty dark and ugly. :) Now you need to fix the colors, so choose the Fill tool again and fill in the figure's skin with the flesh at the far right end of the “flesh bar”. You can adjust the colors of the clothing or hair too, but it may affect the final image. Try to keep the colors at a medium level, nothing too dark or too light.

Step 6 - Step 6


Once you've got the colors the way you want, select the light and raise it's Intensity to 150%. DO NOT MOVE IT or change it's color. Nothing should appear to change in the preview, but the scene will be much brighter when you render. Speaking of which, it's time to do just that. Make sure that Cast Shadows is turned OFF in the Render Options screen and render. You will get a very bright (and pretty nasty) result, which is actually what we want. Save the image (and your scene if you wish) and close Poser.

Step 7 - Step 7


OK, it's time to put these two renders together. Open your paint program (I am using Photoshop 7 in this tutorial) and load the two images. Pick the rendered one (the second one you saved) and choose Select - > Select All. Then choose Edit - > Copy to copy the entire image to the Clipboard.

Pick the first image (the Cartoon w/ Line one) and choose Edit - > Paste to paste the rendered layer on top of it. Select the rendered image layer (the one you just pasted) and change it's Blending mode to Screen. The entire image should appear much lighter. Finally, lower the Opacity of the rendered image layer to somewhere between 15% and 40% and you should get a result similar to the one above.

Step 8 - Postwork Tips


The first thing that you will probably want to do with the layered image is apply some color correction to enhance the skin tone. Use the Magic Wand selection tool ON THE CARTOON W/ LINE LAYER and click on the skin. Raise the Tolerance so that you're sure to get every flesh-colored pixel. You might also want to select all the shaded skin areas too so that you don't end up with extremely different values of skin hues. Once the skin is selected, choose Hue/Sat/Lightness and make your adjustments. In the example above, I used +4/+34/+14. Raising the Saturation will make the most difference. Mask off the clothing and/or hair and use your color correcting tools to change their colors as well. It's usually a good idea to change colors before flattening the image because the rendered layer sometimes contains very subtle gradients that can cause problems when trying to mask the flattened image. Once you've got your colors the way you like them, flatten the layers. You need to do this before painting or erasing shadows by hand anyway.

You will likely have to add additional shadows to the image by hand, but you can at least get the shadow colors right by using the Eyedropper tool to pick up the shadow color that's already there. Use a fairly hard-edged brush at 100% opacity. It also helps to mask off the areas you want to paint shadows on so that you don't paint over the edges. Smoothing out or eliminating unwanted shadows is just as easy. Pick up the skin color using the Eyedropper tool and paint over shadows to round out jagged edges or to trim ones that are too thick.

Here's the image after I cleaned up some jagged shadows, got rid of the extra black lines on her necktie and left arm shadow, added a few extra shadows under her chest, reduced the shadows around her face, and decided to erase the highlights on her skirt; all by picking up colors with the Eyedropper and painting using a hard-edged brush.

Step 9 - Clean Up


In this last “clean-up” step, I painted over some of the black lines in the hair so it doesn't look so messy, fixed some areas where the black outline had disappeared, changed the skin tone again (it seemed too light now that I look back at it) and added the eyes. I also decided to change the colors of the skin, clothing, and hair at this point as well. Choose Hue/Saturation/Lightness, click the Colorize box, and adjust the Hue to change the color. The hair still needs more work, but that requires more work than I have time to try and explain here. Anime hair can be a bit tricky to shade and highlight, so use some anime images or video captures for reference when you can. You also might want to try eliminating all shadows and highlights from the hair and painting them all in yourself after some practice, as hand-painted shadows and highlights will always look best.

If you want the outline of the figure to be darker, you might try loading the TIFF Alpha channel that was saved with your original render and using the Edit - > Stroke command with a 1 pixel black border. The initial result will probably be too dark, but then immediately choose Edit - > Fade Stroke and adjust it's amount there. I've found that this usually only works on very large images however.

Keep in mind that you will not get a perfect anime drawing right out of Poser no matter how much time you spend on lighting and coloring. The objective here is to use Poser to do the hard parts for us - proportions, basic lighting and shading, and posing. Postwork will be required, however the whole process should take much less time than trying to draw the figure by hand or to attempt to make a convert a true 3D render to an anime style. Even traditional anime artists might find this technique helpful, as you can print the merged image and trace it by hand for a time-saving step.

I hope you have found this tutorial useful, and I look forward to seeing any images you create using it! Experiment with other figures, blending modes, and coloring to find your own personal style! Thanks for your time, take care.


No part of this tutorial may be reprinted or included in a commercial or free package without written permission from the author. For questions, contact me at

Step 10 - Quick Step Listing

Here's a simple list of the steps required to achieve this anime effect, all one on page so that you may print it out or refer to it when needed.

  1. Pose your figure, put clothes, hair (non-transmapped), and setup any background objects.
  2. Clear all textures and highlights from the figure's body, switch to Cartoon w/ Line mode, change skin color to flesh.
  3. Delete all but one light, light should be Infinite white at 100% Intensity. Adjust light to create simple shadows on one side of the figure.
  4. Anti-alias scene (make sure light directional guide is not visible) and save scene as a TIF.
  5. Switch back to Textured Preview mode, change skin color to far-most right flesh color.
  6. Raise light Intensity to 150% and turn Cast Shadows off. Render and save the image.
  7. Open both images in Photoshop and paste rendered image top of the cartoon one. Change the rendered layer's blending mode to Screen and adjust the opacity until it looks good.
  8. Use postwork to fix jagged shadows, add or eliminate shadows by picking up colors with the Eyedropper tool and painting, change and correct colors using the Hue/Sat/Lightness controls, and painting the eyes.