Want to get into 3D art but not sure where to begin? DAZ 3D's free DAZ Studio software could be the answer to help you build up confidence with 3D modeling and rendering
The world of 3D software can be scary and intimidating to newcomers. Many dreams of becoming a modeler or artist have been thwarted by the steep learning curves and esoteric intricacies of 3D programs. Add to this terrifying tales of last-minute render malfunctions and data-destroying errors and it's easy to see why the barriers to entry are so incredibly high.
Fortunately, DAZ 3D's DAZ Studio
is on hand to gently introduce you to the big, scary concepts which drive modeling and rendering. The software has been around for a good 14 years now, and over that time it has established itself as a great way to teach yourself the basics of 3D rendering without overloading you with information.
DAZ Studio's scene builder is a great way to dive in to the software without having to do the tutorials
Learn 3D for free!
You can download DAZ Studio for free from the official DAZ 3D website
Once you've downloaded the free software, you'll find that a big part of DAZ Studio's user-friendliness is its tutorials, which it's positively brimming with. Fire it up and you're given the option of opening a quick-start guide, which shows you how to create your first scene. There are also interactive tutorials that work within the software itself, online user guides and a variety of training videos. DAZ 3D doesn't so much hold your hand as grab each of your appendages without letting them go until your work is complete.
If you'd prefer to just dive straight in that's not a problem, though, and it's an approach which works for many people. DAZ Studio's Scene Builder tool is the best place to begin: it allows you to choose from a variety of clothed characters, pick an environment for them to pose in, and then apply a lighting model to the scene. From here you can pose your character, move the camera and add props to build up the scene.
"Anyone with a passing interest in 3D software will feel at home with DAZ Studio's interface and controls.”
Anyone with a passing interest in 3D software will feel at home with DAZ Studio's interface and controls. Click on an object and you'll see the familiar translate tools so you can move it horizontally or vertically, or rotate it around an axis. Camera angles are controlled with onscreen icons, and there's a nifty little rotatable cube which can be used to set the angle of the whole scene.
Models can be posed and manipulated as you wish, with joints and skeletons so they don't get into weird contortionist poses
While DAZ Studio doesn't include the ability to model or texture objects, it does include a wide array of characters to suit just about any scene. Basic male and female models can be imported into the view space and then clothed as you see fit. Hair can be edited and customized, and you can import files from your computer to use as two-dimensional backdrops.
On top of this, DAZ Studio offers pre-set lights and animations, which can bring your characters to life. Lighting is especially important when it comes to realistic rendering, and real-time previews let you see exactly how different directions and intensities affect your scene. The animations are smooth and varied, so you can stitch a bunch together to make your character walk through a scene and then stop and sit down.
Many different lighting models are available, and they can have a dramatic effect on the way your scene looks
Export your work
Once you're happy with your finished scene or animation you can export it in a variety of formats. A built-in renderer has just enough tweak-able options to get the hang of renderers in general, and it's fairly speedy - even on our ageing test machine. You can also save each and every component in a scene individually, from the pose to the lights and cameras.
If you move on to other 3D packages DAZ Studio has got you covered. The software supports export to BioVision and Autodesk
's FBX format for animation, as well as Poser
and Wavefront formats. You can also send files to DAZ Studio's own Bryce
software, and Pixologic's ZBrush
"It's a fantastic entry point if you've got even the slightest passion for 3D modeling.”
Renderer settings are simple enough to apply, but further options exist for ray tracing, shadow samples and more
While DAZ Studio might not have the texturing and modeling tools of a more advanced piece of software, it's still a fantastic entry point if you've got even the slightest of passions for 3D modeling. It's simple to use, and very easy to create a scene which matches your vision. Cool lighting and rendering tools add the finishing touches, and support for multiple third-party file formats is a definite boon.
Did we mention that it's free, too? DAZ Studio employs an interesting business model: it's a little like free-to-play games, where you can get to grips with the basics of the software without spending a penny, and then purchase additional content – such as models and clothing – if you like it. It's a great way to try your hand at 3D artistry without parting with any cash. You can try it out right here
The final render. Not bad for about five minutes' work!
DAZ Studio in action
Get DAZ Studio for free
Find out more about DAZ 3D
Subscribe to DAZ 3D on YouTube