Simple Postwork Tricks #02: Silhouettes

Make your own vector art
Make your own vector-look art!

Using silhouettes is pretty much tailor-made for 3D renders. You can render an entire scene at once or assemble a scene out of assorted separate images. In both cases, the renders need to be saved as transparent png files.

It’s possible to create a silhouette scene in DAZ Studio by coloring all surfaces black, setting specular to 100% and 0%, the lighting model to Matte, and the ambient color to black at 0%. No lights needed; simply render the scene once it’s set up and then save it. (I’m assuming this works much the same way in Poser, tho the specular settings are different.)

You can also bring any saved render(s) with transparent backgrounds into Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro and turn it into a silhouette with Mehdi’s free Fine Threshold plugin. Slide the setting bar all the way to the right for the darkest result (it may be necessary to run it a second time, depending on the image.) I have a growing collection of transparent png renders that I use for this purpose: I resize each image as needed to fit the scene, move/rotate images to where I want them on their layers, do a “Merge Visible Layers” when I’m satisfied with the scene set up, and then run the merged image through the Fine Threshold plugin.

Silhouette images can be used on backgrounds like night scenes or dark horizons and skies. They can be used with other graphic elements and are well-suited for putting to use that library of textures and overlays you may have collected over the years:

couple-gwtw-style-txt couple-steampunk-txt fantasy-knight-blue-text magical-girl-bokah-txt

The above images were all cropped to function as book covers — making book covers is the main reason I got into DAZ Studio — because silhouette-style covers show up fairly often.

A step-by-step “how to” isn’t possible because it’s going to depend on the image and what sort of look one is aiming for. The above images use lots of layers — most frequently combinations of Multiply (edge/frame textures), Soft Light (most textures and overlays), and Screen (for black/dark textures) at various opacity levels. But Hard Light, Overlay, Dodge, and Color are useful at times too.

More info, credits inside….

The first image — the “Gone With the Wind” look — has a cloud stock photo layer (from a RDNA product no longer for sale), a gradient layer for a “sun” effect, an antique script texture, a canvas texture overlay, a brush from Rons Angel Dust (layer set to Dodge), and a border overlay. I then tweaked the colors and saturation. I rendered the couple and the tree as a single image and the grass was a separate image layer.

The second image has a dark antiqued photo texture set to screen, a steampunk gear seamless tile, a texture overlay (Hard Light, about 30% opacity), and another texture overlay with edge detail. This one was colorized with a sepia tone. Each figure was rendered separately and then positioned together with a shape I manipulated into the ground image.

The third image used a gray-scale gradient, a map texture (by valkiria-stock, but it doesn’t appear to be available now), a grunge script texture (something I bought ages ago; I can’t recall which CD bundle it was in), a cracked background texture, and then I colorized it for an even blue tone. The knight, horse, and pennant were rendered together and the thorn arch was a separate layer image, as was a solid black block I manipulated into the ground image.

The fourth image made use of a bokeh texture, a color texture overlay (one layer set to Color Legacy and a duplicate layer set to Overlay with a low-ish opacity), and a dark texture overlay. I think I may have boosted the saturation levels a bit too, but I’m not sure. This one’s an older render.

The top image was five separate rendered images assembled to fit the background, which I made in Filter Forge. Feel free to download it here. (I also have a Halloween-themed one that I made from scratch with — yes! — a bunch of renders turned into silhouettes.)


4 thoughts on “Simple Postwork Tricks #02: Silhouettes

    • You’re welcome!

      For something that’s just a simple black and white graphic, silhouettes are pretty versatile. You can do a lot with using them as colored brushes too.

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