A Question of Purity

nickcharles · May 30, 2006 1:49 am

I decided it was time for a controversial topic. This topic has appeared more than once in most forums. I thought we could bring it out in the open and discuss it in general. I remember way back, when people wondered whether it was okay to sandwich two slides together for effect, or to combine two black and white negatives in the darkroom.

I have followed various discussions and some of the main topics seem to be:

1- If post work is done in a 3D program, how much is too much to state it was created in the 3D program and not in the 3D program plus Photoshop, for example?

2 - Should people have to do post work at all?

3 - Is a picture that has a lot of post work inferior to one that doesn't have any?

First, I would like to setup some ground rules. No flaming or negative comments toward programs or individuals are allowed. I have seen these discussions become hurtful, and, thus, destructive. I am hoping by bringing this topic out of the individual forums and not have it initiated by any one picture, many different view points can be voiced.

I am not voicing my opinion in this article.

  • The Paula Sanders Report is a regular Renderosity Front Page featured column, where Paula investigates and comments on graphic software, techniques, and other relevant material through her reviews, tutorials, and general articles.
May 29, 2006

Article Comments

lemur01 ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 30 May 2006

Well, for me, it's the final image that counts. What I have to do to get that image looking just the way I want it to isn't important. Now as to which gallery it's then posted in, well even though some of my 'Poser' images have been postworked to hell I'm going to put them in the Poser gallery simply because it has most traffic.

goshtac ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 30 May 2006

Having started many years ago with traditional photography, I have to agree with lemur01. It is the final image that counts. Retouching in photo work has always been an acceptable process with a few notable exceptions so why shouldn't 3D be the same. I see nothing wrong with using PSP or Photoshop, etc. to do a little tweaking of final image. The bottom line is quality of the finished product including the creativity, subtle nuances, etc. that goes into it. The creation of art is the issue, not what media is used to create it!

anastasis20 ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 30 May 2006

I've seen this issue turn up repeatedly & I don't see why it should. If pro studios use postwork for images/photos/CG animation that we spend money on, why is it a problem here? Could it be more to do with people not saying they've used postwork? If I could paint realistic hair in Photoshop I'd shout about it. Its another technique to be used otherwise why put the time & effort onto learning it. I'd say the only place postwork shouldn't be used is when you are promoting an item for sale.

AntoniaTiger ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 30 May 2006

I think my view on this is chiefly influenced by my background in photography. The rendering stage is analogous to taking the picture with the camera, and the postwork is what a photographer would do in the darkroom.

Chippsyann ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 30 May 2006

I have to agree, Ill do what ever it takes to achieve my final image. I am, a post work junkie and my gallery will testify to that. There have been so many Contests that I had to step away from because of my post work addiction. Dont get me wrong, I really do appreciate the look of a non-post work image, I feel that its part of the Poser learning curve it helps us to understand the program better and then, build on or hone are skills to a sharper degree. As to the question about a post worked image being inferior to a non post worked image, I dont think so. (Thats like comparing apples and oranges, there both good for you) Shouldnt they both be accepted and viewed as works of art? I think so

Teyon ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 30 May 2006

I've always thought this a truly ignorant debate. Mostly because it centers away from the idea of art as a means to express creativity, mood and feeling. How an artist expresses him or herself should not be as important as the expression, I think. Afterall, these are all tools. Do you squabble with the painter for drawing on his canvas first or do you enjoy the painting for what it is? Another thing...if it's about the 3D aspect, show me a single frame of any 3D or VFX feature film that wasn't post worked to some degree. If you can enjoy a film or magazine cover that's been post worked to death, why complain over an image posted in a gallery? As long as the image follows the rules for the gallery and the program in question had something to do with anything in the picture, I can't see how you can argue it out? Finally, I know not everyone is great at post work. Heck, I'm not an expert either but I don't complain that others are, I instead, try to learn from them what I can so I can be a better artist. That's MY opinion, which does NOT reflect the opinion of Renderosity, its staff or administration.

1358 ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 30 May 2006

I do post on just about all of my images because it is part of my artist aesthete. I shoot some of my digital photos using a cheap #30 , 1 MP camera and then post using either Photoshop or (usually) Photo deluxe, which I picked up for $10. My Poser Images are all posted because it makes them look better, and different from everybody else. Even rendering and anti-aliasing can be considered doing post work. The purpose of art is to allow personal expression to come to the fore. How it gets there is up to the artist. I like to work in B/W either in photography or in digital. I also look into the history of art and realize that Da Vinci used post work, as did Rembrandt, Monet, the pre-raphaelites, and W. Eugene Smith, just to name a few. Post work is an artist's tool for taking a base image to the next level. If you don't like my images because they have post work done to them, there's not much I can do about that other than to continue doing what I like and what I think is my right, as an artist. it's our differences that makes us artists, not how alike we can be. thanks for giving me an oppourtunity to voice my opinion on this important subject. and unless you've made other plans, have a great day!

thundering1 ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 30 May 2006

I consider it just part of the process that I immensely enjoy. Yeah, it's fun to do the modelling, then the lighting, then texturing, figuring out what settings would best suit the render (more or less grain on purpose, widescreen or square, etc.), but once I get it into Photoshop is when I get to really "play". I get to do things that would have bogged down render times (like volumetric lighting), been nearly impossible to UVmap, or things just not possible within the renderer's capabilities (dodging and burning for example). If I were to repaint the image, it would go in 2D or Mixed Media, but I don't, so it goes in whatever software gallery that handled the 3D render. It's the final image that matters to me, not how I got there. There's no rule that says I HAVE to use only the 3D render output for personal images - just some contests have that rule - and unless it's something like e-on software's current contest I don't really see the point. Postwork gives you the unlimited ability to personalize your image to your satisfaction - even if it means your intent is to use your 3D render as a paint-by-numbers guide (in which case it should go in 2D or Mixed Media).

TGphoto ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 30 May 2006

I agree with lemur01 that the final image is the only thing that counts. The software, texture mapping, rendering and postwork are all tools used to create, not to classify. When photography first appeared painters said it was not "true" art, when digital photography appeared, film photographers said it was not "true" photography, digital artists get the same response from traditional materials artists. Look at the work, react to the work, like or dislike the work, learn from the work and don't waste any time on petty things like is it postworked or not. If it's good art, it's good art.

rainlondon ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 30 May 2006

I agree with Lemur...just wanted to add........since when are there rules in art?? Isn't art all about individuality....and self expression.....and should pretty much be done they way YOU feel is right. Or else it isn't really art it is something else. This of course doesn't apply to people who do art commercially and have to follow a clients instructions.

corax ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 30 May 2006

The only post work that I do is compositing scenes that are too large otherwise. But I see no reason for post work images being shown so long as the fact is stated. I just wish I had the artistic skills that some people show with their post work. Mainly work on anims anyway.

prinzeugen12 ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 30 May 2006

I agree with lemur01. It is rare that my work in Poser or Poser/Vue doesnt need some postwork .. I will post to the Poser gallery or Vue gallery depending on which program it was rendered in with mention that there was post work in photoshop..The end result is what is important to me..

JOBrien ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 30 May 2006

Snobbery never makes for good art, particularly weird techno-snobbery. The final image is the only thing that matters. Non-digital artists mix media all the time to achieve the effects they desire. In the end, you're just pushing pixels around; who cares which pixels were pushed in 3D space and which weren't? As long as the image makes an impression on the viewer, what does it matter?

odditorium ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 30 May 2006

  1. When a 3D piece looses the third dimension of depth, and looks more like a digital 2D piece. That when too much is way too much. 2. That lies with the artist themselves. Lack of confidence in ones skill, like myself when i started out in this genre of art. i relied alot on postwork, when started out in this genre. Now i choose to use props instead. 3. Visually no, some of the time that is. Most artist that do postwork, haven't broken their constraints to the traditional artworld. This can be a henderence sometimes. This does not expand the art of 3D, it just sugar coats it! I have seen some great postwork artist! My works not perfect, and never will be. If I worried about a perfect piece, nothing would get done.. Then again, i can do some cool stuff with Props, that can't be done with a brush and keep that 3rd Dimension. Maybe you should put up a postwork gallery< but that would fall under "Mixed Medium", and Not 3D. But thats my opinion! Have a great week everyone!!! -- odd --

IO4 ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 30 May 2006

I do have an admiration for those artists who can create wonderful images without any postwork,(because I see a certain amount of skill in that,and that can be a goal to work towards), but at the end of the day, if you like what you create/find another's work pleasing, does it really matter how it was made? So I agree with lemur01 there.I think there can be alot of of 'snobbery' about postwork/un-postworked which is unecessary. If bulk of the work that went into making the image was done with a certain program it should be able to go into that program's gallery. If there is a heavy amount of postwork plus use of other programs, then maybe it should be classed as mixed-medium. I don't believe postwork makes a piece of work inferior. That's like the argument that some digital art is not 'real art' because the artistic process is somehat different, ie a canvas and paint etc has not been used. At the end of the day, do whatever pleases you to create what you want and like. That's what is important.

Forevernyt ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 30 May 2006

I think the bottom line should be the art, not exactly how it was created. If you're creating the art, for the art's sake, then you take whatever means necessary to achieve your final result. If you have the skills, programs and wherewithal to use postwork than do so. If the image was created in a particular program, I don't see any problems with uploading to that program, especially if that's where people expect to find your work. You can, by using the description area, explain how much or how little postwork was done. Of course, you could always have a contest or challenge that states no postwork as a stipulation for judgement and that's fine, use what you got and make what you can. But, if it's your art, your vision, then do it your way. The final image is what counts, not how you got there. Just my two cents.

svdl ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 30 May 2006

Interesting discussion indeed. About point 3: the quality of an image is NOT dependent on the tool(s) used to make the image, it's dependent on talent and perseverance of the artist. So the (non)use of postwork is irrelevant to the question of quality. About point 2: Should one do postwork? Depends. An artist who uses a 3D tool to get a more or less basic outline of the image and then enhances it by using postwork - by all means. It's a good way to create images, and I've seen many excellent posts in the galleries that use this technique. And an artist who keeps on twiddling light settings, material settings and camera until he/she feels the image is "complete" and doesn't need postwork, well, that's just another way to create images. And I've also seen posts in the galleries that use this technique. Finally, point 1: A 3D render that has been enhanced just a little - brushing away render engine imperfections, fixing knee and elbow joints, some color/brightness correction is still a 3D render IMO. An image that has significantly been altered, for instance by adding hair/clothes using postwork, I'd say that it was made using both a 3D program and a postwork program. And finally, an image that only the 3D render as a basic outline, a perspective guide, and is completely repainted is no longer a 3D image IMO. As lemur01 states, even images that consist of 5 minutes of Poser work plus 5 weeks of painting are usually posted in the Poser gallery. Probably because of the traffic. But those images are no longer Poser images IMO - the bulk of the work was done in Photoshop or a similar application, so they should be posted in the 2D gallery. Just my opinion. Maybe a little distorted by the fact that my works are almost never postworked, I find the challenge of bullying a 3D renderer into delivering a good final image to be very satisfying.

JamesRoden ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 30 May 2006

I use minimal postwork, so you have to take this commentary in that regard. The most drastic work I do is occasionally fixing poke through on a final render. One thing I will say is that the amount of postwork should matter as to which gallery it's going in. As for how much? If more than half of the time is spent postworking (photoshopping, etc.) than it doesn't belong in a gallery solely devoted to your 3d program. It doesn't matter whether the image is inferior or not in my eyes...but if most of the thing was postworked/photoshopped it doesn't belong in the Poser gallery just because you rendered one figure in it. In my eyes, by placing an image (for example) in the Poser gallery you are demonstrating what you can do with Poser not Photoshop.

sixstring ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 30 May 2006

In my opinion, the only thing that matters in the end is, does it look good? I really don't have issues with how people get their art to look the way they want it to. As long as the tools are there, why not make use of them?

BronsonHoward ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 30 May 2006

The image that resides in your head should not be restricted by the abilities of the tools provided by a specific program. The end result should be of the highest quality the artist can provide at that given point, even if it requires reaching outside of a given programs options for more tools. The one issue I consistently have is with the gallery in which the item is shown. In my opinion, if the image is rendered with a specific software, then that is the gallery in which it should be placed regardless of viewer traffic. This promotes wandering through various galleries as well as properly showcases a given programs ability to render a final product.

Byrdie ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 30 May 2006

What Lemur just said. Except that I put my pix in the Poser gallery because that's what I usually set up my scenes and render with. Postworking's a tool, a means to an end, the end being the image that I have in mind -- or as close to it as is possible to get anyway. That said, it's really, really great on those (admittedly few!) occasions when about the only postwork needed is my signature. :-)

lh_cerdeira ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 30 May 2006

Well, I agree with lemur here... It's the final image that counts... Unless you want to show a product or a model... But, usually, the postwork is only enough when you achieve what you want to, that includes painting hair, clothes, whatever... all in all, any kind of post work is just a mean to an end... :D

regaltwo ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 30 May 2006

I almost always use Vue to render my images. But I also almost always do some amount of postwork. Sometimes it's no than fixing a bad joint on a Poser figure or jazzing up the hair using Photoshop. Often I do more, altering the overall image using various techniques or filters. Sometimes I go crazy and run it through Painter. But the deciding factor in where I place the image is the degree to which one can tell that, despite the postwork, it was rendered in Vue. Usually, with ecosystems and such, it's still possible even after extensive postwork to tell that it was done in Vue. If this is not the case, then Mixed Medium.

theravenqueen ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 30 May 2006

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that most likely the vast majority of us started out using 2D tools of some kind originally, then moved to 3D tools when the technology became affordable and available (unless of course you are a young-in :) That being said, is it any less ridiculous to argue about how the art was created (3D w/or w/o postwork) as it would sound to argue that hand drawn and hand painted art is superior to digital art simply because it's older or more 'traditional' or whatever your reason is... I think as most of us here appear to, that what matters is the final product, NOT the method used to create it. I myself went from doing pencil drawings, to scanning them in photoshop and painting them, do photographic manipulation, and finally to 3D. I prefer 3D now mainly because the tools enable me to create what my skills in hand-drawing could not. However, when I am done rendering an image, I do sometimes like to go and tweak the saturation or hue, or contrast, if only because it can give interesting results. I have a picture I made of a 'creepy' baby with a background that didn't look half as good till I did a contrast tweak AFTER the rendering was done. So yeah, the point is that who care how it was done as long as the creation is art :)

JOHNRIP ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 30 May 2006

Personally I don't believe this subject really constitutes the basis for a debate, pro or con. We are dealing with a relatively new art paradigm with CGI and the traditional approach to creating in such a medium requires we take a different or unique approach to it from the medium of photography. If the effect or desired look can't be accomplished with the tools within the program being used, then peraps the functional parameters of that program needs to be re-evaluated, by its creators. Its not really a question of purity, but the choice to use or not use available tools and resources to accomplish a desired effect. If you have photoshop or paint shop pro and the requisite skills to use them, more power to you. But I am always amazed when someone does something terrific with the simplest of tools. Its a matter of personal taste. Is that final image conveying the ideas you want it to or not. Just because you have a large number of brushes and colors on your palette doesn't mean you have to use them all in every work. Sometimes less is more. I think we are in the same position as the leaders of previous art epochs such as the Renaissance,or the Impressionists, in that as Cole Porter says "Anything Goes".

lundqvist ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 31 May 2006

This isn't especially controversial, it's a bit suprizing to see it rehashed here though. If rendering for animation then postwork is hardly likely to be applied, as a matter of practicality. When creating a static scene (other than for a product demo or due to the rules laid down by a contest, etc.), who cares what the rendered/postwork mix is? Some choose to see what they can achieve solely from the rendering engine of choice, some like to postwork. It varies according to taste and skills with the tools. Non-issue. I look forward (in the ironic sense) to the next tricky subject, Poser imagery: is it art? At least we've moved it out of the forums and on to the front page. And it can't get heated there because that's not allowed. ;)

Rozrr ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 31 May 2006

Maybe if the program you used to create tyhe original image did all you need then there would be no need for any post work. We are still experimenting with digital art and should not be critised by anyone for our methods. We may as well complain about how the old Masters created their art. We use what we have available. Our images must testify to our creativity and imagination in whatever way we choose. Rozrr

mapps ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 31 May 2006

I think it depends on the person, like any other art style. What mediums do you like to use, then use them. if you like to work in 3d only then that is the stye for you. If you like to use mixed mediums then 3d + 2d is the way to go. Expression is expression...express yourself that is all that mattters.

chaobell ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 31 May 2006

If the final image is good, then who cares whether the hair and clothes were rendered or painted? What difference does it make whether the lighting popped out of (insert 3D app here) just like that or got Photoshopped in later? Good art is good art, and tweaking a good rendered image to enhance it or fix problems doesn't automatically make it /not/ good. I'm not understanding why you thought this subject important enough for a front page article. This is not a big issue and with the exception of one or two hecklers here and there, I've never seen any big stink about it.

Kid_Fisto ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 31 May 2006

I think that it depends on the medium and the application that's being used, as well as the speed of your computer. like in fractals: the only major postwork i've ever done was to make a fractal funnier (cell infected by a virus) the only other things i've done are color correction and sharpening and sometimes defuzzing. also, it's easy to be working on something, getting frustrated, and then say "oh, i'll just postwork it!" this i imagine happens a lot more in 3d programs than in apo and UF. but then there are artists like Encrypted, whose postwork is what makes their art really great. that's my opinion.