Pose references exactly the way you want them: Portrait Studio and Clip Studio

If you’ve ever spent hours upon hours flicking through google images, pinterest, deviantart, ect. trying to find the perfect figure photo references, you know how painful it can be. Yes, I’ve spent my fair share of time reference hunting for the photo that has the angle paired with the perfect pose. Why oh why does the world just not have my exact picture idea out there for me to copy? Please and thank you.

I remember playing Sims 3 and Skyrim as a kid and wishing there was something easy like it where I could make my character exactly how they look in my head, and where I could pose them how I needed. I’m sure there was some stuff out at the time like Daz, Poser, and Blender, but those options either represented a steep learning curve or a high price tag, two things teenage me was not fond of.

Now, there are a lot more options available than there used to be for posing software. For my own artwork I have discovered two resources cover the bases for laying down drawings of humans.

Today I am going to talk about Portrait Studio and the Clip Studio 3D ref function because these are what I have been using on and off for the past year. I have used both or either depending on the project. But I thought it might be useful for myself to create a little review.

Note: Keep in mind I’m not necessarily comparing them as they are two completely different programs, more just taking about my experience in use them for drawing reference.

Working on a commission, I decided to create the same pose in both programs just for the fun of it. Here’s how the commission turned out:

Lmih for Annis Ashwell

This character is an assassin, and I wanted the POV to be facing in an upward angle towards her, almost to insinuate that the viewer is taking the position of the victim. I still wanted the viewer to look into her eyes though, so I couldn’t make it exactly realistic.

Portrait studio

In short, Portrait Studio is an excellent program made exclusively as a referencing tool.

Portrait Studio

In Portrait studio the model feels realistic and the 3D shapes represent the human form in a useful way for simplifying. The controls are simple but I find them a bit confusing and fiddly depending on how long I go without using the program. The cheat sheet that you get when you click “Help” is great though as it allows you to get the information you need to use the program quickly.

The software also allows for advanced control of lighting which is obviously fantastic.

Something that I found frustrating as a user is that the program has no visible undo function, and I would often press Ctrl+Z only to be met with disappointment.

The issue becomes most apparent when I am repositioning the pose, as joints can easily be deformed or tilted incorrectly and there just seems to be no way to undo this. It also can get frustrating if I accidentally reset something. For example, with this pose at one point, I hit a button on my keyboard by accident and reset the viewing angle so I had to go in and set it up again.

I also couldn’t find the export function, if there was one. You can save your pose, but it would be useful to be able to export the current angle and framing so that I can refer to it as a .jpeg, without having to minimise all of the control windows or keep the program open.

As someone who comes from portraiture painting background and being a fan face of heavy customization in RPGs/The Sims growing up, on a positive note I should probably mention that I am a HUGE fan of the face sliders on the portraiture model! It is very useful if you suffer a nasty case of same-face syndrome as I used to struggle with.

Sliders for face referencing 😀

Overall, I use Portrait studio when I am looking to create something with more realistic proportions – and when I have a lot of time to spare to pose my figure correctly (although maybe if I use it more often, I will be able to get my references faster in this program). Overall, I really do love this software for the heavy customization mixed with simplifications of the human form – and if I’m working on a serious artwork I will quickly turn to Portrait studio for help.

Clip studio

Clip Studio is primarily a drawing program, which is why I mention the two programs really can’t be compared. The 3D posable reference functionality is accessible in the “Materials” section of the program.

Now the reason I use Clip Studio for some projects is because it’s native to the art program and the controls incredibly easy, making for quick turn-around in posing and therefore quicker production for an artwork. It’s particularly useful if I only need a rough reference for an artwork.

Joint movement is a little more limited to what is realistic. For example, finger joints (with the exception of the knuckles) are restricted to moving up and down, not side to side, and when positioning them, the bone will not move beyond its realistic point. So in this sense it’s difficult to slip up and break your model’s finger.

The body of the character is also very easily customisable. Which means you can create a variety of body types to suit whatever you envision for your piece.

As a base, I found that the default “skinny anime” body type didn’t really fit with my style so I have a modified version that fits more with the proportions I wanted to use for this drawing.

Above: Default vs. modification.

The fact that that there is no definition to the face can be inconvenient as I would prefer to know more information about how the angle affects the shapes and placement of the features in the face. It’s particularly unsuitable for me in this circumstance as I don’t have as much experience drawing faces from this angle so I feel like I would be doing a bit of guess work.

Sometimes when I am using the ref tool I notice I am focusing less on depicting the human form and more about replicating the shapes and angles that I see. Obviously these figures weren’t made to be realistic, and note that there are no muscle shapes used to assist with realistic simplifications of human form. There are those grid lines though which could be useful for foreshortening.

I think it’s great nonetheless that this tool is out there for Clipstudio users, and I definitely encourage you to give it a try yourself if you own the software. It’s a great gentle but robust learning tool and it’s also good for professionals to keep their work in check and make sure their foreshortening isn’t off.

At the end of the day, both of these tools are very useful and what I use is very dependent on my time constraints and the style that I am looking to achieve. Sometimes if I’m just working on a quick sketch I’ll only use the Clip studio interface, but if I’m looking for something more polished I will use portrait studio or even just use BOTH.

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