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How to make Leaderheads in Poser


The Newbie Nightmare
Jan 29, 2002
Athens of the North
Okay, I figured that it was time to share some knowledge with the community. This tutorial will give you some hints on using Poser to create leadeheads for Civilization III.

Before you begin

Poser is a very easy 3D tool to use. Whilst the learning curve is steeper now then when I started (back in 1999 with Poser 4), it remains the easiest app to use that can still produce high quality results. This tutorial uses Poser 7, but I imagine that it will work just as well for Poser 6.

Useful Links

Apollo Maximus: The Free 3D Human Figure: 2007 Release - excellent poser model that was once commercial, but is now free. As well as the base figure, this page has a huge number of free add-ons. This tutorial will use Apollo Max as its base figure, so I suggest that you get hold of it.

DAZ Forums - Digital Art Zone is probably the biggest provider of commercial products for use with Poser. But even if you don't want to splash the cash, you will find Poser forums to be very useful for seeking help.

DAZ Tutorial Arcana - a wide range of tutorials, covering a great deal of subjects that you will find useful. The 'Models & Morphs' and 'Pre & post Production' sections are my favourite.

Renderosity Poser forums - the best poser forum, hands down.

Dr. Geep's Poser University - popular tutorial site, mostly aimed at beginners.

A special note on DAZ Studio

Sooner or later, you will realise that DAZ offer a program for free that appears very similar to Poser. DAZ Studio can be a good program, but really requires a number of commerical plug-ins in order to get it to a level that can compete with Poser, by which time it will have cost a similar amount. Even after that, I still think that Poser is a superior application.

Resources for this tutorial

Leaderhead Raw for Apollo Max - this is a .pz3 scene file for Poser, that contains cameras and lights set up for Apollo in a suitable fashion for a civ3 leaderhead perspective. The lights in this scene use Image Based Lighting and Ambient Occlusion, and thus only work in Poser 6+.

Leaderhead Animations for Apollo Max - this is a 121 frame animation that includes facial expressions and poses to take Apollo from happy, to neutral to angry. It even includes eye blinks, such as those found with Firaxis-made leaderheads.


Leaderhead scene file for Poser 4 - this is a 'lite' scene file that replaces the infinite lights of the full scene file with lights compatible with Poser 4 or 5. It's not as good as IBL/AO, but should be satisfactory.

A special note on Using Apollo Max

You'll find that Apollo Max is rigged differently to most other figures in poserdome, such as the DAZ Unimesh figures. For this reason, the animations provided in the link above will probably only work for Apollo Max.

Steps to create your Leaderhead

1. Download Apollo Max from the link above, unrar into your poser folder. Also download the Apollo leaderhead animations from above and unrar them into your poser folder. Finally, download the scene file and unrar it anywhere.

2. Open the Poser application and go to File > Open, browse to wherever you unrar'ed the scene file, select 'Leaderhead_Blank_Apollo.pz3' and click OK.

3. Note that you viewing a blank scene through the Main Camera. This is the camera that you will render from. At this early stage, I strongly recommend that you do not change the settings for this camera! Although you will find this camera awkward for setting up your character, do not change it! Switch to the Face, Posing, or Auxillary cameras when working on your character. You can rotate and zoom those cameras to get a better look at what you're doing, but leave the Main Camera as is.

4. Load Apollo Max into the scene using the library pallette on the left-hand side of the screen. He will load in his default pose. Don't worry that he's not looking at the camera, we'll fix that later.

5. Use the morph dials to change the way Apollo looks into your character of choice. You can see from the screenshot that I've selected the head of Apollo - the head is where all the facial morphs are store, but you can morph the entire bpdy if you want (although you might have trouble getting clothes to fit him). You'll find that there are a LOT of options to choose from, and a mix & match of several will give you the best results. You might wish to exaggerate certain facial features to make your character more distinctive.

6. At this point, I would clothe Apollo Max using items from the Figure and Props libraries. Conforming clothing are items that fit around a character, like a shirt or coat, and will follow the character's movement. Once loaded into the scene, they are conformed to the base figure by selecting the clothing and going to Figure > Conform to figure. Props are simple objects that just 'sit' on a character, such as a hat. Some props are smart props and will be automatically positioned when you load them (such as that hat automatically appearing on top of a head), whilst some are not smart props and must be positioned using the translation dials.

7. You can also load whatever textures you wish from the pose library. I tend to also use the Material Room for skin work.

Just to give you an idea of how crazy the material room can get!

A quick render so you can see the texture in action:

8. Go to the library palette on the left hand side of your screen and browse to CivIII > Apollo Max. Load up that pose: this is a 121 frame animation that includes facial expressions and poses to take Apollo from happy, to neutral to angry. Apollo will even blink occasionally.

9. Set up your lighting. The scene file that you are using has a basic light set (they're the lights I used for my Dwarf Lord), but you might want to embellish that. If you have pre-existing light sets, you can load them from the Lights library but first I would delete the old lights. You can also create lights manually by going to Object > Create Light > [whatever type of light you want] and then using the dials to place and angle your light within the scene.

10. This is a good point at which to review your work so far. Tweak your scene file. Make any changes to clothing, texturing, etc. Play the animation forward and backward, to to gain an idea of what the motion will look like in-game. You might want to consider changing the camera angle and focal length. In the scene file that I've provided, I've set the focal length for the Main Camera is set for 105mm, which I find gives a nice broad viewing angel, but you can change it if you wish. Experiment and see what you get.

11. Now you're ready for a test render. Go to Render > Render Dimensions. You'll see that that it's set up to match the preview window, which will produce an image that matches the size of the window you've been working with. This is 400x480, which is a 1:1 match for the ration of the final civ3 picture, which is 200x240.

12. You can go ahead and do a render now, if you want, but you might want to tweak the render settings: Render > Render Settings. You'll see that the Firefly tab is at the front: this is the best render engine, so I wouldn't change it. I've set the render settings to produce a very good quality render, so you might want to lower the settings if its just a quick test render. To do that, just slide the bar from right to left, until you're happy. The further left you go, the poorer the render will be.

A special note on Rendering

You might notice that I've turned on 'smooth' polygons in the render settings. Polygon smoothing is a great technique in poser rendering, but wierd things can happen. For example, in my recent previews for a space marine leaderhead, if I had turned on polygon smoothing the bionic eye would not have had straight lines - they would have been curved in a convex fashion. So 'smooth polygons' is an option that you might have to turn off sometimes.


That's it for now. That should get you on your way. In a few days, I'll come back and embellish this tutorial with screen shots, lighting tips, hints for the material room and so on, but this should be more than enough to get you started. Feel free to give feedback on the tutorial.
Let's take another look at lighting.

The base lights that I've provided in the scene file use image-based lighting and ambient occlusion. Without getting technical, these techniques are great for anything in relief: detail on metal, hair, skin, etc. It's a huge step forward in terms of realism and is well worth getting Poser 6 or 7 for it. However, you need to be a bit careful about how you use it. Let's take a look at a render using only the base lights in the scene file:

Ok, so the skin looks good. But the overall image is flat. Can you tell why?

It's the eyes. The eyes look deader than a dodo. Let's spice things up.

To do that we're going to play around with point lights. Create one, like so:

Once added, your new light should be automatically selected and you can reposition it using the translate and rotate dials (just as you would with a prop, for example). You can also work with lights using the Light Control section, on the left hand side of the screen. You can also use this section to delete lights.

The reason that our first render looked so lifeless is because IBL tends to wash out specular highlights. Using a point light will restore those highlights. This particular point light is positioned to the side of Apollo's face and will add sun-kissed realism to his skin :)

Note that the light in the scene actually looks as though it has a source, which makes the overall image more realistic. Also, the skin tone is no longer uniform.

Now we're going to add a 2nd point light and position it in front of Apollo's eyes so as to draw out more specular higlights. Voila!

Feel free to play around with the lights' colour, as that can have a significant impact on the final render. Also, varying a light's intensity can help. Not all scenes look good with all lights' intensities at 100%.

Hope that helped!
Mmm...he should do. Although I think you'll find trouble with the scene file in Poser 5, as the scene file uses image-based lighting and ambient occlusion (neither of which are supported in Poser 5). I'll see about posting a 'lite' scene file that only use p4/5 lighting.

The good thing about Apollo Maximus is that all the morphs are part of the figure - you don't need to buy them seperately like you do with Michael 3.
Yes, and the figure seems to be very alterable, as you can see if you download some of the free characters that have been created by morphing him.

This looks a great tutorial, zulu. Thanks for doing it.
Again, I've updated the tutorial with a scene file that is compatible with Poser 4 or 5. The results won't be as good as with IBL or AO, but I've tried to come up with something that will still give you good quality renders.

This as been added to my library, :goodjob:
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