How I Make a Man

Mentoring for anyone who wants to expand and improve their digital male art work.


By Madeira Desouza

Thank you for your interest in this behind-the-scenes look at how I create my 3D digital images. Contact me if you would like more personalized and individualized mentoring so you can learn more about creating 3D digital images.

All of what you find here at comes from practical, hands-on experience in creating digital art for sixteen years—not from time spent in school. I am ideally suited to be a mentor for digital artists because I have been alive for many years and have hard-learned life lessons that impact upon my artistic efforts. I am willing to share all of this with you.

Covered here on are rare behind-the-scenes insights about how I make a man. The majority of digital art creators depict women, so you can easily go and find other places to learn about how those creators work. But, and this mentoring information is exclusively focused upon depictions of male characters.

You can learn from all this if you are interested in creating male characters for your own 3D digital art.

Here I will explore photorealistic images created as 3D digital art (not flat 2 dimensional art) for depicting realistic human characters. It all begins with a blank screen in an app.

It always begins on a blank screen in the app.

Using the app I imagine that what I am doing is making a man who will be a character in a scenario or a story I write. I “invite” him into the world I have created in which he otherwise would not exist.


If you want to produce 3D illustrations, you must use a computerized tools. Personally, from the very beginning of doing this kind of production in 2007, I have favored Apple devices but I switched to Windows devices due to the fact that Apple devices always cost so much more than Windows devices.

While it is possible to work in visual production using hand-held devices, I recommend that if you are serious about producing 3D illustrations, you should accept the need for working using a sufficiently large monitor on which to display your works in progress. Creating works using only a four- or five- or eight-inch screen ultimately will constrain your output and without a sufficiently large monitor, you won’t be able to see the overall context or the level of detail in your visual creations.

Using Devices and Apps

If you are serious about producing visual works, my belief is that you also must develop and demonstrate a true flexibility using devices and apps. This is why I recommend that you should work diligently to become comfortable using devices and apps that are created for the Windows operating systems once you master the Apple operating system and devices. At this point in my life, I use Apple and Windows devices and apps interchangably without any adjustment issues in switching back and forth. This is a skill set that you, too, can learn if you apply yourself.

When I started out producing 3D digital illustrations, I initially used software named Poser that was developed in 1995. Learn more about Poser.

Shown below are some of my earliest attempts to create illustrations of men from 2007. I have to admit that these look very primitive and awkward. At that time, I had not yet arrived at the level of skill that I have today.

2007_render_cowboy 2007_B_render


Because I came to feel very restricted by the way Poser works, I went in search of some other software that would better suit the way I work. I’m pleased to report that I found it! DAZ (Digital Art Zone) 3D Studio is what I use exclusively today and what I recommend to anyone.

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Step-by-Step Using DAZ 3D Studio

It always begins on a blank screen in the app. Next, I often add a visually-neutral background such as what’s known as an infinity cove, which will not pull the viewer’s focus away from the characters that I will put into the scene.

For this demonstration I next add a prop to the scene—an ordinary wooden ladder.

Then it is time to add at least one human character to the scene. The app affords you a huge selection of resources that you can purchase separately so that you end up with component parts that you can pull together to tell a story visually. The character starts out looking very incomplete (no genitalia) and maybe just a little physically unhealthy compared to how a normal human being looks in real life. Note that nudity is always completely optional when creating characters since you can add costuming or other clothing as you wish depending on what you are trying to accomplish visually.

The character’s body will always need to be posed in a specific way (head, arms, hands, chest, midsection, legs, feet) since the character does not come out of the app posed exactly as can be envisioned. I have already made creative decisions about the stage lighting in the scene that I’m creating and where the camera is situated compared to the characters. All of these elements (lights, camera, scene props, and, characters) I think about and plan in advance. Then, I adjust everything within the workscreen of the app.

Within the app, I can fine-tune how I want a character to look. This involves changing his body shape so that he looks realistic like a man would look in the physical world in which we all are living.

Developing the character’s overall look and his personality also is not “automatic” and many choices must be made to get exactly what you want in a character. Once I add hair on his head and face, he begins to become recognizable as a possible human being you might actually meet. Giving him a pair of blue jeans to wear can be a good finishing touch. I usually give the character a name. This character I named “Mal”—a nickname for Malcolm.

A similar process must be used for each and every character that I place into the story. This can be incredibly time-consuming depending on the total number of characters in the scene. Here are establishing shots of the three characters standing in front of the wooden ladder before the story begins. These are supposed to look as if I’d been a photographer shooting in a studio where three real-life male actors are involved in telling a story visually.

One last storytelling element comes next. The character Mal has to be shown climbing up the ladder because that’s where he is supposed to be when the scene starts. Of course, this guy goofs off for the others while making his way to the very top just like we might expect an actor to do on the set before filming begins.

The last step I take is to bring all the elements together to create a specific story.

When Mal doesn’t move or talk after he hit his head hard on the floor, suddenly the other two guys realize that something very bad has happened to him. Ya think?

Most people know that in the real world, you should never move an injured person at the scene of an accident, right? Well, what do you think the chosen course of action is for the two guys that are now in full panic mode?

Discover More…

I consider the creative process I use to be “simple enough” for what I need and want to accomplish. But I won’t pretend that using DAZ (Digital Art Zone) 3D Studio is easy. Nor is it a fast process. There often is a lot of waiting around for things to finish on the screen even though I have a fast computer and a decent video card. The app enables me to start with any photograph of a man’s face as I begin my creative work. Or I can choose from among many preconfigured faces of fictional male characters in the app already.

A preconfigured face or a newly created face from an actual photograph is only the starting point. The app crunches the numbers, so to speak. The result is a first incarnation of a male character who shows up on the screen. Perhaps out of an abundance of modesty, that character magically appears wearing a muscle t-shirt and gym shorts.

I use the controls within the app to shape the character’s face so that the face has real-life depth and will not look “flat” like a cartoon face so often looks.

Next, unless I choose to have a bald character, I can add hair of many possible styles, lengths, and colors.

Then, I modify the physical traits of the character’s body. My emphasis is upon beefy male characters, so that’s the type of male I aim to create using the app.

You may be surprised to learn that I need to add and then adjust the character’s genitals (which do not come “standard” in this app.) I can choose any size and shape that I want. Oh, what power I have to make a man!

The character also needs to be posed. There is a generic starter pose he has with his arms slightly stretched out as you can see in the above image and in the second image, too.

Clothing is optional in the creation of digital illustrations. I have dressed this new character with big, manly boots and black denim jeans.

It’s not justifiable for me to leave the character “in the void” that you see behind him in the above image. So, I move the character into a virtual studio that has virtual lights hung floating weightlessly in the air. Actually, there is no air. He is not a real, living, breathing human being, so why does he need air?

An important next step is rendering. This is a term from the digital realm that defines how the software app processes all the math and geometry into what looks to the human eye like a picture. At this point in the process, the newly created male character is three-dimensional (height, width, depth) who should look more or less looks photorealistic.


You can download (for free) an in-depth pdf (15 pages) which explores in greater detail the subject of “How I Make a Man”: