Renderosity is calling for beta testers for Poser 12 and they specify Unity knowledge as one of the skills they’re seeking. Which makes it sound like there will be a Unity bridge in Poser 12. That would make a lot of sense. Unity is one of the two big free game-engines (the other is Unreal), and it’s reasonably well-supported by third-party add-ons. The free Unity Personal Edition allows commercial use, as long as you don’t make more than $100,000 per year in your business from using it.
The ideal would be, at a guess, an integrated three-click “Poser 12 to Unity” workflow that’s as easy as getting a Poser scene into Vue. But which also sends Poser’s current camera and framing to Unity. The other useful thing to get, either in Poser or from Unity itself, would be some form of Matcap. ‘Matcap’ is a process that inspects the existing texture, then automatically tries to replace it with a best-guess toon material. So a red shiny dress becomes a red toon shader with ramping and highlights.
In which case, what is available in Unity-land for tooning? Below is my initial survey of this. Please don’t go buying these yet. Not least because some of them are rather expensive (“‘Cos yur gonna make big bucks on your game, guys…” Yeah, right…). But mainly because a three-click fiddle-free ‘Poser 12 to Unity’ process is just my hope at present, based on very slim evidence.
Shaders in Unity:
Sugiyama Toon Shader, aka SugiyamaToonShader. An early success in 2016, but said not to work with newer Unity versions?
TypeA AnimeShader. Said to work especially well on hair.
VaxKun’s Anime/CelShading Shader. Includes emissive glow and toon-reflective glass. I suspect the demo pictures are being a bit more honest than the other packs, re: what you’re likely to get.
However, you don’t need to go to Unity to get the above looks. With a bit of setup, re-texturing and the right IBL lighting, they can be had now in Poser 11.
There are two competing suites or kits for Unity…
Toony Colors Pro 2 shaders set, with basic lineart.
Flat Kit: Cel / Toon Shading. Also with basic lineart plus a depth-fogging effect. This might be your best starting-point, though Toony Colors Pro seems to have been out longer.
Flexible Cel Shader. Possibly an additional useful set to have, in combination with one of the above two kits.
Nice Water Shader, adjustable and with a toony edge-ripple preset.
And lastly, RealToon shaders set. Seems to be older but is apparently quite flexible, and you might brew up a more unique look?
Jiffycrew Post Process Line. Seems to be outstanding, and thus has left little place for others in the market? The monopoly position has made it rather expensive.
Contour-hugging hatching on 3D models:
ToonSketch Core. A bit too grungy, and may work best on models with big flat surfaces?
NPR Cartoon Effect. Unappealing demo images, but scroll through to the simple hatch-shading demo.
Jiffycrew Hatching. Not very convincing, but with a bit of wrestling I guess it might produce dash-shading that looks cleaner and a bit more Moebius-like?
Obviously hatching still has some way to go in Unity. There are also some rather ikky attempts at manga halftone shaders.
Flockaroo’s full-screen camera effects Aquarelle, Colored Pencils and Sketchy effects filters. It looks like you could cook up a reasonable ‘storybook look’ with these. These are full-camera effects and, by the time Poser 12 is released, Unity should support… “Camera Stacking, enabling users to layer the output of multiple cameras in rendered output.”
Watercolor Painting effect. The first picture seems a bit questionable, re: what you’re likely to get. As all the other demo pictures look very different.
Hand-painted skyboxes, inc. clouds:
Toon Clouds is a dynamic cloudscape generator. Though they’re not as nice as the hand-painted ones seen above.
Amplify Impostors seems likely to be useful here, for quickly duplicating content to fill backgrounds that have large views with skies. There’s also a free SVGimporter which brings in a vector shape as a tessellated mesh.
You can also find packs of other “quickstart” Unity files on Gumroad, although they appear to be just skeleton set-ups and to lack art assets.
Amplify Color seems the best option, enabling in-engine colour grading and saturation. Free.
Exporting big, hi-res, and nicely anti-aliased screenshots:
MadGoat SSAA & Resolution Scale. Because the aim here is not to make games or animations, but to get output for comics frames. A short endorsement of this by an architect is encouraging, re: getting clean hi-res output that’s then usable in graphics editors.
Visual novel engine:
And if you did want to make a game, Naninovel is quite capable. It’s for making a Japanese style ‘visual novel’, where the game elements are nearly all in the story choices. (Though note that the similar Ren’Py Visual Novel Engine standalone is free, and has a much larger user-base).
Having said that many Unity addons are expensive, the starter kit for ‘comics with Unity’ seems more reasonable. I’d start with the TypeA AnimeShader ($10), the Flat Kit ($40), Amplify Color (Free), and MadGoat SSAA & Resolution Scale ($16) for export. Total: $66. Though even then you’re probably not going to get a dramatically different look than you could get inside Poser and with a couple of filters applied to the renders. You’re not going to get realistic sketch pen-hatching or a sophisticated shadow-puppets/silhouette effect with light-leaks. What you might get that’s unavailable from Poser, if you want it, is a sort of pixellated Minecraft or low-poly look.
There you have it. These seem to be options for getting big comic-book frames from Unity in late Summer 2020, and mostly with a look that regular comics readers won’t cringe at.