Painting with 3D Renders in Howler 2024

There have been a lot of developments with Howler 2024 recently but one of the coolest is the ability to render geometry and use it for making animated brushes. It supports .obj files.

Howler is a unique program for digital painting, animation and VFX, it has many interesting features that I haven’t seen in other digital art software, painting using 3D renders is one of them.

Here are some notes on how to use the feature.

Disclaimer: I don’t really use this program much for 3D features but I thought I would document this for anyone who does.

How to Render Geometry in Howler

Open a new document. From the top menu bar choose Filter > Render > Render geometry.

pd howler render geometry
filter > render > render geometry

This will open a window where you can load some example 3D objects included with the program or navigate to your own 3D models you have made or downloaded. For this example I loaded my latest 3D squirrel mascot by double clicking on the .obj file for it.

pd howler render geometry 2
render geometry window

You can rotate the model with the left mouse button if you are in rotate mode, move it around in pan mode. If you use the middle mouse button in rotate mode it will move the model around. The mouse scroll zooms the model in and out controlling the size of it in the window. Pressing OK renders the model into your canvas or you can press cancel to leave it blank.

The lighting can be changed by choosing different colours for the 2 lights and the ambient colour and by using the sun rotation tool. There are also environment maps you can change in the dropdown to the right of the render mode dropdown. The cog icon opens additional settings you can tweak.

You can make the 3D object views into animated brush stamps by clicking the make brush button. This will then show an Add to brush button where if you rotate the model and press it it will add it as another frame in your animated brush.

pd howler render geometry 3
render geometry window adding brush frames

If you loaded different views of the model into a brush you can then use the stamp mode to make a lovely picture. The frames can be seen in the store brush window with the show filmstrip option enabled. Set the brush to stamp mode by clicking on the three diagonal dots in the context menu for the brush tool and set the size of your stamp by changing the size slider.

pd howler render geometry 4
loads of squirrels

Of course you don’t have to use stamp mode you can create a brush any way you like. Howler is very flexible in this regard. Just go to the brush settings and have an experiment session. 3D renders are basically RGBA brushes so you could change the brush to tint them with your selected colour if you wanted and use them in a painting.

Perhaps you could have 3D rock models, trees and kit bashing elements to compose concept art for example. Perhaps it would be fun for digital crafting or to make fast renders for other uses like painting over 3D block outs or for turn-around Ilustrations.

Notes on using 3D models in Howler

I had to make sure my 3D model would render properly in Howler so here are some settings I used with 3DCoat’s export and Blender’s export.

Depending on the software you use for 3D models you may have to see what works best yourself. I’ve imported objects I created with Curvy 3D into Howler before with no issues but have had issues with models I textured with 3DCoat so I’ll go over what I did to make them render in Howler as they should.

From 3DCoat I exported my object and textures with the Pbr (metalness) preset. I changed the image format from .tga to .jpg.

3dcoat export setting for blender

I imported the .obj file into Blender and had to change the normal map setting to use strength value 1 and non-color (3D Coat does not seem to set this properly in exported models). I checked that the texture for the roughness was connected to the roughness node and set to non-color.

blender object setup screen

Then I made sure my object was selected and exported it out to a new .obj file. Selected only should be checked and make sure PBR extensions is checked and path mode is Copy.

Thanks for reading.

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