Using 3D reference software tools for Art and Illustration

This article lists some 3D software for helping with reference for lighting and form studies.

As I mentioned in my previous article, I’ve started to learn the basics of 3D modelling with Blender as a tool to help me concept my personal story project: Tale of Stone. The learning curve is pretty steep though. I’d like to get to the drawing stage a lot sooner, so I’ve been looking into more short term solutions as well. I’ve written a brief review of a software called LiSSA here, and listed other tools at the end of this article.

I’ve recently had the opportunity to try out a new software called LiSSA. LiSSA is an easy to use light source reference tool for crafters who colour in characters for cards, (but may have some uses for Illustrators as well). You can find out more about LiSSA at

LiSSA was developed by husband and wife team Tim and Kat Waskett.

I found out about it when browsing the tools section on and I mentioned it in one of my articles. To let you know, the developers of LiSSA kindly let me try LiSSA out after finding that article in return for my feedback. I gave my feedback to them by email and haven’t been asked to write this article, but I thought it might be useful information and needed to do some writing.

I like all the features LiSSA has so far. It’s a useful tool for helping with light and shadows on human, object and animal models in a variety of different poses. There are more planned updates to the software- the unicorn is the first animal model so far. I did a picture of the unicorn in a simple cartoon style to show an example use.

Unicorn sitting down: Christine Garner

The two human models are in a stylized Manga style and have some basic poses suited for craft card making, but are still useful to study basic light and shadow on characters.
I thought the UI (user interface) was friendly and easy to use and I love that it can be used on desktop PCs (Windows and Mac). I haven’t yet got a tablet that can run these sort of apps (My mum let me use her 4 year old iPad for my Instagram). The developer of the software was friendly and open to my suggestions for the software and is working on more models, improved features and poses.

Research Time

While I was testing LiSSA out I also took some time to research similar 3D pose reference tools. The ones I know about so far are listed here:

Pose Maniacs: (free online, but uses Flash)
 • Magic Poser
 • Anatomy 360
 • Handy Art Tool
 • Simple Model Poser
 • Construction Study
 • Design Doll
 • Portrait Studio
 • Skelly

I’m sure they all have pros and cons, you can decide for yourselves. I can’t try some of them out yet because some are only on mobile and tablet 📴or are too graphics intensive for my computer 💻(I need an upgrade), but I hope that’s useful for someone. I have found Simple Model Poser and Construction Study useful though. In the mean time I will keep learning Blender and using my Yoga Barbie doll and a lamp as well.

Yoga Barbie 3D pose reference tool

Thank you for reading. If you have found this article useful or interesting please share it. I also accept Buy Me a Coffee and Ko-Fi donations ☕️.