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Last update: April 27, 2021

The ultimate reference photos workflow in a nutshell

Imagine that you have just decided what is going to be your next 3D project and you are thinking bout where to start. Well reference photos of course. You should always start with reference and you should keep them around through your whole project. Pinterest is a great tool to help you sort and organize your reference images and in this article, we will walk through how we can use it together with Kuadro and Downalbum to get good control over the reference we chose to use.

Pinterest is a kind of social media platform that is not very social at all. But it is a very good way to keep track of and sorting images that you find across the web or that images that other people have already pinned. Pinning is just a word that Pinterest use to say that an image has ben saved to a board. A board in turn is a folder that is ether public or private.

First off, creating an account. Go to pinterest.com and you will immediately be presented with a form to create an account. You can ether enter an email and password or login through an existing Facebook or google account. Personally, I always use the e-mail approach because if I ever have problems with one of my other social media accounts my account for the given web service, like Pinterest in this case will be a separate stand-alone account that I still will be able to access.

Create pinterest account

Once your info is entered you will have to confirm your email address, or not if you chose one of the other methods and then you will be ready to start. Pinterest will first ask you a little bit about what you like. Kind of like a wizard to walk through to get your account started and filled with some content to show on your front page. Once inside click on your name in the top bar.

Pinterest header bar

Here you can see that you have the option to create a board or a secret board. A secret board will only be accessible to you and no other people on Pinterest can see or use them. This is usually where I start but then I might turn a board into a regular shared board once it has begun to be populated.

Pin image brdige

Now we can start to collect our reference photos. We will start by staying within Pinterest and search for references that other people have already pinned and shared. For example, I have been interested in making a scene with a medieval or older bridge, so I start with those search terms. When you find an image that you like you just hover the mouse over it and click save. You will then be prompted to choose the board that you want to save this pin on. If you have multiple boards the board will then be bumped to the top of the list after a pin, so you don’t have to find it for every pin you make. Keep on trying search terms related to your subject and you will soon have a well populated board of images related to your subject.

A few tips on searching for reference photos

With the medieval bridge as an example, I might want to search for bricks to get good closeup images of bridges to add to the board. I might be inclined to use words like fence because most bridges have a fence or railing to hold on to. Keep narrowing down the search terms to individual pieces. You can also search for the materials that those pieces are made of. I might want a stone bridge with a rusty metal railing. Maybe I can find a good-looking balcony that can help me with that railing?

When your board is getting filled with enough reference photos. Maybe 50 pins or above depending on your project of course, you can click on your profile image / name in the top bar again and select your board to view it in all its glory.

Now if you want to pin images from another sources Pinterest has a great browser plugin. Go to this link(https://help.pinterest.com/en/articles/all-about-pinterest-browser-button#Web) and chose your browser to get the instructions on how to install the plugin. When it’s installed it may work a bit differently in different browser. For instance, in Chrome you get a save icon whenever you hover an image anywhere on the web. Click it and chose your board. Simple as that. You can also click the Pinterest icon in the browser header to get a listing of all the images on the current page to easier find and pin multiple images from the same site.

Now that is the basics of using Pinterest as a tool for organizing reference images onto boards. One of the downsides of Pinterest though is that you can’t rearrange the pins inside the board. They will be added in the order you pin them. To combat this, we will now investigate how we can download an entire board and then use a program like Kuadro or PureRef to view our reference in a customized organized way.

Download and view a board on your computer

The software that we will need to follow along is the following

Chrome you probably already got, Downalbum is just a button to click to add the extension next to our already added Pinterest extension. Kuadro in turn is just a download and start and it will run as a tray icon. No installation. We will assume that you have downloaded and installed all the above software.

Downalbum Icon
Downalbum output

To start off you use Chrome to browse to the board you want to download. Next you will use the DownAlbun by clicking on it’s icon. It will become colored if the site you are on is compatible. Chose “Normal” in the interface that comes up. Then click output after a few short seconds depending on how large your board is. Now you will be prompted with the pinned images in a different interface. At the top it says press ctrl+s… We better obey. You will get prompted to save an html file. Name it to something suitable or leave it. Wherever you create this file a subfolder will be created with the same name as the file with a “_files” added to it. Click the up arrow next to the newly downloaded file and chose to open in folder. The subfolder will be inside containing all the downloaded images. We will also have a file with the extension .download and one with extension .css. You can delete these files as well as the html file. The board is now downloaded.

Downalbum save image

Now open Kuadro. It will be run, and a tray icon will be added down by the clock. Click it add select “Add local image” Browse to the folder of the downloaded images and select them all. Hit open. They will be stacked on top of each other so start dragging the top ones around to view the ones below.

You are now ready to arrange the board on your desktop. Perhaps on a second monitor. I find this to be a good workflow to get your reference photos arranged well both online and locally on your hard drive as well as viewable in a nice predictable way.

Kuadro is a very nice software to display reference photos. Click the tray icon and chose about to learn more about how it can be used to resize, pan around and rotate the images as well as some other features. The shortcuts I use the most are listed here.

  • Click and drag to move
  • Hover corners of active image to resize its canvas
  • Mouse wheel to zoom
  • Middle mouse click and hold to pan if image is zoomed
  • H or V to flip the image, sometimes this feature gets stuck, zoom and move the image a bit usually resolves this.
  • G for greyscale
  • Hold T and drag with the left mouse to decrease or increase transparency of the image
  • Right click on image for menu
Kuadro logo
Kuadro menu
Written by: Erik Selin

Editor & Publisher

Erik Selin
3D artist, writer, and owner of artisticrender.com

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