DNA Graphics Created with PovChem


Welcome, those seeking graphics images of DNA! And to everyone else as well, my best wishes.

Blatant self-promotion: Please note that I do freelance custom molecular graphics work, so if you need a high-quality chemically-themed picture or animation, please visit my Custom Chemical Graphics page.

POSTERS! I've had numerous requests for posters of these images. Finally, I'm in the process of making these images available as posters for sale! Check it out! I apologize in advance for all the "buy a poster" links - but the more posters that you all buy, the more motivated I'll be to create new images... ;)

A new version of PovChem is available! A new graphic-interfaced version of the program I wrote and used to set up the molecules in this gallery is now available. Follow the link to see more about what PovChem can do.

You may also be interested in my new vrml2pov program that can convert VRML files created with chemical programs like Molscript and Ribbons into POV format for high-quality rendering.

Here's an index of the images in this gallery.

I've had quite a few queries by folks wanting high-quality pictures of DNA. So, I've decided to make this gallery as a way to satisfy that need and to demonstrate my PovChem program that combines molecular models and raytracing - POVRay - hence the name. See the end of this document for more on PovChem.

I hope you enjoy what I have here. Each picture below is a link to a 480x640 image, and as they were created on an SGI Indigo, they may require some gamma correction to look right on a PC or a Mac. I have included a brief annotation of each image, describing the scene - what I did and a little of why, as I try to explore the artistic aspects of the molecules. Caveat: I'm a chemist by profession, not an artist, so my definition of "art" may be a little loose for some of you...

The segment of DNA depicted in every image is the same: a C2-symmetric 12-bp-long B-form helix, with hydrogens removed from the riboses for clarity. The model was constructed with Macromodel, and the actual self-complementary sequence is:


NOTE: I don't wish to be a stickler, but these images are copyrighted. If you wish to use one for any purpose, you must send me mail asking my permission; then I will grant free use for personal, academic, and non-profit application as long as appropriate credit is given.

CPK with Stone

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A standard CPK model, colored by element, against a stone background. The flat base-pairs are stacked in the center of the strand, perpendicular to the view, and the backbone makes a right-handed spiral around the central, vertical axis. The major groove is in the front center of this image, and the minor groove wraps around the back and appears at the top and bottom of the model.
Ball and Stick

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This model has the same atomic positions and balls colored by element, but now the sticks convey other information: the backbones are red and blue, and the bases are purple (Adenine), green (Thymine), yellow (Guanine), and cyan (Cytosine).

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Okay, now that we all know the structure of DNA (right?), I can get a little more artistic. This is intended to be sort of an outdoorsy image, with each strand one color - brown and green for tree bark and leaves. Okay, so it's a little hokey... :) I'm just getting started.

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Now I'm starting to use POVRay's slightly more advanced features to go beyond just chemical information. This is DNA in a strong spotlight - I thought the contrast in brightness would be neat, making it look like something really on display.
Model on a Stand

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Now I'm taking the idea of a display one step further. This is intended to be a "real" model, using solid stones for atoms, supported by the central rod and the heavy stand base.
DNA Paperweight

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This was sort of an accident. I put the DNA into a solid glass dodecahedron, thinking of making one of those fancy object-embedded-in-glass paperweight thingies. But the dodecahedron is almost invisible, giving this weird (but interesting?) ghost-object with faceted, split up DNA.

Now you can also see this image animated! There are two versions: Paperweight.mpg (209k) is (obviously!) an MPEG, and Paperweight.mv (837k) is an SGI movie. Set your movie player on continuous loop for the nicest effect. Let me know if there are any problems with these, as I'm new to this whole animation gig.

Bottled Gene

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Some people build ships in bottles, but what about DNA? :) This is intended to be a piece on display in a museum or art gallery. The bottle and beveled shelf were created with Moray. The bottle is solid, not hollow, since I felt that hollow glass has too many surfaces and the reflections get a bit excessive.
Rock Climbing

This was originally intended to be a molecule in a sand dune, but obviously failed. Of course, it may have succeeded if it were intended to be a molecule in a cliff face...

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I started this image for a custom job requested by a molecular biology supply distributor. When he changed his mind about the nature of the picture he wanted, I continued developing the picture anyway, with the result shown here. It's supposed to be set in the late evening, near sunset.

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I have spent a huge amount of time setting up PovChem so that it's easy to replace atoms with any arbitrary object. This is the first test run, using my old favorite - Lego blocks! I know the dots don't all line up right... :) But I like the effect, anyway. Created using Stefan Maes's POV Lego library.

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This bears obvious similarity to the Lego picture, but hey! May as well exploit all the possibilities... :) Believe it or not, the idea for using dice as atoms came to me in a dream. I'm still working on getting the textures just right, but this is basically it. I created the dice objects and game board freehand, and if you want the object source, contact me.
Mapped DNA

This is a plain CPK model, but with a world map texture-mapped onto the surface. It was originally a demo for one of my commercial clients. They decided they wanted something a little different, but I liked this image enough to want to put it up here as well.
Jewelled DNA

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This is a DNA helix constructed out of diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and opals, and held together by gold and silver wire. The main goal here was to experiment with POV-Ray 3.5's new "photon" rendering, that creates the "sparkly" reflections off the gems onto the backdrop.

That's it for now. Keep watching for more pictures to show up as I create them! And remember, most of these images are (or soon will be) available as posters at zazzle.com. Check it out!



I have written a program I call PovChem, which is what I used to make all the actual DNA molecules in this gallery. This link is to a separate page that describes in more detail what PovChem can do.

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Another blatant promotion: software I'm peripherally involved with. Check out the latest in digital compression technology at:

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You are visitor number to the gallery since I opened it on 11/16/95. Please send me your comments and suggestions to the address below. Thanks, and come again! :)
This page and all its contents Copyright 1995-2004 by Paul Thiessen / paul@ChemicalGraphics.com. All rights reserved. Last updated January 06, 2004.