It's postwork of different render passes in photoshop mostly : I did several renders and passes in Blender : a freestyle render for the lines, and several passes of a 'regular' cycles render : I used the flat color pass, the ambiant occlusion pass, the shadows and lights passes and I mixed everything in photoshop, using different options to blend the layers together. It's mostly experiment really until I come up with something I like.
I also rendered the hair separately to be able to tweak them of their own.
Hope this answers your question. Feel free to ask more if you need.
Well...that's the thing I havebt really used any to render poses or scenes I've created in xnalara, but now I realize maybe I should try to do it in my 3DS max. I've only used 3Ds to extract models from Mass Effect so far.
I'm a total noob. Sorry! But I'm like a sponge wanting to just suck up all the info and tips and tricks I can learn from other artists.
I never really used 3dsmax except for testing nhaneh's script to import your custom Shepard, but for sure you can do a lot more things in there than xnalara. It's also far more complicated.
You can also take a look at Blender. It's not as complicated as most people might think, and for a beginner who doesn't know any 3D package, it won't be more complicated to understand than 3dsmax.
Have you taken a look at brinx-II tutorials here at deviantart? he's using Zbrush but the principle will be the same for any other 3d package and its step by step starts with xnalara. So if you don't know him yet, that could be a good starting point.