A portrait of Pamela Spriggs

The amazing Ian Spriggs shares his Maya workflow for creating his family portraits...

Ian Spriggs takes you through how he creates his hyper-realistic family portraits in Maya workflow for creating his family portraits.

Step 01: The model

Starting the model was quite a challenge. I started out in Maya with a rigged character I use as a base mesh, which I posed and added some low-res geometry to for the clothes. At this stage I focused on proportions and trying to create a good composition in my mind.

I always use photo references for my portraits. I like to use Mudbox for the sculpting stage as I like the camera tools; matching the focus length of the camera to that of the photo reference really helps when trying to match the likeness. I try to work on a piece as a whole and add details throughout rather than focusing too much on the small details.

The model

The model

Step 02: The scarf

The scarf in this portrait was very time-consuming. I tried using stencils and sculpted details for the weaving but didn't get the results I wanted, so I decided to model it all instead. I created a tileable fabric pattern which I could duplicate to any size I needed, then I made two versions of the scarf: 1) draped around the neck and 2) a flat plane.

I created a Blend Shape between the draped version and the flat scarf, and then wrapped the fabric pattern to the flat scarf. Turning on the Blend Shape then moved the fabric pattern into the position of the draped scarf. It took some trial and error to get it looking right. After this I used geometry to create some larger threads and randomly placed them all over, then added some hair for the finer threads.

The chair was created with tileable geometry too, but for this I used the Maya deformers to bend it into shape.

The scarf

The scarf

Step 03: Texture maps

For texturing the face, I used photos I'd taken beforehand; I usually take 360-degree photos of my subjects, with no direct light and no hard shadows. I projected these photos onto the model in Mudbox, then hand-painted out any lines, hot spots, and shadows. Working with flat lighting is a nice feature in Mudbox which makes painting more accurate; you can see what the texture map is doing without the distractions of the shaders.

For the clothes, I tried to find tileable textures and just hand-painted the details and worn spots. I almost always add a dirt pass to all my textures, when textures are too flat it will always look generated rather than having a little life to it.

Texture maps

Texture maps

Step 04: The hair

I created the hair by making polygon planes to match the photo reference. I converted the planes to NURBS curves, then added the nHair and a V-Ray hair material. Hair looks most real when there's a randomness to it, so I try to have parts where hair clumps together and also single random hairs varied throughout. I tried to have a little color variation throughout, as it's important to not let the hair look flat. For this piece I also used hair for the eyelashes, scarf, collar, and the cuffs.

The hair

The hair

Step 05: Lighting

The inspiration for my lighting comes from the masters such as Rembrandt and Vermeer. In this piece I wanted the light to show that my subject actually takes up a real space – that she is a part of the background. By keeping the lighting simple, with the addition of a couple of details in the background, you can tell she is at home and can even imagine what the rest of the house could look like.

I usually always have a key light, a fill light, a rim light, and a dome light. I tried to create a good sense of contrast in this piece, the light on the wall behind her allows her silhouette to pop out more, and your eyes are drawn more towards her face, in comparison to her body having less contrast.

Lighting

Lighting

Step 06: Rendering

I go through so many tests when it comes to rendering. It's here that you can see what all your work adds up to. At this point I went back to the original model and changed the pose, as I found that the composition didn't look right. I even did a second pass on all the textures and changed the settings on all the shaders. It was the most challenging portrait I have done so far as I really wanted to create her character: I wanted to show her proud and strong, yet gentle and happy. So hopefully the portrait reflects how amazing of a mother she is.

Rendering

Rendering

 The final model

The final model

Related links

To see more of Ian's work check out his website
Learn more by grabbing a copy of Beginner's Guide to Character Creation in Maya
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