Athena: creating a CG Greek goddess - Part 3: groom, look development, & post production


In the previous 2 chapters I talked about how I went from conceptualizing, to modeling and detailing by sculpting, and texturing. Now for the final chapter I will go over my process in grooming the hair, the look development of the scene, and finally rendering and post production. In this chapter I used Maya, XGen, VRay and Photoshop. As I continue to grow as an artist I will learn more and my skills will develop. This tutorial series was to show how a beginner like me went about creating her first CG human, I hope it helped you in some way!

athena metallic armour fierce warrior
Close up of the CG artwork “Athena” - Based on a photograph by Amanda Diaz.


For the groom I used XGen in Maya. I decided to break apart the geometry of where the hair would sit. Looking back, another way is to add the hair description to the entire object, and then use masks to isolate where the hair would sit, this is something I might try in the future. The difference between this project and my raccoon project was that I used the placing and shaping guides method for a more precise result. For the shading I used the VRayHairNext Mtl. This shader gave incredible results, and I followed VRay’s page as a guide.

eye upclose portrait athena
Close up of the grooming’s result. I was able to generate the effects of hair highlights with the shader itself.

Female Look Development

For the look development of the Female I used the alShader for skin. I also created a blend material where I separated the caruncle from the rest of the body using a mask. This gives you more control over the specific aspects of both. For the alShader I used the same diffuse map to create my SSS passes, depending on the pass I used an HSV node to create the correct adjustments. I based my method on this tutorial by Taj Nabhani where he explains his methods of shading skin.

skin differences diffuse map
Using the HSV node I adjusted my diffuse map to fit the different SSS properties in the shader.

Eyes Look Development

For the modeling and look development of the eyes I found a very helpful tutorial by Tom Newbury. He explains his methods and goes through the steps very thoroughly. Based on that, for my eyes I modeled them in Maya, and textured them in Mari. For the shader I basically had a blend material where I separated my cornea and my sclera, and used a circular ramp as the mask. I also had 2 other materials that were more straightforward for the iris and the pupil.

Objects Look Development

One thing I really like about Substance Painter is that as you’re texturing you can visually work on your look development as well. For all my other objects aside from the female the progress was pretty straightforward. You just have to make sure that when you’re exporting your maps you use the correct settings for your render engine, and you research on how to plug them in correctly for the best result. For example, in the past I’ve used Substance Painter for both Arnold, and VRay, and they are quite different in the way you plug in the maps.

Rendering and Post Production

I think the most important piece of advice I can give about rendering is that you should be constantly rendering during the process to make sure everything is looking right. It also helps estimate how long a full render is going to take you, and that’s very useful for time constraints. For the Post Production I used cryptomatte in Nuke to color correct selective pieces. Then, the rest of the post was done in Photoshop. I added a blurred image in the background to give more interest, and overall finish the piece.

Top tip 1 - SSS and Hair’s Render Time

Just a tip for anyone who doesn't already know, rendering time doubles or more when you add SSS and Hair into the mix. It’s something you definitely have to plan for and prepare for if you have deadlines. Your renders could be 2-3 hours or more per frame depending on your computer.

Top tip 2 -  Render Passes

Another thing that is really helpful for when you’re doing your Look Development is to have render passes set up to check specific aspects of your project. For example, if something looks off you can check out if the problem is in your bump map/ spec, etc.

render passes 3d sculpture zray
Only a few of the render passes I used throughout the process

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