Envisioning epic characters
Discover how Anders Ehrenborg perfected the exceptional photo-realistic textures on his Bear King model
If your aim is realism, it's important to start off with high quality photos. I got mine from www.3d.sk for this project. I decided to use two sets of photos of different men and combine them into one texture to get the look I was after. One was used for the skin texture and the other for beard and brows.
I unwrapped both faces in Photoshop, starting with the front-view and working my way around the head. Using layer masks in Photoshop to mask out unwanted parts of the photos makes it easy to go back and forth.
Once the photos were unwrapped, I applied it to the 3D model. If both the texture and UVs are correctly unwrapped they'll usually match up pretty well. All that was needed in this case was a slight tweak to the UV borders, relaxing the UVs and then spending 15 minutes tweaking the UVs with Soft Selection to get the texture perfectly aligned to the model. I used to tweak the texture to match the UVs, but personally find this other technique faster and cleaner.
Next up, I removed shadows and highlights. A great start to solving this problem is by using Image > Adjustments > Shadows/Highlights in Photoshop. Play with the parameters as they will vary between projects. This serves as a good start, but won't solve all your problems. To get rid of the remaining highlights I add a soft-light layer at the top of the stack. Pick a skin-tone color and paint over the small highlights. Play with colors and opacity and don't be afraid to create more than one layer to get rid of the highlights.
I finally started to added dirt, spots and war-paint, with stronger color variations, using a combination of photos
Once the color map was finished I could start creating textures for Bump, Glossiness, Reflection, and Subsurface Scattering. All of these were created based on the color map.
To aid in the creating of the SSS map, I baked an Occlusion map of the head and then inverted it.
This gave me a black and white image with the thin parts of the model white and vice versa. I combined this with a gray version of the color map and then further darkened areas covered by the war-paint, beard, brows and hair to reduce the SSS effect.
I used V-Ray's VRayFastSSS2 material for the skin shader. It's fast and easy to setup with enough parameters to get the result I was after. The setting I used for the Bear King can be seen here.
Beard and hair
It's important to break up the hair. I did so using several Hair Farm modifiers to clump it, vary its length, density, direction, and thickness. This was then rendered using V-Ray's new VRayHairFarmMod and VRayHair material which makes it possible to render Hair Farm with V-Ray lights and Global Illumination.
Hair tends to take its time to render. I recommend using the Adaptive DMC Image Sampler for test renders and Adaptive Subdivision Image Sampler for thefinal render.
The lighting setup for this scene was pretty simple. One strong area light served as the key light, and a HDRI map served for GI and reflections. In the more advanced lighting setups, I'd recommend isolating lights one by one before rendering everything together. It makes rendering faster and gives you a better idea of what the light is affecting.
Depth of Field (DOF)
The first step is to render out a ZDepth image. In 3ds Max, I used the Tape Helper (Create > Helpers > Tape). I snapped it to my camera and measured the distance between the closest and furthest point of the model from the camera, and then added those numbers to the ZDepth Render Element parameters.
I copied the ZDepth image into a new Channel (not layer) in Photoshop and renamed it DOF.
I then flattened my image and headed over to Filter > Blur > Lens Blur, where I set the depth map source to use my DOF channel. With Preview checked, I started playing with the parameters.
This is a quick, easy and – to me – pretty accurate way of faking DOF which would otherwise have taken a long time