How to create abstract shapes and skin textures in CINEMA 4D

Learn to create abstract shapes using CINEMA 4D and give them realistic textures to mimic those of human flesh. Plus useful tips in this one for lighting and capturing the perfect shot!

Tutorial assets

You can download a set of tutorial assets to follow along with this tutorial, including:
- Tutorial Textures (Cinema 4D R13 or newer)
- Light Texture.jpg


This short tutorial consists of 3 parts, which I will explain over 10 steps. The first step is to create and test the texture. Once that's done, we'll take a look at setting up the lights and finalizing the rendered file. When we reach the end of the tutorial, we'll play with Photoshop a little to bring life to the image.

As we go, I'll try to explain everything as deeply as I can, while also giving you the exact settings I used myself. The process is not difficult - if you are a beginner, you shouldn't bump into any problems along the way. So let's get started!

1. Get ready

The first step is to open up your application - in this case CINEMA 4D - and create a simple Sphere object. Once that's done, set a higher value to the segments. It is 24 by default, so let's double it! This will be useful when we come to the final rendering, as it will yield much nicer results. Now press C on your keyboard - our texture will only work in this editable format in the future.

2. Set up the lights

In this second step, we'll set up the lights with a few simple clicks provided by the program's toolset. I actually used different settings when creating the original version of this artwork, but we'll get pretty similar results doing it this way, too.

What we'll need:
- 2 Plane objects, which you can find next to the Sphere object
- a Sky object and a Light object
- a Background object - this will be used to create the background
- last but not least, a Camera object - if active, this will be our eyes when rendering

Let's place them according to the instructions in the image - the Sky and Background objects are unable to be moved. We also want to set the angle of our Camera object as I've shown below.

3. Give the lights some texture

Let's create 3 textures. Set them up as follows, and add them to the appropriate objects...

Sky Material:
- Set Color to be active only
- R: 156, G: 153, B: 152

Plane material:
- Set Luminance to be active only
- R: 252, G: 240, B: 223
- Strength: 187.2%
- Also, add a Gradient layer with the values: G. Color 1: White; G. Color 2: 183, 183, 183; G. Color 3: 54, 54, 54

Background Material:
- Set Color to be active only
- Create a Gradient layer here as well, and set the values to: G. Color 1: 231, 231, 231; G.Color 2: 213, 205, 195

4. Apply and tweak settings

After creating the textures, add them to the appropriate objects. For the background, set the UV Mapping option to Frontal. You can see this after clicking on the texture once you've added it to the background. You can find it in the bottom left-hand side menu, called 'Projection'.

Let's hide the Sky: click on the object with the left-mouse button and in the dropdown menu, choose CINEMA 4D Tags > Compositing, and set it to be invisible.

5. Create the skin texture

It's important to note that the texture uses an effect called Subsurface Scattering, which is special because it lets the light through. You can fine-tune this in many ways. I also encourage you to experiment with this, as you can achieve great results.

I won't type out all of the exact settings of this setup here, but you can refer to the image below for the basics. At the end of the tutorial, you will see how many layers make up our final texture!

6. Set up the render

This is a very important step in the process, as we'll specify the resolution, pixel density and everything else we need. Press Ctrl+B and we can set the following values in order:

- Width/Height: 2560 x 1440 - the resolution all depends on your needs so you can tweak this to your own tastes
-Make the resolution 300DPI, in case you want to print your artwork later. For screen-only use, 72DPI will be sufficient

- Format: TIFF/PSD layer
- Depth: 16-bit/channel
- Alpha channel should be Active

Now click on the Effect menu and add Ambient Occlusion and Global Illumination to the render. Global Illumination needs some fine-tuning, so tweak the settings as follows:

- General tab: IR-QMC Still Image
- Irradiance Cache
- Stochastic Samples: Custom Accuracy
- Record Density: Low (this can speed up rendering)
- At the top, set the Standard renderer to Physical, and in that, set Sampler to Adaptive

7. Render and save

Now we are ready with the setup, click Shift + R. The computer should start calculating and rendering the artwork. This can take a while, mostly depending on your system's specifications (on my machine, with a 4-core Intel i5 CPU, it took 20 minutes). When complete, click on File > Save and press OK. It's that easy!

8. Work your magic!

Now we have a TIFF file, which is essentially a lossless image file, it's time to open it up in Photoshop.
Go to the Channels (Window menu > Channels, if invisible) panel, click on the Alpha channel, and press Ctrl+J.

Now our render has been separated from the background, which allows us to edit the background and add some extra lights - which we'll do now.

For the next step, we'll need the attached light texture, which I rendered out previously in CINEMA 4D. Load it into Photoshop and change its color to something a little more orange. Press Ctrl + U and in the window, tick Colorize in the bottom-right corner and set the following values: 24, 48, 00. Set this layer's blending mode to Screen.

Create 3 more copies of this and position them so they touch the edges of our render. Now duplicate these 4 layers too, and position them behind the render (use Ctrl+J to duplicate).

9. The magic continues...
Now let's take our render and create a duplicate of it. Flip it vertically, as you can see in the image. Position it to the left side, and apply a Lens Blur from the Filter menu, with the following settings:

- More Accurate
- Radius, 21
- Blade Curvature, 23
- Rotation, 72
- Brightness, 0
- Threshold, 255
- Noise Amount, 4
- Distribution Uniform

Now duplicate this new layer, position it to the right side, and we can also rotate it a little bit, too.

10. The final stage

Create a Gradient Map adjustment layer and apply the following settings to it:

- Color 1: #290A59
- Color 2: #FF7C00

Set this layer's blending mode to Overlay and its Opacity to 49%. Now add a Levels adjustment layer with these settings: 0, 0.75, 255.

Create a new black layer and erase it so that it only remains visible at the edges of our image. It's important to keep this under the 2 adjustment layers. Its Opacity should be 55%.

Now click on the topmost layer and merge all layers into a new layer by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Shift+E. Go to the Filter menu, choose Sharpen, and select Smart Sharpen. Good values are as follows:

- Basic
- Default
- 30% and 1.6px, Gaussian Blur

And that's it, we're done! We could of course tweak it a bit more, but I'd leave it to your creativity.

Pro tip

If you have a less-powerful machine, let it render on its own - don't run any unnecessary applications while it's rendering. Don't forget to check your settings and always save whenever possible!

Related links
Get the latest update of CINEMA 4D
Check out László Magyar's website

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