Making Of 'Mama'

I'm going to explain to you how I created my latest personal artwork called "Mama". I did it for the 50th birthday of my mum, which was several weeks ago. Obviously all the things I did can be done in many different ways. The techniques that i have used in this occasion were chosen depending on the circumstances such as the timeline.

Well I'm going to begin telling you I used 3dsmax8, Zbrush and Photoshop, and was rendered using 3dsmax's Mental Ray. Why? Because it has an easy and fast Sub-surface Scattering simulation, which as you probably know also includes a variation that lets you make realistic skin called "SSS Fast Skin".


The head is probably the thing that took the most time to model, although Zbrush, apart from making the job better, it makes it faster. The point was giving the model her characteristic charm, which unfortunately you don't know. The model has 6 subdivisions, apart from the base mesh. To speed up rendering, I just exported the 3rd subdivision (Level 4) inside max, and the rest of the detail worked damn good with a normal map!

The eyebrow was modeled separately

0 = Base model geometry. It's completely flat.
1 = I apply the shell modifier to add depth
2 = Symmetry to X axis
3 = Symmetry to Y Axis
4 = Planar UVW Map
5 = FFD Box modifier of 8x8x2 points (FFDBox=lattice in maya)
6 = I deform the cage of the FFD Box until adapting it perfectly to the shape of the sofa (the sofa
is kinda deformed by the weight of her body, so it's not like bending it)
7 = Turbosmooth modifier, 2 iterations
8 = Noise, small size
9 = Noise, big size
10 = Displacement set with a fabric image & Final look. (It's Difficult to see the diferent with
this image size though)

The book process was quite simple. I just did 2 kinds of Sheets.

First of all, we have the "Sheet group" which is a piece of geometry to simulate the pages that, due to whatever reason, stay together when you open a book. I just added a simple displacement map aligned across the width of the geometry. The key in making it believable was changing the width in each block, so it looked more random. Changing the shape of each group was also useful. I used FFDBox 4x4x2 for that.

Secondly I did the individual sheets, which were placed mostly in the center of the middle opening, where she's supposed to have the thumb finger. I also used FFDBox for giving each one the appropriate shape.

Notice in the image that each kind of sheet has a slightly different color, so you get an idea.


The lighting is pretty basic. I tried to simulate the lighting of my living room. I started not using GI or final gather, just to make quicker renders. Then the setup began to work quite good and I ended up using it, so no GI.

All lights are photometric area lights. I think the falloff can't be disabled in this kind of lights, so I added the "Light Infinite (base)" shader to the Mental Ray properties for them. Here is the general setup for the lights.

And Here's how the lighting looks like with just bump maps.


All textures are pretty much photos I have taken, and they look clean so there is not much explaining for that. I prefer to talk about the texturing on the head. Unfortunately I did this picture not thinking of doing a tutorial, but more about speed, so I didn't spend time UV mapping the head, and just used AUV Tiles from Zbrush. Any way I'll talk a bit about the process.

Textures of the head was done in Zbrush, as they could be painted in 3D. I thought Kris Costa's technique ( would work pretty good, and it did. So I just began to search for photos and extracting different skin patterns.

These were the ones I used. The black&white; ones were used as alphas. When using them, some I tweaked the levels to stress the detail a little bit. For example, the 6th and 8th are the same, but used differently

Apart from these patterns, I also used Zbrush internal alphas and painted a lot!


All materials are standard and Raytrace materials from 3DSmax. Not a big deal. The chrome materials, such as the necklace, were just a raytrace material with reflection to about 75%. The trick is in placing a sphere or a different shape next to the key/backlights, and make them 100% self illuminated and about 5 times more reflective, so materials reflect them much more.

You can do that by adding an output map to the color map:

The eye consisted in 2 parts, the cornea and the inside of it. The 1st one is a raytrace material, 100% transparent, with a procedural bump mapping on it and some reflection (like 10%)

The 2nd one was a simple standard material with the color, bump, and a really subtle specular. As you can see they not reflect the environment very much, but those Reflective objects are pretty intense!

The result

To improve the look of the eye, you can use SSS too.

The skin material:

Note: Thumbnails just are to give you an approximate notion of the color and intensity of each image.

Note: I don't put thumbnails for the specular as they wouldn't make sense, because levels were tweaked a lot inside Max. I hope you don't care, as it's a pretty easy task

These SSS settings won't always work in your case. This is because of the scale. You have to adapt it to your scene scale :) Mine was in real scale and units are in mm, so you can figure out the scale..

Coat material

The coat has 2 material IDs, but SSS shader isn't really compatible with Multi/sub-object right now, so here's a trick I used to separate the 2 materials of the coat without breaking the model. I found it in cgtalk 3dsmax forums.

In my case I just wanted a different bump mapping for each one of my 2 IDs. Instead of making 2 SSS

Fast Shaders, which won't work, you create just one. Then you have to do the steps below to end up with your multi/sub-object material, which you configure as if you were creating a standard basic material, but just the bump maps will be taken into account for the final SSS shader.


Hair was Hair&Fur; from 3dsmax. One thing I found when in the "style hair" dialog, was to press Q twice to turn to the select mode, which is useful to work just in small portions of hair.

The color texture is dark brown for the back of the head and the sides, and gets dotted with orange variations as it gets near the hair streaks at the top


I rendered the scene in 3 layers. The book, she, and the background. The reason for this is because the render was crashing all time with the entire scene at once.

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