Making Of 'Valentyne'
I created Valentyn for the Blending Life 2 contest. The objective was to create a realistic-looking human using Blender. I always wanted to do a realistic portrait, so I grabbed the chance and started working on Valentyn.
I used reference photos from 3dsk to do this model. Since I had a very good reference, I modeled it poly by poly starting with a simple plane and extruding the edges as I went along. It's a technique that gives me a lot of control over the topology and where I place the edge loops. In this phase I focused on getting the loops right and making sure that those loops followed the form nicely. I made sure I got the proportions and the shapes right since I was going for a similarity (Fig.01).
The final mesh wireframe looked like this (Fig.02).
For the eye I used two objects: one for the eye and the other for the wet layer that is above it. I felt that this way I could achieve a more realistic result while keeping the materials simple (Fig.03).
I wanted to use the Blender sculpting tools to break the "perfection" of the poly modeling and to give it a more natural look. I used Blender Sculpt mode to refine the forms/medium level details (the ear, for example). I left the high frequency detail to the bump map; this way I could use the diffuse map as a base and the details in the bump map would match those of the diffuse map (Fig.04).
I used texture projection to get the base of the diffuse texture. I projected front and side views to multiple UV channels and then baked the projected photo to the final UVs. I baked AO too to help with the texturing.
I did hue and value corrections on the projections to match them before I started mixing them. Then I reduced the shadows and the specular in the diffuse texture (I used a map for the specular).
The tools I used were a Photoshop paintbrush and the Clone tool to fill in the blanks and clean some imperfections of the projections. For the bump and specular map I used a grayscale version of the diffuse that I tweaked by using tools like the High Pass filter and adjustment curves (Fig.05).
In the skin material I used the three maps (diffuse, specular and bump). I spent some time tweaking the SSS settings to get a realistic result. The trick here is to keep it subtle; if the effect is to strong you'll get a wax sculpture look instead of flesh and skin (Fig.06).
I did the hair using the Blender hair system .For the eyebrows and the chin hair I used the face mesh as an emitter and painted vertex groups to give me the rough hair placement. Then I set the hair to editable and used the particle mode to comb it and refine the look (Fig.07).
I created a separate mesh to act as an emitter for the eyelashes. This way their placement was a bit more precise. I then combed them again to archive that eyelash curvature (Fig.08).
For the lighting I searched for inspiration in classical paintings and in portrait photography. Light can invoke some very different moods and really bring the portrait together. I advise you to spend some time here and explore different light setups. It's also very useful to tweak the skin material so that it responds well to the different light setups.
Here are the lighting tests I did (Fig.09).
I ended up using a yellow/blue light setup. The Area light on the left is the blue rim. The Directional on the right is the main light source, a slightly yellow light. On the front is a near white Fill light (Fig.10).
I liked this setup because it gives a nice color contrast without looking to artificial and since the main lights are off to the sides it helps to display the forms of the model. A front light and a less contrasting setup would make the model look flat.
I used several render passes (AO, Reflection, Specular, ID (to mask the eyes) and Beauty) for flexibility and a lower render time; this way I could easily adjust the mixing values and settings with the composite nodes. I saved the AO and Reflection passes as separate files to keep the render times low (and because I was doing a lot of tweak/render/tweak/render this really helped a lot!).
I did a slight color adjustment in the end with the new Blender color balance node to slightly shift the middle tones and harmonize the colors. Here is the final node setup (Fig.11).
Here is an alternative view of the model (Fig.12).
And that's it (Fig.13)! I hope you can take something of value from this overview. It was a great experience for me to do Valentyn and I hope you liked it!