Master MODO portraits: Master skin, hair and fur

This time we take a look at the skin, hair and other materials needed for this 3D portrait

This time we take a look at the skin, hair and other materials needed for this 3D portrait

In this instalment, 3D Artist Bert Heynderickx - aka Alberto Ezzy - teaches techniques for creating believable skin, hair and fur in 3D female character portraits in MODO. Read on!

Part 1: Improve your geometry in MODO
Part 2: Create perfect image maps with MARI

In part 1, we began our look at the creation of a female portrait, 'My Kiwi Friend', in MODO. We then went on to discover how to create the various image maps needed to texture our female model, using MARI for the most part, with a little Photoshop as well.

In this instalment, we're going to import those previously made image maps into MODO's Shader Tree and take a look at the Hair and Fur settings so we can finalize the 3D portrait of 'My Kiwi Friend'. As with the previous parts, I am going to be working on this figure using an AMD FirePro™ W9000 for the workflow featured, which I personally find very responsive and a pleasure to work with when dealing with high-res character creation.


You can download a free trial of MODO to follow along with this tutorial.

Step 1: The difference between male and female skin

A few weeks ago, we took a look at the settings for male skin in MODO. We can't just copy those settings to the female skin though, as male and female skin have different properties. Male skin is generally about 25% thicker than females'. In addition to being thicker, a male's skin texture is a bit tougher. So because of these differences, we should lower the Sub Surface Scattering (SSS) distance in MODO's Skin Material's settings, especially the Lower Dermal Scattering settings. After a few tests, I've decided to set the amount to 30%, and the distance to 2.5mm.

There is no ‘universal skin setting'. Every project and gender needs some Skin Material tweaking!

There is no ‘universal skin setting'. Every project and gender needs some Skin Material tweaking!

Step 2: The body's skin material

When it comes to importing all the different face skin image maps we created in the previous part of this tutorial into MODO, I'd like to direct you to The Fisherman's tutorial - part 3, where this is covered extensively.

The image maps for the body are imported in exactly the same way for this female, except for the Spec Amount map, which I don't use for the body here. Instead the overall Specular Amount is set to 2% with a Fresnel of 30% in the Skin Material settings (see screenshot).

I'm using my favorite Render Layout again: two Preview Renderers for the ultimate visual feedback (please refer to my Pro Tip at the end of this tutorial).

I don't create a map for the body's specular amount, as the result is beautiful enough without one!

I don't create a map for the body's specular amount, as the result is beautiful enough without one!

Step 3: Draw curves from the skullcap for the hair

Let's address the hair now. MODO comes with quite a few nice fur/hair presets that can be a great starting point for further exploration. My first approach was trying to set up a longer hairstyle from scratch with Guides.

Guides are drawn curves (geometry) that can be used to style the fur, controlling length and direction among other attributes. With the Curve tool, I draw some curves, starting on the skullcap and flowing down along the face.

These curves will act as guides for the fur material...

These curves will act as guides for the fur material...

Step 4: Long or short hair?

There are different Guide settings in the Fur Material (which we'll discuss in the next step). While I was checking the results of each of these settings, I came across the Direction + Length setting, and that immediately gave 'My Kiwi Friend' a nice short and curly hairstyle, which I really felt was right for her.

The curves I had drawn for the initial longer hairstyle still served as guides, controlling overall variations in direction and length in a more subtle way.

Here the Guide Options of the Fur material is set to ‘

Here the Guide Options of the Fur material is set to ‘

Here the Guide Options of the Fur Material are set to Direction + Length. This makes a big difference!

Here the Guide Options of the Fur Material are set to Direction + Length. This makes a big difference!

Step 5: Hair and fur settings

Applying Fur to a surface begins with adding a Fur Material item to the to the target surface. There are a number of options available in the Properties panel that are broken into multiple sub-tabs: the Fur Material, where you specify the settings for the fibers' density, size and shape, as well as how they render; the second tab is the Fur Guides controls, where you adjust the fibers themselves - if they are curly or straight, wavy or limp; and finally the third tab, Fur Kink, is where the Frizz and Kink values are defined.

There are also options to control your fur with guides, which is the approach that I've chosen. An important thing is to select Remove Base Surface. This makes the surface from where the fur grows - the skullcap in this case - invisible, which leaves me with only the rendered hair, which is exactly what I want. Here are the settings:

Don't be intimidated by the Fur settings. Like with everything else in MODO, they are intuitive and well documented!

Don't be intimidated by the Fur settings. Like with everything else in MODO, they are intuitive and well documented!

Step 6: Defining the hair material

The Hair Material is designed to replace the default shading calculations of the standard Material item when applied to fur. Hair is anisotropic, meaning its shading is directionally dependent and requires a different type of shading model to look correct.

Hair has a unique look that is difficult to simulate without a dedicated hair shader. So I add a Hair Material using the Add Layer function: Add Layer > Custom Materials > Hair Material. For the best results, the placement of the layer is important; the Hair Shader itself must reside in the same Group Mask as the Fur Material item it is shading.

There are 4 colors that need to be set. You can see the ones I have chosen in the screenshot. The next step is to apply the Density Map that we painted in MARI, and set its Effect to Fur Density

Hair has a unique look that needs a dedicated hair shader

Hair has a unique look that needs a dedicated hair shader

Step 7: Render Frame Passes for the hair

For the hair I use 3 Frame Passes. It depends on the kind of scene you have, and your artistic requirements, but most of the time this setting just gives better-looking hair. You can adjust this setting by choosing Render in the Shader Tree and then go to Frame > Properties > Render.

The Frame Passes option controls how many times a single frame is rendered. The results of each pass are evenly blended to make up the final frame. The random numbers used to generate fur are varied for each pass, so the resulting blended fur will look softer. Let's take a look at the difference between 1 frame pass and 3:

Extra frame passes are well worth the extra render time!

Extra frame passes are well worth the extra render time!

Step 8: Bone material for carvings

When you've made a material that you really like, it's always a good idea to save it as a Preset. But when you have to make one from scratch, it's also a good idea to start with a MODO Preset.

Applying material Presets couldn't be easier. You can select a number of polygons and either LMB-click-and-drag onto the selection, or just double-click the material Preset itself, and the polygons will be tagged with the appropriate surface name and applied in the Shader Tree.

If you've already tagged all your surfaces using the M keyboard shortcut, that's even better; you can just drag and drop any of the material Presets onto the surface and the appropriate material will be updated in the Shader Tree. Presets can also be dragged and dropped directly onto group items in the Shader Tree itself.

Here I started with an ‘Old Bone' preset that I found on the Share section ofThe Foundry's Community website (please refer to my Pro Tip at the end of this tutorial). I changed some Transparency and SSS settings to create a bone carving material. I also added a Gradient to drive the SS color based on the Incidence Angle. Finally, I added an Occlusion layer, which makes the concave and convex parts a little darker.

Presets are great for just examining, or for further exploration...

Presets are great for just examining, or for further exploration...

Step 9: The choker (necklace) material

The material for the choker started with the settings for a suede fabric. I then added several gradients, set to different effects, to create a custom fabric look. Something soft, shiny, supple, leathery. Once again, MODO's Preview Renderer gives me instant visual feedback of the changes I make in the Shader Tree!

When working with fabrics and organic materials, I use gradients extensively

When working with fabrics and organic materials, I use gradients extensively

Step 10: Cloth material

The maps for the cloth are applied with a UV Map Projection Type (see screenshot). The piece of cloth captured in my tileable image map is way too small to cover the whole cloth model, so I have to increase the number of Horizontal and Vertical Wraps. The amount of wraps that I need is a snap to check with the Preview Renderer. 5 looked good to me!

Changing how many times a UV-mapped image is repeated is done by adjusting the Wrap settings

Changing how many times a UV-mapped image is repeated is done by adjusting the Wrap settings

Because I want the fabric material of the cloth to be very dull, it starts out with a 60% Diffuse Amount and a Diffuse Roughness of 33%. The Diffuse Roughness setting aims to simulate a microscopic roughness effect by modifying the standard shading model, producing a more believable matte surface. Since Diffuse Roughness simulates a lack of Specularity, it is best applied when the Specular Amount is 0%.

If you want to create very matte or dull materials, the Diffuse Roughness setting is a must.

If you want to create very matte or dull materials, the Diffuse Roughness setting is a must.

Pro Tip: How to preview specific shading input

If you want to isolate one layer's effect in the Shader Tree and see the contribution of /only/ that effect, you can do so by selecting the appropriate effect in the Preview Renderer. Just click on the Effect button, select Shading Effects, and choose the one you want to see isolated.

The Effects category button allows users the ability to select from a wide variety of effects for easily previewing specific shading input, which is particularly useful when troubleshooting the Shader Tree

The Effects category button allows users the ability to select from a wide variety of effects for easily previewing specific shading input, which is particularly useful when troubleshooting the Shader Tree

Pro Tip: Sharing is caring!

The Foundry Community is a wonderful place where everyone can share their MODO assets, such as materials, meshes, environments and so on. Head to community.thefoundry.co.uk/asset and get exploring!

Related links:

Download a free trial of MODO
Download a free trial of MARI
Discover more free tutorials for MODO from The Foundry
Find out more about the AMD FirePro™ W9000
See Part 1 of the My Kiwi Friend tutorial series: Improve your geometry in MODO
See Part 2 of the My Kiwi Friend tutorial series: Create perfect image maps with MARI
See the full tutorial series for The Fisherman 3D character portrait