Q&A | Realistic skin shading

Submitted by Martin Dona ldson, via th

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”How do you create a believable skin shader in Cinema 4D?”
This issue’s question is tackled by Adam Watkins, the Director of Computer Graphic Arts at the University of the Incarnate Word (www.cgauiw.com) in San Antonio, Texas system currently allows for Fusion and other inner-material layering techniques, being able to layer Luminance channels via two materials provides much a quicker way to refine the effect. The second feature is subsurface scattering (SSS). Subsurface scattering is the phenomenon in the real world where light is able to penetrate a surface and scatter beneath it. This provides an inner glow to such diverse materials as marble, milk and skin. Although there are some limitations to C4D’s SSS implementation (it doesn’t work with global illumination, for example), it’s still a pretty snazzy tool to use and gives skin a visual volume and depth. Because you pay a rendering price for activating SSS, however, you may choose to go without (we will also look at ways to do this); but if you have the processing power, the results are worth it. Flat skin is a problem with most 3D applications and a challenge for animators who have moved beyond the got-the-shape-andcolour-right stage. Even a lot of high-end 3D produced for film has this base-heavy look. Effective channel manipulation and material layering can bring skin tones to life, and make your renders appear to have more depth. For the illustration above, we’ve applied the technique to a simplified, cartoon-style model. This is not supplied on the CD, you should substitute your own.

FOR Cinema 4D DIFFICULTY Intermediate TIME TAKEN One hour ON THE CD • Full-size screenshots • Completed skin shader • Final animations • QTVR of finished scene ALSO REQUIRED N/A

with most materials built into Cinema 4D is that they act as opaque surfaces that provide highlights that are not based upon reflection, but on the often fake-looking Specular channel. The results – as can be seen in left-hand image above – have a ‘dead’ look to them. True, the various parts of the face have good surface colour (the lips are coloured differently to the cheeks, for example) and the lighting helps to define the form. But the result still looks as if the colour was spray painted on, or as if the model has too much makeup on, obliterating the glow that makes skin look alive. There are two main features of Cinema 4D that will enable you to create good skin materials. The first is its capacity to layer materials effectively. The plan here is to work with multiple Luminance channels for a single surface. Although C4D’s materials


etting skin to look right is tricky. It might seem as though it should be an easy task – it’s just a bit of orange, tan, olive or brown together with some good lighting, right? Well, not quite. The problem

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TDW81.qa_lead 072

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02 Establish several rings of fill lights (illustrated here with white circles). You can use alternate lighting schemes that match your scene as well. the Luminance channel of Skin Base will use the SSS capabilities. 08 Back in the Skin Highlight material. 05 A good bump map for the face is important and will add visual interest to the SSS. but you might try the UV Unwrap in the demo version of modo. and although this is about constructing materials.Realistic skin shading | Q&A STAGE ONE | Scene set-up Import your head model. This ensures both materials share the same bump. go to the Luminance channel and click on the Texture triangle button. You could also do this with global illumination but with slower rendering results. Select Skin Highlight in the Material Manager. 03 STAGE TWO | Basic material set-up Laying out well-spaced UVs can be tricky. the more UVs you will need to fight with later. Choose Sketch > Cel from the drop-down menu. but it is absolutely necessary to create clean textures that do not stretch or pinch across the surface. This will be the hottest light source. Do not worry about painting in highlights. 07 Open the Material Editor for Skin Base. Later. we are looking at the bottom of the neck – an open neck. The Luminance of Skin Highlight will enable us to make specific adjustments to how the highlight of the surface will work. 04 Using either BodyPaint 3D or Photoshop. Import this into the Bump channel of Skin Base and adjust the Bump Strength to your taste. click the Texture triangle and choose Paste Channel. To close areas like this off. Click the Bump channel and click the triangle button next to Texture input. this is just one good soft layout set-up. 06 STAGE THREE | Highlight material set-up Create a new material (named Skin Highlight on the sample file). choose Bump. You won’t be creating a cel-shaded look here. eyelids and ears. Remember to vary the skin colour across the face for best results – skin is never monochromatic. In this screenshot. Be sure to name your objects effectively. Choose Copy Channel. Take several quick renders at this stage to get that bump just right. How to do so in BodyPaint 3D (C4D’s sister application) is beyond the scope of this tutorial.qa_lead 073 3/7/06 11:21:22 . and in the Material Editor. Remember to make good use of C4D’s HyperNURBS capabilities and do not use any more polygons than are needed. C4D will work best with surfaces that it sees as closed. Remember that the texture of the face is very different across the cheeks than it is across the nose. Keep the intensities low. having a good UV map to begin with goes a long way. Activate Luminance and Bump and turn off all the other channels. or various other UV modification tools (many are available free to download on the internet). The more polys you have. select the edges around the opening and use Structure > Close Polygon Hole. 01 Because we are going to be using SSS. Import this image into the Color channel of a new material (labelled Skin Base in the scene file on the CD). but this will allow you to have control over how the luminance of the surface moves across that surface as the lighting changes. 09 ▲ September 2006 3D WORLD | 073 TDW81. paint the colour on your UV layout. Watch for spots you could miss such as the bottom of the neck and the nostrils. or simulating any sort of SSS – just do the basic colour. Create one more key light called Highlight Light.

Apply the Skin Base material to the sphere (do not apply the Skin Highlight for now). You will be able to tell immediately if things are not right in the test render. 10 Expand the Diffuse section (of the Luminance channel). 13 Subsurface scattering is rendering intensive. in the Use Lights section. Change the tab on the right to a colour slightly more saturated than your main skin colour. This will make the skin ‘glow’ as light penetrates it. there is no need for things like antialiased edges. so to help speed up the test renders. you can start making adjustments. This will allow the colour of Skin Base to show through. Change the colour on the left to blue for light-skinned characters and a greener hue for darker-skinned characters. 16 Open Skin Base and. it was set at 10m for a sphere that is around 450m in diameter. 12 STAGE FOUR | Working in the SSS Double-click Skin Base in the Material Manager. and choose Effects > Subsurface Scattering from the Texture drop-down menu (triangle button). Change the Interpolation to Linear. this is what gives your skin its inner glow. Ensure you put it in the same space as your head. Change the Diffuse settings to approximate those shown in the screenshot (pink to blue) with added colour knots. Open your Render Settings. choose Include and drag your Highlight Light from the Objects Manager into the Lights section of the Material Editor. but will mix the settings for the Luminance and Bump maps that the two materials share. The settings for SSS can be a little tricky to get the hang of. 15 Take a test render at this point to see what the default settings do to your sphere. In the lower half. This will vary according to the size of your model. Click on the new Texture Tag in the Objects Manager and activate Mix Textures. and in the General area turn the Antialiasing to None. For this rendering. This will vary depending on the complexion of your character. and look for the start of a healthy (although maybe slightly purplish) glow. and will vary from scene to scene. 18 074 | 3D WORLD September 2006 TDW81.qa_lead 074 3/7/06 11:21:25 . 11 Assuming you have already applied Skin Base to your model. turn off Transparency and Reflection. and then hide the head. apply Skin Highlight to the same surface (drag from the Material Manager to the object in Objects Manager). click the Subsurface Scattering button. depending on the size of your model. Also. 17 Now it’s time to adjust the Absorption. Although the settings can be a little tricky to get right. you could use more brown in the olive colour palette. This opens the attributes of the Cel Shader which will eventually control your luminance. If you have a darker-skinned character. Be sure to leave Shadow set to All Types so you don’t have extra light travelling through objects. From this point. 14 For the kind of renders we’re doing now. Activate Luminance. Then.Q&A | Realistic skin shading STAGE THREE (Continued) | Highlight material set-up Click on the Cel button (which is now located in the Texture input field). as Absorption indicates the depth at which the light is completely absorbed. in the Luminance channel. deactivate Camera. create a sphere and resize it to approximately the size of your head. and activate Lights. Adjust and tweak as needed. The Absorption Filter defines the transition from the colour of the surface (left) to the colour of the deeper layers of skin (right).

Reactivate Transparency and Reflection. and then click Mix Textures and render. and you don’t really need SSS in the first place as you won’t be able to see the results with the naked eye. If you are on a tighter render budget. performing test renders on the sphere will speed up the process as you dial in different settings. 22 Open your Render Settings again. so whiter lights will provide more reliable colour results. however. This will slow your renderings somewhat but will provide the considerably crisper results that you will want for your final output. how the SSS holds up and how the highlight moves across the skin. you can cut corners by leaving SSS turned off and still get a nice highlight. You may find areas like the nostrils look transparent. and turn your Antialiasing back on (probably to Geometry).qanda@futurenet. and things get too washed out across the surface. ● September 2006 3D WORLD | 075 TDW81. too shallow.uk . This setting defines exactly how far the dispersed light scatters across the subsurface. the overexposed look should come from the Skin Highlight material.qa_lead 075 3/7/06 11:21:30 Contact us | Send your Q&A questions to 3dw.com/lab/chanlum/chanlum. 21 STAGE FIVE | Finishing up Make sure that both your Skin Base and Skin Highlight are assigned to your face (or other body surfaces) and unhide the face. Remember that things like the Absorption Filter are dependent upon the colours being visible in the light scattered from the skin.happyship. 20 This is where you assign Skin Highlight to the sphere and mix the materials. For this shot. but SSS is still a great tool to make beautiful realistic skin. 19 Notice that with SSS. Take some renderings at a smaller resolution to see if everything still holds up. You can also get quick results using ChanLum. the render can quickly get completely washed out. the Scattering Length is set to 10m. You can move. you can make all sorts of adjustments along the way to get your final look. While you want glow. Tweak this setting to taste. You will want to do some tweaking here within your materials to get the right look. based upon your lighting scheme. Again. Too deep. 23 Because this technique is light-dependent. Take some small test renderings to see how your work is shaping up. a free C4D channel shader available at www.co. adjust and animate the lighting set-up: view the movie on the CD to 24 see animated lights in motion.html. Reducing the Strength to somewhere around 30% will still give you the pretty effect you’re after without blasting the skin apart. Adjust the other settings according to your desired results. in which case you’ll need to turn down the Scattering Length. Do this by dragging Skin Highlight from the Material Manager on to the sphere.Realistic skin shading | Q&A STAGE FOUR (Continued) | Working in the SSS Time to adjust Scattering Length.

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