Anime...Materials? Why do these look like they do?

As Sir Mix-a-Lot once said, “Here’s my scandal”.

I’m trying to duplicate a somewhat tricky Japanese material/texture methodology for a video game character I’m making. The problem is, because it’s a Japanese method, there is zero documentation on how to achieve such an effect in English. Even though I can read Japanese, my ability to read “Technical Japanese” is lacking. Not only this, I also lack the English vocabulary to properly translate terms back again.

For example; If you don’t know what “Least Squares Conformal Mapping” is in English, when you see the Japanese term, and somehow translate it back, the meaning is still lost on you.

I’ve been researching this for a few days, I’ll give you a run down of what I have discovered, and ask the more apt to help me to achieve the desired effect. To help I’ll give some examples so you can follow along…

Here is your typical anime character.

This is a picture of the Japanese mascot for Windows ME. You can tell by the Warning symbol on her chest and the fact she’s absolutely clueless about a 1 Gig stick of RAM.

All kidding aside. Getting a 3d character to appear like above in real time requires a special engine and some really fancy art styles to get the effect right, such as below.

However, this isn’t what I’m looking for. What I’m actually looking to do a particular style that had me stumped even for reference material. The models look like anime, but they look “real”. They take up honest-to-goodness 3D space in a realistic way, but are undeniably derived from 2D art. Here’s an example…

Like I said I didn’t even know what to use as a reference to try and grab some kind of UV map or material from. It wasn’t until I was browsing list night that I realized that this kind of material is mimicking the real-life material of Japanese Garage Kit models. Shown here as this picture is rather large

Now my problem is, for both the Garage Kit and the 3D model is that the shadows and highlights seem to be painted on the model, but it’s hard for me to tell how it’s done and how I’m supposed to duplicate such an effect. Is that a UV map? Is it vertex shading? Is it being done by a light source?

My model, shown here is currently being shown in “Shaded mode”. For now I’m using just a simple uniform material called “Skin” down there in the lower left hand corner, and a simple Hemi Lamp for shading. However, I’m missing the critical highlights/shadows like in the professional models above. I don’t know exactly how to apply these. When I make the skin texture lighter, my model looks sickly and pale. Trying to add red to warm up the model, this results in the skin beginning to to look unnatural.

How about should I go about this? Should I even bother with attempting a UV map for the skin’s highlights/shadows as if I was painting a garage kit myself? How are the above professional models shaded so they look so awesome, while mine’s just… flat? How do I correct the problem?

Thanks for the help…

Try color ramps for your material, soften the specular pass in the nodes with a blur, and add some type of cooling (Cyan) or warming (magenta) filter via a mix node set to add or screen. That should help you get started. Those images aren’t straight renders. Lots of heavy post in both. The girl definitely has a cooling filter on, may be the smudge tool from Photoshop (or just bad compression) on her left arm, her hair has an entirely different light direction and coloring from the rest of the image, possibly desaturated, maybe a Photoshop filter or two such as water colors selectively applied. Heavy heavy heavy post.

Lots of images like those are done entirely in a 2D environment by people very skilled with a tablet and it’s often impossible to tell whether the image began it’s life in a 3D environment or not. There are a lot of talented artists on this site who will have you shaking your head in disbelief at what they’re able to acomplish.

Just out of curiosity, do the Japanese ever actually animate Japanese characters? All I ever see is white people.

i just rewrote the diffuse and specular shaders pages to include examples to show you what you are looking for. Check out the .5 examples on both the diffuse and specular pages. Using these custome shaders, you should not have to unwrap, but just use multiple materials.

I have to pick my words very wisely here, because you have fallen into a very interesting trap of what I like to call “cultural perception”.

For fun, allow me to show you an example of (even though I’m going a bit off-topic, for this horrible crime, I apologize to the mods in advance.)

You see, I grew up in Japan, but I am a Caucasian born in the U.S. This allows me to look at both cultures subjectively, (this is an apple, that is an orange) as opposed to objectively (This is an apple, and everything else is also an apple to at least to some degree)

Believe it or not, these characters look very Asian to me. Anime is actually how the Japanese see themselves in a characterized style. It is the American perception of how an Asian is “supposed to look” that begs the question of why Japanese draw themselves the way they do.

For fun, allow me to show you an example.

Here is a picture of a “Caucasian” anime character.

At irst blush, I think, it’s the eyes that throws everyone. Many foreigners have a cultural perception that Asian eyes have to be almond shaped, or creased upward towards the outer corners. If you have time, take a good look at the eyes of a Japanese person, then look at the composition of the face as a whole. You may find is that what you perceive as “Asian” isn’t exactly what you think.

As proof of this, click on the link here

What kind if irritates me is when famous Asians in the U.S. have “Asian consultants” to try and make them more “Asian” for the U.S. market. (Margret Cho had one for her T.V. Show she did. She thought it was the dumbest thing to ever have happen to her. The first time I even seen an Asian even remotely portrayed correctly on TV was the Korean couple from “Lost”. (Even then, there were a few liberties, but it still is a TV show…)

I part you with this:

A few years ago, a Japanese R&B singer named Hiakru Utada released an english album outside Japan. What makes this story interesting is that Hakaru was born in New York, and was an American. Her family lived in Japan, but was a pure bilingual in both Japanese and English.

In her American press releases, they dolled her up like this…

If you look you can see the accents in the cheeks and the heavy eyeliner that is trying to pull her eyes up and away from the corners. The sad thing, is that she actually looks like this.

Which one has the rounder eyes to you? :slight_smile:

Amazing. I personally think it’s the nose. And the teeny mouth. They “almond” eyes yes, but how does the makeup get her nose (and in general I percieve Asian facial contours) to have such thin nose bridges and nose…whatever the fleshy nostril part. And her mouth to shrink half its width (I wonder if the camera man told her to pucker before taking the picture) Two completely different people. You would not recognize her in real life if all you saw was the cover. Of course, in this example, I consider her un-makeup face (shown at the beginning of the video and this face two completely different people as well…and the only difference is makeup.


I wasn’t trying to insult anyone. I know several Koreans and Thais. One of my Korean buddies asked a Japanese business man in TGI Friday’s if he was Korean (I knew immediately that he had made a serious error in judgment) to which the business man promptly replied, “You Chinese?” in a very sarcastic tone, so I can see where you’re coming from on this.

Sorry, I was just curious. Anime just looks predominantly caucasian to me. People call me a white boy but I can assure you this is not entirely the case. I’m really a mutt but my Spanish heritage dominates my overall appearance. Grandma likes to delude herself by telling me that the cycle cell trait which is carried by 38% of my hemoglobin is from our Spanish ancestry, but ties to French Aucadian royalty who became a wealthy plantation owner in Louisana, no records of his ever having been married, the fact that slave owners were notorious for having sex with their slaves, and the look of my lips and eyebrow ridge tells me and most black people that grandma is a delusional bigot.

Old Japanese shogun art (is that what it’s called?) always seemed to me that the features were very exaggerated until I saw Ken Watanabe (Katsumoto) doing the play for his village in The Last Samurai and the faces he made were identical to all of that old art. As it turned out it’s the expressions that are exaggerated in the art, not the features.

Maybe you should also try glow in the sequence editor… i’m achieving good results with it

Now, the question is, do these things work in the game engine? These are going to be pretty worthless technologies if they don’t work in the game engine. I’m just modeling her now. For fun I engaged the game engine and all I got was a white shadow of my character. I’ll work on that part when I have the colors down in the editor.

I was able dump the UV maps from a copy of Final Fantasy X-2 that I have. It seems that the shadows are indeed “Baked on” the skin. Not only this, They also have several UV maps for different environments/lighting conditions. Another key thing is that the camera and light source are in the same position, causing a shadow falloff from around the edges of the model. (Cute, it makes the outer edges dark. However, it would also seem they put “makeup” on the characters. That’s going to be fun ^_^)

Here a typical UV map I was able to extract…

Here are the things I found interesting. First the map is only 256x256. Second this is for her whole body. The face has been split in half, and even though she has two different colored eyes, only the second eye is “put off to the side”

Also interesting is her whole body is also split. I think this is the direction I should be going in…

As a side question. The eyes on my character are separate objects, can I somehow map two different objects on to on a single UV map? I’m going to see what the “high resolution” model looks like from the game. and see what I can pick up from that.

Not to double post, but I thought I’d share what else I found.

I was able to import a model into blender by way of an obj conversion, (As opposed to using a viewer) This has been a real eye-opener for me to see what kind of art has gone into a “simple” FFX-2 character…

First her polycount is VERY low. Clocking in at only 2283 faces (1249 vertexes). I almost feel ashamed because that’s about how many faces are in my models EAR. I could of sworn the model was 4 times higher than that. My model is Puishing over 13,000 faces, most of which are mirrored quads, (My character can reach 60K polys easy after a mirror apply and turning the quads into triangels for the game.)

Yuna, in the attached picture, here does have a higher poly density in the face, especally around the eyes. It seems that her eyes “move” by way of altering the textures in video memory

Her hair is amazing! It uses an alpha map to make the strands via a texture. I would of never of thought to do that…

I hope I don’t have to re-do my model again. I am hoping I can drop my plycount by way of a decimate modifier. I’ll also have to re-think my UV mapping to take advantage of mirrored sides. This is the kind of information I was looking for in the original post. I’ll post even more “secrets” when I crack open the “High poly” version of the model.

Now that I have a “target” to reach, I should be able to make my model better…


The high-poly version comes in a 8,000 polys (Fully clothed) with fully articulated fingers. They also “stripped out” all the polys under her clothes…

I think I’m going to have to seriously re-think how I’m supposed to model my character…

I’ve been working on my model for almost a month now. It will be a disaster if I have to re-do her from scratch. I had a “budget” of 50,000 polys per character with 512x512 maps for every object…

I feel so stupid… I assumed because they looked so good, they must of had such ungoldly polycounts with all kinds of lighting effects. Here I caught them “cheating” I also see why the game engine renders everything white. I was so busy trying to get may materals right, only to discover that the game engine doesn’t use them at all!

Augh! Any help on how I should approch fixing my mistakes?

====DOUBLE EDIT=====
Geez, I seem to have scaled my model wrong too! The FFX model is 1 BU = 1 meter. I guess that makes bunches of stuff easier on the development side too. Was there anything I got right? ;_;


Yes. You’re asking the right questions, and you’ve got a method for finding the answers. Don’t sell yourself short. You’ve made a lot of progress in the past couple of days.

To get a rendered texture of your model, use the Manual/Render Bake - Full Render option. That will get your own non-pirated image texture of your model. Use the Toon shaders as a material pre-bake and you will get your anime character you originally wanted.

there is a lot to learn, isn’t there? For low poly modeling and texturing, see - he’s one of the world-wide experts and has great free tuts online.

You can use Decimate to lower your poly count, but it gets pretty ugly…may be best to start over with a cube.

You have to UV unwrap for the GE to use your textures. see the wiki on unwrapping.

AH HA!!! Now you get to find out why there’s so much interest in baking maps to high poly models, then applying the bake to low, low poly meshes…here it comes…the details get baked into the maps for game engines.

Look through this thread at the post by Mmph! He also used makehuman for his high poly model, but then modeled his low poly over it.

Another asian feature that I find notable, is the verticle/flat eyelids. I find them beautiful.

Have you had a look at this thread?