Help Me Improve My Skinshader Settings (Critique)

Massive thx to @m9105826 for his epic skinshader for Blender. Thx to him I have been able to achieve surprising results for human skin inside of blender’s cycle’s engine. I would now like to put my renders up for focused critique to see if the Blender community can help me better fine-tune things like gloss, SSS and detail. Since some of these shaders are still (technically) in development your feedback may help fine-tune the end result when they are eventually publicly released.

Technically this critique is for my personal use only :wink: but any information gathered here will help me give better feedback with regards to the skinshaders that are being tested. I have reached the limit of my abilities in Cycles and now I ask for your support to help me breath as much realism into human skin as possible.

This Is My Preferred Render So Far (So I Will Begin Here)


Eventually, after I am sufficiently satisfied with the skin fine-tuning, this head will be getting hair, a beard, eyelashes and a pair of eyes. But first thing is first–the skin itself. I cannot show you the node setups for these renders but will instead be asking things like is the SSS scale good? Is there too much or too little gloss? Does the skin need more detail? Even whether or not you would like me to test these renders under certain types of lighting conditions I will be happy to accommodate.

Anything that you are willing to critique/request/share will be useful.

For me, I am calling this pretty close to done. I have rendered this head over and over again with various different settings and I think this is my preferred version.

Below Is A More Detailed Version (Utilizing Displacement)


This head actually has 2m polygons and rendering it took up 5gb of computer ram. That is allot, I know, but I am trying to see how far Cycles can really go. Anyway, give me your best ideas and your harshest critiques. I will continue to update this thread with future renders as I progress. If you have skin renders of your own, feel free to throw them up here as well.


Maybe a taddd more gloss, not sure though. Definitely a bit more gloss on the lips.

Thx for your reply. I’ll get to work on that… I think I may have to take the spec map into photoshop and modify it a bit. Which is odd considering this is an infinity scan. But it’s worth a try!

Edit, too harsh.

It’s an amazing render, but honestly you need to add elements to make it your own. You’re basically asking for critiques of other people’s work. And considering you are using a modified version of @m9105826 's skin shader, I don’t see why you can’t post screenshots of your nodes.

That and less bump, more gloss around the mouth/lips/

@Photox I understand where you are coming from. But from my vantage point there is no reason to presume that Blender is capable of truly photo-realistic, industry competitive skin. These tests demonstrate that it is capable, to my great surprise and satisfaction.

I can rather easily make up a human head charicature and texture it in Zbrush, I can also render it in Zbrush but I don’t find Zbrush’s render very satisfying. Modo’s render either, which is what has brought me here to Blender. Using the Infinity scan head for this example allows for a easy on the eyes comparison between renders and render engines because of it’s commonality of use for this precise purpose. It helps take the guess work out a great many things.

I do plan to add a beard, hair and eyes to this render but there is no point on embarking on that atm. My intention is to take very tiny babysteps. The skin must be fine tuned first (which is not as simple as one might think) and then after that is done the hair will be added and then that shader will have to be fine-tuned as well. I expect that creating realistic and lifelike eyes will be a significant challenge for me and that is step three. Step 4 will be that I will move onto clothing and when I get to that point I will be giving this head a body.

It’s just one method of doing things, it may not be the best but it works for me :smiley:

  1. Higher gloss on lips
  2. Reduced bump


Thank you, I think that actually does look allot better–the lips defiantly so. I reduced the bump a little and altered the contrast of the head in post. He seems to now have a more healthy living glow to his skin. Thank you for your suggestions, they are very much appreciated. At some point you stare at something for so long that it begins to lose all meaning :stuck_out_tongue: I was getting to that place and your suggestions have already helped out allot.

Thank you very much, I will take a look at that. I will also set up the rimlight render now.

  1. Slight enhanced details on the skin
  2. Increased SSS effect
  3. Enhanced SSS on the ears


Those ears were actually bugging me a little :o

I think this version does look a little softer, and the enhenced SSS on the ears are a definite improvement. I do not know if it is my lack of knowledge, blender itself or the shader but I am having a very hard time getting the correct balance of SSS and detail.

This is a composited version 1. head with a low SSS scale and 2. a second rendered with max SSS settings. I took them both into photoshop, added some highpass sharpening and played with the opacity of layers. This is just something I know how to do because of Zbrus.

I defiantly cannot fault Cycles or the shader because it may just be something that I have not learned yet that is causing the problem. But I can say for certain that I would never have been able to render skin like this in Zbrush. An hour per render on my i7 and two passes at 1090 x 1080 is a long time to weight. But it is starting to look like a photograph, and it is already better than some renders of this head that I have seen come from of Vray and Maya Arnold. Since I am planning to set up a few render nodes in the near future, perhaps the slowness may eventually even out in the end.

Thx for your help :cool:

I am still not calling it done. If anyone has more critiques or possible ways to improve it I am all ears.

Are you using any environment lighting. If not be sure to. The effect isn’t as pronounced as with super low roughness glossy, like metal, but anything with gloss will benefit. It’s definitely a painless way up the realism. World tab, background, choose environment texture, and use an hdri or even a low res jpeg with proper mapping.

its quite possible you are though.

if you put a simple scene, even just a wall with bump it will look more real too. If it wasn’t the well known scan that it is it would be more or less pr as is.

Thx again for your help :slight_smile: