Realistic Skin with Cycles: My Recipe

Okay, I decided to share my approach towards creating a quick and simple skin, which “looks like natural”. Marcus - the bloody gangster from my comic book - will show you how it looks with as much as 150 samples.


He got beaten real bad recently, but that’s not the point of our interest. It’s the SKIN with all its roughness, bumpiness, sweatiness and all those features that make our skin look like it’s not being made out of plastic or latex. The problem with the bump mapping is that at the greater distance from your model those skin features disappear and it still looks like plastic. As you can see on the picture below, the skin remains a bit bumpy at a distance, and it’s not the noise, it’s the FEATURE! :smiley:


I didn’t add much wrinkles to this guy’s texture, but it doesn’t mean your model shouldn’t have them as well. We’ll need just two pieces of software - Blender, obviously, and CrazyBump. Both free and priceless :yes: Well, you may also want some image editing software. It’s up to you.

We’re gonna create three images:

  • Diffuse texture
  • Grayscale height map
  • Normal map

I assume that you’ve already created/downloaded/bought (or spent a night photographing a person’s body, you little pervert) - in other words, you POSSESS a skin texture. That’s pretty much it. Load it into the corresponding node and forget about it.

Now, we want to make a normal map, for all those skin features - zits, scars, wrinkles, etc. You can draw those in your favourite image editor, of course, but I found a better way - at least, it works for me. It’s better, cause you can draw them on your character inside Blender. Create a blank, 50% grey image in Blender and load it into the disconnected node inside your Node Tree. Select the node and switch to the Texture Paint mode in your 3D View (your model should look grey in the Paint Mode, if not - it means the node is not selected). Draw all those features with the brush on the surface of your model, using the grayscale palette. Remember not to use too dark values for, say, scars, cause they will look too deep.

After the height map is saved, open the CrazyBump and convert the map into Normal Map. That’s it, we’ve done with the textures. Now, follow the recipe given below. Happy tweaking! :wink:


Links to the high resolution images: