UPDATED Feb 2016: Blender Market Product: Production-Quality Skin Shaders

UPDATE 05Feb2016:mhSkin2:

  • Removed IOR In/Out, replaced with standard Facing/Fresnel. People hated it. I hated it. Let’s keep things simple.
  • Added support for B&W bump maps.
  • Added option to isolate reflections for easier/faster shader tweaks.
  • Corrected scatter radii.
  • Better color distribution per layer to more accurately reflect measured color at depth.
  • Better energy conservation with glossy layers.
  • Corrected default values when appended to external .blend.


  • Added support for B&W bump maps.
  • Added option to isolate reflections for easier/faster shader tweaks.
  • Corrected scatter radii.
  • Better energy conservation with glossy layers.
  • Corrected default values when appended to external .blend.

Okay, so, I suppose I’ll start this post with an apology and an explanation.

First things first, the apology:

I know it’s been all quiet on the Western front as far as this skin shader is concerned for quite some time now. I apologize for the prolonged silence/missed promises of a release, I know a lot of people have been waiting for this for a long time. So, to all of you, feel free to call me all manner of names. I deserve it.

Now for the why:

As many of you may know, I’ve been working on three different skin shaders in tandem to release to the community. A few months back I was approached by the good people at CGCookie about an opportunity to be a launch vendor for the new Blender Market. It was suggested that I produce some kind of production skin shader to sell at launch. Around this same time, some hefty medical bills cropped up, and after a lot of thinking and discussing with friends and family, I made the tough decision to finish all three shaders, and offer two of them for sale on the Market. In order to keep things tidy, I decided that all three would launch on the same day. While the Market was in development, I figured I shouldn’t talk much about what was being planned lest I spoil the reveal/features/whatever being planned for the website itself. So, here we are on June 10th, on the cusp of the launch of the Blender Market, and it’s time to release my work to the community.

What is being released today:

  • A completely overhauled, Arnold-based skin shader, released under a CC license (that means do whatever you want with it, go to town!), absolutely free, to the Blender Artists community. Full color PDF docs will follow shortly.
  • A comprehensive, amazingly accurate, and INCREDIBLY simple-to-use Sum of Gaussians skin shader based on the in-house shader at Sony Pictures Imageworks, for sale at launch on the Blender Market.
  • A personal creation that I’m very proud of that I’m calling mhSkin2. It takes all of the bonuses and ease of use of the SoG shader, sacrifices a bit of physical accuracy, but renders almost identically to the naked eye up to 70% faster. It is also for sale at launch on the Blender Market.

The latter two creations are the result of MONTHS of research, tweaking, testing, and headaches to deliver the best possible balance of control, ease-of-use, and render times, and I’m very happy with the results. Both are available individually on the market, OR as a bundle for 25% off. Additionally, 10% of all purchases from my Market page go to the Blender Development Fund. Blender has given me a lot, and although I contribute to the fund already, I feel a chunk of any good fortune I experience from the Market should go there as well.

I struggled with the pricing for a while, but eventually settled on something that all of the beta testers and I feel is fair for the amount of work and love that went into the final result, and for the amount of time saved by the artist. They were constantly telling me to raise it, and are still telling me that I’m selling myself short :smiley: I will say that I’ve been told by several testers that either shader pays for itself in a single project.

Speaking of my testers, these final products could NOT be made available today without the strenuous testing of some great artists. I’d like to thank Jonathan Williamson (Thanks a TON for the 3DArtist shout out!), Kent Trammell, Joseph Harford, and Greg Zaal in particular for their motivation, rigorous testing, and valuable feedback to get everything to where it is today. Thanks, guys. You all rock.

So, without delaying any further, here’s the bread-n-butter of the post. Below are links to all three shaders (or there will be, as soon as the store officially launches). For the time being, you can go ahead and grab the free shader and play around with it. If you like it, I implore you to check out the other two shaders. The quality is substantially higher, and everything is stupid-simple to set up. I really don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Finally, I’d like to give an additional thanks to the Blender community as a whole. Thanks for the patience with this. You’re all awesome, without a doubt the BEST 3D community on the web. I appreciate all of the support I’ve gotten over the years, and these shaders are my way of giving back. So cheers, enjoy, and for those who make the leap and buy the premium shaders: You’re the best, and you have my deep personal thanks for believing in my product enough to invest in it, and for helping to keep food on this artist’s table!


Matt Heimlich

mhSkin - https://www.dropbox.com/s/hizfze5y5mpgw0b/mhSkin.7z

mhSkin2 - http://cgcookiemarkets.com/blender/all-products/cycles-skin-shader-mhskin2/

mhSoGSkin - http://cgcookiemarkets.com/blender/all-products/cycles-skin-shader-mhsogskin/

Skin Shader Double Pack - http://cgcookiemarkets.com/blender/all-products/cycles-skin-shader-double-pack/

sounds interesting :slight_smile:

I tried the blend, just to be sure have reconnected the textures but as it seems, it only shows a non coloured version?

From how I see it, you do not need to apologize about anything!! I, on the other hand, thank you very much for your hard a great work fyou did for the community! Gonna try the shader, and I am really looking forward to see the blender market stuff!

Once again, thanks a lot!! :smiley:

By default you’ll need to either mix in Diffuse (recommended by the Arnold docs but WRONG in my opinion) or create shallow/mid/deep color textures in an external image editor, or using the nodes in conjunction with the color map from within Cycles. This shader (like the Arnold one) can be difficult to wrestle with if you don’t understand how it works. Like I said, full docs will be coming either today or tomorrow explaining how to get a nice result out of the free shader. If you can’t wait, you can have a look at the skin docs over at support.solidangle.com, OR if you’re a cgcookie citizen member there’s an excellent course from Kent about using this very shader (http://cgcookie.com/blender/cgc-courses/skin-shading-cycles/). Keep in mind that with the two other shaders, ALL of this is handled automatically and setup is literally as easy as plugging in textures, tweaking the correct scale, and rendering.

Here is a preview result with separate textures plugged into the color channels of the three SSS layers. ignore the high render time, I’m on my ANCIENT laptop rendering with a single core.

@ m9105826

thanks for the explanations!
the example picture looks great.

Updated first post with links to the Market shaders! Enjoy!

Thanks for the free shader, I hope that you will sell enough on the market to cover your medical bills and wish you the best with your health in the future.
Doesn’t seem like the market is up yet though, the links only point to a 403 error.

Looks like it’s back in admin mode for the time being. Should be ready for prime time shortly though.

Very cool, and no need to apologize for the delay. I will probably be picking up at least one of these at some point soon. This kind of work really can help the Blender community move forward - talented people & devs taking on the hard tasks that makes better art easier to create!

This is totally awesome ! I will certainly buy the double pack :slight_smile:
Just one question, forgive my ignorance… It can work in GPU mode right ?

No :slight_smile: SSS is only available on CPU, and it’d be impossible to make a hyper-real skin shader like this with only diffuse (unless you bake the sss)

Did I just dream it, or didn’t a coder weekly update, say that Lukas Tonne was working on Volumetric for GPU and Brecht on SSS for GPU?

Checked the two last notes on bnation but it doesn’t mention it. Maybe I dreamt it :slight_smile: Can’t wait for the day with SSS on GPU.


thanks for the greatly needed effort. And having used your previous versions of the Arnold type skin shader, and being in the refining phase of head mesh project, I quickly purchased the mhSkin2 shader. However, when I downloaded the file, I’m getting messages that state, “file missing or corrupted. That mhSkin2 is archiv”

Is the download site working?

Thanks for the info GregZaal !
I’m asking because enilnacs made a great Universal shader working fully with SSS and GPU :

First off, does the mhSkin2 shader work well?

Answer - Booking dot Yeah! Really like the look. Very good timely purchase.

rattle-snake: While it’s a great shader, enilnacs is not using true SSS on the GPU. However, SSS will be coming to the GPU at some point in the near future, and as soon as it does these shaders will work there without any issues!

FXR: Glad you got it working, and to hear that you’re getting good results! Please post any awesome renders you come up with, I’d love to see them!

Thanks for the explanations Matthew !!!

Got an odd occurrance happening with SSS. Even with the sheen weight settings down to .1-.2 and sheen roughness up to .7 and specular at .3 with spec roughness at .250 the skin is now rendering very brassy looking.

Before it rendered fine with good detail from normals punching through. But now it renders very soft with a reddish brassy tint and sharpness of detail less defined. My render samples were at 100 with output resolution at 150%. I had bounces set at 64 max,
I tried changing up the lighting but the same effect keeps recurring. The change in look just “happened” without any variance of prior settings.

I know you’re gonna ask for pics, but I don’t have them yet. Will do so later. At this time, I’m just fishing to see if something similar is occurring with other folk. I’ll still keep tweaking until I hit the wall.

Which shader are you using that’s giving issues? And yeah, post a pic whenever you get a chance.

How I can play with the IOR in a single node of sss? for milk or marble :spin: