GOAL - I wanted to explore the possibilities and obvious benefits on being able to attain photorealism with CG characters. My work typically deals with hard surface modeling or motion graphics, I wanted to challenge myself and learn some new skills.

JOURNEY - I’d like to mention that I am in no way implying that the final image is photorealistic, this is my fifth attempt at a character design rendering. I recommend checking out some of the highly skilled character artists such as Qi Sheng Luo and Hossein Diba, who continuously create stunning characters. Alongside my goal, I wanted to establish an understanding of the thought process behind the creation of such stunning work. I hope that my process could help others who may be interested.

PROCESS - Fortunately I did not have to begin from scratch, I used a study published by USC Institute of Creative Technologies titled Wikihuman. The research explored photogrammetry techniques used in many larger budget projects and the various passes, shaders, and textures that were used to create the final image.

Images from the Wikihuman Project

Based on the research I then created the displacement, specular, micro displacement, single scatter and specular shaders from the base skin material of Daz 3D Genesis characters library.

The micro displacement layer was created using the clone stamp tool in Photoshop to paint the epidermal displacement onto the characterʼs UV

I then exported just the head/face of the character into Zbrush and began adding some details, wrinkles, scars, scratches, blemishes etc. to the base mesh.

The face was then imported back into Cinema 4D where I began texturing the layers based on the process used in the Wikihuman Project.

Octane Render for Cinema 4D Shader configuration

After texturing and sculpting

I wanted to place the character in a museum like environment with warm colors and natural light. I chose to design the image around Versailles.

I also wanted the character to be very bold a fashionable, I chose to go with a character with red hair, here are some models used as a reference

For the clothing I wanted her to have a casual/high fashion style, the cliché look of how a model would dress to spend time with friends/family or run errands in an Autumn/Spring like weather.

In Marvelous Designer I created a very basic shirt, I wanted her to interact with the clothing to create a more believable image, the pants were created with her hands in her pocket, followed by a jacket with a simple and classy design.

I exported the clothing as an object and sculpted the details and wrinkles in Zbrush.

I then imported the clothing into Cinema and began texturing. I wanted the outfit to be very understated with a slight bit of flare. I chose to incorporate some textile pattern elements from a personal project, it lifted the overall image and added texture to the overall image.

I then began working on her hair in Cinema 4D, it was quite useful and underrated. In the future I would like to spend more time with the various tools such as the comb, straighten and curl however for what I wanted the brush was enough. I decided to go with red hair due to the environment and the details in the textile

The scene was lit by an environment light (image based lighting), sunlight and an area light for cornea reflections at a kelvin unit of 4600 to add a bit of warmth. I then used a hallway image of Versailles as the background, and modeled some elements around the scene to imitate the architecture for proper lighting. At this point I began added more details such as, lint on the shirt, jacket, pants, pieces of hair on her clothing and jacket, hair on the skin and details on her neck and teeth.

The images (incl. multi-pass layers) were rendered with Octane render PMC @ 2700x3750

Multipass layers

Final Image



This is my first time putting this much effort into a character design, the overall process took about 8 hours. I intend to create more however I wanted to document this first step for anyone that may be interested in creating something similar :)