I have no idea if any soul could in theory be interested in a making-of for a random study, but hey. Whatever. I just like the test renders here.
We will retrace a recent render that I did as part of playtesting my kit. Like, this one. No postwork, duh.
Click on… but be aware that there may be a topless model once in there.
1) I wanted to see what could be done with Antonia, an older Poser figure that has nice JCMs and a different sort of look.
I have an Antonia CR2 saved out with an assortment of her PMD morphs, so I load that and choose a preset dialled face from the Advanced morph package I once bought on RDNA.
2) As the basis for lighting, I start with my DelightGI to provide IBL and indirect lighting, using Omnifreaker’s HDR map “OmCornellBox”; I also want to see how well my gel spotlight fares. As the gel, I load a photo I took on my phone a few years ago in a local park (tree branches against sky). The photo isn’t large (1024×1280), its quality is fairly mediocre, but it gives nice results nevertheless, even though it’s not HDR.
The gel spotlight uses physically-based quadratic falloff, so when I move it a couple of meters away from the figure, I have to increase the “intensity scale” parameter to 1e6.
3) Recently I found a cute freebie by FaeryLight, a character called FL Helene that comes with a no-brow option which is a huge plus, IMO: I use SSS-based skin materials, and “baked in” eyebrows just don’t work that well with this technique.
There is also a freebie out there, separate eyebrow textures by 3Dream. Combining these together in my RadiumSolidVariS shader gives me the results I want: the no-brow face texture goes into the SSS channel and provides it with colour variation; the eyebrow opacity map controls the strength of a diffuse overlay and creates a non-scattered, crisp effect of hairs above the skin surface.
I also add a bit of makeup overlay using Sazzyazzca’s eyeliner resource as a mask and a makeup texture taken from SaintFox’s free Toni Polygon texture set.
Photo-based character textures by definition contain the colour that SSS gives to skin IRL, so we need to counteract it somewhat when plugging them into the SSS channel, otherwise the skin will get too much “blood” in it (which always looks off to me because I am most familiar with paler skins). There are a few ways of doing that; I prefer the division method I learnt from the Poser manual. Ready-made DS shaders do not include this option, so I coded it into my shader. In this case, the texture colour is divided by RGB(255,240,192) before it is fed to the subsurface prepass; this adds minimal overhead to render time, but looks quite good, emphasising texture detail.
FL Helene does not seem to come with bump maps, so I will use those from SaintFox’s Toni Polygon texture set, which is also a freebie (and may be the one that comes with “Antonia Standard” edition, although I’m not sure; I’d been collecting Antonia stuff since way before she found her way onto RDNA). I also load these bump maps as strength maps for the two specular channels of RadiumSolid for all skin surfaces but the lips. Then, after a test render, I dial down the Shine strength to 0.05 on most skin surfaces but the lips (where I set it a bit higher, 0.1), set specular colours to “red-minimising” tint of RGB(224,255,255) and set Edge strength to 0.3. Edge is a high-Fresnel, high-roughness specular channel that mimics the scattering of light in those tiny vellus fibers; it’s a very subtle effect. I don’t turn it on for the lips.
That’s basically all the adjustments I needed to do to the skin material.
4) I prefer using refractive materials for cornea, which means that eye geometry should have the option of making the iris concave, otherwise the eye looks funny. This is one thing I haven’t found among Antonia morphs, and I’m too lazy to go and make a new one now. So I load EYEDeas, eye replacements created by Arki (RDNA). These also have a bonus of versions with classic Gen4 UV mapping, and there is a lot of eye textures I have for Gen4.
The way I do it, I load the right and left versions separately and parent them to the figure’s original eye bones that I hide in the Scene tab. Then I adjust scale and translation of the eye replacements till they fit. Now I can use the original figure’s eye posing dials and morphs, and the replacements will follow.
For the cornea, I use my RadiumCornea shader, slightly lowering the default specular strengths, increasing the roughness of the second channel and dialing down that of the first. As a reflection map (which “fills the holes” that happen when the rays traced don’t meet any geometry) I load Omnifreaker’s Kitchen HDRI.
I find that irises look pretty when using the DS default shader in the “metallic” mode, glossiness around 60%, and a bump map used as specular strength. The textures I use come from Surreality’s RealEyes pack I once bought at DAZ3D.
The biggest problem is posed by the scleras. “New” raytraced SSS from my RadiumSolid shader is a bit finicky when it comes to geometry, so I resort to UberSurface2 and its “oldschool” algo. However, finding the right balance between SSS and diffuse in that shader takes quite some time. I also find out I need to create geometry shells to make a reflection layer for the sclera – I forgot to load the “Non-Conforming” EYEdeas that have a reflection layer built-in, and I just don’t feel like bothering with setting the eyes up again (even if’s mostly copy-n-paste type of bother). Geoshells are faster to do; I apply RadiumRefleCoat to the sclera of the geoshells (it’s the only surface I have left visible in the shell parameters), tweak its settings somewhat, and here is what I end up with.
05) I think I could make the character more attractive, the way I understand this. So I adjust some morphs and, while I’m at it, I load Leandro hair (that I have a “fit Antonia” pose for), perform some voodoo on it that allows me to delete all the vertices but those that form the skull cap, use scaling combined with smoothing modifier to make the cap fit Antonia better; then I hide everything in the scene but the cap, export it as an OBJ, re-import it and create a conformer. I will use this conformer as a base for growing LAMH hair on – I take the opacity map of this skull cap, turn it into the red-and-white map LAMH accepts and use it as the hair density map.
06) LAMH time. I can’t say I’m an ace. Garibaldi is easier to use, for me, but it’s not that “scripted rendering”-friendly.
I figured out I could use two “shave groups”, one shorter with more curl for the general hair and a sleeker, longer one for the bangs (with only a few polygons selected for “follicles”). I can’t say it’s, like, THE style of the year, but it’s quite nice on this particular character, so I decide to stick with it.
07) Pose/expression time. I use all the methods there are for posing: parameter dials, ActivePose, PowerPose, the Universal tool, Morphforms where applicable (not in Antonia’s case)… you can see that in this WIP her thumb got weirdly twisted. Expressions are a combination of dial morphs; again, I will use whatever I can lay my mouse on, if it gives me the results I want. However, I have a strict rule: I never use expression morphs to help with character features, or sculpting morphs to adjust expressions. This only creates confusion, IMO, if I ever want to reuse the character in a different scene.
08) What do I dress her in? Well, I’ve already decided that it will be dynamic clothing (this is why I actually created the pose in the 25th frame of the timeline – so as to allow for animated drapes!). Antonia does not have any DS dynamics made specifically for her, but she will wear V4 stuff reasonably well, providing the drape is animated. I bought that “Dress 50s” off the Optitex webstore some time ago, so let’s see if it works.
Okay, it did slide off her shoulder. But that’s fine; makes the composition less boring.
09) I take out RadiumFabric again; it won’t be released as part of the raytracer kit because I want to add some more features, but the more I use it, the better I will be able to explain to others how to do it. I like the default red colour of the dress, but I want something bolder and more interesting. There is a lot of pretty texture tiles I have because I bought a few of Marieah’s packs over there at DAZ3D; these are technically “material packs”, but I roll my own materials, so I only use the lovely lovely textures. I like the Ye Olde Clothe pack in particular.
I launch IrfanView, press “T” to bring up its thumbnail browser and head to Marieah’s folder in my runtime. This way I can see all the available tiles at once and make my choice. I make a quick bump/spec for the texture I liked best, by desaturating and inverting it in Paint.NET. There is diffuse, bump, velvet, translucency and two layers of specular in the shader, all driven by combinations of the colour tile and the bump/spec one.
10) I don’t want to spend a lot of time setting up a background, so I think I’ll use something simple. There are two neat freebies: Floors’n’Walls by Richabri and Bold Floor by Ironman13. I choose one of the walls and add the Bold Floor. I scale and move them somewhat to better match each other (and to get actually square tiles on the Bold Floor). RadiumFabric is applied to the props and set up to simulate wood, paper and ceramic tile.
I also find a collar for her to wear with the pretty dress; it’s a freebie for V4, Fairytale Choker by Valea, but it fits reasonably well. I also enable smoothing modifier on it and do the scale/translate thing till it settles down the way I like. I start playing with materials on it; you can see that the first round with displacement got a bit too large.
Maybe I have to show her feet, too. After some brainstorming, I find those pumps from the Sugar set for A3. It takes a bit of voodoo to make them work for Antonia (CrossDresser for the basic fit, then parenting each shoe separately and then fiddling with scale and translation dials). The materials on the shoes are also based on RadiumFabric: one cloth-like to match the dress, but using the original Sugar textures with a diffuse tint, and one metallic.
11) Final adjustments. DOF gets enabled (I use these scripts (scroll down somewhat for Casual’s companion one) to do it and then adjust F-stop using the viewport far and near planes). I guess that a longer focal length might work better, too, with a somewhat different camera angle. I also add a “rim stick” (a transparent plane with UberAreaLight on it) to separate her from the background; the light also creates those shimmery effects on the dress.
Turns out the Bold Floor actually breaks a bit because of the displacement, which creates a couple of small transparent holes in the alpha of the render; so I put a matching layer of grey underneath the render in Paint.NET and merge them.
Here it is, the render from the top of the post, again.
12) I figure it may be worth it playing with colours a bit. I run a filter in Twisted Brush Pro and then add some more adjustments in OpticVerve VirtualPhotographer free plugin. The final result is posted onto my deviantArt gallery, here it is.