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Creating a Realistic Portrait of Thomas Pesquet

A 3D Character Artist at Ubisoft Arthur Gatineau shared the workflow used in creating a realistic portrait of a French astronaut Thomas Pesquet, talked about tools that were used, and shared some tips on nailing likeness.


My name is Arthur Gatineau, I’m a Character Artist currently working at Ubisoft Bordeaux on an unannounced title. I previously worked on Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Ghost Recon Breakpoint, and Ghost Recon Wildlands.

To talk a little bit about my background, I started learning 3D as a self-taught artist in late 2013 and got my first job in 2015 at Unit Image, working on game cinematics. I then moved to Spain at Entropy studio where I had the chance to work as a generalist on a lot of projects, from TV ads, Spanish films, Netflix series to VR experiences. It was a fairly small company and we were only 3 guys doing 3D, so resources and knowledge were limited sometimes, but with my self-taught background, I was really used to learn and overcome production issues by myself.

After some time there I started to feel homesick so I went back to France where I started at Ubisoft Bordeaux in 2018.

The Thomas Pesquet Project

The last time I did a likeness was back in 2016 when I modeled Milly Bobby Brown from Stranger Things. Usually, stuff that I see, listen, watch, or play drives my next piece and that was the case for this one. Thomas Pesquet is a french spationaut (a European word for astronaut) who was recently sent into space for the second time. It’s usually really mediatized and we are lucky he shares a lot of his journey throughout his social media, letting us to dream a bit! Apart from that, Thomas inspires me every day, proving that hard work and discipline are the only ways to progress and achieve your goals.

Therefore, I decided to give it a try and see how rusty I was and how difficult this exercise is! 

Face and Head

Gathering quality references is, not surprisingly, a crucial step for a likeness, or for any kind of project, for that matter.

I started with a head scan from 3DScanStore once again, which saved me a lot of hours of work. That way, I already have some details on the face, UVs, and base Diffuse. Getting the feel of the person is a long process, I also usually bring reference images in ZBrush using the spotlight and line them up with my sculpt to tweak the features.

Don’t hesitate to ask for feedback from your peers as your brain can quickly think that you’re good to go while it needs some more work.

The Suit

For the suit, I used a combination of techniques, starting with a very basic Marvelous Designer simulation to get the general feel of the cloth. I continued in 3ds Max with good old poly modeling for the details as I’m feeling more comfortable with it. Results were okay-ish for the upper part but were lacking quality on the bottom region. I decided to use a scan from 3DScanStore that I cleaned. I projected my Marvelous mesh on it to capture the shapes and folds from the scan.

I wanted to make high-quality patches, but couldn’t find any good textures or workflow to make them. As I don’t know Houdini for now, I ended up modeling the patches by hand by duplicating a half torus over and over. I had 5 patches to make but it took me only a day to make them all (it was also really relaxing). Once it was modeled, I just baked them down on a flat plane for rendering. I used Marmoset to bake the Displacement.


I used XGen for the hair. I was pretty straightforward since he had a cap, so I just created several XGen descriptions for the main hair, eyebrows, eyelashes, and peachfuzz. I also used XGen to add an extra layer of detail to the cap.

I used Mari to project a face displacement from TexturingXYZ to achieve that extra bit of realism at render time. In the shader, I combined the Zdisp (details from ZBrush and the scan) with the Mari Displacement.

Displacement setup in Maya, with R, G, and B channels split to control their intensity:


I had the chance to have a high-quality Diffuse Map from the scan, so I created additional Maps (Roughness and SSS) from it using Substance Painter.

For the suit, it was very fast and easy; I combined my Zdisp with a tileable fabric Displacement Map from TexturingXYZ’s fabric collection. The diffuse is just a flat color with some noise in it (made in the shader itself). The trick to make the fabric looks more believable is to use the Sheen parameter in the aiStandardSurface shader, it adds this microfiber feel to it.


I mainly used HDRI only for the renders. For the main image, I used an HDRI with low intensity to avoid black areas on the image, I added 2 rim lights and finally a big front light with a .exr texture in it to have this ring highlight in his eyes.

Once rendered, I used Photoshop and the CameraRaw filter (which is basically almost like Lightroom) to enhance the mood by tweaking parameters. I usually just play with the sliders and eyeball it until I’m happy with the results. You can add a subtle chromatic aberration and a small grain to the image to harmonize the final look.

I hope you learned a few tricks from this article. You can always email me if you need more in-depth explanations.

Arthur Gatineau, 3D Character Artist

Interview conducted by Arti Sergeev

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