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Learn How to Recreate a Photorealistic Portrait of Your Grandma in Maya, UE5 & ZBrush

Geumbi Seo spoke to us about her personal project called My Grandma and shared how she created a lifelike portrait using Maya, ZBrush, and Unreal Engine 5, detailing the workflow behind the face, head, and outfit.


Hello, I'm Geumbi Seo, a Junior Modeler active in Korea. I've always enjoyed creating things since childhood, which led me to develop a keen interest in 3D work. As a non-major, I started my 3D journey and acquired skills through professional courses at academies, providing me with a solid foundation.

My Grandma Project

The most enchanting aspect of 3D work, in my perspective, lies in the ability to personally create and preserve things you want to keep by your side for a long time.

So, first, thoughts of my cherished family came to mind, especially my loving grandparents. The swift passage of their time has always been poignant, and the thought of a future without them, given their advanced age, was saddening.

Hence, using the skills I got, I embarked on this project with the desire to capture and preserve their current, healthy, and most beautiful selves. While creating this artwork, I hoped that the love I feel for them would be sensed by those viewing my work. Working on this project allowed me to express the affection I hold for my grandmother, and I wished that others could also feel her love through my artwork.

Approaching the Head & Face

The facial work involved sculpting the head using ZBrush and Maya 2022. Afterward, I utilized MetaHuman Creator to transform it into a MetaHuman, and skin detail work was done in ZBrush.

I laid the base using basic scan data and added necessary details using Texture XYZ for a realistic expression. Areas with many wrinkles were meticulously sculpted for intricate detailing. The hair was crafted using XGen.

Creating the Character's Outfit

Regarding the character's outfit, I employed Marvelous Designer to create the basic framework of the costume, and UV cleanup was done in Maya.


The texturing of the head was done using ZBrush and Substance 3D Painter, while XGen was used for creating the hair and fur details on the outfit. Depicting strong and short hair was initially challenging, but I made efforts to realistically represent it by referencing various examples.

Rendering & Lighting 

I utilized Arnold for rendering and later transitioned to Unreal Engine to create two different render outputs. I employed an HDRI that suited the concept as the base and created additional lighting where necessary, placing them accordingly.


While working at the company, I managed to work on this project during my spare time. After leaving the company, I was able to dedicate more time entirely to the project. It took about four months to complete. Throughout this project, I made a conscious effort to express the motivation behind starting a more realistic and emotionally charged artwork. I am genuinely pleased that viewers can understand the emotions I infused into my work and that they may recall their cherished grandmothers.

To those struggling with 3D work, I would advise not to give up, to persist in consistent effort, to research references, and to engage in constant communication with colleagues and friends. By doing so, the day will come when you create excellent pieces of work.

Geumbi Seo, Junior 3D Modeler

Interview conducted by Theodore McKenzie

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