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Learn How You Can Create A Lifelike Woman Portrait With Maya & ZBrush

Yangzhengnan Cheng has shared with us the Blue-haired Girl project and walked us through the creation process of the realistic female head model, detailing sculpting and texturing pipelines made with the help of ZBrush, Mari, Maya, and Arnold.

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Hey everyone, my name is Yangzhengnan Cheng. I'm 25 years old and I'm a 3D Character Artist from China. This is my second year since officially entering this field. I've been studying and improving my craft, and I'm happy to share the processes I've explored with all of you!

I'd like to thank Natalia (Blu304), Xiaode Zhu, and Huifeng Huang. They're very talented 3D Character Artists and my good friends. They have helped me a lot throughout my studies in the field of 3D! Many thanks to 80 Level for the opportunity to talk about my work.


My basic process is to sculpt the head model in ZBrush, paint the Skin and Eye Maps in Mari, and render them in Maya using the Arnold. I also use XGen's guideline mode to create the base hair and then convert it to interactive mode for adding hair details.

This project was a challenging endeavor for me as I had no previous experience in creating realistic production processes for film and television, especially when it comes to sculpting realistic heads.

When the Prime Minister shared the idea for this project, I began collecting images on Pinterest. During my search, I came across a photo of a fashion model named Sasha Belyaeva, which I used as a reference for creating female portraits.

Start Sculpting

I bought the basic mesh made by J HILL at the ArtStation. His YouTube channel has a lot of great tutorials! The process of carving the head is very interesting and there are times when you will encounter a lot of problems, but with perseverance, you will surely have a good result.

Once the basic head sculpting was done, I chose TexturingXYZ's new resource, VFace texture, to apply to my head mesh. Additionally, I added some hand-sculpted details to the lips and nose sections.

I have to say, the Vface mapping delivers incredible detail when applied to the model after the PS conversion! For this project, I used the VFace file pack 97, which provided an abundance of amazing detail. This was particularly beneficial in creating a realistic portrait of a young woman.

Skin Material and Texture

For the color mapping, I used VFace's texture colors as a base and went into Mari to draw more details as well as color differentiation of the various parts of the face. All of the Face Maps, except the Diffuse Maps, were drawn in a relatively short time.

I mixed the VFace Replacement Map with the Replacement Map sculpted in ZBrush and I drew a 0-1 Map in Mari to control the replacement intensity of the red channel of the VFace Map. This is the result of an earlier test of displacement mapping. It's the most perfect skin texture I've ever seen!


I used the HDRI light from the VFace file package for testing, without any other light sources, and the results turned out great! I also experimented with testing the model using other HDRI lights.


I used XGen's guideline mode and interactive mode to create the hair. I used the guideline mode to create the basic hair and the interactive mode to modify the shape and details of the hair.


For the eyeball, I found a nice Pupil Map on the Internet but it wasn't the color I wanted so I added the Ramp node to the pupil's base color and adjusted it to the current blue color. To make the eyeball more similar to the real eyeball, I made a difference in the highlights on the iris by covering the pupil with a black mask and added the Noise node to the white area to simulate the undulation of the blood vessels on the white of the eye.


When I was collecting material on the internet I found a photo taken by photographer Marat Safin and copied the lighting, but this time I didn't do it well enough.

I hope you find this breakdown useful! If you have any questions or are interested in my work, you can contact me via Instagram or ArtStation.

Yangzhengnan Cheng, 3D Character Artist

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Comments 1

  • Willer Rayen

    牛啊!好看!就是上面那个replacement map 没太看懂,是指displacement map吗?


    Willer Rayen

    ·6 months ago·

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