Turning 3D Portraits into Art

Turning 3D Portraits into Art

Piotr Rusnarczyk discussed the production process behind his amazing artworks.

3D can mean art too. We present to you our talk with an amazing artist Piotr Rusnarczyk about his beautiful works. 


Hi, my name is Piotr Rusnarczyk. Currently I’m working for Flying Wild Hog Company in Warsaw as a Senior Character artist. My first spark with CG graphic was struck when I attended the Polish Academy of Arts in Cracow in 2001. I studied mostly photography, also I was focused mainly on woman portrait and until now I’m continuing my fascination in my spare time primarily. My professional career went a bit different way. After finishing college I’ve been making 3D models for computer games for 6 years. I took part in projects like Bulletstorm and Gears of War 3. Next I was involved with Flying Wild Hog studio It was 4 years ago. I participated in creating game models for Shadow Warrior and Shadow Warrior 2. In the meantime, I took some freelance work. I’m always open for interesting and evaluative skills job, so when some day Platige Images studio proposed me to work on some cinematic character for Hitman I did not wonder too long, I took it. That was a really great time to work with 3D scans and approach photographic look and level up quality of models. I have enjoyed my time with “ Polish Legends”  when I created 3d doubles for Twardowsky 2, Baba Yaga and cooperated in creating the character of a monster Basilisk. It was also a good time to learn Arnold Renderer which I often used for creating my artwork, for example Black Rose.

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The Most Important Elements 

I’m afraid I can’t clearly answer this question: “What is the most important element of character creation?”

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I think this depends on your focus, and what you want to transfer from your mind to pictures. Woman face has so many interesting and at the same time inspirational parts that you can use to express your thoughts.

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My favorite parts for sculpting are around a lips and mouth, next eyee, line connecting the ear with bark and neck. I think these are the places that I love to visit most often. But I think the most important part of the portrait is the light. Without light, sculpt or colour textures do not exist; this is obvious. I love playing with lights and I spent most of my time setting the lighting for the model. So if I should answer what mainly makes that render looks real, I answer: definetly – good light setup.

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3D Art

I’m not sure if this is the time to define or name my works art I’m still feel like a student. Sometimes all these things going on in my head… I just try to illustrate them. As I mentioned my first medium was a photography and in this field I try finding some of inspiration. Albums of my favorite photographers always are opened and ready to give some inspiration or help me. For example, I love art of Richard Avedon for the way a woman’s portrait is treated, his photographs are so unique because you can find the balance between form and eroticism, see beauty of woman body without any filthy associations. He is like a mentor to me.

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I really like watching women, and if I manage to use something and put it in my work then I’m happy.

When it comes to nudity. I always try to show something beautiful, maybe interesting, sexual content has minor importance for me.

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If I’m working on makeup for my models, I’m using my intuition mostly. I try choosing shape of panting to work with all composition.The rest is how far I use imagination, that’s all. I recommend book ‘Makeup your mind’ by Francois Nars. This is a really good set of lectures for artists who illustrate women and who’re seeking references for good makeup. For me this book was revolutionary.


My pipeline every time is little bit different, and depends on inspiration. For example I’ve started Black Rose with base ready mesh which I found on 3dscanstore.com. This scan model really suited me, because I was looking for some asian faces for my illustration. Otherwise I have to spend a lot of time to sculpt model and I’m afraid at that time my idea can escape, so I’ve decided to play with 3D scan.

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Black Rose


For retopology I used ZRemesher with retopology guides, this is a really handy tool, you can set up how line of topology may run. And creating new suitable mesh, before you project scan data mesh for a new one.  

Face expression

I decided that my model should have closed eyes and little mouth opened. I wanted the face to express a bit of ecstasy, just like the smell of flowers as if the model was far from this place, somewhere in own mind. For modification I used simple Move Brush and Smooth Brush to improve mesh. Really helpful was a polygroup tool for separated parts, editing parts of mesh like eye or mouth.

Resculpting / Detaling

I use 3d scan detail as a base, however parts of them I clean up and make new.

For detailing I used standard brush with alpha similar to skin wrinkles from ZBrush library. For brown I used rake brush, for mouth slash3 brush to improve the quality of skin. I don’t have my own setup of brushes.

I dynamically change settings depending on the strength of the detail.

Completing scenes

To complete the compositions  I added some elements. Emphasizing facial expressions depended on my decisions, so I putt hand on the right side of head, also added a flower. First, I wanted to use real rose, but at the end I decided to use some abstract shapes to emphasize the unreality of the scene. I think, It was a good choice.

Overpainting textures

One of the advantages of the scan is that in addition to geometry we also buy texture. For me it also saves time. I used simple brush to add few details to existing texture. Next in Photoshop I added layer with painted makeup for my model.

Baking textures

For baking textures I use Multimap exporter. I like this tool because with one click we can generate all base maps. The next step is Photoshop. Mix ambient occlusion with cavity map – that way I created simple specular map. To create SSS maps I used color map with grayscale.

I don’t have a recipe for perfect textures; I’m always trying a little bit of improvisation and at the same time checking the effect in renderer’s widow. I think that is the best for creative work and the results.


Before loading my models to Maya, I used aiShaders with presets from support.solidangle.com. and started playing with my own setups and textures. Lighting setup is really simple. My idea was showing model with possible intimate climate. I used area light because of smooth shadows. I really like this type of light because it reminds me of soft box light from real studio. Also set it color temperature to 6750k to gently cool color the scene. Lastly, I added random hdri map for details in shadow to become visible and noticeable.


Last touch – few colors and filters in Photoshop. To emphasize the climate I added more blue color. I also recommend a set of free filters called Google Nik collection. I used  Color efex pro 4 and Cross Processing effect.

Piotr Rusnarczyk, Senior Character Artist at Flying Wild Hog

Interview conducted by Artem Sergeev

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