Working on a Female Portrait: Hair Creation and Skin Detailing

Yuri Kantsevich briefly talked about his personal character art project: creating simple game-ready hair, projecting skin details with XYZ textures and ZBrush, working with reference, and more.


Hello, my name is Yuri Kantsevich and I'm 22 years old. I started learning 3D at the age of 14. I was born and raised in Brest, Belarus, but at the moment, I live in Saint Petersburg, Russia. I work at Sperasoft as a 3D Character Artist. In the past, I contributed to Metro Exodus, Saints Row: The Third Remastered, NBA 2K Playgrounds 2, and other smaller projects.

Lady Project: Goals

I started this portrait just to practice sculpting, with the goal to create a beautiful girl in mind. Later on, I decided to practice texturing as well and create game-ready hair. Unfortunately, at the beginning, I did not have a concept and a clear idea of how to finish the project.

High Poly 

I started with the face – it is the most difficult part in a sculpt. I used other sculpts, scans, and anatomical drawings to reach a more realistic result. I recommend analyzing everything before starting your work. I also look at life masks for practice, they show very clear shapes and details without the skin texture. If you respect the proportions, know the anatomy, and work with good references, you will create a good portrait. The main thing here is to practice.

For skin, I use XYZ textures and ZWrap following this tutorial:

The most important thing to note is that I added skin texture and pores last. Your model should look good without micro detail. 


In this project, hair is not very complex. I used ZBrush and Maya to create it, with no additional plugins. When working on hair, ideally you should have 360-degrees references.

The most important step is the blockout. For the strands, I created rectangles with many sections and just gave shape and direction to them; directions followed the references that I liked. After that, I added secondary and tertiary shapes to these large strands. It's essential to follow the references and not invent anything.

You can see the material settings below; for black roots, I used vertex color. If you use specular instead of metalness, then add color to specular too. 


When the low poly, UVs, and bakes were done, I started texturing. The most difficult task was to texture the skin. I used XYZ textures as a base, then removed the shadows, added an even skin tone, color variation, minor blemishes, moles, and makeup. I used baked maps to add procedural variety to the skin; the main maps I use were occlusion and thickness.

For accessories, I didn't make anything complicated – I just looked at real objects, fabric, feathers, and gold, and tried to recreate that.


Rendering turned out to be the most difficult step for me; at work I only do modeling, so I don't have much experience in creating renders for presentation. I didn't have a clear idea of what I wanted, so I didn't know what to do. I tried to use different lighting settings to show the model in the most beneficial way.

I ended up using a classic lighting setup – main (key) light, fill light, and contour light – and ACES tone mapping in Marmoset Toolbag.

For the background, I added fog with a light source – this created a volumetric gradient and a backlight.


Summing up, I can say that it was a big mistake to start the project without knowing how to finish it. The concept should be clear at the very beginning. It is worth paying more attention to basic things, the collection and analysis of references. I hope my next artwork will turn out better.

Yuri Kantsevich, 3D Character Artist

Interview conducted by Arti Sergeev

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