Working on a Realistic Portrait of Yoko Shimomura

Roger Magrini shared a few production details of his Portrait of Yoko Shimomura made with Maya, XGen, and Arnold.


Hi everyone! My name is Roger Magrini and I'm a Brazilian 3D Character Artist focused on photorealistic portraits.

Before doing 3D work I was a Biologist and Photographer! I know right, weird, but here I am! I'm kind of new to the 3D world, about 1,5 years in, so I don't have a lot of projects I have contributed to. There're a few, but I still can't share them. I worked at a company called Stratostorm, here in Brazil, and now I'm doing freelance work. I've been doing realistic portraits for about 8 months now, I guess... I'm not that good at tracking time.

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Portrait of Yoko Shimomura

I started this portrait as a tribute to the amazing Yoko Shimomura! She is one of the best composers I know and I wanted to share her incredible work (please, listen at least to one composition of hers).

For reference, I tried to find as many pictures of her on the internet as I could. The best sources were YouTube videos from which I took some screenshots. When working with references, I don't put my work on top of them and try to eyeball everything instead.


First, I created a basemesh that suited my needs (UVs, topology, and stuff like that) and started with it. My basemesh has some landmarks, so I move things around a lot and try to match the volumes as best as I can, without messing up the anatomy. The hardest part is to match the proportions - man, that's hard and it's a lot of trial and error! I use the basic brushes the most (damstd, claybuildup, move, move topological, and smooth), no Sculptris Pro.

Skin Texturing

For micro skin details in this project, I used the amazing maps from Texturing XYZ, though for the first two portraits I did everything by hand using HD Geometry. I think there are no rules for detailing stuff, it really just needs to suit what you want. I usually stop when I feel like I reached what I needed (and when I'm tired of it). 

Still, skin is complex! Texturing XYZ helps a lot when creating displacements and albedos, but sometimes you need to treat those maps in Photoshop. Skin needs a lot of color variation, from broad to tiny shifts (and also a lot of layering). I added a tileable vein texture on top of my main albedo and some very desaturated hints of color zones. For roughness, I paint a b/w spec map with ZBrush Polypaint with some broad and small areas. This map serves as a spec map and a coat map in Arnold. For SSS, I use the albedo as a base, and, for the radius, I follow the Arnold User Guide recommendations!

It's worth mentioning that I learned a lot from Kris Costa's FOTW course. Kris is an amazing person and professional, and I recommend his classes a lot!

Topology & UVs

There are some topology blueprints out there which we can base our work upon. I took a few of those blueprints, used them as a reference, and created mine on top of a base sculpt I had before.

For UVs, I used 6 UDIMS for the whole face cutting the middle of the face in half (two UDIMS for the middle). I love to do UV  unwrapping in Maya and for straight UVs, use Headus UV Layout because Maya's Straighten UV tool is broken!


Hair was done with XGen Core. I created scalps for every groom part and did the guidework accordingly (a good guidework is important). Speaking of modifiers, you can't go wrong with clump, noise, and cut! I always do a clump by guide on my first clump modifier and then add more clumps to break it.

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Final Renders

The rendering was done in Arnold. I don't have the best PC specs, so I always use .tx textures conversion (it helps a lot with performance), autobump in SSS, and 14AA samples for the final images.

Speaking of the lighting, I always use an HDRI (usually from HDRI Haven, an amazing website). I don't like to work with the studio lighting that much and prefer not to use it in my personal stuff. We don't see people walking in fancy rim lighting, with some dramatic Rembrandt lighting setup in the middle of a street. I import an HDRI that I like, rotate it for a good spot, and that's that! 

Roger Magrini, 3D Character Artist

Interview conducted by Arti Sergeev

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