3D Artist

Sculpt stylised character hair

Tips & Tutorials
Carrie Mok

Forget hair simulations and get creative instead

Q’Maera is by Alexej Peters, a lead artist at RABCAT computer graphics in Austria. Peters has been a fan of fantasy and sci-fi all his life – something that’s often reflected in his fan art and professional work. You can see more of his work on Artstation.

Here Peters gives us some tips for sculpting stylised hair for characters and explains why he didn’t simulate it.

“Simulated hair looks better and more realistic of course. But I wanted something more stylised and artistic for this character since the overall proportions of the model are exaggerated and stylised. Also I tried to avoid any kind of alpha transparency for my textures because it is very difficult to make it look good in most real-time engines. Working with simple polygons enables you to be creative and requires less technical knowledge of CG hair.

“Hair and fur work took two thirds of the time taken to create this character, and this included research and trying different workflows. I tested simple poly cards and FiberMesh, but none gave me the desired look.

“For the fur, I used a similar workflow to the hair except for one thing. To save time I sculpted the main shape completely in ZBrush without doing the retopo and subdivision modelling in Maya, then just placed the hair tips on top of it.

“The smooth preview in Maya lets you work with the curls without actually subdividing them. It took approximately 36 days to finish this character.

“I adjusted the proportions and added a little swirl to the end tips. This character was done for the ’Beast’ art contest that was sponsored by Allegorithmic.”

Now find out how Peters sculpted the hair!

Step 01 – Get the shape right


Begin to sketch the volumes and rough proportions for how the hairstyle should look. Use any sculpting tool for this while indicating how the hair flow should be, but keep it simple without adding too many details. Then retopologise: I used Maya’s Quad Draw tool for this. Now we need nice topology. The mesh should then be ready for subdivision.

Step 02 – Add layers


A couple of different curls will be created and placed as a second layer after subdividing the mesh underneath. The curls should not intersect each other though. Model the pigtails from one duplicated segment in a row, then model the ends using the curl parts. To place them on the head, I used Maya’s Wire Tool.

Step 03 – Perfect details


In order to save some time, do the curls symmetrically first. Afterwards add a couple of additional curls to break up the symmetry. If you are happy with the hairstyle then it’s time to add some final details in ZBrush. Utilise the Dam_Standard and Pinch brushes to add some thinner strands. The lazy mouse feature can help to keep the strokes nice and even. After that, you can start working on retopology and baking.