Alexander Beim is an artist from Germany who, as a child was artistically inclined. He later graduated as a painter in Russia but discovered that with the computer he has a new, very wide possibility to realise ideas. Since completing his training as a multimedia producer in Frankfurt Germany, he has worked as a 3D graphic designer at an company. There, however, the area of 3D graphics was very small so Alexander decided to develop his 3D knowledge fully, by going freelance. 3D and art is his life. Alexander has kindly broken down how he created his portrait of Albert Einstein. To see more about this piece, check out 3D Artist issue 120.
1. The Making Of Albert Einstein by Alexander Beim
After I finished the order for the creation and animation of the 3D head of Albert Einstein for the hologram, I wanted to share the work done. But I realised that the quality of the hologram is still very low, and the state of detail that my model currently has is not enough to represent it in the major galleries online. This also inspired me to invest my spare time, in order to improve the model and try to bring it to perfection. I had nowhere to hurry, I just wanted to achieve a certain result and raise my level. Therefore, I had many attempts and many of them were unsuccessful. As I thought, I lacked the knowledge and techniques. I reviewed a lot of lessons on creating skin in Arnold. Ultimately, I think I did not come up with anything new on the technical side, and I worked with the standard way but put in my work, love and attention.
2. Finding the reference photos.
The first thing I started with is collecting photos of Albert Einstein. Unfortunately, it turned out, there are not that many, with very few of good quality. And even then, they were black and white. There were no photos from certain angles either, so I had to use some from video footage that was even worse quality. Eventually I saw enough of them to such an extent that I began to feel the shape of Einstein’s face.
3. Front and side views for an approximate determination of the face proportion
From the photos I got, I created a front and side view for the basic proportions of the face, lines of the eyes, mouth and nose. Subsequently, using the surface transparency effect of ZBrush with the See-through feature (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtpoukSpx-Q), I used them to compare my model with the original.
4. Molding of a rough shape
For this, I took my basic model head with the topology correct for the animation and started working intuitively. I must say that all the phases that I have written about were not clearly defined. I kind of sketched one stage and went to the next one, later I went back to the previous one and so on. For example, when I more or less understood the shape of the head, I began to sculpt. By constantly comparing my work with photographs, I understood the lines and form of the face of Albert Einstein more and more. As I knew that I was going to create an animation later, I decided not to make the head perfect in the first stages, because the face under lighting, with the material and textures can look completely different in the animation, and only then can we see the errors that were not noticeable on the grey model. I decided that when the rig and animation are ready, I’ll make corrective blendshapes in which I’ll add the fixes.
There is nothing special to talk about here with the UV coordinates I created in Maya. I used the UDIM method and broke the full head into three large pieces. The most important part of the head the face is on one piece in full size. These are not really important parts, such as the neck and ears on the other piece and the remainder on the third. Since the top skin of the head is not visible, I reduced its UV in size and got an additional place for other parts.
6. Wrinkles and pores
I needed to create a specific person and therefore I should have, if possible, created not just wrinkles, but the wrinkles that were on Einstein’s face. First, I drew them with ZBrush Polypaint on the smooth face of my model. I did not use ZBrush HD Geometry, although I now regret it. In my model there were 8 ZBrush Subdivision Levels. For the grooves I used the Dam_Standard brush. To quickly build the form I used Clay_Buildup Brush and inflated with the Inflate Brush. I had large wrinkles in one layer. For the small pores I created another layer. I also had a layer with the eyes closed, for the convenience of creating fine wrinkles on the eyelids. I also created a layer with the final pose for my rendering. Some of the alphas I created myself, some I used the default.
Fine wrinkles, pores
I created the displacement map in Zbrush. Next, I exported two models, low poly with UV coordinates and high poly from ZBrush and imported them into the Substance Painter. In it, using the Bake maps function, I baked a low-poly texture with the details taken from the high-poly model and proceeded to make the basic texture of the skin. I could not use photos from other people for texturing. I needed a face of an old man and textures with wrinkles, but wrinkles from other people’s faces will not match the wrinkles of Albert Einstein. Therefore, my textures were created partially procedurally and even hand painted. After I created the basic layers with a common skin colour, I created a few procedural noise textures. Next, with the blending mode color, I created the chromaticity of the areas of the face. Roughly speaking, the forehead is yellowish, the cheeks and nose are reddish and the beard is bluish. Also I drew wreaths moles, and old spots under his eyes and on his forehead.
8. Export to Maya
Everything was ready for further work in Maya. I imported the low-poly model and started with lighting. For rendering, I chose Arnold. In the latest versions in Arnold, I have expanded the capabilities of the skin material and now the skin in Arnold looked even more realistic. I used two basic area lights. I placed one light behind and one on the left above. Also for GI, I used a DomeLight with an HDRI map. After I was satisfied with the lighting, I proceeded to create the skin material. First of all, on the material of AiStandardSurface, I placed the Displacement map and switched on Displacement and Subdivision in the Arnold tab on the head model. After I set up the basic parameters of the material, I began to place textures in it to complete the process. After I was pleased with the look of the skin with textures, I started to make hair. In fact, I was not satisfied with the skin shader. There were a lot of experiments with the parameters of the material and mixing of textures and utilities.
For hair making, I used Maya interactive grooming. I really really liked this new tool, it’s really brilliant. I took one large copy of Einstein’s head model and distributed all the hair on it. It was separate hair only for the head. I also made separate grooming for the loose hair on the head and separate grooming for the moustache, eyebrows and eyelashes. First for the head hair I created Guides and built the form with their help, but afterwards I switched to brushes and almost all hair was created with brushes. Of course I used the same modifier, such as noise and others. For a more random hair look, I used all kind of textures in Modifier.
10. Eyes and final steps
The eyes I created from two objects. The outer ball with transparent material is only for gloss, and the inner material without luster was with a textures. On the white part of the eye I also painted a pair of wreaths. For the volume of the iris, I also used displacement.
In this work, I almost did not do anything in Photoshope. I just created a background, adjusted the contrast, a little colour correction and added a signature. I am myself very happy with the result, I hope you will liked my work too.