Hello everyone, my name is Fábio M. Silva and I'm a CG artist from Portugal. Today I am going to give you some insight into how I created my CG model of Klara Medkova, which is to date probably the most famous of my works in the CG community.
Some friends of mine who are enthusiasts of my CGI works, who had seen some pretty awesome CG realistic humans from other artists, told me that I should try and make the most realistic human possible as I could. Although I really like stylised yet complex characters, such as characters from Final Fantasy games and Blizzard Entertainment cinematic characters, I also like seeing more realistic characters. So I gladly took up the challenge of making this model for my upcoming demo reel.
After searching for a while, I decided to create a CG model of Klara Medkova, a Czech supermodel (Fig.01). Not only is she really cute, but there are also some really good references of her on the internet.
I found that my model library that I've been building up over the years, specially the generic female models I have made, needed a revision, so I decided to build Medkova from scratch (Fig.02). It was challenging for me because I hadn't modelled a female face from scratch for quite some time. It takes a lot of time and patience to get things right. The secret behind feminine faces, in my opinion, is moderation and balance. Her face isn't symmetrical, but it's good to just look at one side of the reference and try to make proportions good for the other side as well (since usually the modelling on one side doesn't match the reference on the other, as faces are not symmetrical). At the end I usually add a morph modifier or edit polygons on top and create some asymmetry to break things up a little and to make stuff more interesting to look at in the final render.
Since the ears are one of the most complex regions of the human body, I decided to model them separately (Fig.03). It doesn't match Medkova's one 100%, but I think it came close enough for what I needed. I also tend to have to make compromises between 100% resemblance and good topology, which isn't always the easiest of choices. Not forgetting that I needed to make this head generic in a way that would allow me to use her again in the future as my new generic female (which may prove to be difficult since Klara has some very unique facial features).
As you can see from Fig.04, I hadn't totally finished the head when I started to think about how to merge both the head and the ear together. This was one of the most time consuming and hardest steps for me since all needed to fit together perfectly and make sense in terms of the topology (I always tend to make my models capable of animation, as if they are for a production environment, which meant Klara had to be able to have facial animation and deform properly, whilst not being too dense in places that do not require so much information, i.e. in the places of the human head that don't have so many muscles).
The head was finally complete in terms of modelling at this stage (Fig.05) - 100% quads, with not even a single triangle or N-Gon! It was hard to get to this stage, but I believe I did a good job, and it has been the most perfect head I've ever built so far in terms of the quality of the mesh. At this stage, it just needed to be tweaked in terms of proportions to be as close as possible to my model, Klara Medkova.
Texturing & Materials
A few years ago, I hadn't yet realised the true power of good texturing. It is one of the major factors that make a model work or not, unless it's a clay render of something like a statue or the like, but since we're talking about realistic humans here, texturing (and clean UVs) is really important!
Since I wanted to make large final renders of her, I decided to go with big textures. Each map for the head was 4K. Her eye textures were smaller, but still fairly big. I textured her, paying very close attention to the real Medkova face, getting spots in the same place and scars as well.
The materials were quite simple: I used a Fast-SSS for the head and eyes and a transparent raytrace material for the cornea, and I had to tune them all quite a bit before I got the results I wished for (Fig.06).