Blender cycles skin

Blender cycles skin DEFAULT

The key to skin shading in Cycles is the relatively new “Subsurface Scattering” node. This “BSSRDF” surface type is essentially a fully-featured translucent material allowing light to partially pass through your object. A crucial characteristic of human skin.

In Lesson 1
I will walk you through more of a simplistic approach to skin shading using the Subsurface Scattering node basically by itself.

In Lesson 2
I will show you a more complex approach based on Matthew Heimlich’s Arnold Skin Shader Port. This prefab shader group offers traditional tri-layer skin construction that’s standard with commercial renderers like Vray, Mental Ray, and of course Arnold.

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Subsurface Scattering¶


Subsurface Scattering Shader.

The Subsurface Scattering node is used to add simple subsurface multiple scattering, for materials such as skin, wax, marble, milk and others. For these materials, rather than light being reflect directly off the surface, it will penetrate the surface and bounce around internally before getting absorbed or leaving the surface at a nearby point.

How far the color scatters on average can be configured per RGB color channel. For example, for skin, red colors scatter further, which gives distinctive red-colored shadows, and a soft appearance.


Color of the surface, or physically speaking, the probability that light is reflected for each wavelength.
Global scale factor for the scattering radius.
Scattering radius for each RGB color channel, the maximum distance that light can scatter.
Used only with Cubic falloff. Values increasing from 0 to 1 prevents softening of sharp edges and reduces unwanted darkening.
Normal used for shading; if nothing is connected the default shading normal is used.
Texture Blur
How much of the texture will be blurred along with the lighting, mixing the texture at the incoming and outgoing points on the surface. Note that the right choice depends on the texture. Consider for example a texture created from a photograph of skin, in this case the colors will already be pre-blurred and texture blur could be set to 0. Even for hand-painted textures, no blurring or minimal blurring might be appropriate, as a texture artist would likely paint in softening already. One would usually not even know what an unblurred skin texture looks like; we always see it blurred. For a procedural texture on the other hand this option would likely have a higher value.



Rendering method to simulate subsurface scattering.

Is an approximation to physically-based volume scattering. Gives less blurry results than Cubic and Gaussian functions.
Random Walk
Provides the most accurate results for thin and curved objects. This comes at the cost of increased render time or noise for more dense media like skin, but also better geometry detail preservation. Random Walk uses true volumetric scattering inside the mesh, which means that it works best for closed meshes. Overlapping faces and holes in the mesh can cause problems.
Is a sharp falloff useful for many simple materials. The function is \((radius - x)^3\).
Gives a smoother falloff following a normal distribution, which is particularly useful for more advanced materials that use measured data that was fitted to one or more such Gaussian functions. The function is \(e^{-8x^2/ radius^2}\), such that the radius roughly matches the maximum falloff distance. To match a given measured variance v, set \(radius = sqrt(16 × v)\).


BSSRDF shader output.



Random Walk subsurface scattering.

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Cycles - SSS Skin Shader

For the last few days I’ve been testing Cycles, which is a fairly a new unbiased CPU/GPU path tracer renderer for Blender, available alongside Blender’s internal engine. When combining its speed with the flexibility of Blender’s Shading node editor, it becomes a serious contender to Vray, Arnold, Keyshot, Octane or Corona, plus it’s Open Source and free.

While Cycles comes with basic shaders like Diffuse BSDF, Subsurface BSSRDF, Glossy BSDF (including the GGX Shading Model), etc, to create realistic materials you have to combine these together into more a complex Shading Group. Once created, this Shading Group can be easily reused and shared between scenes, and can be controlled with a set a variables that you decide to expose to the end user. 

In this example I am mixing together two Subsurface shaders, a Diffuse shader, and a GGX Gloss shader. To get a red scattering lobe, I am overlaying the color inputs of the SSS shaders with two complimentary colors, slightly weighted towards red, and I am using two different scattering radiuses to simulate two skin layers. For the specular component I am remapping the fresnel node to allow individual control over the F0 and F1 parameters. 


Skin shader for Blender-Cycles/EEVEE

@Donchuanltd Hi, thanks for your feedback and suggestions. For the color control i use a “color picker” So you can choose the exact tone you are looking for. Not all people knows how the RGB curves works. You can change the tones using the technique you are saying with curves, but doing this you are affecting the entire color map over all the model.

With my shader you are basically using a 3 layers system, if you are familiar with Arnold, it used a similar layered system for the skin. Where you can have different tones and different SSS radius scales for each layer. You dont have this by default in Blender with the SSS nodes. You can only have one SSS color for all the model and one SSS radius for the whole model. And you also have the control on how to mix these layer together using a thickness workflow.

As you can see in the features you also have the option to preview how the scattering is going to work in different zones. This shader is for users who needs more control over the default SSS features. This extra control will give you that extra boost to get more realistic and better results. My shader is a little bit more efiicient because you dont have to be guessing the parammeters for the SSS radius, i already set that for you, you only have to play with the radius scale depending of your models scale, nothing more, and ofcourse play with the other settings like layers color to get the effect you are looking for. I also give you a pdf with my workflow and tips to get more realistic skin results. You will also get the upcomming updates for free, like EEVEE support, skin alphas, procedural skin textures and more.

Like any other custom shader out there, they are intended to make the artists workflow more easy, just append the shader, play with the settings and there you go.

(Sorry for my English, not my native language, i tried my best).



Cycles skin blender

Building the reptile skin shaders in Cycles

So, let's start with the Gidiosaurus skin.

But first, as usual, we must prepare the file:

  1. As the very first step, go to the folder and move the textures , , , and to the folder.
  2. Then start Blender and open the file we saved in Chapter 11, Refining the Textures.
  3. Switch the left UV/Image Editor window with a Node Editor window and press the N key to get rid of the Properties sidebar. Put the mouse pointer in the 3D viewport to the right and press the T key to get rid of the Tool Shelf panel, then press the Z key twice to go in Solid viewport shading mode.
  4. Enable the 3rd scene layer, select and delete the ...

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Blender SSS in EEVEE vs Cycles (SubSurface Scattering)

Skin Shader for Blender [Cycles/EEVEE]

Skin Shader for Blender [Cycles/EEVEE]

Skin Shader for Blender [Cycles/EEVEE]
Blender .blend | User Guide PDF | 4 MB


--- Skin shader for EEVEE (Simple version).
--- Skin shader for Cycles (Advanced version).
--- PBR Ready (Get same results under different light scenarios).
--- Customizable colors for different skin areas.
--- Have different SSS radius scale for different areas from the model.
--- Get a colorful representation on how the scattering is working on different areas.
--- PDF User Guide. (Step by Step guide and a section of tips to get more realistic skin).
--- You will also get any future update.

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