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Behind the Scenes: Portrait with Waves


I am a freelance character artist and digital sculptor with a focus on 3D print, toys, and miniatures.

I quite often explore aspects of character creation other than sculpting and this is how I came up with the idea for my “Portrait with Waves.” I’d been looking for a way to first freely develop the look of the hair by sculpting it in ZBrush and then turning it into a particle system in Blender.

The HairNet addon by Rhett Jackson gave me the opportunity to do just that. I was very pleased with how much control over the hair strands I had with this workflow.

So let's have a look at it.


I had in mind a pinned waves hairstyle with each hair in place and, after looking at tons of references, this is the sculpt I came up with in ZBrush.

I did not use one particular person as a reference for the face, but rather used many and the likeness was not the focus, as I planned to concentrate on the hair.

I blocked in the base for the hair using the Insert Brush and then used the Move brush to refine the form. I sculpted the eyebrows and the lashes, as well, to use them as the reference for the hair creation in Blender.

Working with HairNet

HairNet is a free add-on for Blender that is available on GitHub. You can find a good Blender Wiki and a step-by-step here.

Here are the things I consider to be the most important to keep in mind while working with HairNet:

You need the mesh object to receive the hair system. You could use the mesh of the character or create a separate “scalp” mesh for this purpose. Then you need the meshes that would be used to generate the hair guides. The number of edge loops along a hair's length must be the same for every mesh that is to receive one particle system.

Here is an example of how it works on one single strand:

I took care that all the meshes making up one strand had the same number of edges along the length, then generated the guides and the hair with the HairNet.

Here is how the hairstyle comes together:

I made groups composed of strands of the same length (highlighted by colors) and then attached a separate particle system to each of them.

Adding the lashes and brows in Blender

I established the length and the overall look and placement of lashes and eyebrows in ZBrush and then imported the meshes into Blender to use them as the reference. I set one guide for each eyelash and then styled them individually.  I added about 3 children per guide on the eyebrows.

Texturing and skin setup

I handpainted the skin and the makeup in Substance Painter and then brought the textures into Blender to render with Cycles. I loaded the reference meshes for eyebrows and lashes into Substance Painter to place the makeup correctly.

Here is the network for skin with makeup and settings for the Hair Shader.

This is the one I used for the pearls.

Rendering and compositing

I set up simple 3-point lighting and rendered the portrait with Cycles. The background is added in Photoshop. Here is the final. Hope you like it! :)

About the author

Anna Schmelzer, Freelance character artist and digital sculptor



About Author

Abby Crawford

I've been a part of the BlenderNation team since 2018, producing Behind the Scenes and Meet the Artist features that highlight Blender artists and their work.

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