Making of "Black female"

Hi, my name is Sinan Zöngör, I am a 3d Artist with a strong passion for creating human characters. I am deeply inspired by the work of artists like Kris Kosta, Ian Spriggs, Sefki Ibrahim, Marco di Lucca, Kubisi, only to name a few.

I love sculpting human characters. But when it comes to detailing, I don't like spending too much time working on pores.TexturingXYZ, with its vast library of textures from all ages, ethnicities and gender, helps a lot to speed up the detailing and texturing process. On top of that, it provides you with breathtaking realism.

Searching the internet for pictures of beautiful black women was the starting point for this project. Since this would not be a likeness sculpt, I used the reference pictures more as an inspiration to find the facial features that I like.

I also used some anatomical references of underlying muscles and fat tissues as well as some female skull references.

Sometimes I use Sketchfab and load a good scan or anatomical model so I can view my reference from different angles. If it’s a scan with a texture, I deactivate it by activating matcap instead.

That way it shows a shiny, metallic material, which is much better for reading forms. Unfortunately you can’t change the field of view settings of the camera, and if you zoom really close in you get a lot of distortion. But nevertheless a good help sometimes.


Sculpting a realistic looking character is not an easy task, but with time you eventually get better. It’s important that you spot your weaknesses and try to actively improve them the next time you sculpt. Sometimes I catch myself observing people's faces, especially from unusual angles. for example if someone reads a book in front of me in the subway. I try to memorize how faces look from all different perspectives. That helps me a lot.

The following video shows how I approach things when it comes to sculpting human heads. If I am using Dynamesh, I always start with a skull shaped form and add more and more flesh so to say. In the early stages my main brushes are ClayBuildup, Move, and Smooth.


Finished sculpt:

After I was happy with my sculpt, I made a quick retopo with ZRemesher with some guides directing the edge flow, and generated my UVs in Zbrush. The result ZRemesher gave me was good enough for my purpose, so I didn't make a retopo in 3dsmax ,Maya or Wrap. 

Now that everything was prepared, I started with the detailing process. In this case I projection-painted the displacement map in Zbrush directly. I choose Female Face 20s Full Face #09  for this one.

I made a layer of each channel in photoshop and adjusted the levels so that neutral parts got a mid-grey.

After levels correction:

I imported them into Zbrush and applied them to my model. 

After that I sculpted the details for the missing parts of the displacement on a separate layer.

It's very important to observe human skin details from different parts of the human body. The pores and wrinkles on the front side of the neck for example look very different compared to the backside. Also you have to consider changes in pore size in different regions.


The Albedo map i choose, was the Female 30s Multichannel Face #27 .

This time I took the killer workflow approach and wrapped a plane with the texture around the face using R3DS Wrap.

In Zbrush, I projected the plane's texture onto my model, removed the eyebrows and filled in the missing parts.

Although the albedo map was just fine, I wanted to spice it up a little bit. Also the color of her lips was too uniform, bluish and too dark for my taste.

I added some reddish color to the cheeks, changed the lips color, gave her some eye makeup and finally she got some liver spots and irregularities.


In recent years I worked with Ornatrix and 3dsmax for grooming and rendering, but recently switched to Maya/Xgen. I like Xgen a lot. I find it very intuitive and the visual display of the hair in the viewport is very nice. You really see what you later get in your renders.

In Maya I made 7 separate hair descriptions. Long hair, stubbles, eyebrows, eyelashes, nose hair, peach fuzz, and also a ladies moustache. This one had to be very decent and only visible in extreme closeups.

I find it incredibly important to work with density- and width-maps for parts like the hairline and the eyebrows. It gives the hair a more realistic and natural appearance.

In case i change my main shapes after i already created my hair, I use the conform tool in Maya to align my groom-meshes to the new sculpt.

For her longer hair i used 3 clump modifiers, 1 noise modifier for overall noise, 1 noise modifier to create stray hair, cut modifier for length variation and coil modifier for some curliness.


I used specular to emphasize the wetter parts of the face like the lips, inner eyelids, the inner parts of the ears and the tip of the nose, while the coat controlled the overall specular appearance.

Working with two specular reflection passes which you can then dial in separately, is a great way to achieve the diversity of reflections visible on a human face.

To break up my coat highlights I used the map with the tertiary displacement and piped that into a color correct node. Which then controlled my coat intensity.

I used the same tertiary displacement map and multiplied it with my specular map to break up my spec intensity too.

Finally I made additional maps in Zbrush to control the roughness of my coat reflections and specular reflections. The following animation shows how my coat roughness map affects the roughness of the ears.

This is my shader network for the skin material in Maya:


For the rendering part I decided to make a hdri lit 2/3 view as well as one profile shot with high lighting contrast emphasizing the silhouette of her face.

I tried different hdri environments to light her, just to ensure she is looking good under all sorts of lighting conditions. Besides that, I was able to see various lighting moods to choose from for the main rendering.

For the main render I used only 1 hdri to light the scene. For the profile shot, 1 strong area light coming from her front/ left, 1 subtle rimlight and 1 hdri skydome with very low exposure.

I cranked up Camera (AA) samples to 12 for the final rendering, to make sure that all the fine hair is rendered just fine without noise.

Final profile render:

Finally, thanks to Texturingxyz for giving me the opportunity to share my workflow for this character with the community.

I had very much fun creating this and I already wonder who my next character will be. I hope you liked it!

You can follow my work here on Artstation and Instagram.

We would like to thank Sinan for his helpful contribution.
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