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skull and antlers by Katharina Thösen

skull and antlers by Katharina Thösen

by KThoesen on 28 Apr 2021

I'm proud to present you my skull and antlers project. I chose this project because really like the anatomy and especially the little details like the cranial suture. Above all the different textures like roughness parts of the antler where you can clearly see that the deer has some notches.

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The idea:

I really like the anatomy and especially the little details like the cranial suture. Above all the different textures like roughness parts of the antler where you can clearly see that the deer has some notches. And also very interesting where the areas with the finishing varnish. Some parts had a thick coat and others just a subtle one.

The references:

The use of reference material was for this project mandatory, especially for the anatomy studies. I learned how to approach certain goals, but the important part was to split the different areas and focus on them separately. It was a process of planning to organize what I concentrate on in a certain amount of time.

The Process:

• I started in ZBrush by creating a ZSphere Blockout from this point I used pictures that I took to create the base model.

• After that, I put it into Maya and did the Retopology and UVs. The ZRemesher in ZBrush was not the best and I had to do some areas manually.

• Back to Zbrush creating all the details! One big step was to create the displacement map. 

• Two main parts of this project were texturing in Mari and LookDev in Maya. I layered Procedurals, did some breakups with masks, handpainted some details, and did breakups again. 

• The lookdev parts were not so easy, because I had to change my first interior idea (skull hun on the wall of a cabin in the woods) and managed to get this done for a better look.

• Then I started rendering in Arnold and also did light selection for relighting in comp.

• In Nuke I did the Relighting, adjusted the sss and coat/spec, did a volume ray and atmosphere, dust particles, and added color grading.

The challenges:

At some point, I struggled and tried to solve problems. One minor problem was in lookdev to adjust the displacement map and the subsurface scattering map, but in the end, I found the right settings to show up my details.

Even though I had fireflies, I managed to fix them by creating a new Scene:
I searched again for lighting references and presentation options.

The new and final idea was a room with a simple cloth on a table and onto it my asset. It was more pleasing and all my maps like the coat, subsurface scattering, or displacement are looking better.

My challenge for myself was to accept that the initial idea didn't work out that great and to look up new ideas and inspirations, and to keep going and be more flexible with my ideas.

skull and antlers Turntable

The AOVs

Beauty - SSS direct - SSS indirect

 Coat direct - Coat indirect - Specular direct - Specular indirect

Texturing Breakdown:

BaseColor - Roughness - SSS

Lighting Breakdown:

Spotlight_skull - BG - Keylight - Rimlight_skull


I used for sculpting ZBrush, for creating textures Mari, I did Compositing in Nuke. For creating the dust texture for the Nuke simulation I used Affinity Photo. Cutting was in Davinci Resolve and I used Arnold for rendering.

What did I learn?

I learned that it is important to always be flexible if some things don't turn out that good and think more positively about the process even if more and more problems appearing. On the technical side, I learned to use more Nodes in the Hypershade in Maya and break up your coat/specular parts.

Planning was very important because you have to set a certain amount of time that you need for certain steps. Of course, you need to think about more time to fix things that could go wrong.


responsible for all aspects.

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