The Discerning Wolf Creating Realistic Animal Fur With Sasquatch
Wolf fur is a beautiful thing to behold. It is so rich with layer upon layer of subtle diversity, it seems natural that it should be a complex task to re-create in CG. With the foresightful Tools Sasquatch provides, making beautiful, "realistic" Wolf fur is actually easy!
Because this is a tutorial on understanding what makes Animal Fur look the way it does, (not on Character modeling,) I'm only going to touch briefly here on the importance of the Model that sits beneath the Fur. However, making sure your Model reflects the actual skin of the Animal is integral to making the final product look good. Understanding Anatomy, is important, but even more so is being able to "guesstimate" what the skin looks like beneath the inch-or-more worth of "smoothing" and "padding" the Fur adds to the form. (Comparing photos of "Hairless Cats" with what we normally think of as the nice, "roundy" forms of "Regular Cats" is a big help in getting a handle on "Skin" versus "Fur.")
Contrary to popular belief, the most challenging thing in creating a Furred Animal isn't the process of laying the fur over the Model's Skin, nor is it the painting of the Texture Maps that govern the Patterning of the lights-and-darks of the coat. The only real challenge is in understanding the construction of the fur layers themselves - this is the real Core Concept behind the way Fur looks like it does! Once you've got a grip on this Core Concept, things like Length, Density and Fur Patterning are almost "no-brainers," (when you have good Reference Material to work from)!
Now, I want the "meat" of this Tutorial to be Hands-On, and since not everyone has immediate access to a good "Skin" Model of a Wolf, lets explore the Core Concepts of Animal Fur with a "Level 6 Tessellation," 1 metre Sphere.
With that Sphere
in Layout, a nice Gradient
in the Background, (so we can see our fur against something other
than flat-black,) apply the default
Sasquatch settings to
Sphere and Scene. And
this is where the fun begins...
The first Core Concept of animal Fur is that the Tips of the fibers hold the darkest hues, while the Base of the fibres hold the lightest hues. (Wolf fur, courtesy of "Wolf.") Generally, the Black areas on a "Black-and-White" Wolf aren't Black all-the-way-through. The Black is usually only at the Tips of the fur!
So, with this Core Concept in mind, enter into Sasquatch's Panel for the Sphere, and let's start working some settings!
Now, lets adjust the other Settings so the Fur looks a bit more like the long, straight "Guard Hairs" of a Wolf's "year-round" coat.
Now we've got something tat looks a little more "spikey," a little more like the Guard Hairs of the Wolf fur we saw earlier. It's not bad, but it still looks incomplete...
The second Core Concept of Animal Fur is that it is actually, (usually,) made up of two different kinds of fur. There are the Guard Hairs, (which we just made,) and then there is the soft, downy Undercoat! The individual fibers of the Undercoat are very similar to lamb's wool, and serve as insulation from extreme temperatures. In this paragraph's Illustration, you can really see the ratio of Undercoat to Guard Hair in this sled dog's coat. (Sled dog's fur curtsey of "Peter Pan.")
Under the Sphere's Displacement Menu, Copy-and-Paste the Instance of Sasquatch we just got done Tweaking so we've got a good base from which to create our Undercoat. Deactivate the bottom Instance, and open-up the top so we can make that layer of "soft and fuzzy" fur!
Then, going back under the Sphere's Displacement List, activating the Instance of Sasquatch that created our Guard Hairs, and doing another <F9>, we see a ball-o'-fur that has the same complexity and feel as "real" Wolf Fur!
Now that you've got Fur that looks "real," applying that Fur to a Model of a Wolf's Skin is almost a "no-brainer!" Even so, there are a couple of Tips I can offer for the process, things that may make your life a little easier.
Now, as far as how to go about Painting Color Maps and "Black-Tipped-Fur"
Maps, there's no "secret" to it. All it involves is
careful observation. Surround yourself with as much Reference
Material, ("Scrap,") of the Animal you are Furring
as possible. Get as much Scrap, from as many different
angles as possible, and under as many different Lighting Conditions
as possible. Let what you see in your Scrap be your guide you
in your creating the Patterns of Color and Shade!
An Artist is only a focus
for his experiences.
A twelve-year Lightwave veteran, Timothy Albee now lives, Lightwaves and mushes in the wilds of Alaska. He has authored Lightwave 3D Character Animation, and Essential Lightwave, (spring 2003). He has also written for Keyframe Magazine, (you can find an in-depth comparison of Furring Systems available for Lightwave in Keyframe # 31).