Making of Lecter

This is just a brief making of I have prepared about my first experience in creating a realistic head character and capturing a celebrity likeness. The portrait is of the great actor Sir Philip Anthony Hopkins (Dr. Hannibal Lecter) around age 66, according to my reference images. Software used: 3ds Max, Photoshop, V-Ray, ZBrush, TopoGun, Unfold3D

01.LECTER_base-mesh-topologyBase Mesh Modeling: I started by creating a base mesh in 3ds Max, using 1,392 polygons. I used several reference images to get to a general form.

topology_refTopology reference image by zbro

00.LECTER_main-referenc-iamgesMain reference images

02.LECTER_topologyUpping the subdivisions: I imported the OBJ file into ZBrush and increased the polycount to 5,652 (SDiv2) in order to capture more detail. I considered the main facial proportions in this level too, with the Symmetry off.

04.LECTER_basic-sculpted-modelI kept on sculpting and capturing all the details (except the skin pores). When working on a celebrity head model, we usually face a common problem which is the difference in FOV of our reference images. As we use Google to source images, almost all of those photos have taken with different lenses, like Normal, Tele or with different levels of zoom and with different distances from the subject. So it’s always recommended to collect those reference images that have been taken under similar circumstances.

03.LECTER_cheking-proportionsI had this problem a lot during the project and I would have to change the Angle of View in ZBrush to 25, 15 and sometimes 5. In this image I combined the head model with the main reference image in order to check proportions and compare its feel and look. In this way I could find out where I’m going and which areas still need to be modified.

05.LECTER_head_zbPORES: This image below shows the alpha maps that I used to create the skin pores. Except the one that looks like leathery skin (this is Leathery Skin88), I designed the rest of them in ZBrush and Photoshop.


04.LECTER_head_fibermeshHair: I used FiberMesh, GroomHairShort and the Move brush to create and comb the hair, eyebrows and eyelashes. I also used layers to control the intensity of the brushes.

06.LECTER_clothesClothing: For clothes I referred to a scene of the Hannibal movie where Doctor Lecter is talking to Clarice in a mall. I modeled a base mesh in 3ds Max and sculpted the details in ZBrush. I didn’t work on pockets as I wanted to get a close render at the end. For the T-shirt neckline, I got a duplicate of it in ZBrush and created a regular and clean topology in a mid-level using a Topology brush, then exported that to 3ds Max, extruded those tiny polygons, exported back to ZBrush and projected the new changes on the main mesh. I used both Unfold3D and 3ds Max to create and edit the UV co-ordinates.

08.LECTER_3dsmax_vraysss2Skin shaders: I exported 16-bit displacement maps and started to get some test renders in 3ds Max to be sure that it was working just like ZBrush. To create the skin shader, I first changed my unit setup to centimeter and calculated the size of the head. I Googled Anthony Hopkins’s height and found out he is 5? 9? (174 cm) tall. So 174 cm divided by 7.5, Head = 23.2 cm for the head size. Obviously it was an estimated size but really helped me to set the SSS parameters closer to reality.


This is just a test render with V-ray and VrayfastSSS2. I simply used a V-Ray Dome light with a HDRI map in this scene. I haven’t used any reflection and scatter radius maps yet.09.LECTER_sss_shadingLight test render: This image below shows another test render, this time using two layers of reflections and one V-Ray Sphere Light to see how the SSS acts under a single light. I also used another VRayFastSSS2 material for the eyes with a V-Ray Plane Light assigned only to the corneas. The Global Illumination is off for now.I recommend you study an article called Rendering human skin using a multi-layer reflection model’ by Ling Li and Carmen So-ling Ngthat. I found it really useful to get a good understanding of human skin simulation.

10.LECTER_color_mapColor map: I both projected textures and polypainted in ZBrush to get a decent result. I then exported a color map out of ZBrush, opened that in Photoshop, added more details, modified HSL and reduced the intensity of reflections in some areas. I also considered a scatter radius map to control SSS effect in areas where it was too much, like ears and wrinkles. This head on the right is just after the modifications.

11.LECTER_test_renderMore lighting: I then added three lights to the scene – two as rim lights and one as a cornea reflection, including a HDRI map.

12.LECTER_final_color_mapHere is my finalized color map of the head.

13_LECTER_light_setup14.LECTER_renderThe final lighting: The final lighting setup included seven V-Ray Lights. At this point, I also turned the Global Illumination on.

LECTERLECTER_clayLECTER's_headThe final render: The clothes are a falloff map and the hairs are a simple standard material. I imported beauty pass in Photoshop and I did some color correction over it, and it was done. Please feel free to comment or contact me for any questions. Thank you!

  • Hamed

    Nice Job! Keep it up Dude,
    Hope to see final result asap
    Best wishes 😉

    • Hossein

      Thanks a lot Hamed!

  • Amgad

    Great Job Bro,
    Keep it up 🙂

  • This is just amazing ! What realistic work,
    very inspiring !

  • Ash

    So, when you meant , two layers of reflection .. what exactly did u mean ?


    • Hossein

      It means blending two reflection materials. One as Fresnel with less glossiness and the other as oily skin parts with more glossiness.

  • Parham

    Wow !
    I mean … Just WOW man ! 😀

  • Amazing work.

    By any chance could you possibly let me get the first alpha on the top row and the first 3 on the bottom row? Trying my hand at sculpting and this is a big inspiration.

  • Awesome and Thanks

  • Terry Davies

    Hi, amazing model of my favourite actor. Is the model for sale?

    • Hossein

      Hi Terry, Thank you for your comment!
      Unfortunately it’s not for sale.

  • mohammad pashapoor

    Hi, first of all ,great great great work!
    and second ,may i ask how much time did you spend on this project?

    • Hossein

      Hi Mohammad
      Thank you for your comment. Basically I was studying V-Ray skin shader, ZBrush, human skin as well as impact of different races on facial pores therefore I’m not sure how much time did I spend on it specifically. I did so many tests with a lot of back and forth to understand the subjects. But I was studying and testing the subjects for about one year during my spare time.

  • Javier


  • Michael

    Hi Hossein. Can you share you alpha pores please? I am learning how to detail skin pores and I think your alphas are really great!! I would really appreciate it!!

    Amazing work by the way!!

    • Hossein

      Hi Michael,
      Thank you for your comment : ) You can use the following link to download them.

      • Michael

        Hi Hossein, thank you for those alpha sets. I was wondering if you can share the other alphas that you showed on image above. There are 8 alphas on that image. Will that be okay to share and use?? Thank you so much anyways for the 4 alphas that you sent!

        • Hossein

          Sure, I will share a link here as soon as possible. I’ve been so busy these days.

          • Michael

            Hi, I know its been months, but i am still hoping if you could share the alpha you are using? Much appreciated!! Thanks!!

Success, your comment is awaiting moderation.