Cheap Hair & Fur

I've called this post 'Cheap Hair & Fur' for the simple fact that creating decent hair systems in various cgi packages generally involves purchasing some pricey addon. E.g. HairFarm.

While i'm sure these addons make life easier I wanted to experiment with some workflows that used some of the inbuilt tools available in the software packages I use already. That being Zbrush and 3ds Max.

In the past I have experimented with Zbrushes fibermesh. This can get some pretty cool results and I love that you can polypaint straight onto the fiber.

Basically the Fibermesh workflow involves masking areas of your mesh from where you would like the fiber/hair to grow and then using the various 'grooming' brushes to style the hair. This is the area in which is lacking, the styling. The grooming brushes seem to be a brute force styling process which doesn't allow to much control. You are also stuck to rendering your Fibermesh in Zbrush.

One tip i'd like to share for fiber mesh is to split your desired hairline into multiple polygroups to help with the styling process, much how real hair grows.

Here is an example of grouping the mesh in preparation for growing Fibermesh.

Now the next hair workflow I have been experimenting with is the native Hair and Fur modifier in 3ds Max. I must say I've never explored this in detail because I had read, more than once, that it is not worth any time. But I must say its actually a fairly robust system.

For one, you can render it in either Mental Ray or Vray my renderer of choice. The styling tools are very handy and have lots of options to tweak your hair to get the style and look you want. And you can also apply specialized Vray materials to the hair. The speed of the renders during my testing were also quite decent.

If you are rendering a hi-poly model in 3ds max I recommend creating a low poly proxy as the mesh to which you will 'grow' the hair. I found using the free form poly tools and drawing a low poly mesh over the hi-poly model a good way to work. This makes it easy to adjust the hairline as well.

Once the hairline base has been created we can apply the Hair and Fur modifier. Using the styling tools i found it relatively easy to get a hair style I was happy with. Its not perfect but with a bit of playing around you can get some cool styles. Parameters such as Hair Tip and Root thickness and Hair Count will play a big part in how the rendered hair looks. You can also use the extra features such as Flyaway to get a more realistic look. I suggest playing with them all. See my settings below.

Here is what the hairline mesh looks like with the styled Hair and Fur modifier applied in the view port.

Finally, as I am rendering in Vray I applied a Vray material to the Hair and Fur modifier. This greatly helps speed up the render time. I used the VRayHairMtl as the base shader and I applied the VrayHairInfoTex map to the transmission_texture slot to give some variance in the hair shader, otherwise all the hairs would look the same.

Here are the settings I used for the VrayHairInfoTex. Basically this will blend between two colours along the strand of each hair. Adjusting the bias parameter will affect the distance before the blend. Again experimenting with various settings can produce vastly different results.

And here is a test render of the Hair and Fur on my model.

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