Let’s talk about a notoriously difficult topic in 3D: modeling realistic hair. There are tons of reasons why hair is so difficult to get right. For starters, just one head of hair is a collection of about 100,000 individual strands of keratin! Each strand works together—or against each other—to create an attractive style or a bad hair day. Not only that, there are so many different kinds of hair—hair colors, shapes, textures, fizziness, straightness, curls. You get the idea. Hair is a big part of how a person appears, so when it comes to creating 3D characters, this is something you want to get right!
Let’s talk about hair and how it works in Daz Studio.
3D Hair in Daz Studio
We understand hair can be a source of frustration. It is important to realize that hair is an extremely difficult part of creating realistic 3D models. In fact, many artists will spend as much time making the hair as they might the entire character figure, if not more for truly detailed, realistic hair. Sure, some characters come with a hairstyle or two, but for the most part, it is up to you to find hairstyles you like that are designed to be compatible with those models.
There are hundreds of beautiful, stunningly realistic options to choose from on our marketplace. There is a high chance that one of them will capture the vision you had in mind when you chose your character. But, if you are like me, and many other Daz Studio users, you may want to learn and get better at creating your own 3D models. Did you know that Daz Studio has a totally free, built-in feature just for creating hair? If not, this guide is for you as we take a deeper look into 3D modeling realistic hair right in Daz Studio!
Before we get into the studio, let’s take a deeper look at hair and some important theory ideas that will help you recreate hair as a 3D artist. Cosmetologists become familiar with something most refer to as Hair Section Theory. While hairstylists often use this theory to help them cut hair, it can be useful to understand how to style hair that looks good and natural in 3D.
The basis of Hair Section theory splits a head of hair into sections. There are many videos on YouTube that do a great job explaining this theory and where each section is located on the head, such as this video. I am not a cosmetologist, so I will leave the details to the pros. When it comes to 3D modeling, this knowledge can be beneficial. The idea is to be aware of each section of hair. 3D is a reflection of reality in a digital world, so why not mimic real stylists in how you design your digital hair? Keeping track of these sections, and working in these sections will help encourage a more natural look in your final render!
When we start working in Daz studio, you will see how having a basic understanding of hair sectioning theory can be extremely helpful, especially in designing female hair or more complex hairstyles.
Studying Reference Photos
As you start practicing making hair, don’t be afraid to look for references. Even professional artists and animators use references. It is by far the best way to ensure that your 3D art stays as true to life as possible,
and is a key to creating realistic work. You could never spend to much time studying references and recreating what you observe to the best of your ability!
I found this photo on our Daz Gallery, rendered by the talented Daz artist, LaMuserie, and will use it for demonstration purposes.
In this simple exercise, examine your reference hairdo and draw over it two to three times. The first drawing, simply trace the overall shape of the hair. Think of this as the base layer of the hair. In the next drawing, examine the
direction, movement, and shape of the smaller, more individualized clumps or groupings of hair. Notice how they move and play within the greater shape you traced previously.
Think of it like water cascading over a cliffside. Which w
ay does the waterfall flow? How does the hair react when it reaches the shoulder? And lastly, the most detailed drawing, is looking at the more precise shape of the finer details—braids, curls, etc. Depending on how detailed the hair is, you may or may not want to draw a third level of detail. Keep these basic shapes in mind as you get started. You can refer to these shapes as guidelines to help you stylize your own model’s hair.
Strand Based Hair in Daz Studio
There are a number of 3D modeling programs that many artists use to create hair and even the entire model. If you have access to these industry-standard tools—awesome! Using them surpasses the scope of this tutorial, though there are many great tutorials about how to use them. One feature of Daz Studio I wanted to highlight today is Strand Based Hair. The unique thing about this tool is 1) it’s totally free and already built in to Daz Studio, and 2) you don’t have to have a lot of experience making 3D models to get results.
Now, that said, the strand-based hair system is not as comprehensive as simply creating it from scratch. So, while it is more accessible to beginners, it is also going to be a little more limited in scope. Basically, with this tool you will be able to manipulate a series of sliders and tools to help get a desired effect. If you want to give this tool a try, start by opening Daz Studio and loading in a figure.
With your character selected in the scene tab, navigate to Create > New Strand Based Hair. A dialogue box will appear allowing you to name the strand-based hair you are creating, but you can just click accept and use the default name if you like. Next, a dialogue box will appear explaining that this system can be heavy on performance for older systems. Because of this you can select normal or low. If you don’t have a newer graphics card installed you may need to select low.
Inside the Strand-based editor you will see the window for previewing your character and hair, six tabs along the top (setup, paint, distribute, style, clump, and tweak) and workspace and global settings to the right. You will use each of these tabs consecutively to create your hair.
In some instances, the viewport in the editor may load entirely black. If this happens, an easy fix is to click on Graphics Settings at the bottom left of the editor. Toggle between low and normal a few times to ensure that your graphics card loads properly. After doing this several times, the card should load and start displaying properly within the editor.
Now that you are in the editor, on the first tab, Setup, you will be telling the editor where you will be applying the hair. With this system you can create body hair on any part of the body—excellent for facial hair and adding other detail to a character. For the sake of the tutorial, we will be selecting the face and torso. This will of course select more of the body then we need, but have no fear, we will address that in the next section
Once you are ready, simply click on the next tab, Paint, to continue the process. You will now see a wireframe style view of the part of your character that you selected previously. In this step we will be painting onto the model precisely where we want hair to grow from on our character. You will hold the Left Mouse Button to do this. You can also hold the ALT key and click + hold LMB to erase.
On the right workspace you can use the settings to customize the size and intensity of the brush to help you more precisely paint where you want the hair. The denser the brush, the thicker the hair which will be placed.
Whatever brush settings you prefer, make sure you set Symmetry to Symmetry U. This will ensure that whatever you do one side will also be done on the other side of the head as well. Even if you are creating an asymmetrical hairstyle, I would still recommend using this feature. As you will soon see, there are other tools that you can use to create the style. This is simply making sure that you have hair available where you need it, and that it looks even and realistic!
This is where you can set the density, or how thick, your character’s hair is going to be. In most cases, I would suggest making sure you err on the side of thicker, to help avoid show through when you render. This can be performance intensive, so ultimately you will have to find the right balance for what looks good in your render but doesn’t overtax your system’s performance.
This is where the magic happens, and, arguably the tab you are going to stress over the most. You have a number of tools available in the Workspace Settings panel. The most valuable are right at the top: Style Curve tools. The first four tools are selecting tools. You can select the entire curve (hair strand) or just the tip, just the root, and so on. The comb tool, first tool on the second line is a quick and easy way to control and shape the hair. Like a real comb, it pushes hair down and straightens it out. The bottom row of tools help you manipulate curves by extending them, curling them, and bending them.
I highly suggest that you test each tool to get a feel for what it does. No worries, you can use the back arrow located in the top right of the screen to undo anything you do during this testing phase. Once you feel like you have a feel for things it’s time to start creating Curve Selection Sets. Remember earlier when I mentioned Hair Section theory? Now is a great example of how we can put that to use. I created four section sets myself. One for the bangs, one on each side of the top half of the head, and one for the back of the head above the neckline.
Creating these sections will help you style and manipulate the hair. Once you are done, scroll down in the Workspace Settings Panel until you see Show Hair. Checkmark this to see the strands of hair. Then select the Extend Curves tool, and one or more of your Curve Selection Sets. With the extend tool you can left click, hold, and drag side to side to shorten or extend the hair. Once you have a length you like, use the comb and other tools to start shaping it the way you like. Refer to your reference often for shape and movement. The main reason these sections are so helpful is because not all hair is the same length, especially in the case of bangs.
Take your time and carefully work each section. Once you like the shape, you may need to make smaller selections to help style and create movement in the hair. Take your time, and remember you can always undo any mistakes.
5. Clump and Tweak
The final tabs, Clump and Tweak are excellent methods for adding a final touch of realism to the hair. Explore each slider and see what it does to the hair. You can affect the clumps. Or groupings of hair, as well details like fizziness in these sections. Use these tabs as little or as much as you need to produce end results you are pleased with!
Hair Shading with Surfaces
You may have noticed that you can tweak the color of the hair within the Strand-Based Hair editor, however this only changes the color of the hair within the editor. This could help you visualize what the final image will look like, but ultimately, don’t worry about it. You will use the Surfaces tab to select the color of your hair.
Once you have closed the strand-based hair editor, navigate to the surfaces tab, with the hair still selected. Select the strand-based hair object, or whatever you named it. Now you have a wide variety of options to choose from to further tweak the look of the hair. You can select base colors, root colors, highlights, and more. I went for a more natural look but you can do whatever you need for your render!
While it took quite a bit of work to get right, I am pleased with the results! If you gave it a try, we would love to hear about it in our Forums. If you ran into any trouble or had questions along the way, please reach out to our large community of users here! Thanks for joining along!
Don’t forget to check out our marketplace for all your rendering needs. We are constantly growing our collection of 3D models. You are sure to find high-quality, professional looking hair assets and more!