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1 Tutorials LightWave 3D Creating Polygon Hair em Qua Jan 26, 2011 1:43 am


by Elmar Moelzer

Since the excellent hair- tutorial by Stu Aitken
for Inside LightWave® 6 (and 7), one
question has been asked over and over again:

How to put hair on that head?

Given a bald female head may
look sexy sometimes (a la Alien3), but it does
not really fit my taste and probably not the
taste of most readers of this tutorial. There
are quite a few ways to do hair and probably
the most popular solution is the use of Sasquatch(-light),
the wonderful hair- plugin by Steve Worley. This
solution certainly produces great and realistic
hair, but it also has its disadvantages, which
are due to the nature of these kinds of plugins.
Because of it being a post- rendering- effect,
it does not do raytraced shadows and reflections
and it does not show correctly in refractions
neither. This is why I decided to develop my
own method for doing polygon- hair, based upon
what I had learned from old techniques, but by
using the new features of LightWave® 6.5+.
This hair does not have the disadvantages of
plugin- hair and it could also be used as a proxy
together with Sasquatch(- light) to have something
that will show in mirrors and to cast raytraced
shadows on the body.

This tutorial requires solid
knowledge of LightWave®s tools and is probably
not to well suited for beginners. It requires
LightWave® 6.5+ and an image- manipulation-
software such as Aura, PhotoShop or PSpro.


I decided to use subpatches
for my hair- strands, due to the fact that they
require less geometry for the definition of the
shapes an thus are easier to handle. The use
of normal polygons might be more efficient, which
would help decrease rendertimes, but would certainly
increase the amount of work needed.

Modeler with the head of my
still hairless "Cornelia" in a background- layer
(active layer 2):

Create a flat box with 7 segments
in y- direction:

Create a UV- map with the following

result is a UV- map that is nicely laid out
on the UV-grid:

Now go into subpatch- mode
[TAB] and use the drag- tool to modify the geometry
to look similar to this:

This is our very first strand.
The area of the hair- root may stick into the
head a bit, but the strand must not cut through
the head anywhere else. You should try to have
a bit more space to the head especially on the
sides. Please copy this strand into a separate
layer for later use. Now clone this strand and
place the copies around half the head by moving
and rotating them. Take care for the strands
not to cut into the head anywhere. If you like
you can modify the strands to fit the shape of
the head a bit better. You do not need to pay
attention to the shoulders- area yet, as we will
do that later on. This may sound like a tedious
task, but it isn't. In fact, it should not take
experienced users more than 5 minutes to do this.
I decided to put two strands behind the ear:

Now copy these strands into
a new layer and move them down and in a bit.
This will become the layer of hair closest to
the head. In the best of cases this hair- layer
neither cuts through the hair- layer above, nor
through the head (this should be avoided at all
cost). Again it may only stick into the head
at the roots.

You can now delete the polygons
that are completely inside the head:

I repeated this step one more
time and placed this new copy right between the
first two layers, a bit nearer to the first one,
as I still had a lot of empty space left there.
This way I got a bit more volume and I avoided
holes through which one could see the head below.
Basically one half of the head should be perfectly
covered with hair now. If you like you can go
on and add even more layers of hair, but I think
that for this tutorial three will do the job.
Please be aware that additional layers will dramatically
increase rendertimes!

Next we will pay attention
to the shoulders- area. Again we do not want
the hair to pass through the geometry of the
body. If you are planing to use Skelegons for
later animation with bones, you may very well
leave the hair the way it is now. For this I
would suggest to leave the "wig" in a separate
layer and parent it to the head- bone later on.
This way I avoid the hair- bones distorting the
body by accident. The posing of the hair in Layout
may be a bit more difficult than in Modeler though.
Another way of doing the animation may be by
the use of Motion- Designer. Preparation for
that would be similar to the next steps, but
with the difference that one needs more space
to the body, for the hair being able to "fall" down
on the shoulders more naturally. For this tutorial
I decided to do the "posing" of the hair in Modeler
by simply dragging around points.

This is the result with all
layers activated:

While I used to be pleased
with the way the hair- modeling looked at this
point, I realized during render tests, that something
was still missing: Natural hair does not fall
down that evenly. In fact long hair uses to break
and splice (female readers may very well know
what I am talking about). This creates shorter
fibers that stand away from the haircut. What
is not so loved by people, who pay a lot of attention
to their perfect hairstyle, should still be of
interest for us, for we will not want our haircut
to look like being wet or fresh from the barbers.
To get around this, we need another layer of
strands, which will be on top of all other layers.
For this we will use our very first strand of
hair (the one we copied into another layer for
later use), but his time we will need a lot of
thinner strands, so we will have to use the stretch
tool to make it thinner. This time there is no
need to pay to much attention to the hair cutting
through other strands and the way they are distributed
over the head. These fibers will be very thin
and here the count is more important than the
precision. You may also use Modelers tools to
get a bit more variation into them and to make
them shorter than the other strands.

Because of these fibers being
a bit shorter than the other strands, there is
no need to match them to the shoulder- geometry
this time:

If you haven't done that yet,
apply a new surface- name to every- hair- Layer.
This way you can easily select every layer using
the polygons- statistics (in case you would need
it later on). Now you can copy all hair- layers
into one single Layer and mirror them. Don't
forget to use the DragNet (or other tools) to
add a bit of variation to the other side to avoid
obvious symmetry. The result of the Modeling-
part should look similar to the one displayed

Here we clearly see the big
advantage of creating a UV- Map right in the

Yes, it is still laid out
perfectly! Despite the massive deformations
and cloning we did to the geometry afterwards!

2: Layout, Surfacing, and Texturing

First we will need a good texture
for our hair- strands. It should look similar
to the one here:

kind of texture is easily done in Aura, PhotoShop
or PSpro. I created it by stretching an image
similar to the "FractalReflections"(from
the LightWave® Content) in the y- axis
a few times. A bit of contrast- adjustment
and it was done. You may use the image on the
left to complete this tutorial and as a reference
for your own textures. Because of functions
differing a lot in the applications named above,
I really don't want to get into much more detail

texture is then placed as an imagemap into
the following channels of the hair- surfaces:
Specularity (invert Layer), Transparency, Bump
(invert Layer)and Diffuse (invert Layer).

projection- type is UV. The UV- map is of course
the one we did in the beginning of this tutorial.
If you want to, you can paint another texture
for the color and apply it to the Color- channel,
which will ad further variation to the hair.
This is especially important to make brown,
blonde or gray hair look more realistic. Because
my "Cornelia" having her hair dyed red, I was
able to drop that step. Basically a simple
reddish color and Color Highlights set to 50%
(Advanced Tab in Surface- Editor), proved to
be sufficient. Don't forget to make the surface "Double-
Sided" and to turn "Smoothing" on.

for the rendering:
want to admit that render times can be high.
You also should use Anti-aliasing of at least
Medium with Adaptive Sampling off, because
of the hair- texture having a fine structure.
Otherwise you might experience a Moiré- effect
during animation.

you can see a very first test rendering (render
time 6min 58 sec on a Dual 1Ghz P3 in 640 x480
with Ray traced Shadows on and Anti-Aliasing
High). This looks like hair, but is still far
from being perfect. It still lacks Volume and
there are parts where one can see right on
the head below. With a bit of fine-tuning and
a few more layers, it will become a very nice
looking "wig" though. To get a bit more variation
into the strands I played a bit with the UV-
map. I moved the UV coordinates for some of
the strands and varied their width in the UV-
window. I also modified their geometry a bit
to make the hair less
and to add more variation.

is the final result, I got after a bit more
tweaking and a few more layers (6 layers in

I hope you enjoyed this little
tutorial. For questions regarding this tutorial
or LightWave® in general, don't hesitate
to contact me. Good luck, happy rendering and
god bless!

If you'd like to contact Elmar,
send email to:

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