Skin Shaders in Games and VFX

by Mar 9, 2017Shader

Skin Shaders

Skin Shaders in Games and VFX is another broad topic. In our previous article on Digital Skin we've talked about geometrical and color properties of skin, but that is not all! The way the actual "look" of Digital Skin is created is through a special kind of Shading Network.

As skin is one of the most important aspects of Digi-Double creation process, people throughout their lives have been trained by nature to recognise imperfections in human skin and how it reacts to light. In short, if skin looks wrong - it is usually recognized as dead or alien, or at the very least inanimate.

Think Zombies, you know one when you see one!


PBR Skin Shaders

PBR Skin Shaders in Games

One way game developers deal with Real-Time shading is we use PBR Skin Shaders. PBR Shaders are special kind of shaders which allow for well balanced shading scenarios, where all light contributions are normalised.

Light normalisation is what happens when all light energy expanded or absorbed is between 1 and 0. Providing for a way to standardise look development of 3d Assets, in our case 3D Characters, more streamlined throughout the pipeline.

PBR Shading is more of a framework where a lot of shading/lighting parameters are automated leaving less room for errors.


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Sub-Surface Scattering

The proper look of digital human skin is achieved through the use of effect layering. This requires augmenting different levels of shading procedures on top of one another to simulate skin's light absorption, refraction(scattering) and reflection(re-bounce).

In reality, what we deal with is the light and not the skin. The skin works like a medium which affects and changes the light. But, the light is what gets bounced around from the light source back to the digital camera sensor to produce what we see as "skin".

Digital skin is an illusion!


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Best Regards,

Ruslan Vasylev

Ruslan Vasylev



Professional 3D Modeler with 17 years of combined VFX and Games experience, managing Vancouver-based 3D Scanning Studio,

Servicing Visual Effects for Film, Television, Games and Virtual Reality production studios.