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Realistic fur on animals using Autodesk Maya

Learn how to create realistic fur on animals using Autodesk Maya's X-Gen tool in this step-by-step tutorial.

Get insights on importing reference images and meshes, adding fur guides, and adjusting modifiers for a natural look.

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- Workflow

  • Before we import the dog mesh we first need to set up our project.

  • This is so we can save our XGen progress.

  • After you’ve set your project, place the dog base mesh in the center of the scene along with a Free Image Plane with the reference for the fur.

  • From the front view adjust the head and the reference so they’re perfectly aligned.

  • Next up, add a Lambert material to the base mesh.

  • If we open up the UV Editor we can see that we have an open UV Map for the mesh,

  • To start making the guidelines for the fur, open the Generate tab and click on the Paint Effects Tool options menu.

  • In this menu, disable the Draw as Mesh option.

  • Select the tool from the tools options on the left side of the workspace and start adding strands to the base mesh.

  • Important note to keep in mind when adding hair or fur, the strands won’t be the same length everywhere and the direction the strands will go will also be different depending on where they are.

  • Try your best to follow the reference and accurately place down each strand of fur.

  • In the Outliner, select all the Strokes, open the Modify tab, hover over the Convert option, and select the Paint Effects to Curves.

  • Once we do this we can see in the outliner we now have our brush strokes and stroke shapes.

  • We don’t need the brush strokes anymore so we can select all of them from the outliner and delete them.

  • With the stroke shapes, select all of them from the outliner and group them up together.

  • Select all the stroke shapes again that are outside of the group and delete them.

  • Instead of normally mirroring the fur guides we can instead make a duplicate of the group and flip it by typing -1 in the Scale X in the Channel Box.

  • Some strans won’t make sense to be where they are because of the duplicate so we can go ahead and delete the strans of fur we don’t need by selecting the strans and pressing the Delete button on the keyboard.

  • With the Paint Effect Tool draw some more strands of fur on the chest and back of the mesh before we again select all the brush strokes, open the Modify tab, go to Convert, and click the Paint Effects to Curves.

  • Like before, select all the brush strokes from the outliner and delete them.

  • Select the Stroke shapes and group them up.

  • After grouping them, select the leftover stroke shapes and delete them.

  • Select the mesh, click the XGen menu on the top of the workspace then click the Open XGen Window icon.

  • In the Description name type Fur.

  • In the Create new Collection name it Face_fur and set the Control Primitives to Placing and shaping Guides.

  • Select all the guides, go into Utilities in the XGen menu, and click on the Curves To Guides option.

  • After that click the Add Guides button.

  • You can select a bundle of strands and use the Rotate tool to rotate them outwards so that they’re not so stuck to the mesh.

  • In the XGen options click the Sculpt Guides tool and use it to relax some of the fur or take out any strands that are going inside the mesh and overall make the fur look better.

  • Next to the eye icon, there is an arrow pointing down, click it to access the options for the Preview.

  • Turn off the Update Preview Automatically to save the trouble for our pc trying to keep up to simulate the changes while we constantly tinker with the fur to make it as realistic as possible.

  • When we click the preview button we can see there are some strands of hair showing up on our mesh but there isn’t enough.

  • To fix this problem, in the Primitives options increase the Density to 80.

  • To make the fur flow better you can fix the Width Ramp scale in the Primitive Attributes.

  • The R stands for roots of the hair and the T stands for the tips of the hair.

  • The fur looks nice but it still needs more work to be done on it.

  • Open the Modifiers options and click on the small plus icon on the right side.

  • The modifiers will help us make adjustments to the strands of hair.

  • The first modifier we’ll be adding is the Clumping modifier.

  • This will clump patches of strands together to bundle them up in one singular shape made out of those strands.

  • To set up the clumping, click the Setup Maps button in the lower right corner.

  • It will open a new window called Generate Clumping Maps.

  • In this window, click the Guide button to add where these clumps will form.

  • Click the Generate button to generate where the guides will be.

  • Every time we make a change, move strands, and add modifiers you have to click the Preview button again to re-set the preview.

  • To add the clumps, click the Save button at the end of the window.

  • We can add another Clumping modifier to make the fur less messy.

  • Like before, click on the Setup Maps button, click on the Generate button then Save.

  • To fix the clumps we can change the Clump Effects. In the second Clumping, set the Clump to .60.

  • For the first Clumping, set the Clump to .70 and increase the R side of the Clump Scale.

  • Another modifier we can add is Noise.

  • This will ruffle up the clumps a bit and make them look more natural.

  • In the Noise Modifier change the Frequency to 1, the Magnitude to 1.5, and lastly change the Magnitude Scale where the R side is lower than the T side.

  • To make the fur a bit curly we can use the Coil modifier.

  • We can see it is impacting the model a bit too much and to fix this we can change the coil Count to 0.5 and the Radius to 0.3.

  • The snout is being more affected than the rest of the body and that is because we don't have a Density Mask set up.

  • We can click the small arrow on the right side of the Mask setting and click the Create Map option.

  • A small window will open called Create Map.

  • Click on the Create button to make the new mask.

  • This tool will prevent modifications to affect certain parts of the mesh by painting them black and only the white parts will be affected.

  • If we double-click the tool on the side it will open up the settings for the brush.

  • We can switch the brush type from this menu to a harder brush.

  • Paint out the areas that you don’t want the Coil modifier to affect.

  • If you accidentally over-painted the black on the mesh, double-click on the brush t open up the tool settings, and slide up the Color slider to go from black to white.

  • You have to manually change it to black after fixing any mistakes.

  • After painting in the mask, re-set the preview to see the result.

  • We can add this mask inside the Primitives options that affect all hair strands.

  • Next to the Mask option inside the Primitives tab, click on the small arrow pointing down and click the Create Map button.

  • Mask out the areas you don’t want the hair to go like the eyes, ears, and nose.

  • We can add lighting inside the scene by opening the Create tab, hovering over the Lights, and selecting the Directional Light.

  • Scale it and move it above the mesh at an angle.

  • Turn on the lights, texture, and shadows in the project so you can see the light affecting the mesh.

  • We’re going to do one last change to the Coil modifier and that is changing the Count and Radius scale to get a nicer effect.

  • Add another Noise modifier and change the Frequency to 1, Magnitude to 0.8, and the Magnitude Scale as well where the R side is all the way down and the T side is near the end.

  • The last modifier we’ll add is the Cut modifier.

  • This modifier will make random lengths on the strands of fur through the Amount value.

  • Set 2 values inside the Amount and re-set the preview to see how it affects the mesh.

  • Make sure you input two small values so the change isn’t too drastic.

  • We don’t want the Cut modifier to affect the snout of the dog, to fix this we’re going to Create a Map and mark which parts we don’t want the modifier to affect the mesh.

  • End Result.

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