Creating hair in Maya and Unreal Engine 4: part 4

Mar 17, 2020 at 02:00 pm by nemirc

On the previous part, I had pretty much finished the hair and sent it into Unreal for testing. However, there’s a small problem. At first, I liked the idea of a “braid ponytail” and, overall, I do like how the hair looks. However, I changed my mind when I saw the final result, so I decided to change the style.

There’s this woman on Instagram that posts pictures of braided hairstyles on a pretty much daily basis, including video tutorials (you can visit her profile here). I have my character’s basic story background, and one of those story elements is related to her long red hair (long story short, due to various reasons, she really likes her hair and likes to do nice things with it), so I decided it would be nice for her to have some braided hairstyle. I ended up picking the one you can see on the image below.

I went back into Maya and I recreated that hairstyle using the same method I described before: drawing the splines and then creating an XGen collection containing different descriptions, using those splines as guides. In the image below I show you the full set of splines, and I also highlight how I grouped them all to define how I would create the descriptions.

RELATED: Creating hair in Maya and Unreal Engine 4: part 1
RELATED: Creating hair in Maya and Unreal Engine 4: part 2
RELATED: Creating hair in Maya and Unreal Engine 4: part 3
RELATED: Creating hair in Maya and Unreal Engine 4: part 5

As you can see, there are seven groups of splines, so I created seven different descriptions for the hair. After tweaking the shape of the guides a little bit, the hair looked really good, as you can see.

However, there was a problem. If you see the back of the hair, it’s like a wall of hair (in the original hairstyle, the hair from the back should flow over the shoulders and rest on the chest).

I used a region map to fix this. In XGen, a region map is a texture you can use to tell the hairs in which direction they should be facing. In this case it will be useful to tell the hair to go over either shoulder, but in other situations it can be useful if you want a “hairline split” effect (for example, when you want hair  on one side of the scalp to go in one direction but hair on the other side of the scalp to go in another direction). This took me a long time to tweak, and it was basically a combination of a high-resolution region map, and adding additional guides along the split line, to force the hairs go over one shoulder or the other.

On the next image you can see how the hair looks after this.

Lastly, I added some modifiers to the hair, to tweak the look a little more. This also made me add more guides to refine the look of the hair after applying modifiers. Basically, what I did was to add some subtle noise and clumping to improve the look a little bit.

But then, I had this idea. What if her hair was a little “wavy”? I thought it would be an interesting look, and it would certainly fit her character. To do that, I added a “coil” modifier to the flowing hair, and reduced the amount of noise a little bit (noise + coil was producing a weird result). The result is shown below.

Just like I explained before, I converted my descriptions into an interactive XGen groom, and then I exported it as an Alembic file to be imported into UE4. I imported the two versions (wavy and straight) so I could look at them side by side. Here’s how both hairstyles look in UE4.

See you soon with more hair tips. In the meantime, I invite you to try the XGen tools for yourself and come up with nice hair styles (and if you do, do share them on our Renderosity Galleries!).

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