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Polygon Hair Tutorial - 3dsMax by Athey Polygon Hair Tutorial - 3dsMax by Athey
It's huge - 13,884 pixels in height - and vaguely long. It also has typos and spelling errors, but I'm not going back to fix them right now.


Anyway, I've always had people asking me how I do hair, and a while back I did go into one of my files and take a bunch of pictures to sort of give an example of how my hair is put together, but it wasn't a step-by-step, during-the-process sort of tutorial.

So when I was getting ready to make hair for this model, I decided to just take screenshots as I went, so here's the results. Hope it clears things up for a few people, since this is one of the more common questions I get.
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:icononly4kids:
Only4Kids Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2015
Nice tutorial, just one question: Do you think that Square Enix hairstyle could be achieved this way?
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:iconathey:
Athey Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
Yeah, it's how I did the hair on this guy - athey.deviantart.com/art/3d-bi…

Of course, in modern games, SquareEnix tends to get a bit fancier/more realistic, which isn't quite the same thing, I suspect.  But still along the same lines.
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:icononly4kids:
Only4Kids Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2015
Thank you for your reply.
I would say same thing myself when it comes to how they do their hair. Mostly cause hardware progresses ,as well as software, great deal since final fantasy 7, so they are able to do more detailed planes, or even use few planes on same area + (famous) wind blowing and right on spot :D
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:iconazuredestiny:
AzureDestiny Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This looks soooo much easier than how I have tried to do it! O_o
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:iconrugalytto:
rugalytto Featured By Owner May 22, 2014
this hairs tutorial is awesome thanks ;)
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:iconttnt:
ttnt Featured By Owner May 4, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I........always tried to merge meshes directly on the model.
I was so, so wrong.
Thank you a lot.
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:iconsuu999:
Suu999 Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I admire your patiency for making 3D hair^^  You're so skilled!  I've tried to make it before, and have epically failed, so I just cheat and buy 3D hair from Daz3D :D
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:icondeltaforce11:
Deltaforce11 Featured By Owner Sep 15, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
been in maya school for 1 month and im finding it all very very hard!! how was it for u?
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:iconathey:
Athey Featured By Owner Sep 16, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
My first 'real' 3D program was 3D Studio 4 for DOS, and it was a very long time ago... I believe I was it was 1998.  Then at my first college we learned Maya, but the teacher really had no idea what she was doing, and it was her first year teaching.

That school actually went out of business after my 2nd year, but I'd already left by then.  My 2nd school, we did 3D Studio Max first year, and Maya 2nd year.

3D Studio Max was my favorite for a very ver long time.  I do believe, that if I still had the option, I would probably opt to use it, but I only own a license for Maya, and I'm on an iMac now, and there's no 3dsmax for Mac - only Maya.  So I use Maya.

It's a squirelley program, honestly.  It often feels like half the features were never finished or bug tested.  Plus there's this whole mindset among the development community that if something doesn't do exactly what you want it to, you should just write your own script to do what you want.  But I'm like - I don't want to freaking learn MEL scripting.  F*ck me, huh? - so instead of actually fixing the tools, they leave them 'open' for scripters to modify.  Or they just leave features out all together.

3Dsmax unquestionably has a zillion more modeling tools than Maya does, and since I learned 3Ds max and then Maya (I don't count the 1st college with Maya - teacher had no idea what she was doing and only taught NURBS) it was like going from a huge garden filled with flowers, into a small white room with a couple cubes in it.  It was quite frustrating.

Maya is extremely unintuitive.  It can technically do most everything that 3dsmax can do, and probably a few extra things that 3dsmax can't, the problem is that it's freaking difficult to find what you want, or get it to work correctly.
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:icondeltaforce11:
Deltaforce11 Featured By Owner Sep 16, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
done maya for a month now and i feel what u are saying, its very difficult at certain areas, and there is alot of things u have to check out before u can make something, but since im a noob its normal to feel that way. there are so much to understand to make something simpel. when u started did it feel like u will never understand this or the opposite?

for me it feels very hard and slow, but its only been 1 month, next year i will choose between game design or animasion, im gonna choose animasion.. :)
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:iconathey:
Athey Featured By Owner Sep 20, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
There really is a large learning curve.  I remember feeling like I was walking blind for a long time.  And other people in my class understood some things that I hadn't figured out yet, so I always felt stupid for asking and didn't ask.  Just ask.  Seriously.  Just ask someone and don't be afraid of looking stupid - it's a huge program and there's so many different faccets of it, that its impossible to master all of them, so you have to pick and choose what areas to pay attention to.  It makes it easy to miss details about other areas, and it's really only years of using it that you finally start to understand how to use a decent portion of the program.  There's still big chunks of Maya that I don't know anything about because I've never had to use them.  The whole compositing area - I know nothing.  The dynamics?  Nothing.  Never needed to.  But I know my way backwards and forwards of the rigging system, the unwrapping, modeling, etc.  Animation has never been a focus of mine - only so much as is needed, to rig things adequately for animation.  So I know there's this whole system for animation that I don't know crap about.

The program is just too big to learn it all.
But that's also, arguably a downside, because it's just too big to put all the great stuff into every area (although, arguably, 3dsmax has done it fine but... whatever).

But yeah - it's very common to feel like everything is hard and slow and confusing at the beginning.  It just takes practice to get the hang of it.

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:icondeltaforce11:
Deltaforce11 Featured By Owner Sep 20, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
thx a million, feel mucg better, know to find my speciality hehe
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:icontehrage:
TehRage Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2012  Student Digital Artist
This is a great example for a different way to do hair, thank you so much
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:iconhannahnew:
HannahNew Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2012  Professional Filmographer
Brilliant! I've tried to make hair a number of different ways. This one looks like it will give me the results I've been wanting. THANKS
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:iconyumenotsuzuki:
YumeNoTsuzuki Featured By Owner Oct 9, 2012  Student Digital Artist
So apparently reading your fanfiction is now helping me with my university work. (Since that's how I found you here and now I'm looking at this to figure out how I want to model my character's hair ^^) You're brilliant. Thank you for sharing~
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:iconathey:
Athey Featured By Owner Oct 9, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
lol - it's always interesting when my two worlds manage to collide. I recently had an old roommate/college friend send me a text that said "What would your reply be if I said 'Again and Again' to you?" and I just laughed at him and said something like 'You've been reading Harry Potter Fanfiction!' He shot back that I WROTE Harry Potter Fanfiction - and smutty slash fanfiction, at that. I just pointed out that he was READING smutty slash fiction and we just laughed at each other.

I've got a couple co-workers that are vaguely aware that I write Harry Potter fanfiction (One's wife cosplays and works at an anime/japanese stuff store, and used to write Twilight Fanfiction, so we had that in common), and it's not like I keep my fanfictiony stuff a secret (use the same damn username everywhere - which just happens to be my real name as well).

Still, I don't think a load of people realize that I write, just like I don't think a lot of my ffnet readers realize that I'm a 3D artist working for Sony on video games like Resistance and Uncharted. But then again, its been my experience that most of the people who follow me on ffnet aren't even familiar with games.
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:iconyumenotsuzuki:
YumeNoTsuzuki Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2012  Student Digital Artist
I must say I admire your courage not to hide from your co-workers. ^^ I don't think I'm ready for that step yet, haha.

If I may ask, though (curiosity ><), how did you become a 3D artist? Was it something you'd planned on and studied for? I'm currently studying art and animation for games at university and it turned out to be a very 3D-based course. I do like it, even though it's not essentially something I initially set out to do.
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:iconathey:
Athey Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
I got a pirated copy of 3D Studio 4 for DOS back when I was in 10th grade, and I thought it was amazing.

10th Grade was the year they made us take a Careers class and seriously start thinking/planning for college and the future. I'd been waffling between career goals. My childhood desire to be an 'Artist' when I 'grew up' was countered by the more practical part of me that thought 'all artists are broke and I won't be able to make money'. So for a while I was thinking I'd go into web design. This was when the internet was just starting to really boom - it was around 1997, I believe. I made a zillion websites and taught myself html and all that. I was also debating going into programming, and while I would probably have made a shitload more money in programming, I just don't think I'd enjoy it - way too frustrating when a single misplaced ; can fuck you over for hours. Plus, I hate complicated math. lol. Me and Calculus are not good friends, and programmer math intimidates the hell out of me.

So after I nabbed a copy of 3D Studio, it was like 'Whoa! This is perfect!' - it was the tech side of my interests, plus the art side of my interests, and an actual foreseeable career destination. At the time, I was thinking I'd aim more for production 3d - so movies and effects. It wasn't until college that I ended up focusing more on game art, instead.
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:iconshuzzy:
shuzzy Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
thank you so much, i've been racking my brain on how to do this for an assignment at tafe! *gives huge hugs and cookies*
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:iconkemalakay:
kemalakay Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2012
This is very useful, I was looking for something like this. Thank you a lot!
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:iconxxm0rph3usxx:
xXm0RpH3usXx Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2012
you should add an "edit normals" modifier to the endresult and the vertex thieve script (you can find it on the polycount wiki)
its a technique used for trees made out of planes, but would help here, i think, too...

thx for the tut, though :)
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:iconhenrique3dart:
Henrique3DArt Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Great Tutorial it will be very usefull
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:icondeckardx08:
DeckardX08 Featured By Owner Mar 15, 2012
Useful tutorial. I tried to do lowpoly hairstyles several times, but the result looked too boring. Your approach can be that thing I was missing.

One question: did you use Nvidia normal map filter for the hair normal texture?
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:iconathey:
Athey Featured By Owner Mar 15, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
No, I actually used CrazyBump. It's a pretty cheap program, so it's not a big investment, and it works wonderfully. Very versatile, and gets good results.
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:iconmesod:
mesod Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2012
thank you athy alwyas de same technique thanks
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:iconmohanmadabd:
mohanmadabd Featured By Owner Jan 29, 2012  Student Artist
man i need the hair link :(
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:iconkashi-ng:
Kashi-NG Featured By Owner Jan 25, 2012  Student Digital Artist
Those black, soulless eyes...
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:iconplasticfrogcg:
PlasticFrogCG Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2012
Huh, I never thought about doing all of the hair in pieces. I usually make a "helmet" mesh that outlines the underlying shape of the hair, then use planes like yours for long parts and parts that stick out. I should try this!
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:iconel-bronco:
El-Bronco Featured By Owner Jan 15, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
At first, I give up using mask for making hair, because it so difficult to place the hair on the head and magaing it too look right . With this I got a clue to manage the hair so it look like real hair. Thanks :)
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:icon3dstage:
3dstage Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2012
Nice tutorial, thank you. Curious, which tool did you use in Max that is not available in Maya? Sorry if that was just obvious and I missed it.
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:iconathey:
Athey Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
It was the bend modifier.
Build into max. Nothing that actually functions exists, by default, in Maya. I'm sure someone might argue that so-and-so wrote a script that does such-and-such equivalent taks, but I don't have that, and I think it's stupid that I have to download people's scripts just to make the program function.
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:iconcheesyniblets:
cheesyniblets Featured By Owner Jan 26, 2012
In the Animation tab. Create deformers>nonlinear>bend
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:icon3dstage:
3dstage Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2012
Yeah ITA, unless the tutorial is specifically about program X and plugin or whatever Y, it's never cool to find out you have to go install or download something.

I know hardly anything about Max, I've only been in it maybe an hour, and I'm hardly an expert with Maya, I've only used it about a year. But when you were doing the bend part, I was thinking that if I was in Maya I would use the lattice tool for that. Would that work?

I do think that's pretty cool, the way that you do hair, I never would have thought of doing it that way. Most of what I've seen have always used something like curves to do it. Your way looks to be a lot faster.
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:iconvertex768mhz:
VERTEX768MHz Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Which harder ?
Polygon hair or Hair Dynamics ?
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:iconathey:
Athey Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Uhm... I can't really compare the two. For me it's about what the output can work with. Dynamics hair can render in Max or Maya, but not in a real-time engine. I'm doing this for realtime so using a hair sim isn't an option for me.
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:iconslightlychaotic:
SlightlyChaotic Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2012  Student Filmographer
Very nice tut, I'll probably use this as a jumping off point in the near future.

I gotta ask though: You don't really mention the process of creating the hair texture itself. Is that the process of photoshop brushing, or sculpting out the hair (for the normals), or something else?
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:iconathey:
Athey Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
[link] - I took a screen shot to try and give a visual idea of how I make the hair texture.
I collect a bunch of photo reference - usually wigs, and the best mass of wig photos I've found are for ball-jointed dolls (google bjd wig or dolfie wig).

I cut out the bits that look the most useful and usable, do color matching if needed (and it usually is), and then I do a layer of paint-over on top using a hair brush I really like so that they're more consistent with each other.
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:iconslightlychaotic:
SlightlyChaotic Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2012  Student Filmographer
Ah, I see. But how do you make the normal maps from that? Is it, by chance, that nvidia plugin?
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:iconathey:
Athey Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
I use a program called Crazybump. It's a pretty popular program among game artists - we use it all the time at work.
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:iconslightlychaotic:
SlightlyChaotic Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2012  Student Filmographer
Awesome. Thanks a ton!
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:iconleenos:
leenos Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Great tutorial!!
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:iconxseeingstarsx:
xSeeingStarsx Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2012  Student Digital Artist
his lack of eyes is quite unnerving
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:iconveg:
veg Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2012   Filmographer
Great reference!
Sometimes I get so incredibly lost on how to start hair like this. I've even made a bald character just because I wanted to avoid doing this!
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:iconladytorix:
LadyTorix Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2012
Thank you, I'll definitely save this for my next project!
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:icontoneloperu:
toneloperu Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Nice tutorial. I'll give it a try soon as I can. I made a 3ds max low poly hair tutorial some time ago but it's good to see one made by a professional 3D artist such as yourself. Thanks.
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:iconcaseyd2k:
CaseyD2K Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
This an awesome explanation of how to do hair planes. I haven't had to do very many but this will definitely help me out future. Thanks for posting this!
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