Realistic 3D animals: Modeling, grooming, and look dev tips

Part 1 of a 4-part creature creation series by FABLEfx

Last modification: 8 Feb, 2019
4 mins

Sweden’s FABLEfx has been turning heads with their growing stable of hyperrealistic CG animals, taking our furry friends from 3D models to fully charming creatures. Having seen the studio’s impressive repertoire of 3D animals pop up in commercial spots for brands such as Lambi, Nivea, and Volkswagen, we asked FABLEfx to share some advice on realistic creature creation.



1 – Gather great photo references

If your goal is to create a realistic 3D animal, the most important first step is gathering the best possible photo references. Ideally, you’d want multiple photos of the same animal, from different angles and under different lighting conditions. And if you can get close-ups of various parts of its body, that’s even better.


2 – Re-work your design (over and over again)

It takes a lot of time to create a realistic 3D animal, and most of that is spent refining your original design. Here’s a tip: Write down a list of everything you think you could improve about your design, then refine your work until that list is cleared. Then start over. Keep refining until both you and your client are happy.


3 – Utilize the curve IDs

Don’t try to paint individual hair strands, especially if you’re doing speckled fur or mutant hairs. Instead, utilize the curve IDs to generate masks in shading, and combine those with your textures.

4 – Restrict your fur length

Again, if realism is your goal, try to restrict your fur length to the same length as your guide curves – or even shorter. If the fur length is longer than your guide curves, it will throw off your collisions and simulations.


5 – Mix fur shaders

It’s usually easier to mix different fur shaders in a layered shader, rather than having a multitude of textures, range nodes, and blend nodes driving several attributes. We’ll often do this for white fur, or for fur that’s supposed to stand out from the rest of the body.


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