Landscapes of skin and coal: procedural skin displacement map

In this semester, I’ve been working with mapping coal mining data. As much of my work deals with materials, I’m playing with the combination of coal and mineral materials with human skin. I’m also referencing pictorial landscapes and trying to pair the aspirational feel of some of that style of photography with the visceral and emotional impact of familiar human skin.

This work has taken quite a bit of development time, as the technical aspects of subsurface scattering, map creation, render optimization, and rendering at print sizes has been a challenge.

One of the first problems to solve for print was optimizing map size and texture space. Even using 8k maps, printing at gallery sizes (30″, ~200dpi) means pixelation for the compositions I was choosing. So I developed a procedural skin bump/displacement map. Here’s a render, Maya lambert, one spotlight, depth map shadows.



As a flat render, it’s not going to wow – but when you put it on a modeled form – or use it as one part of a good skin shader, it works pretty well. It actually performs better with a bit of UV distortion, which for my current project was perfect.