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sk8r girl

This is my process blog for a project I originally started to demo my surfacing and grooming workflows for my WIA (Women in Animation) mentorship circle. After taking a few extended breaks from working on it, I decided to complete the asset.

I've organized the sections of this page in the order in which I worked on each step of the project.

concept and model

I have an awesome character model from the modeler Sergi Caballer called the Roller Derby Girl. Originally, she had a roller derby outfit, but the model also comes with a casual outfit (tank top, leggings, shoes) for a more every day look, and I decided to use that one instead. Check out the model here - it's really great!

I later decided to create a jacket for her - I'll talk more about how I modeled it below!

Here is the software I ended up using for this project:

  • Maya

    • Arnold Renderer

    • Maya XGen for the groom

  • UV Layout for UVs

  • Substance Painter for texturing

  • GIMP for being the poor man's Photoshop

  • Marvelous Designer for the jacket

  • Nuke for color conversion

inspiration and reference

I love to use any excuse to scroll through Pinterest, so my favorite part of any project is gathering reference images.

Besides CG, my other creative passion is makeup and cosmetics. I really enjoyed finding references for the makeup including blush, lip color and gloss, brows, and lashes.

I also included the reference I used for the hairstyle (right middle). I picked this one specifically because I thought it would be good for the demonstration, but I like the shaping and style. And of course, the pink.

I definitely wanted to have more "tactile" materials for the clothing that are hopefully more on the realistic side.


I included some photos here for the jacket, which I wanted to be a bomber style jacket with bubble sleeves. I wanted the main material to be kind of a nylon or polyester.

I found these Nike Dunk High top sneakers in my search for references, and now I want them in real life!

hair grooming

This project was originally just supposed to demonstrate how I groom a character, so I started with the groom. I typically prefer using Houdini and would like to learn Groombear, but because the artists in my mentorship circle are not so familiar with Houdini, I decided to do this groom completely in XGen instead.

I did this groom using XGen Legacy. My usual workflow is to sculpt the guides in XGen and then export them to Houdini, but I wanted to show how I complete a groom fully in Maya.

For the hairstyle, I originally made the groom as one description, which kind of worked for a while. I eventually had to split them into separate descriptions for the hair and bangs.


I was also having the issue where random clumps were intersecting the body and clumping in the middle of her skull even though I had a region map because hairs on opposite sides of the part were trying to clump together. I fixed this by separating into several descriptions:

  • back of the head

  • front clump left

  • front clump right

  • main part of bangs

  • right side of bangs

This was the first render I did of the character with a WIP groom.

At this point, I still wasn't completely happy with the groom, specifically the clumping of the front pieces. Later, after taking a break, I ended up creating two levels of clumping, bigger clumps and smaller clumps, and tweaking the scale and density of the clump points until I was happy with it.

base texture

I worked on the skin textures in Substance Painter. I hand-painted the color and coat roughness map, and I used the tileable skin texture maps for the displacement.

I was really excited for the opportunity to implement some of the makeup trends I was excited about at the time, like the Korean beauty-inspired gradient lip or adding the "sunburn" blush across the nose.

I ended up taking a really long break from the project after working on the skin textures but later came back to the eyes.

I reused the eyeball textures from my Green Crystal project but shifted the color to brown using GIMP.

brows and lashes grooming

I really wanted to create the appearance of the lashes of my reference that have individual false lashes applied, which feel a bit sparse and clumpy but long. I noticed in the reference that there's an alternation between short lashes and long lashes. If I were to redo this groom, I would have two descriptions for the upper lashes - one short (for her natural lashes) and one long (for the false lashes).

jacket modeling


I was looking at the character and had the feeling her outfit felt a little incomplete. I liked the tank top and leggings, but I felt, from a fashion perspective, that the fit was missing something.

So I decided I needed to get the public opinion via a poll on my Instagram story. People overwhelmingly voted that yes, she could use a jacket.


I had used Marvelous Designer very briefly on a school project but had mostly forgotten it. I watched a few tutorials and was able to get up and running and make this jacket in about a day.


Aside from the texturing, this might have been the most fun part of the project. I'm really looking forward to making more garments in Marvelous - the program is super neat!

I exported the jacket from Marvelous and brought it into Maya for retopology and final details. I am not a modeler, and I had never retopologized anything before, but the YouTube tutorials were super helpful for this.

I used MASH in Maya for the first time to model the zipper and used the Curve Warp deformer to fit it to the jacket edge.


I was inspired by a purse that I own which has a heart shaped zipper, which was also really fun to model in Maya.

clothes texturing

Texturing the clothes was pretty straightforward and fun, and I generally really enjoy clothing textures and look dev.

I used some of the tileable maps provided in Substance combined with some other tileables from ambientCG.

I wanted her tank top to have a graphic on it, so I came up with a couple of options. I ended up going with the pink and purple stripes, and I added cherry blossoms as the logo on her shoes.

The jacket was also fun to texture as it had a few different types of materials.


Painting the stitches in Substance Painter can be a bit time consuming, and they recently came out with the paint along path tool for it, but I have an older version of Painter through Steam, so I had to paint them the old fashioned way...

I was excited to create the quilted lining on the inside of the jacket. I had to add some extra subdivision iterations in Arnold in order to get it to displace accurately.


You don't see much of the interior lining, but it was still a fun detail to add.

I added a procedural XGen groom to the rib knit pieces of the jacket (collar, sleeve cuffs, bottom hem) so they can read a bit more fuzzy in the rim lighting.

And with that, the texturing, look dev, and groom were complete! However, my work was far from being over...


I would have loved to leave my character in a T-Pose and call it done, but I decided I wanted to put her in a cute pose for fun even though I have never rigged anything before.

I decided to use Maya QuickRig, which I (I think justifiably) thought would be quick, but it had a couple of limitations:

  • QuickRig doesn't rig the hands, so I had to rig them separately with Human IK

  • The controls don't get zeroed out, and I couldn't figure out how to freeze the transformations either, so it's a little unintuitive to return the controls to their original position

  • Whatever is happening in this picture. Months later, I am still not quite sure what was happening here. I struggled with it for hours and then woke up the next day and never had the issue again.

I even struggled with rigging the eyes and the seemingly straightforward task of integrating the blend shapes that came with the model.

If I had to rig something again, I would probably try using Advanced Skeleton.


This aspect was a lot more fun than the rigging, but it was a bit tricky to figure out the right pose, which was the most appealing and worked best with her proportions. I tried a few different poses, but I ended up going with this one based on this reference I found on Pinterest.



Similarly to the rigging, the simulation was another aspect of the project that I found challenging because I don't really know what I'm doing. The few times that I've done some basic cloth and hair simulation in the past, I've used Houdini, but since I've gotten this far in Maya for this project, I felt like I needed to finish it with NCloth and NHair.


The image on the right was my first attempt at the simulation, which worked okay from the front, but I didn't realize that the sleeve was messed up in the back, as in her left hand somehow ended up outside of the sleeve.


It took me too long to realize that the sleeves were having collision issues because her hands were intersecting with her pants. So once I fixed the animation, the sleeves got better.

I did another iteration of the simulation (on the left) which I was also not entirely happy with because the jacket was getting bunched up in the front.


I ended up using constraints to get the jacket to stay in roughly the right position. It looks a bit strange around the zipper, so I think it could still be better.

The hair simulation was more straightforward than the cloth simulation. I only simulated the back of the hair and the two big clumps in the front. I knew it would be challenging to maintain the shape of the groom, but I was able to use a ramp on the Start Curve Attract to maintain the bend at the bottom of the hair.


For the majority of the look dev, I was using a 3 point light setup with key, fill, and rim quad lights.

The lighting was kind of okay on most of her body, but the backdrop had uneven lighting, her face feels lit from below, and something was a bit strange about the lighting on the top of her hair.

I switched to using an HDRI from Polyhaven, which provided a more even illumination and an overall better result (in my opinion, at least).

I was inspired by my former mentee, Haemi Hong, to use a colored backdrop and add a light to the center of the backdrop to draw more attention to the character.


This project has been in the works for a really long time, so I'm glad it's finally done. Though this started as a way to show my mentorship circle how I approach texture, look dev, and grooming, it ultimately turned into a learning experience for me in cloth tailoring, rigging, and simulation. Onto the next project!

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