Irises and SSS in Blender

Santa brought me a set of special lenses for my iPhone over the holidays last year.  The set comes with a fish-eye, a wide angle and a macro lens.  Each is awesome in it’s own way, but the macro lens is my favorite so far.

One of the first macro pictures I took was of my eyeball because I wanted to see the detail of the iris and also have visual proof of the wear and tear on the eye from staring at a computer screen too long.  Those inflamed blood vessels are working over time for you, dear reader!  So you better start being more appreciative!  😉


So instead of just filling my iPhone storage with a hundred useless pictures of my eye, (or my cats) it occurred to me I could apply the images to something more practical and useful, like CG textures.

With one image, and Photoshop, there are endless possibilities for iris colors and vibrancy. In the past, I’d followed a tutorial on creating irises with just Photoshop and some filters, but they’ve always seemed to lack a real dramatic energy.  They work, don’t get me wrong, but you can’t really compete with a REAL iris.  The results are stunning.


And the hazel iris lends a particularly credible elegance to my Lady Lovebird character, which I’m creating for the 3MST.  I’ve had her in a red dress, but methinks something blue will really bedazzle!



Additionally, I like to add a “Cloud” texture to the whites of my character’s eye – something subtle that suggests a fogginess, or a “bit of a vacancy upstairs”.  That sort of thing.  In the picture above, the cloud effect is perhaps too pronounced and should be more subdued.

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SubSurface Scattering


Beyond irises, I was also playing around with Blender’s SubSurface Scattering options. The difference with, and without, SSS applied to the skin of the character is quite staggering.

SSS “is a mechanism of light transport in which light penetrates the surface of a translucent object, is scattered by interacting with the material, and exits the surface at a different point.”

In this example, the application of SSS primarily allows light to “pass through” the thinnest, most translucent parts of the skin, specifically the ear, and also, as a byproduct of the application, creates a softer skin tone and releases the tension from the face.

For a ghoulish and/or abrupt appearance, I would definitely not apply SSS and instead would simply work with hard lights and shadows.  Ultimately, I think I’d prefer to marry the two styles than choose one over the other.  The added time in render was about 4 seconds.