Create Character Alicja Cygan on SideFX Houdini



A particular favourite of the VFX industry, SideFX’s Houdini presents 3D artists with a node-based procedural approach that offers unrivalled levels of flexibility and control over their creations. Houdini certainly isn’t for everyone and its workflow can be difficult to get used to, but for the right artists it can be an invaluable addition to their digital toolset. Freelance grooming artist and 3D generalist Alicja Cygan discovered Houdini when SideFX first introduced the grooming tool. “I aspired to be a grooming artist, and I was excited to learn it,” Cygan explains.

“It turned out to be a great tool which is my favourite to this day. Houdini wasn’t commonly used for illustrations back then, but I decided to shift my workflow to Houdini because of its nice-looking hair results, which was a great decision. I’ve made all my favourite illustrations in Houdini.” Armin Lotfi is a self-taught 3D visual artist and motion designer. As a generalist, Lotfi’s original software of choice was Maya. “When I started to do more abstract art and get into the world of VFX, Houdini presented itself as an alternative. The transition from Maya to Houdini was hard and even sometimes frustrating, but at the same time, proceduralism provided a new way of thinking and problem-solving.” 3DWorld caught up with both artists to find out how they use Houdini. Cygan discusses Houdini’s hair grooming capabilities, whilst Lotfi shares tips and tricks for utilising Houdini in procedural art and simulations.

Step How to Create Character Alicja Cygan on SideFX Houdini :

  1. GROOMING For me, grooming is the best part of each work. This time I wanted to play around with hair simulation. It wasn’t necessary for that illustration, but I wanted to make it the opportunity to learn to simulate hair with Vellum. My initial groom was placed in the air and didn’t touch the geometry (except roots, of course).
  2. SIMULATION PARAMETERS I used a Guide Mask and Curve Additional Mask to make the Bend Stiffness attribute. I made it lower close to guide roots and higher on the length. I used it as a scale factor in the Bend Stiffness parameter in the Vellum Constraints tab. That trick makes hair bend and fall but keeps waves in shape.
  3. WIND FORCE Eventually, the effect wasn’t visible on that illustration, but I was playing with wind force going up to get hair flying around the witch’s face. On my Instagram feed (@aluta.roma) you can see the simulated result.
  4. POLISHING SIMULATED GROOM It’s obvious we want our illustration to look perfect. I chose the simulation frame I liked the most and used a grooming brush to polish it.

  5. GENERATING HAIR This is probably the most satisfying part of the process. In the Hair Generate node, I add some clumps with subtle curl effect and frizz with a noise mask. That’s all. It gives us the perfect natural look.

  6. MAKING SOME MAGIC Particles flying around create a magical mood. I made a big sphere and scattered points inside. I used simple VEX expression to randomise the pscale attribute. I turned on Depth of Field in the camera and set the focus distance to the face. It makes most of the particles create nice bokeh.

  7. BILLOWY SMOKE My witch is holding a magic sphere. To make it look even more mysterious, I made it emit some smoke. I used Billowy Smoke from the Pyro FX tab. I used hands as a collider. I didn’t collide it with a sphere, I let it go inside. With refraction from the sphere material, it will look even more interesting. – Alicja Cygan

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