Lion King

  • Design
  • Making Of
  • Rigging

I wanted to work on a photo realistic 3D modelling project to flex my VFX muscles and I could add to my work portfolio. I have already worked on hard-surfaced, industrial modelling previously so I decided to focus on a softer, organic theme eventually choosing an animal. The noble lion I thought would be a good challenge as he has a range of recognisable and interesting features from soft facial fur to sharpened teeth and the distinctive feature of his mane. This project would also allow for experimenting with realistic and dynamic CG hair which I have never dealt with before.

Good visual reference is essential when modelling a photo realistic CG creature. Even if you are making an abstract character from imagination or fantasy, relative visual reference should be used in an amalgamation to achieve the desired look. Some 3D artists choose to place reference images on planes within the 3D space to be as accurate as possible. However I usually choose to keep them separate. I have a two monitor setup for my work so I can have the modelling software on one screen and visual reference on the other.

Here are some thumbnails of images used as reference.

I also want to give this lion more character so I decided to make him an older creature and appear more decrepit. This will be adjusted after the foundation work is complete first and the basic shape

Time lapsed videos are a great way to show progress and procedure on 3D work. What I have done here is recorded myself, starting from scratch, on the modelling of the lion’s head. Once I finish recording, which can take from 2 to 3 hours, I bring it into editing software and reduce the video to a more watchable 4 to 5 minutes. The result is a sped up version of the steps I took to get to certain modelling stages.

Part 1 –  2 hours – Mouth/Eyes/Nose


Part 2 –  1.5 hours – Ears/Eye Cleanup/General Cleanup



Part 3 –  1.5 hours – Teeth/Mouth Cleanup/General Cleanup



Once I reached a certain level of completion within the modelling software I then unwrapped the model for texturing and brought an OBJ into the sculpting/texture painting program. At this stage I could detail certain features on the lions head such as the alternating coloration of the fur, whiskers and skin. This texture map would then go on to influence the look of the 3D fur and hair when brought back into the modeling software.


Using the in-built hair/fur tools in the modeling software we can assign different textures to effect the end render appearance of the character. Textures can be assigned to both the root and tip of the fur on the face of the character. Similarly the base, root and tip colors of the mane hair can also be set.


The modelling software also uses black and white alpha maps for features of the hair such as coli amount, noise and hair length as well as hairline maps to choose areas where you do not want any hair. The blackness of the hair coil alpha map denotes areas that have no coil. Anything above black through to white will create a coil effect, white being as coiled as possible.


This is the result of all these textures pumped into the hair/fur tools of the 3D program. It is still a work in process as additional features and details will be added as I progress.

3d maya render WIP

Work in progress of the lion head


Work In Progress

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