Texturing and Grooming Techniques For a Stylised 3D Siren Character

Texturing and Grooming Techniques For a Stylised 3D Siren Character

This article explores how Alexandra Brak transformed an underwater Siren concept into a detailed 3D model.

In this article, we look at how Alexandra Brak, a PIXL VISN | media arts academy graduate, took an underwater Siren concept, transforming it into a 3D model with intricate scales, pearl-adorned clothing, and realistic grooming. Despite some lost details in 3D translation, the final result captures the essence of the underwater Siren.


Marija Derkovic : Lighting, Lookdev, Rendering, Compositing                                       Alexandra Brak: Modeling, Texturing, Grooming

Collaborating with Marija Derkovic on this project was invaluable. Her lighting skills were crucial in bringing the underwater Siren to life. I learned a great deal from our collaboration, and I'm proud of the results we achieved together.


Marija's passion and dedication were inspiring, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked with her. Together, we were able to create a captivating underwater world.


When working on any modeling project, having a collection of well-chosen reference images is essential. Reference images serve as your visual guide when creating a model. Whether it's a character, object, or environment, references help you understand proportions and details and prevent guesswork, ensuring your model remains faithful to the concept you're working from. Before you model, study your reference images for accuracy and efficiency.

The underwater Siren draws inspiration from various references that shape her look. Her skin has a radiant shimmer, inspired by the iridescence of fish scales and marine life. Her hair also mimics the appearance of underwater plants and aquatic elements. These elements blend with creative vision to bring the Siren to life.



Creating this 3D model of the underwater Siren felt like diving into a deep, blue world of creativity. By first focusing on the Siren's face, I was able to explore the intricate textures and details of her skin. To create a lifelike portrait, I examined the Siren's feature placement and proportions. Taking into account her unique traits such as her blue skin and scales.

To streamline the modeling process, I began by sculpting a symmetrical model. While modeling the Siren, I focused on key features that define her character. Her large, captivating eyes are the focal point, immediately drawing the viewer's attention. I used various techniques like size, shape, and texture to create her enchanting gaze.

I also took care to refine her collarbones. These subtleties enhance her elegance, accentuating her unique beauty.

Later on, I used ZBrush's rigging tool to pose her, tilting her head to the side and creating a fold on her neck.

I worked hard to refine every aspect of the character, including her pearl-like clothing.  I recognise the need for improvement, especially in the realism of the folds, a they turned out somewhat angular. If I had a second chance, I would explore a different approach to get a more natural and fluid appearance.



When modeling my Siren in Maya, clean topology is crucial. Ensure that your mesh topology is well-organised and efficient. This facilitates later rigging and animation. Using tools like the Quad Draw tool to create clean quad geometry. Consider increasing polygon density in critical areas like the face and hands. This is to accommodate fine details and animation flexibility.

Working with typology also pushed me to think and problem-solve while creating complex models. I had to strike a balance between functionality and aesthetics. This meant making sure the model not only looked pleasing but also had the appropriate geometry.



The texturing process was a crucial step in bringing the siren's portrait to life. It allowed me to create a realistic appearance.

I prepared the character in ZBrush, ensuring it had enough subdivision levels for fine skin details. Once the model was ready, I selected suitable brushes to match the desired skin texture.

With precision and patience, I layered these skin brushes on the model to build the skin texture. This process demanded meticulous attention to detail. I aimed to replicate the intricacies of skin, including pores, wrinkles, and imperfections for realism.

I paid special attention to areas of the model where the skin would likely deform, such as her neck area. Focused on these areas, I captured subtle creases and folds during movement.

After this I added a blue skin tone in Substance 3D Painter, which was a signature feature of this mythical creature. Then, I incorporated the red lips, which added a touch of sensuality and femininity to the character. The red lips complemented the blue skin tone and added a striking contrast to the look.

I applied red eyeshadow and a light blush, complementing the blue skin tone with a subtle, rosy hue. One of the most unique features of the Siren was the sparks that surrounded her cheeks. I tackled this by experimenting with various textures and materials. I settled on a blend of transparent and glowing particles, achieving the desired effect. The result captured the Siren's mythical essence with an interplay of light and energy.

The white eyes added to the Siren's appearance, lending her an ethereal quality. For the eyes, I employed a mix of transparent and reflective materials.

To create the scales on the Siren's skin, I used a texture that I found online. I incorporated this texture into the 3D model, ensuring proper alignment and scaling to fit the character's body. Using an existing texture saved time and allowed me to focus on other texturing details.

Texturing the Siren's portrait was a rewarding experience, allowing me to express my artistic flair. By harnessing the potential of texturing, I was able to bring this mythical creature to life.


Creating realistic hair for a 3D model is always a challenge, but it is also an essential part of bringing a character to life. I knew that the hair would play an important role in conveying the character's unique look.

First I studied various hairstyles, paying close attention to the way that hair falls. Then I started by defining the base hair guides, ensuring that they followed the desired flow and behaviuor of underwater currents. These guides formed the foundation for the later grooming process.

Within XGen, I used various tools to sculpt, shape, and manipulate the hair strands. This allowed me to control the placement and orientation of each strand.

Fine-tuning shaders and textures, considering underwater light interactions, resulted in the final look. I choose blue and green hues for the Siren's hair to complement her skin tone and enhance the underwater aesthetic.

The process of creating the Siren's hair was both challenging and rewarding.

Comparison between Xgen and Houdini

In my exploration of grooming, I decided to revisit Houdini for a second attempt. This allowed me to better understand its features and differences compared to XGen.

XGen's appeal lies in its comprehensive toolbox, which includes all the necessary tools. This simplifies the process – just add and modify. XGen also supports high-res texture painting for detailed work.

On the flip side, Houdini stands out by offering more power and a wider range of control in grooming. It achieves this through its unique use of Houdini curves for both hair and guides, which allows for a diverse set of alterations.

Yet, in Houdini, the quality of maps depends on the mesh's resolution. Painting requires an external tool like Mari. Houdini's default guide grooming system is potent but can be a bit tricky due to caching, needing recalculations after each change. Luckily, the Groom Bear plugin helps fix this issue.

Houdini needs a good amount of RAM and strong hardware for smoother operation. Houdini includes helpful tools like Prune and Cropbox to make the workflow more efficient.

While Houdini has impressive capabilities, it can be a bit harder to learn. It shines in creature grooming, though working with longer hair can be challenging. This comparison between XGen and Houdini not only helped me understand the process better, but also gave me a broader view of grooming techniques.


UV unwrapping was an easy process for this project since there weren't many parts to the model. I used basic methods to unwrap the UVs, ensuring each part of the model had its unique space in the texture map. This let me apply textures like scales without any distortion or stretching. Taking the time to unwrap the UVs ensured a polished and professional final product.

Tip: When unwrapping organic models, focus on creating symmetrical UVs for parts like arms, legs, and facial features. Creating symmetrical UVs simplifies texturing, ensuring accurate alignment for professional results.


The transformation of my Siren sculpt under Marija's lighting expertise was truly stunning. Her skills brought the Siren to life, making it shine with beauty. Marija's contribution was invaluable, elevating the final result. Her attention to detail and expertise in Lighting, Lookdev, and Compositing were crucial. I'm grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with her, and together, we've created a work of art to be proud of.


Creating a 3D Model can be intricate, and achieving the desired results may take time. Be patient and take breaks when needed. Rushing can lead to errors and frustration, while patience can result in a more polished model,

Exploring elements in an underwater setting, including hair, challenged me however brought me to a place where my imagination and skills converged to make a great final render. Challenges in grooming techniques also led me to insights about XGen and Houdini.

With Marija's exceptional touch, the Siren's character has come alive. With skilled lighting and keen aesthetics, our collaboration shines in the final result.

Check out more of Alexandra's work on The Rookies,  ArtStation and Linkedin.