How to Render Hair with Cycles

Discover how to use Cycles to render luscious, realistic looking hair for your characters.

Length:
29 minutes
Software:
Blender 2.66
Difficulty:
Intermediate
Rate:
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 4.8/5 (134 votes cast)

In this tutorial you will discover:

  • How to quickly and easily render hair with Cycles
  • The difference between the old and the new way of rendering hair
  • A breakdown of the hair settings

If you’ve been to the blender forums recently, you’ll know that quite a few people are a buzz with new hair rendering feature of Cycles.

On December 9 2012, the first hair renders started appearing online, and since then it’s grown from an experimental feature, into something stable. In fact, hair rendering will be included in the next official Blender release: 2.66, which is due out in the next week ;)

So what better time to get into it?

Finished Result

"oo la la" said Sintel. Staring suggestively into the camera.

This tutorial covers the rendering of Hair only.

 

Download the Starter File

Text Version

Not a fan of videos? Here’s the full text version:

Intro

This tutorial is all about taking a previously made model with hair, and making it work with Cycles.

 

Learning how to render hair has more uses than you may think. Whether you’re an architect or a character animator, you’ll probably be called upon to use strand rendering at some point.

 

This phenomenal hair render was made with 3ds max. Can you top it?

Perfect example of stunning hair, made with 3ds Max. Image Courtesy of Max Malyy.

Image Courtesy of Max Malyy.

 

Comparison of Old vs New

The old way of rendering strands entailed a lot of button pushing, certain lamps, fiddly textures and aligning of the planets to make it work.

 

The new method is simpler, faster to set up and produces more realistic results.

 

Hands On

Particle settings

Kick open the starter file and you should see Sintel, posed and ready to render with only the hair needing materials:

 

With the hair selected, go to the particle panel and scroll down till you see the Cycles Hair Rendering settings:

If you don’t see those options then:

  1. Download the latest build
  2. Go to the render settings and set the mode to CPU and Experimental.

 

The first thing we’ll look at is the hair rendering modes:

Don't be confused by the terminology, it's actually pretty easy to grasp.

Don’t be confused by the terminology, it’s actually pretty easy to grasp…

 

The modes on the left side are faster to render but lower quality, and the modes on right side are slower to render but higher quality:

 

If you aren’t sure what to pick, stay with the default mode: True Normal. It offers the best results for most scenes. Change modes depending on how close the camera is to your subject.

 

Now lets move onto the next setting: Shape.

The shape setting defines how quickly or slowly the width of the hair strand will taper off:

For human hair, you should use something in the negative value.

We’ll use -0.8:

 

Next are the Root and Tip values. These are quite simply the width of the hair at it’s Root and Tip (duh).

For some bizarre reason the default value for Root is 1, which will give you strands almost as big as Sintel’s head. A more reasonable value for hair is 0.002:

Leave Tip as 0, since we want the hair to taper down to 0 width.

 

Materials

Add a new Material and name it Hair. You may also wish to set the preview to Strand mode (and also let out a mighty hoorah for the introduction of preview capabilities).

 

Thankfully, you don’t need to relearn materials for the sake of strands, since the strand’s materials work the same as any other object in Cycles.

Switch to the Node editor. To get hair shiny we’ll add a Glossy shader node and connect it to the default Diffuse shader, using a Mix node. Set the values as shown:

 

Now let’s give the hair some color. We’ll be using the hair texture that comes bundled with Sintel:

Hair Texture. Click to Download.

Hair Texture (Click to Download)

 

Add an Image texture node and load in the hair texture, then connect it to the Diffuse Shader node:

You should now get this noisy mess:

…but at least you can see that it’s working :)

 

Now to make her a red head.

Add an RGB Curve (which is another new feature!) between the Image texture and Diffuse Node. Click the R (red) channel and give it a slight hump:

 

Finally, we’ll give the hair some translucency so that light can pass through it.

Add a Translucency node and connect it to the RGB node:

 

Next add an Add Shader node and connect it between the Translucent Node and the final Material node.

Final Node Setup

Final Node Setup

Finished!

YEEAAAAAHHH

YEEAAAAAHHH

You should now have hair that would make a balding man weep.

 

Bonus Tip: Fading out the hair

In certain circumstances, it may be necessary to have the hair fade out. Generally this isn’t good for human hair, but it’s great for fur.

 

1. Using the node setup from above, add a Transparent node and connect it with the output from the Add shader, using a Mix node:

 

2. Next add in a Hair Info node and connect the Intercept output to the Fac input of the Mix shader:

The Intercept acts to alter the material along the length of the strand (like this).

Here’s a before and after from a different scene:

And if that’s a bit extreme, you can add a ColorRamp between the intercept and mix node for added customization.

Hope this tutorial was useful!

Create something cool from this tutorial? Post it in the comments below.

How to Render Hair with Cycles, 4.8 out of 5 based on 134 ratings

About Andrew Price

User of Blender for 9+ years. I've written tutorials for 3d World Magazine and spoken at three Blender conferences. My goal is to help artists get employed in the industry by making training accessible and easy to understand. I'm an Aussie and I live in South Korea ;)
  • doubleM

    YOU ARE THE BEST. thank you, i learn everything in blender from you.

  • Pingback: 渲染头发 – Render Hair with Cycles | Blender Totem

  • http://www.visit2goa.com/ Amit Chaturvedi

    Awesome tutorial i really got to learn so much with it.. specially the bonus tip thanks for that..

  • fergus

    I’m in cycles and i’m looking for the cycles hair rendering settings but can’t find them. i’m using 2.68

    • sergio

      same problem…

    • TimTylor

      In 2.69 they’re the last two sections at the bottom of the particles settings panel. They’ve gone and changed all the options in the Cycles Hair Rendering section, but the defaults seem to work okay for this.

  • http://www.joriben.com Joriben Zaballa

    Question:

    Does the texture only works for meshes with UV? I still don’t know how to uv map so I’m just using generated vectors and it doesn’t work.

  • Tristan

    thanks heaps for this tutorial it really helped me to figure out the hair :D

  • Zandor Petrov

    Andrew I have a question, how I create the scalp I mean there where the hair begin and how I put the hair there, the tutorial is fine, but I want learn how make the hair on head, can you help me please..
    Thanks

  • J.T.P

    I really enjoy your tutorials Andrew, they are brilliant to say the least. We’ll done! I notice in your sample the hair has a slight wiry appearance. The model I have been working on has too but worse than your sample. Is there a way to soften the hair to look more natural?
    Thank you in advance!

  • Patrick Köpke

    When i render this Scene my Blender Crashes why do this? I have Blender 2.68

    • nastys

      Upgrade your RAM or increase your Swap partition if you use Linux or your Pagefile if you use Windows.

      • Patrick Köpke

        I use Windows. And my Motherboard is boring my RAM is the absoulatity of this. I try to upgrade the Pagefile. Sorry for my English im from Germany

  • nastys

    Here is how it looks like with the new hair shader. Rendered using 300 samples per pixel in half an hour and filtered using the Bilateral Denoising in compositing.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9R39TVqq-Ss

    I think this new hair shader looks more realistic. It is included in Blender 2.9 Release Candidate.

  • Daryl Brennan

    For some reason the adding of the two shaders results in a material that appears to be glowing :/ Any one else have this problem?

  • HeeJae Shin

    Hey can anyone help me out here? i know this isnt quite as relevent, but i want to have an animation happening in my physics game render. For example if i were to hit a soft body(for example waterballoon) with a rigid body(a square), normally i would use the game engine to simulate the result. However i can not figure out a way to have an animation happening during the game physics render. I just see the two bodies drop down via “gravity” Can anyone help me?

    • nastys

      Set Physics type to Dynamic

    • nastys

      and collision bounds

  • nastys

    Thanks for this tutorial. My Intel Core i7-3770 (4 cores, 2 threads per core) took 2 hours, 30 minutes and 47 seconds, rendering 2000 samples (still noisy!), render resolution 1920×1080 100%, tile resolution 240×270. Also I had to adjust the camera after upgrading to Blender 2.68a.

    • Shengdi

      When you render using CPU is better to use small sizes of tiles. I use to use 32 or 16px

    • Shengdi

      When you render using CPU is better to use small sizes of tiles. I use to use 32 or 16px

  • Lenny

    Can I ask how long others were rendering the scene for ??? The render time is long, never gets to the end. Tried CPU & CUDA settings.
    My Setup:
    Blender v2.67 64 bit
    OS – WIN 8 64bit, i7
    Card – Nvidia GeForce GT 640

  • Sindhuja

    I don’t have the cycles hair rendering option in the particles ! How to get it?

    • Anonymous

      In the top toolbar, you should see a drop-down that says “blender render”. Click it and change it to “Cycles Render”.

  • Minde

    I want to know so much about Blender like you :D

  • Krzysztof Petrus

    absolutely the best tutorials on blender ! it is worth learning blender only to appreciate your effort on doing this ! all the best, kpe

  • newart2000

    Great tutorial quick and to the point here’s my end product

    http://newart2000.wordpress.com/2013/06/17/blenderguru-hair-tutorial-result/

  • ankit

    looks great.

  • Jerry Perkins

    now that cycles has gpu hair its time to rewatch this tut. Excellent hair coverage. Both in video and model.

    I have been experimenting with mass children and few parents. Like 600 children per 1 strand.

  • Synthercat

    CHANGE THIS (For 2.67) Go to GEO-emit_lash_top (that’s on the eye) and untick the Cycles Hair Rendering cause in the new blender it comes out as heavy eye lashes! Thank you Andrew, great work man!

  • Charles

    I successfully modeled my hairy dick with this tut.

  • http://twitter.com/Brennens3d Brennen

    Man… When are they going to make rendering hair using GPU?!

  • Filippo Porcari
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1060147971 Paul Chambers

    Thanks for another great tutorial Andrew. Keep ‘em coming!

  • Gonz

    Hi Andrew ,

    I am so inspired by your work that I melt. What I would really be grateful for you to do is to do a tutorial on the female model you created for this tutorial. It would really go a long way in my research to understand character modeling and how topology goes. Please it would be a really great tutorial. I researched through out the net and this is a very difficult topic at least for me. Please this would be a great tutorial if you could do this for those of us who really want to achieve such a stature

  • samuel

    Hi Andrew me and my friends would love to see a new grass tutorial with cycles now that the hair stand render is out thanks. keep up the good work

  • Anonymous

    Sir can you please put a tutorial on how to combine cycles animations with internal render animations?

  • MartinNorris

    Young adult {full head of hair!}

    Blonde- 140,000 strands

    Brunette – 110,000 strands

    Black – 108,000 strands

    Redhead – 90,000 strands

  • Eka Kurniawan

    Any tutorial from you about bullet physics is damn great!

  • david

    awsome!!
    good work.
    how did jou record??

  • http://www.facebook.com/wee.geordee Jordan Jones
  • http://www.facebook.com/wee.geordee Jordan Jones

    Ok. I finally got the wet look. Made eyebrows and lashes too. This is from another Sintel model…But thanks Andrew for the idea even to do a doo!

  • Simon

    I’m trying to make a cube go hairy but the strands of hair just default to sticking straight out. The tutorial already has the hair beutifully in possition but how do I do that from scratch. How do I style the hair?

  • shearbass

    Any idea why it would not render her hair when I use my Cuda GPU but it does render hair when I use the CPU? (Blender 2.66)

  • Dmitry

    Can I ask something? Why at the final image hotspot on eyes has circle form, while at the image “sintel” (11, I think) it has square form? Is that post-processing?
    P.S.: Sorry for my english. I hope you understand me :)

  • Nagy_Attila

    no gpu rendering for hair, i think this is useless feature btw :(

    • Guesttt

      Everything needs to be recoded for GPU
      Code that runs on CPU doesn’t
      work on a GPU for unobvious reasons and it’s very hard to figure out
      what prevents things from working.

      Anyways, don’t you have a CPU?^^

  • cpmodeling

    Really appreciate you getting a jump on the cycles strands, just as a fyi in blender 2.66 you still have to set feature set to experimental in order for cycles hair rendering to show up under particles.

  • Adnan360

    Please post your videos to vimeo.com. Some countries are blocked from youtube . Thanks. I always appreciate your effort.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nikagra Nikita Gradovich

    I like tutorials like this, where you not only shows sequence of steps but also some analysis and comparison with alternative ways

  • genzm

    I’ve downloaded the latest build from blender (2.66.0) but there are no cycles hair render options… So which version do I need?

  • Greg

    how do you make your view of the material look like that?

  • http://www.facebook.com/alex.stifler.982 Alex Stifler

    can you chek out my video im new to this software and i want some opinions from the blender community . http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0_s18DfAnQ thx for your time.

    • -

      You must be kidding me right, that’s great. You can’t be THAT new, I use blender for a bit more than 2 years now and I still don’t get the heck of those bezier curve, if they are even called like that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alex.stifler.982 Alex Stifler

    Hi guys ,i realy enjoy watching your tutorials Andrew, you can learn a lot of things from them and this one was just on time , keep up the good work!

  • younyt

    sucks!!! you tube tutorials

    • Rob Justice

      There’s always at least one d-bag in every comment section.

      • vahnvallain

        sad it upload on youtube :(

  • Paulo

    teaches guy to do a quick time events in blender