Through The Uncanny Valley
3D World UK|August 2018
Through The Uncanny Valley

3D character and portrait artist Ian Spriggs reveals his expert tips for creating a lifelike digital human

Ian Spriggs

Even though I have been creating characters for years it is only in the past 3.5 years I have started doing portraiture. Portraits are now my main focus. I love trying to figure people out and what makes them who they are. Portraits are like a window into the subject’s life; you really have to know someone to be able to represent them well, as it is not only facial features you are representing, but also their personality. It is also said that behind every portrait is a self portrait, as it is also the story of the artist; throughout all my portraits hopefully you will also learn a little about myself. My work is inspired by the great masters, Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Vermeer – these paintings were done hundreds of years ago, but we still connect to them as if these people were still alive today. The fact that we are in the digital age we now get to use new tools in creating these portraits, which has never been done before – we are creating a new form of portraiture.


The reason every portrait I do is a family member or friend is because I know them and by knowing them I can add their personality. Digital humans need a personality to make them believable; characters in a T-pose might look real, but we won’t connect with them. When we see people we try to read them, we want to know who they are, and we should do the same with digital characters – make them as real as possible, not only on the surface but also under the skin.


Breakdowns are a really good way to help promote digital characters. It reveals behind the curtain and shows exactly what you are looking at. By demonstrating that we use tools like a paint brush or a chisel, it shows that the work is not just a click of a button. Digital humans are new and people want to see the magic behind it. It clears any confusion that it could be a photograph and hopefully people will spend a little longer appreciating the hard work that went into it.


It is always important to have inspiration. My inspiration comes from the masters. For example, Rembrandt's style creates a mood that you can feel; his subjects are relatable and every one of his portraits feels alive.

Another inspiration is Vermeer, and a perfect example is his Girl with a Pearl Earring painting. This woman has a pearl earring even though she looks like a maid; she obviously could not afford this yet she is wearing it, so it makes you question whether Vermeer had a love interest in her, posing her with his wife's jewellery. This creates a back story that we want to know more about; adding a story to our digital humans will make them more believable.


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August 2018