A layered, heterogeneous reflectance model for acquiring and rendering human skin

Craig Donner, Tim Weyrich, Eugene D'Eon, Ravi Ramamoorthi, Szymon Rusinkiewicz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


We introduce a layered, heterogeneous spectral reflectance model for human skin. The model captures the inter-scattering of light among layers, each of which may have an independent set of spatially-varying absorption and scattering parameters. For greater physical accuracy and control, we introduce an infinitesimally thin absorbing layer between scattering layers. To obtain parameters for our model, we use a novel acquisition method that begins with multi-spectral photographs. By using an inverse rendering technique, along with known chromophore spectra, we optimize for the best set of parameters for each pixel of a patch. Our method finds close matches to a wide variety of inputs with low residual error. We apply our model to faithfully reproduce the complex variations in skin pigmentation. This is in contrast to most previous work, which assumes that skin is homogeneous or composed of homogeneous layers. We demonstrate the accuracy and flexibility of our model by creating complex skin visual effects such as veins, tattoos, rashes, and freckles, which would be difficult to author using only albedo textures at the skin's outer surface. Also, by varying the parameters to our model, we simulate effects from external forces, such as visible changes in blood flow within the skin due to external pressure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number140
JournalACM Transactions on Graphics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 1 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


  • Layered materials
  • Light transport
  • Reflection models
  • Skin reflectance
  • Subsurface scattering


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