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EISKO's Character Physically-Based Shaders pack for Unity 5 now available on the Asset Store

April 9, 2015

One of the secrets of a great character is believable skin. Unfortunately, if you're an independent artist or a small studio, you don't always have the resources to develop your own custom skin shader. That's why we've made our own Unity 5 shader pack available via the online Asset Store.

The product of our detailed research and development on the subject, our Character Physically-Based Shaders pack contains the same shaders we use in our Unity demo. You can see the quality of the results they give in the video below:

So what's the secret? Although Unity 5's new Standard shader is physically based, it doesn't use subsurface scattering, which means that it can make skin look flat and plasticky. Our own shader integrates screen-space SSS to mimic that way that light is scattered and re-emitted by human skin, giving it a realistic soft, slightly translucent appearance.

Better still, that skin won't only look good when your character is at rest. Because the shader supports energy conservation, it will respond accurately to the lighting in your environment, no matter whether you're using direct lighting or Unity 5's new real-time global illumination.

Another unique feature of the shader is that it's designed for animation work. On a system running DirectX 11, it will automatically blend between normal and displacement maps corresponding to your character's facial blendshapes, accurately mimicking the elastic deformation of the skin, even at 60fps.

Once you've got your skin looking great, you don't want the rest of the character to spoil the effect, which is why the Character Physically-Based Shaders pack also includes dedicated shaders for eyes, teeth and clothing. They're all based on the same underlying technology, but they've optimized for different parts of the body: the eye shader has separate controls for the iris and sclera, for example.

All of the shaders are fully customizable, but even using them straight out of the box, you should be able to get great results within minutes, no matter what style of game you're creating. Although you'll see a huge difference on photorealistic projects, even cartoon-style characters with hand-painted texture maps can benefit from subsurface scattering. And you don't even have to use them for characters: the general-purpose shader in the pack will produce equally outstanding results across a range of materials.

To help you get started, the pack contains a Unity 5 test scene including our digital double of actress Tatiana Seguin with all of the shaders set up for you. All of the scripts you will need are provided, and each of the four shaders – Skin, Eye, Teeth and Generic – comes in versions with and without DirectX 11 tessellation. The complete pack costs just $90, so why not pick it up and begin creating ultra-realistic digital characters today?