CGPortfolio Prehistoric Shark Texturing Mini-Challenge - 12th Feb - 19th Mar 2014


Dust off your prehistoric reference photography! This month’s CGPortfolio mini-challenge asks you to texture a piece of the past.

So about a month ago at CGSociety, we had some pretty amazing people contact us. The team at the Idaho Virtualization Laboratory have been hard at work over the last ten years scanning fossils, artefacts, and comparative vertebrate skeletons with their incredible 3D scanner (accurate to a couple of microns) and turning the fossil scans into research tools and printable 3D models. The Idaho Virtualization Lab are a scientific not-for-profit, but they want to see the broader CG community discover their models. They hope the models can be useful for more than just their digital accuracy - they’re hoping their models can occasionally be used for something more creative.

And that’s where we all come in. The Lab have donated us two scientifically accurate models of a prehistoric shark (a Helicoprion ) and it’s shellfish prey, the Nautiloid. The Helicoprion is an incredible looking fish. It has evolved an idiosyncratic “whorled-jaw”, with teeth spiralling outward and into its lower jaw. It is believed that this adaptation gave these sharks the ability to efficiently remove the fleshy bits of nautiloids from their shells.

Your challenge is to texture these historically accurate extinct marine creatures. As they’re no longer around, we can’t know exactly what colour they were or the texture of their skins and shells. Here you have some creative license.

The Lab’s Jesse Pruitt says, “I would like to see the contestants make the models their own, by that I mean pose them anyway they want, modify the meshes as they see fit, pretty much just have fun! From the fossil evidence these sharks were social and seemed to congregate in large groups, as did the nautiloids. In fact we find hundreds of the nautiloids for every shark, so there were lots of them swimming around back then.”

Judges for this competition are Image Engine’s Lead Texture Painter Justin Holt , MPC’s Texture Painter (and our forum manager) Leigh Van Der Byl and the Idaho Virutalization Laboratory’s Nick Clement. Nick has an MA in archeology and a MFA in art. Justin and Leigh also teach with us - Justin teaches our online CGWorkshop “Realistic Character Skin Texture Painting in Mari”, and Leigh teaches “Environmental Texturing .” So if you feel you want to learn more before you submit your entry, we suggest you sign up!

We asked Justin and Leigh what they’re specifically looking for in judging the entries. Leigh said, “I guess what I’d be looking for is an eye for detail, particularly details that feel motivated (ie purposeful) which gives the creatures a sense of believability in the world. I’d also be looking for realism here, not stylisation.”

Justin agreed. “The texture work needs to be catered towards realism over stylisation,” he said.

(above - model of whorled-jaw resting inside the mouth of the Helicoprion)


Our judges are looking for:

  1. One final beauty render for showcase purposes (not for primary judging)
  2. Orthographic screengrabs of the textures in flat shaded and shaded views (no need for full shading) of all maps being painted for the final look/render (these are the images that are ultimately going to be judged)
  3. 3-5 close up selected screengrabs out of Mari, Photoshop or whichever program you’re using (flat shaded and shaded) to showcase fine detail work. Be sure to also screengrab the secondary maps from these close up selects as well.

Please upload your completed model to your CGPortfolio , and tag it “textureminichallenge”. This will slowly build a gallery of entries - we’ll link it later as it builds. Add the other required elements (the screen grabs) to the same project within your CGPortfolio.

Just to clarify, you can enter by texturing and uploading EITHER model, or you can complete BOTH and upload them TOGETHER IN A SCENE.


  1. Best Helicoprion
  2. Best Nautiloid
  3. Best scene using both Helicoprion and Nautiloid.


The winner in each category will win a CGWorkshop of their choice, and a years’ free CGSConnect membership. They will also win a free model of their choice from the Idaho Virtualization Laboratory’s huge collection of scans.

The OVERALL WINNER will receive a full colour 3D print of their fully-textured model, courtesy of the Idaho Virutalization Laboratory.

Download the files for the Nautiloid here
Download the files for the Helicoprion here

Additional high-res files here

Please post questions in the thread below, we’ll do our best to answer them for you asap. Feel free also to post links to your uploaded entries in your CGPortfolio as you upload.

Happy sharking.

(Please note that judges have the final decision over the finalists and winning entries, and no correspondence will be entered into.)


hey, really cool challenge!
hope to participate in my second cgsociety challenge.
never used Mari though. might polypaint and render in zbrush then comp in PS, if thats ok.


after doing this challenge, is it allowed to show the texturing of this in our demo reel?

thanks for your time.


That’s totally OK. You can use any program you like.


Hey! Great contest should be loads of fun.

Quick question, I was wondering if it was possible to get the high resolution models as well? The displacement map that is currently attached really isn’t giving me all the details that I see in the above screen grabs (which I assume aren’t renders, or are the high res models) Maybe i’m doing something in correctly, but my results from attached gray scale map just really aren’t nearly as crisp as the above posts.

Please Let me know,



So, there is no need of work in progress pics?


There are displacement maps supplied with the models…so do we get freedom to sculpt the displacement again or do we have to only use the displacement maps and then paint the other maps only. It would be great if u could help me out…


No, you don’t need to post WIPs, however you may in this thread if you wish.


The tif that comes with the file, is that a bump map we are to use?


Hey, Great contest excited to start on it!

I was wondering if it were possible to get the high resolution versions of the models, in order to make our own displacement maps, the map that is provided is missing some key details that I see on the above images.

Please let me know,



I think that’s a 16bit displacement map, if I am not wrong.

But Mari is displays it a little weird, however VRay rendered it properly (by that I mean the gills and all are looking good).

Didn’t check the Nautiloid though.


Hi Ross, thanks for this feedback - stay tuned and I’ll see if we can provide high-res models, and some additional maps.


Hello, this is Jesse from the IVL. We will get the high res models sent in tomorrow, we are on a 3 day weekend here. We are using Zbrush for the maps, is there anything we can do to optimize them for Mari? Any idea what is causing the display error?

Thank you!


Hi Jesse,

Mari displacement & bump preview depend on th gpu capabilities, I wouldn’t be really worried about it.
Would you be able to add a 32bit displacement map, please? Or if its possible to upload may be the scanned model from zBrush with a little more details in it, I think that way most of us can unwrap & extract displacement or normal depending upon our workflows.



I rearranged the UVs for Mari use (5x2 patches). If there is someone interested I will upload the obj somewhere ( right here is not possible due to the incredible small amount of space ). Regarding the disp file, I baked the map provided in zbrush, corrected it, transferred the new set of UVs, multi map exporter, and so on…

Just like the previous Mari contest, I knew that I should wait a little before enter the contest… There is always something wrong with the first model :slight_smile:


Hi all - we asked our judges to double-check the models, and their view is they are more than high-res enough to create your own maps if you’d like to do that. If you want to, please feel free.


Hi all - here 's a higher-res model of the shark if this makes things easier for some of you to create your own maps if you’d like.

  • Please note - this is not a Mari specific challenge, and the files have not been set up in or for Mari.


Hello how are you? well I have a problems about showing the final image I don’t known if we have to do a render or which software do you prefer to showing the final image? because I am not very good with render and better with texturing :wink: thanks for your time :arteest:


I believe you can use any render engine you choose, and a final rendered images is for showcase purposes only. The judges primary concern would be the quality of the texture maps, or at least that is what I gleaned from the instructions!! :slight_smile:


Hi Pablo, you can use whichever software you like. The requirements for entry are in the first post. You do need to provide a beauty render for display purposes but this is not ultimately what you will be judged on - you’ll be judged on your texture maps. Some people have posted saying the UV maps we’ve provided don’t open well in Mari, but my understanding is they open fine in other programs. I hope this helps answer your question.