Disney's Elsa from Frozen


Hello everyone!

The last couple of months I’ve been working on rebuilding Elsa from Disney’s Frozen. I’m trying to be as accurate as reason allows and hope to eventually rig and animate the whole thing.
I consider myself a beginner and would like to get more involved in 3d design, so the point of all this is to get some exercise.

At first I was a bit concerned about whether or not rebuilding an existing character would be a good idea, but so far this has been an excellent way to train my eye and develop some efficient workflows for certain tasks.
However, since learning stuff is my main goal, overall progress has been rather slow. I’ve been switching back and forth between modeling, texturing and shading a lot, mainly after discovering some inaccuracies on my model. I know this is a terrible habit, but as I got better, I noticed more flaws, which I wanted to fix, of course.

The last weeks I’ve been doing some major remodeling and I consider the body almost finished. Now the UVs are pretty messed up in places though, so there’s still a lot of cleaning up to do. I had started with the hair earlier and pretty much finished all the isolated strands, so the braid is the only thing left to model for that. At some point she’ll get clothes too, of course.

Anyway, here’s what I have so far. Don’t hold back with the criticism!

These two pictures show an earlier version of my model. The one on the left was made during the latest remodeling and the one on the right some time before. I thought including these would give you guys a better idea of the potential final model.


This is looking quite good mate.
That last rendered model is pretty well done.
But I would watch the proportions a little more, do some research about the head - to body size ratio on these type of characters. I have a funny feeling that your characters head is a little too small compared to the body, that proportion looks too realistic for your desired style.
Also take a look at fingers from those characters, yours are already getting too overshaped (or maybe just too long in some segments which makes them look slightly creepy).
The neck feels a bit too long too. Could try reducing that a bit, see if it works.
Disney characters are all about simplicity and shape, the constrast of smooth against detail makes them. Detail only where it really needs to be to emphasize a specific property of the character.
…like the sternocleidomastoid (one of the few anatomical features you actually get to see working on them, because that really strengthens the emotion and appeal of a characters performance)

But you are really on a good way, keep us updated, I really like this sort of stuff :slight_smile:

PS: just out of curiosity, what software you plan to rig and animate in?

  • Stefan


Thank you!

I worked on this model by matching it to screengrabs from the movie during the blockout-phase to ensure correct proportions. To be honest, I’m not too sure how correct these still are, given how much I moved stuff around since then.
I’ve been focusing heavily on the face lately and am fairly happy with how closely it matches the original now.

I totally agree with the hands! They are relatively unchanged from when I first modeled them and it really shows. Fixed some bad topology and right now I’m setting up a clean scene with a simple rig to match them up with a few screenshots to hopefully fix them.
I’ll do the same with the body later on, but won’t be as anal about it. As long as the overall proportions match, I’m happy.

Yep, I noticed that some anatomical features are clearly visible and others are simply missing on the original character. I think, the most important ones are accounted for in my topology.

Totally forgot including some reference pictures for anyone who’s not familiar with the character. Mild spoiler ahead, in case you haven’t seen the movie.

I plan to rig and animate it in Maya and render using Vray or Renderman, if it becomes free til then. Modeling is done in 3ds Max. Another thing I took away from this: I really need to get into either Zbrush or Mudbox! Sculpting with polys is no fun, especially if you keep changing things, like I tend to do.


Built a simple rig, matched my model to various full body shots from the movie and from there I moved stuff around until the proportions looked about right. I touched up pretty much the entire body, replaced the hands and fixed a lot of topology-issues.

Here are a few turntable shots of my model. Use the green controller on the bottom right corner of the image to manually scrub through the animation. Check this image, in case you don’t understand how it works.

Full Body

Upper Body



Here’s an updated shot of it all coming together

Don’t hold back with the criticism. No matter how nit-picky, I want to hear about it =)
Btw, there’s a twist in the forearm, which I didn’t notice until after making these images. It’s been fixed now.


Starting to look really nice :slight_smile:


Thanks, FRV-1087a! (hooray for c&p)

Finished the new UV-map

Compared to my old UV-map, this one has a lot less seams (at the expense of some stretching), but I’m expecting future touch-ups in Photoshop to be much less of a pain this way.


Started texturing.

Not sure if I got the colors right, but every element sits on its own layer, so making adjustments afterwards is easy. This should also come in handy for putting together various maps, I hope.


That braid gave me a lot of trouble and led me to take a small break from this …
I’m planning to use an actual hair-system to generate the final hair, so I had to model the whole thing with that in mind. Basically every strand of hair had to occupy a unique spot on the scalp and the entire scalp had to be covered with strands. How to split the braid up and connect it with the head in an efficient way was something I couldn’t figure out for quite a while.

It’s done though! The next step is to take this to Maya and figure out how xgen works =)

Here’s some pictures of the inside of the head and a turntable-shot of the upper body. Click the thumbs for bigger versions.


Quite nice, looking forward to your xgen results :slight_smile:
One little feedback I noticed on the face:
The upper part of the noes has some rather sharp creases on both sides. You can clearly see the very harsh shadowline this is causing. Have a look at the actual character and youll find the nose part is quite soft on her.

PS: Also I think the sternocleidomastoid seem too localized and prominent, try softening that area a litte more, and bringing slight details further up the neck.


You’re right, thanks for pointing that out!

I smoothed those edges out a little bit and added some more curvature to the surface between them.
I also changed the topology and shape of the lower neck area, as you suggested.

Here’s a quick render with a simple SSS material, showing the changes:


I really like it!!

She is cute.


Well, Xgen certainly is pretty damn awesome! It has its quirks though, which I’m slowly getting to know.

Made some progress with the hairy bits. Eyebrows and eyelashes are done, I think. Started with the main hair today and this is what I have right now.

I’m going to redo it, though. This time breaking it up into several description and seeing how that works out.


Woow, looks cool! :applause:



Made some progress with the hair.


There’s some issues I noticed after seeing this:
The back of the hair needs to move forward so it conforms a bit better to the skull’s shape.
One strand of the braid is intersecting too much with another one.
The strands, coming from the top of the hair and flowing into the braid, need to be more spread out. Right now they are clearly distinguishable, which I don’t like.
The color variation needs to be scaled down a little bit.

Other than that I’m quite happy with the result so far.


Worked on the hair some more and made some progress on the shader and more importantly, finally found a sweet spot between quality and render speed.
In case anyone here has trouble rendering hair with Vray, here’s a neat little trick I came up with:

As you may already know, Brute Force for primary rays and at least Light Cache with activated Retrace Threshold for secondary rays are an absolute must for flicker free renders of hair.
I found that especially Retrace Threshold really blew up my render time, even minimal values resulted in double the render time. By turning it off flickering is introduced and the hair looses a lot of its structure. I switched it off anyway and looked for ways to compensate for the loss of quality.

The flickering was fairly easy to get rid of. Simply by upping my Light Cache subdivions to three times their normal value (in my case 6000 for 1080p) and by using a fixed filter size of 0.02 and sample size of 0.01, any flickering was gone. However, the hair looked even more blurry now.
To get those details back, simply add a little bit of diffuse color to your hair shader. This will enable you to save out render passes for lighting and shadow on the hair, which you then can use in post.

Here’s a comparison showing how this works out for me:


     Renders like these always make me notice some flaws I missed before. For  instance, there's a visible bald spot behind her left ear, the hair tie  is too dark and the braid and top hair could need a little bit more  variation. Also I cranked up the skin's saturation before, but it seems  like I have to take it down a notch again.
      But other than that I consider this finished for now. I'll move on to modeling the clothes after fixing the issues above.


Excellent work so far. Great attention to detail. The hair looks amazing :slight_smile: keep it up.


Thanks! I loved working with Xgen so far and I feel like I’ve only seen a fraction of its potential.

Here’s another update after some tweaks:

The hair tie is too bright again, the hair color is too saturated (toned it down in post for these pics) and I want the braid to look a little bit more fuzzy.
Overall very simple things to fix, so I think I can start working on the clothes today.


Wow, great work so far!!! Really looking forward for the next update :), will you be doing the dress in marvelous design, or you ll keep it in maya?


Well, I wildly (<= wild understatement!) underestimated the challenge of making these clothes …

Modeling them is pretty straightforward, but lots and lots of trial and error was involved in figuring out the correct base shape so that the whole thing looks and moves like in the movie, once simulated. The cape was especially messy. I experimented with the trial version of Marvelous Designer as well, but failed horribly.

I turned to Petru Neacsu for help. He modeled the characters for a Frozen tablet-game called Free Fall and offered some very helpful advice on pretty much any topic I brought up. Thanks again for your help!

The modeling part is finished now, I think. Textures and materials are next.

Click to view bigger version

Kind of got carried away and ended up with the first pass of the skirt-material as well.

Along the way I decided to go with separate meshes for rendering and simulation. A delaunay triangulated mesh seemed to be the best choice, but I couldn’t find any guides which explained how to convert a quad mesh to a delaunay triangulated mesh. I eventually came up with my own way of doing it but I wonder, did I fail hard at googling or are there really no guides for this around? Maybe it’s just very obvious how to do it and I simply missed it, I dunno.
Here’s a picture showing both mesh-types I’m going to use:

Click to view bigger version

Note that the vertex density of the delaunay-cape is highest on the top and bottom. This was a deliberate choice and quite easy to accomplish with the conversion method I used. For the skirt I went with a constant density.

When learning first about delaunay triangulated meshes I made my own tests before committing to it. I was curious how big the difference really was and if the mesh density (both sim- and render-mesh) would make any difference. This was pretty eye-opening for me, so for people who aren’t already aware of this, I put together this picture with the results of my test:

Click to view bigger version