I was never really that happy with the skin I was getting with HSS, and even SSS in DS was lackluster compared to Poser. You see all these great character skins with Poser previews, while the DS previews of the same product looked dull and plastic, and this really bothered me. Most of the time, the character materials in DS didn’t even bother to use SSS in DS, and when they did the results were OK but not great.
Then V6 came out with a much improved SSS skin. Gia’s skin was even better, and with Girl 6, I can see the DS materials closing in on that soft, almost too real, skin quality that Poser SSS materials get.
Maybe it’s not your cup-o-tea. Everyone has different expectations of what looks ‘real’. Photography itself isn’t actually real, and DS can look downright photographic with the right lighting and render settings. I was looking for that soft, touchable look, that I’m sure you’ve seen.
I noticed that with Girl-6 they actually scaled the diffuse back to 50% and upped the SSS to 75% while putting the Diffuse texture into the SSS color, so that the make-up isn’t completely faded. It still does fade some, so the burden of the detail sharpness of the skin, I think rests on the Specular map. (and probably the Normal and Bump maps, although adapting these are a lot harder) and I think you need both specular 1 (the sharp highlights) and specular 2 (the hazy sheen) to get it right. And yes, the lighting in a scene is a critical factor.
The AoA shader works well to adapt older textures, although because of the lack of custom bump and normal maps, the texture isn’t as good as the newer DAZ base textures (like Gia or Girl-6). I’ve been ctrl-clicking the AoA-SSS onto the older skin (to retain the maps), and setting the surface closer to Girl-6, with pretty decent results. Girl-6 is meant to be more of a ‘toon’ type figure So you may not want to go to that extreme, but I was using it as a base and working back towards a more realistic setting which is largely controlled by the Diffuse.
Around 60-80% diffuse seems to retain enough of the make-up texture as long as the diffuse texture is loaded into the SSS color (and a peach skin color), SSS Strength is good from 40-75%. I start with the SSS base setting of Skin A or Skin B. It’s an easy way to get a good color setting for the light scattering.
The specular channel really makes or breaks it, though. Some skins already have the map loaded into Specular 1 Strength, the color can be anything form blue-gray to white. Specular 2 (the skin sheen) gives me good results without a map, and with a white or light peach color. As far as lighting goes, some sort of specular light or a dark light without shadow can give the skin a little pop.
Here’s a render using 2 lights ( a spotlight and a softbox) with a non-SSS skin that I added the AoA-SSS shader to. The skin was originally pretty pale, but I darkened it with a dark red-brown color (and the diffuse texture) in the SSS color channel to get a more ethnic look. The base SSS settings were Skin A.
It doesn’t show the make-up, because the face is obscured, and there’s a lot of shadow, but I like how the tattoo came out with a realistic softness that doesn’t look painted on, and the skin has a good sheen from the specular 2 channel.