Reflection from Layered Surfaces due to Subsurface Scattering

Pat Hanrahan and Wolfgang Kreuger Computer Graphics (Proc. SIGGRAPH 1993), July 1993


The reflection of light from most materials consists of two major terms: the specular and the diffuse. Specular reflection may be modeled from first principles by considering a rough surface consisting of perfect reflectors, or micro-facets. Diffuse reflection is generally considered to result from multiple scattering either from a rough surface or from within a layer near the surface. Accounting for diffuse reflection by Lambert's Cosine Law, as is universally done in computer graphics, is not a physical theory based on first principles.

This paper presents a model for subsurface scattering in layered surfaces in terms of one-dimensional linear transport theory. We derive explicit formulas for backscattering and transmission that can be directly incorporated in most rendering systems, and a general Monte Carlo method that is easily added to a ray tracer. This model is particularly appropriate for common layered materials appearing in nature, such as biological tissues (e.g. skin, leaves, etc.) or inorganic materials (e.g. snow, sand, paint, varnished or dusty surfaces). As an application of the model, we simulate the appearance of a face and a cluster of leaves from experimental data describing their layer properties.

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