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How to Add Subsurface Scattering in Blender

Featured image for a blog post discussing Subsurface Scattering in Blender. The image depicts Blender's Suzanne monkey without Subsurface Scattering on the left and with Subsurface Scattering on the right. The title "SUBSURFACE SCATTERING" is displayed at the bottom.
Blender Subsurface Scattering

Table of contents

What is subsurface scattering (SSS)?

Subsurface scattering simulates semi-translucent objects in 3D software. When subsurface scattering is applied to an object light rays enter, bounce around, then exit in a different place. Many organic and inorganic materials are not opaque right at the surface, so light does not just bounce off the top surface.

Examples of materials that have subsurface scattering (SSS) include human/animal skin, the skin of grapes, tomatoes, fruits, wax, gels (like honey, or Jello), and so on. You cannot achieve photo-realism when creating the above materials without adding subsurface scattering.

Let’s take a look at the different ways to apply subsurface scattering in Blender.

Method 1: Add subsurface scattering using the Principled BSDF node

  • Select your object and switch to the Shader editor
Add subsurface scattering using Principled BSDF node in Blender
Add subsurface scattering using the Principled BSDF node in Blender
  • Create a material
  • On the Principled BSDF node, adjust the Subsurface value to 1
  • Adjust the following values until you get the desired result:
  • Base Color: Basically, the Diffuse color. The actual color of the object.
  • Subsurface: How much Subsurface Scattering effect you need
  • Subsurface Radius: Average distance that light scatters below the surface. A higher radius gives a softer appearance, as light bleeds into shadows and through the object. The scattering distance is specified separately for the RGB channels, to render materials such as skin where red light scatters deeper. The X, Y, and Z values are mapped to the R, G, and B values, respectively.
  • Subsurface Color: Subsurface scattering base color.
  • Subsurface IOR (Available on Cycles only): Index of refraction for Subsurface Scattering.
  • Subsurface Anisotropy (Available on Cycles only): Controls the directionality of subsurface scattering.

Method 2: Add subsurface scattering using the Subsurface Scattering node

  • Select your object and switch to the Shader editor
Add subsurface scattering using Subsurface Scattering node in Blender
Add subsurface scattering using the Subsurface Scattering node in Blender
  • Create a material
  • Replace the Principled BSDF node with a Subsurface Scattering node
  • Adjust subsurface scattering values according to your needs. Use the values guide in Method 1

Adding subsurface scattering in Blender’s EEVEE render engine

  • Select your object and switch to the Shader editor
  • Create a material
  • Adjust subsurface scattering values according to your needs. This should work using the Principled BSDF or Subsurface Scattering nodes
Blender EEVEE subsurface scattering settings
Blender EEVEE subsurface scattering settings
  • Go to Render Properties > Subsurface Scattering
  • Increase the Samples and Jitter Threshold values according to your need
  • Go to Materials tab > Settings
  • Enable Subsurface Translucency

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