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Making a Face

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Date Added: 9th December 2009
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Why did I decide to do this tutorial? Good question! Still trying to answer it to myself. As a modeler I think I have little secrets, like little tricks to do certain stuff quicker or better than other people. And this is one of them. I kind of fell like I'm giving away a personal trick or secret by doing this. but hey. I have to try harder, right? Can't just live under a shadow of one trick.
While discussing with other game artists, I got the general idea that the method I use, but it isn't used much. I think it's in fact, very rare to find any one who uses the same method I do. So, I decided to share. Don't know why, maybe I've been watching to much Teletubies... well what you know... Microsoft Word does note recognize "Teletubies" Let me try "money" Yep, it recognizes money. Lots of people do faces for their models. But there just isn't enough face modeling tutorials. Once, showing my method to a friend of mine, I did one face, from scratch, while talking to him, in about half an hour or less. He was quite surprised and said "I never thought of that!" and then "but it's very cool how fast you did it". So, the trick is: instead of planting vertexes around, or dividing edges from a box, or moving vertexes around on a patch. I use a different thing: SPLINES. Yes, splines. Don't go away just now. I've taken away all the hard bits in this process. Lots of people don't like to work with splines, because they can't "see it" in 3d. Others never get surface tools to work because of the tolerance thingies. And others simply don't like besier handles. Well, I assure you, this process is 100% problem free. Well maybe 99%. It's not newbie proof ;)

Stuff needed

To start, we will need a reference, maybe a drawing, or a photo, whatever you like. As long as it's a face, in front view. "OH no, front view?" we will get to that. So, pick it up, and look at it. Look. A lot... more........... A good artist, has I've been told (since I don't call my self a good artist) has a ratio of 75% observation -20% working - 5% cleaning up mistakes. (Eh eh eh, so much for "good artist"!) So that's what you gotta do, when you want to do something right. Just pick up a drawing or photo and just look at it. Now try to visualize it in 3d. Desiccate it into edges. See what is important about it, and so you will be able to work a lot faster. Trust me on this.
Pre-visualisation can help avoid mistakes.


Setting up

A lot of people hate spline modeling and surface tools, because even though they get a good spline model, when they go into surface tools, it just goes berserk. A lot of this is because the vertexes aren't fused together or welded. You may not want to weld them, nor fuse them, but there's still a way to get them in the same position. Snapping. Oh yeah... snap rockz. So... right click the snap icon and go to "Snaps" and select vertex.

This is the Grid and Snap Setting dialog. Checking "vertex" will enable snapping to mesh vertexes

Be sure to deselect every thing else, since you won't need them. Also, on the Options, deselect the "use axis constrains".

Disabling Use Axis Constraints helps positioning vertexes in the same coordinate for each axis, and not only the active ones

Alright then. Now your cursor will snap to previously placed vertexes, making sure they fit nice and together. Not only when you create lines, but also when you move them.

Why do it in front view?

"OH no, front view?" A lot of people believe that starting out with the profile is better because the profile has a lot more detailed than the side of the face. This is... obviously (I hope) true. So why don't we do it on the left or right view? Simple. The front view doesn't have a very detailed shape. But it has a lot of content; eyes, mouth, nose, cheeks. Oh sure, they're also there on a side view... half of them. In fact, only half of each one, and in wrong sizes... So to avoid size mistakes, it's better if we do them in the view where they look about as big or as long as they really are; front view. Also, the detail concentration is going to be around the face contents. On the side of the face, there won't be that much detail. And in fact... there's not much detail needed on a cheek.

Why with splines?

Ok, now why the hell with splines? They're simply better! Instead of just placing orphan vertexes on the drawing and then creating the polygons from scratch (time consuming), why not place the vertexes, yes, on the drawing, as you would normally do, on a 2d plane, and then be just a click away from polygon creation? It will happen, it is true, it is written by be! (I just love Pastor Richards) So, after you have a "spline mesh", that you do just by placing vertexes, all that you have to do, is a apply surface tools to it, and viola! It's a mesh!


So... roll up you sleeves, and let's get to it. Pick up you photo or drawing, and place it in the background. I usually do it on a plane, which I set up with the pixel size of the image (this case, 256x512). I usually tint the image and make it darker, so it won't blend with the white splines.

This is just a simple plain for placing the reference drawing on the background.

continued on next page >

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