Character Creation in 3ds Max - Chapter 1

Take a look inside chapter one of the Character Creation in 3ds Max eBook…

The first thing you need to do before starting a project is to have an idea. It doesn't need to be precise from the start and you don't need to have the whole process planned out from the beginning, but you need at least the general direction. In this case I want to do an old musician (old, but still rocking) with a cool attitude. The next step is to gather references to refine the idea and start planning what it is I want to make.

I start by looking at pictures of the Rolling Stones, Ozzy Osbourne, ACDC and then Bruce Springsteen. I'm going to use all of these musical icons as references for this project. The goal is not to recreate any of these characters, but to try to capture their cool and relaxed feel. I also want to create a funny mouth shape and show my old man blowing out smoke, so I gather references to help create that look as well.

The next step is to create the base head to work on. Sometimes I create a very rough head model in ZBrush, which I then sculpt from a cube. When I do this I focus on creating the main features like the eyes, nose and ears etc. I don't add any detail at this point, but take it into 3ds Max and then rebuild the topology using the Polydraw option. Sometimes I just like to start from one of my existing models to save some time. For this model though, I want to build a new, clean base head model with some nice edge loops and make it my new base head model for all my future projects.

Before you start working in 3ds Max it's good to adjust your Units setting (Fig.01). Go to Customize > Units Setup and select Metric for the Display Unit Scale and International for the Lighting Units.

When I model a head in 3ds Max I just focus on the topology of every part (eyes, nose, etc.,). I don't really concern myself with the overall look of the head, because once the model is done and I'm happy with the edge flow, I know that I will be able to bring that model into ZBrush and deform it the way I want more quickly than I could do it in 3ds Max. It's just something I like to do.

I like to model the head by starting on the inside of the different parts. For example, when modeling the nose I start modeling the inside of the nostril and then expand the geometry out (Fig.02). To do this I change my Reference Coordinate System to Screen so I can now move stuff around based on what I see on the screen. Then I select one or multiple edges and extrude them by holding Shift and dragging them where I want to have them. I apply a Symmetry modifier with the Show End Result feature on so I can see the other side of the nose.

Once I have the basic shape of the nose I start doing the same thing for the eyes. I start with a very basic shape made from a plane (using Cut tools) and extrude the edges the same way as I did it for the nose. Then I very quickly place a sphere in it to be sure the eyelids will wrap around the eye ball (Fig.03).

As I model the eye I add more definition to the lacrimal caruncle, which is the pink part on the inside of the eye (you can see this in the corner of the eye). Two things that are very important to keep in mind when modeling an eye are that the eyelids are very thick and the pink part has to follow the eye movement. A common mistake that we all make is to make the eyelid very thin when in fact they are quite thick. Even if your model is the best model ever, if the eyelids are too thin there will always be something weird about the eyes of your character. Having them thick will help the overall appearance and will give more space for the specular/reflection etc.

Once the base of my eye is done I start connecting it to the nose, while trying to keep the flow of the face muscles. For the mouth, I again start modeling it from the inside (Fig.04).

For the ear I do things a little differently. I start by using a plane, but instead of expanding it from the external auditory canal (hole), I instead create a rough shape for the antihelix and, as I did previously, I extrude edges by holding Shift and pushing the vertices in and out (Fig.05).

Since all the wrinkles and other skin marks on the face are the result of the face muscles deforming the skin, you want to have edge loops that will give you a nice topology for when you sculpt. Even if this will end up being a still picture, I still want to have a model that I could animate or apply different expressions to, and I want the edge loops to provide me with this possibility (Fig.06).

The final result is a very simple and basic head model with no particular expression, and that is exactly what I want since I can now bring it into ZBrush and start shaping it the way I want (Fig.07).

So I export my model (with no UVs) as an OBJ into ZBrush (Fig.08).

In ZBrush I don't add any divisions to my model; I just use the base model I just created and start moving it around using the Move brush and the Move Topological brush. The Move Topological is a very useful brush that allows you to move the lower lip without affecting the upper lip, for example, and all that without having to create groups or masks (Fig.09).

The main reason why I don't want to add divisions at this point is because I want to make sure that I won't need to change my topology to support the new deformations. By doing it this way I don't need to add or move cuts, and I am able to move on to the next part without too much hassle (Fig.10).

Now I'm all set and ready to start sculpting in ZBrush. See you next time.

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To see more by Rodrigue Pralier, check out Digital Art Masters: Volume 8

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