Maya modeling: The head
Follow Jahirul Amin's helpful guide to creating and modeling a head in Maya, including tips for the eyes, mouth, nose, ear and neck.
Last time we added the second most expressive part of the body: the hands. In this tutorial we come to the face, which is without question the most expressive part of the human body. The human face, with sometimes bold and sometimes incredibly subtle movements, communicates the entire emotional spectrum. We've been modeling so our mesh will deform well for animation and we want to continue this methodology in the face. Thus, we will be focusing our topology on mimicking the muscle structure of the face. Muscles such as the orbicularis oculi (eye) and the orbicularis oris (mouth) will play major roles as these areas are where we tend to focus when looking at people's faces. We will also try and follow the flow of skin around those regions as this will help to create the appearance of wrinkles happening in the right place during deformation.
Throughout the modeling process so far, we have been employing box-modeling techniques, but for the face we will use edge-modeling techniques. This means that we take a single polygon and begin extruding out the edges to build up the form. This is simply my preferred method of creating heads as I find it easier to manage. Feel free to use whatever methods suits you.
For this tutorial, we will continue to use the reference from the awesome folks at 3dscanstore. However, please note that as well as looking at the front, side and back views supplied, I have also used all the other images that come with the collection to extract as much info as I can during the modeling process. Check out what they have to offer; it's all good stuff. However, as there is no substitute for the real thing, examine your own face and those of the people closest to you – with their permission, of course. Have a feel of the bony parts, such as the hard forms of the skull and the jaw line in contrast to the fleshy, fatty parts, such as the cheeks and the chin.
Obviously, this tutorial is aimed primarily at new Maya users, familiarizing readers with one way to skin the modeling cat. However, there are many ways to skin this particular cat, and I urge you to explore and experiment with other packages and processes to see what suits you best.
Step 1: Breaking down the reference
I've just produced a quick draw-over, analyzing the reference and giving me an idea of the core lines that I wish to incorporate into the model. Areas of particular interest are the wrinkle lines around the eye. I intend not to follow what is traditionally done in CG heads, (that is to follow the sphincter muscle of the orbicularis oculi) but instead opt for following the skin flow and the wrinkle lines that appear through aging. For the mouth, we can follow its ring-like structure, although I think that it is important to note that the muscle structure of the mouth is not a sphincter muscle, like that of the eye, which is a common misconception. We will add loops around the mouth and over the nose to allow for folds – such as the nasolabial fold – to be created. Instead of having the loops run around the chin, we will cut into the model to define the chin area to again allow for creasing in that region. These will be the main areas of focus, and then it's simply a case of adding the nose, popping the ears on and combining all these parts together through the cheeks, the jaw and the forehead.
Step 2: Asymmetry of the face
When looking at faces closely, it is evident that they are very asymmetrical for most people. Take a look at the work of Julien Wolkenstein and you'll get a good idea of what I mean, or better still; take an image of your own face and flip one half over to the other to make a mirror image using Photoshop. Because of this asymmetry, I find modeling only one side of the head without an instanced, duplicated mesh creates less confusion as I push and pull the points around. Once I get to a stage where I am close to finishing the head, I'll flip it over.
Step 3: Block out the eye
In a new scene, line up the face reference accompanying this tutorial. Then create a polygon plane and take the subdivision width and height down to 1. Translate and rotate the plane so it sits beneath the eye and then select one of the edges on the side and extrude outwards. Continue to do so, following the shape of the eye until you come full circle, and then merge the end vertices to create a closed piece of geometry. Reshape the geometry from all views, and then select the outer edge loop and perform another extrude to create another loop of faces. I like to introduce a centre line that runs from the corners of the eye and have the same amount of edges running along the top and along the bottom. When creating blinks, having the same amount of points at the top and the bottom allows for a nice closed shape to be created, which is very useful for cartoony characters. I try to keep this in mind for realistic characters but depending on how wrinkly they need to be, I may stray away from this as there tend to be more wrinkles below than above the eye. You can also add a sphere to act as an eyeball and give you a better idea of how to move the points around.
Step 4: Block out the mouth and the chin
For the mouth, I use the same methodology as explained with the eye. Beginning with the corner of the mouth, I start extruding out edges from a single face to create the ring-like structure of the lips and the surrounding area. Then I start to build the inner portion of the lips and the beginnings of the inner mouth cavity. Then I block out the chin by extruding some of the edges below the lower lip downwards and redirecting the edges, so they do not follow the ring-like loops started by the mouth.
Step 5: Build up the eye region
Back to the eye, I add further edge loops to add more definition to the mesh. I also flatten the area below the eyeball, to create a shelf-like ledge. This will act as the lower eyelid margin, referred to as the waterline. On the inner corner of the geometry, I model in the lacrimal caruncle, which is the reddish-pink fleshy area where the upper and lower inner parts of the eyelids meet. Then, I continue to extrude the outer edges outwards to begin forming the forehead and the bridge of the nose. At this stage, the geometry almost forms a mask-like shape. On the inner portion of the eye, I also extrude inwards to create what will be the cavity for the eyeball to sit in.
Step 6: Create the nose
Next, I introduce the nose. As with the eye and mouth portions, I begin with a single plane and begin to build outwards. I enjoy working with each part independently as it allows me to be freer to add and delete edge loops without having to consider how it affects the rest of the mesh. Although, I'm thinking about how everything will come together, I don't want this to dictate how I add detail to these areas.
Step 7: Create the ear
The ears come next and I'll be honest, I'm not a fan of ears. Not because I find them tricky, it's simply because I find them boring. But there was a time when ears were tricky and I would do my best to avoid them or simplify them. I realized the way to approach them was – as I have said on many occasions throughout the creation of this model – analyze the reference. Once I broke the reference down, I found I could pretty much apply a ‘paint by numbers' approach. So I like to break the ear down to its structure and areas of depression. The structures are: the helix and the antihelix, the tragus and the lobe. The areas of depression are: the triangular fossa, the concha and the intertragical notch. Once you have these forms in your mind, you can extrude rows of edges to follow the directions in which they run and then push in the areas of depression. Also, as the ears do not blink or talk, it's not like we have to be extremely careful on their topology, although for lighting reasons we shouldn't take too many shortcuts.
Step 8: Combining the features
Once the eyes, mouth, nose and the ear are roughly modeled in, I start to fill out the remainder of the face. I begin by combining the mouth region to the eye region by selecting both parts and going Mesh > Combine. I then extrude the edges on the upper outskirts of the mouth and direct them towards the eye region. Adding extra edge loops to the cheek will help to fill out the volume and get it matching the reference better. Then I combine the mass of the face to the nose and play with the mesh to match up the forms. This is where you add an edge loop here and delete an edge loop there. Be sure to always tidy up the mesh as you go. I'm taking advantage of the Sculpt Geometry Tool to even out the edges. To weld all the necessary vertices, I'm using the Merge Vertex Tool.
Step 9: Adding the neck and the back of the head
Once the main forms of the face are in place, you should be able to pretty much continue extruding to fill out the neck and the back of the head. You may find that you have many edge loops running down the neck or over the head. I try to terminate these earlier so I have fewer vertices to connect to the body later on. You can also use this to your advantage to create the appearance of the Adam's apple at the front of the neck.
Step 10: Create the skin flow of the eyes
Now here is where things really take a turn. As mentioned in the introduction, I decided not to follow the muscle flow of the area around the eyes but instead mimic the skin flow. To create the wrinkles, I pretty much just started cutting into the model using the Split Polygon Tool (hold Shift+RMB over the geometry and go Split > Split Polygon Tool). This was a pretty long, back-and-forth process of adding new edges, deleting old edges and reworking the vertices constantly while also trying to maintain quads. No special tricks or tools involved here, just the Split Polygon Tool, deleting edges, moving vertices and some good old spit and grit. Extra edge loops were also added as needed and, once again, the Sculpt Geometry Tool set to Relax mode was used to tidy up the spacing of the edge loops. During this phase, I also had a mirror to hand and I would repeatedly pull different faces and expressions to see how the skin on my face would respond. These noticeable lines (I'm getting older you see) were then incorporated into the model. Now, there is nothing wrong with having the edge loops mimic the sphincter muscle of the orbicularis oculi, and then using a Bump, Normal or Displacement map to create wrinkle lines around the eyes. I just simply prefer to try and get as much as I can directly out of the model – it's a personal preference of mine. So if you are happy with your mesh and wish not to cut into it so viciously, feel free to skip this step.
Step 11: Connect the head to the body
Once you are happy with the head, it's simply a case of connecting it up to the body; although saying that, it most probably won't be as simple as we'd like. First, open up a scene with the body and then import the current head model. Scale it uniformly to match the reference planes and then examine how many vertices end at the bottom of the neck on the head compared to that at the top of the neck on the body. Next, use point snapping and move the vertices from the head to the body. Then use a combination of adding edge loops (to the body) and terminating edge loops earlier (on the head) to sync the two meshes together. Any edge loop added to the body will also need tidying up. Again, I start by using the Sculpt Geometry Tool to even the edges out, followed by some manual pushing and pulling of the vertices.
Step 12: Editing the proportions
The final step is to rework some of the proportions. At this stage, I hide the photographic reference and refer to the work of Dr. Paul Richer. His book Artistic Anatomy is amazing and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in anatomy. I use his 'seven and a half heads' model as a guide to rework the proportions of the model. The reason I am straying away from the photographic images is because there seems to be some distortion to the proportions, and I do not have details about the lenses used to capture the images so I can replicate them correctly with the Maya camera.
To rework the proportions, I use the Lattice deformer found under Create Deformer in the Animation toolset under Create Deformers. Selecting areas of vertices, I apply the Lattice and then adjust the S, T and U divisions to give me enough control to push and pull the form without creating too much distortion. I also push the head back slightly as I feel as if it is strained slightly forwards and not quite in a natural position. Once you are happy with the proportions, select the Mesh and go Edit > Delete By Type > History to get rid of the Lattice deformers.
Step 13: Reworking the topology
Last thing I did was to rework the topology in a few places. Most notably, I was not too happy with the area at the corner of the chest and arm. The placement of the extraordinary vertices (the star-like network of edges) was slightly bothering me so I decided to move it up by cutting into the model and re-directing some of the edges. This also resulted in creating a better edge-flow between the chest and the shoulder. At his stage, as we are close to finalizing the model, check for any other areas that you are not too happy with and make sure to push them until you are satisfied.
Next time, we'll go through and finalize the model, ready for it to move on through the pipeline.
Top tip 1: Camera Focal Length
The perspective camera in Maya has a default Focal Length of 35. When zooming in close to a model, this can create some perspective distortion. To reduce this, try setting the Focal Length to something between 80 and 100. This will flatten the view making it much nicer to work with, in my opinion.
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