The face is the last organic feature to model. Despite its small surface area, it's quite possibly the most difficult object to mesh. Take a look at 3D models in movies—ever notice how realistic every animal in the animal kingdom can be modeled, yet doing a human face always seems slightly artificial? That's because our faces aren't coated with thick fur, and we have hundreds of tiny muscles beneath our skin that are used for communication and projecting emotion. That's something that is difficult to model, especially at a low resolution.
There's no easy way to explain how to create the mesh of the face, so you're going to have to be creative and use front and side images of real human faces. I'm going to show you how to go about box modeling a face, but the technique involves slowly and carefully tessellating (subdividing) polygons and manipulating vertices to generalize facial features. Also, I'm only going to be modeling the left half of the face and head and then applying the
Symmetry modifier. Ears won't be necessary because headgear will cover them.
1. Create a Box primitive with Length and Width segments of 1 and a Height segment of 2. Extrude the back face of the top segment to match the general shape of the left part of the face using the sketch as a reference (see Figure 3.33).
2. Enter Polygon Edit mode and click on a polygon at the front where the eyes and nose will be. On the Modifier panel in the Edit Geometry section, click on Tessellate. Then enter Vertex Edit mode to view the newly subdivided surface. Manipulate the new vertices to start matching some of the general contours and facial features of the Hicks sketch (see Figure 3.34).
Note that I've also deleted the polygons on the top, bottom, and inside of the Box primitive. This creates sort of a mask with which to work and eliminates some of the clutter when modeling the face.
3. In Figure 3.35, I've further tessellated polygons around the face and added some new vertices along the inside of the Box primitive. Following the sketch in a Left viewport, I've moved the new vertices to trace the contour of the face (brow, nose, lips, and chin). If you do it this way, you can work from the inside (middle) of the face outward, like modeling with clay.
Don't worry about having too many polygons for now; we'll optimize the mesh later.
4. After you've spent a while (a few hours?) detailing the face, you should end up with a decent facial shape like mine in Figure 3.36. This isn't something easily explained in text; here is where your artistic prowess needs to shine. Such a small piece of geometry can be so difficult! It also will help to have a Smooth modifier on top of the stack with Show End Results toggled to On to help you to visualize your work, again like modeling with clay. It also really helps to have reference images of several faces that you can look at as you model.
In Figure 3.36, look in the ocular area. There are a lot of polygons that helped me to shape this area and gave me something to work with when I created the eyelids. When I was satisfied, I knocked out polygons where the eyes would be and closed the knocked out region back up with a single polygon in Polygon Edit mode.
Look also at the mouth. I grabbed a bunch of vertices at once (Ctrl+clicking them) and pushed them into the face,
creating a cavity. Make the mouth gape open so that you can add teeth and allow the chin to move up and down for lip-sync animation. The polygons around the eye and mouth should form concentric rings to help the face deform correctly when animated.
5. When you're satisfied with the overall shape and look of the face you've created, add an Optimize modifier to the stack above the Editable Poly item in the Modifier stack (see Figure 3.37). This modifier will kill superfluous vertices, edges, and whatnot that won't affect the shape of the mesh. After I added this modifier, I collapsed my stack and spent a little time going around the face looking for vertices that were close together, selecting them using Ctrl+click, and clicking Weld in the Modifier panel. This further optimizes the model without sacrificing detail.
6. Now it's time for the eyes and teeth. First perform a Reset Xform in the Tools panel, and in the Modifier panel, collapse your stack. Then add a Symmetry modifier to complete the face.
We could use simple Sphere primitives for the eyes, but that would add numerous polygons to the model that we would never render. Instead, in Edge Edit mode, Ctrl+click the edges around the right eye socket area, and on the Modifier panel, click Create Shape from Selection (see Figure 3.38). Name this new shape R_Eye, and for Shape Type, select Linear. This shape will be an Editable Spline. Select it, and in the Modifier panel, right-click it and choose Convert to Editable Poly. This new shape won't be closed, so add a Cap Holes modifier to close it. Repeat for the left eye. Now you'll have separate eye entities that will have their own textures and "bones," which will allow you (and programmers) to animate the eyes separately from the rest of the face. Look at Figure 3.38. I tested out shifting the eyes left and right by moving their pivot points in the Hierarchy panel and then rotating the eyes around this new pivot. The pivot points were moved to near the center of the head.
For the teeth, I chose polygon selections around a Cylinder primitive, which I detached, positioned inside the mouth, and reattached to the face.
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