Greetings! In this tutorial we are going to create a polygon head, complete

with proper edge loops for the eyes and mouth. If you haven't got a clue what that means,

you should probably visit my modeling fundamentals tutorial before we get started.

Also, before you start, you are going to need clean reference pictures of your character

from the front and from the side. For best results their features should match exactly.


1. Before we get started on modeling the head, we need a way to bring our design drawings or photos into the

computer to work off of. In technical terms, this is called "Rotoscoping". Create two poly grids, and change

their subdivisions to 1x1. Set one to face the front camera, and the other to face the side camera, like this:



2. These objects are going to be carrying pictures, so we need to give each one a Lambert material

and a texture projection. You can immediately freeze the objects so that they aren't packing around their



3. Use the Render Tree or whatever other method you prefer to assign the front and side texture

images to the planes.


4. Rotate the grids to the correct orientation. The front image should be facing (ie nose pointing towards) the

positive z axis, and the side image should match. Basically make it so that the faces in the pictures are looking down

the blue arrow in the corner of your screen.


5. Scale, rotate and translate the poly planes to line up the images. You want the specific features of

the face to match up between the two planes, ie the eye should be at the same height in both images,

and the lips should be at the same height, etc. A word of warning: if you scale the images, make sure

you scale them in all 3 axes equally, or you will end up with a squashed head. (Is that a threat?!?)



6. When the photos are approximately lined up, pull them out to clear a space in the middle of the grid.

It doesn't matter how far away you pull the planes, but make sure that you pull them into the Negative

Axes (ie in the direction opposite the colorful little arrows in the corner of your screen) or your

roto planes will be between you and your object (bad).



7. Set the Front and Side cameras to "Textured Decal." Regular Textured mode takes into account the scene

lighting, but for modeling the head we want a clear view of the roto planes.


8. Select the two roto planes and create a new layer, called "RotoLayer" (or something like that).

Make the layer unselectable.


9. Make Layer_Default the active layer again. If you don't, the new geometry that you are about

to create will be put into the unselectable RotoLayer and you will be sad.


10. Using the draw polygons tool (hotkey N), draw a ring of polys around the eye. Don't go crazy

adding a million polygons in one ring around the eye... you can always add more later if you need them.


11. Assign a Blinn material to the object, and make it semi-transparent. This is so we will still

be able to see the image that we are referencing even though we have geometry over top of it.


12. Using the Move (Hotkey M) tool, tweak the vertices up so that they look good. The edges

running around the eye should follow facial features as much as possible (ie run along the eyebrows,

run along the eyelid crease, etc.). The edges radiating out from the eye should run perpendicular

to these as much as possible. In short, it should look like a spiderweb, not like a confused ball of yarn.


13. Make another ring or two around the eye and tweak them. Again, try to follow facial features as much

as you can.


14. Do the same for the mouth: use the N tool to draw polys in a ring, following the anatomy.

This time though, we are only going to do half of the mouth: we can mirror it over later and

this way we do half the work, as well as making sure the face is symmetrical. Make sure that the

inner edges of the mouth (the poly edges that are going to connect up once we mirror it) are

flat with the center line of the scene.


15. Put the face parts you have created on a layer and hide it. We are going to create a

proxy head for our character, and we need to be able to see what we are doing.


16. Create a poly cube. Crank up its subdivisions a few levels so we have some geometry to work

with. Make sure that you end up with an edge running down the middle (when looking at it in the front

view) when you finish, though, because we are going to cut it in half in a while and you need the

edge there for that to work.


17. Shape the cube to create a rough proxy of the head. You will want to make sure you

eliminate all vestiges of boxiness from it; boxy heads are bad! Translate and scale points until

you have something roughly like the shape of the head. Don't worry too much about the face,

as we are building that seperately.


18. Put the proxy head on a layer and hide it.


19. Create a sphere for the eyeball. It doesn't need to be a perfect anatomical eyeball yet

(see my eyeball tutorial for that), just a sphere. We are going to use it as a stand-in around

which to shape the facial geometry. Rotate it 90 degrees in X. For anatomically accurate

human characters, I have a trick for sizing the eyeball: if the sphere's subdivisions are set to

8x8, the innermost isoline facing the camera should be about the same size as the iris of the

eyeball. This is not perfect, but pretty close. If your character is non-human or stylized, this

probably won't work and you will have to "eyeball" it. Har har.


20. Now we are going to start shaping the eyelid around the stand-in eyeball we have

created. For this part of the tutorial, we need to be able to tell when objects are intersecting

with each other. So, make all of the objects you have created so far non-transparent.


21. Fantastic, we're done! Well, maybe not. We need to take these face pieces out of 2d-land

and bring them into 3d-land. We'll start with the eye. Select all the points in the eye piece and

pull them forward past the eyeball. Now start slowly moving them back. When a point is just

about to go through the eyeball geometry, deselect it. Continue doing this until the geometry of

the eye piece is wrapped around the stand-in eyeball you have created like a real eyelid would.

Some anatomy reference would be useful here to examine how the flesh and bone around the eye

is actually shaped. Pull points on the lips and mouth parts too to make them shaped about how

you want them. Make sure you look at your reference a lot.


22. Okay, time to start putting the rest of the face together. For this part we need a whole

face to work with, not just half. Duplicate the half part and mirror it over. Merge the parts together.


23. Use the N tool to create some polygons across the bridge of the nose, going from one

eye to the other. You are creating a sort of Zorro-mask looking thing.


24. Use the N tool again to create some polygons joining the mouth to the eyes. Continue to

work across from the outer regions of the face towards the inner regions of the face. You

will probably have to subdivide the edges across the bridge of the nose to get enough geometry

to join up. Don't forget to leave one edge down the middle, though.


25. Now might be a good time to save.


26. Delete half of the face again. Pull some points to make a nose-ish shape. It doesn't have

to be perfect, we are going to refine it with some more geometry. Also, don't go all the

way to the tip of the nose.


27. Now we are going to do some face extrusions to shape the nose up better. Select the

polygon that is at the tip of the nose and duplicate it (ctrl-d). Scale it down a bit and pull it

out a bit. Shape it up to fit the tip of your character's nose. Do the same again on the

side of the nose to form the little nostril-hood thingies.


28. All right, enough playing with the pieces. Let's build a head. Duplicate the half-face, scale it to -1 in X,

and merge it with the other piece.


29. Unhide the head proxy and subdivide it so that it has something like the same poly

resolution as the face parts. It doesn't have to be exact, but the closer you can get the better.


30. The proxy head probably won't match up very well with your face piece, so let's

shape it up with a lattice. With the proxy head selected, go to Get > Primitives > Lattice.

Then, with the head still selected, go to Deform > Lattice. Now you can pull points on the

lattice and affect the geometry of the head. This is a really good way to go when you want to

make broad adjustments to a high-res model, because you have a lot fewer points

to deal with this way.


31. Delete polygons from the proxy head in the area of the face. Leave a decent gap

between the head and face pieces.


32. Merge the face to the head. If they connect up, pull the slider on the merge options

box until they do not. We want to draw the polys that will connect them up, not let the

computer dictate that for us.


33. Use the N tool to bridge the gap. You will probably have to get creative with how you

add all the geometry in the cheek area and how you bring the two pieces together, but by

this point you should be able to figure it out!


34. Delete half of the head again and tweak the polys. Dupe and recombine the head

pieces. Continue to do this until you are satisfied with the shape.


35. Freeze history and save.



All right! We have created a polygon head. More importantly, we have created a good

polygon head, with clean edge loops and all quads. It's still not pretty, but we have a solid

foundation to work with. If you have any questions or if something goes horribly, horribly

wrong, email me here . Happy Heading!


copyright © 2003 cameron widen. all rights reserved.