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Maya modeling: The head

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Date Added: 12th November 2013
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Follow Jahirul Amin's helpful guide to creating and modeling a head in Maya, including tips for the eyes, mouth, nose, ear and neck.

Free resources

This is a Maya project folder consisting of Maya scene files (scenes) and reference images (sourceImages) used throughout the project.

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.

Thinking about topology and skin flow before hitting Maya

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.

A slight but significant asymmetry in the face of the reference

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.

Building out the eye region from a single plane

continued on next page >

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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
Vijay Rathwa on Tue, 23 August 2016 7:25am
The tutorial is very nice. can i get it video file of this tutorial.
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