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In Modeling a Character in Maya, join author Ryan Kittleson for a thorough demonstration on how to create a professional, realistic 3D character from scratch in Maya 2011. The course illustrates how key concepts and tools such as Soft Select and polygon extrusions apply to character modeling, and provides a simple step-by-step approach to building character anatomy, including the torso, limbs, hands, face, and hair. Also included are tutorials on modeling clothing and shoes, and refining character features to reach the final product. Exercise files accompany the course.
Recommended prerequisites: Maya 2011 Essential Training
The human face is a very complex piece of anatomy. Not only that, we spend hours a day looking at people's faces, so we know when something is even slightly off. I'm going to show you how to get off on a right foot, so you aren't struggling later on with an uncooperative model. The main idea to remember here is keep it simple. Create the basic flow zones a face needs with few polygons. It's going to look blocky and ugly first, but it's easy to add more detail in later on if the base is set up right. So we've got the exercise file set up here with the reference already set up and ready to go.
In the front view let's look at what's happening here. I'm just going to go in and look at the face. In order to create some geometry for the flow zones on the face, let me go up to the Polygon plane and just hold down the X key so we can snap it to the grid as we draw this out. And I'm just going to release the X key now and you can see we've got this polygon plane and we can put it wherever we want. Let's see where that went in the side view. Okay, so it's right here. It's a little bit towards the back of the head. I'm just going to scoot this forward so we can see it more close to the front of the face.
I'm just going to make a few tweaks to this just to make it fit the reference little bit more closely and I'm going to go in the Vertex mode. Just put this on the forehead and this closer to the chin. Now, I want to split this polygon into two halves, so we have a face that goes over the eye and a face that goes over the mouth. So I'm just going to go into Edit Mesh and pick the Split Polygon tool and split this into two faces. So what I can do now to create the flow zone for the mouth is take this polygon that exists over the mouth and extrude it inwards.
I'm just going to switch right to the Scale tool, so I can shrink this in. And I'll just make it fit roughly closer to the shape of the mouth. Now, I will see what this looks like in the Perspective view. Okay, so it created this extra face on the inside that we don't really need. I'm just going to select that and kill it. I want to go into Vertex mode and just make sure these lines up a little bit more closely with the face. I can hold down X to snap this to the central line. Okay, so we've got a flow zone for the mouth established. Let's just make sure that the lips have some geometry.
We can take this face in the center and just extrude it back to create some lips. We're going to go into move mode and just push that back a little bit and I can extrude it again. I am going to scale and just make this a little bit bigger. So let's look in Perspective and see what we have here. So we have got the inside of the mouth already going and we extruded this and created some unnecessary faces that I'm just going to get rid of. And we can get rid of this face because it's inside of the mouth.
Okay, so we've got some very simple lips. The next thing that we're going to do is create some geometry for extruding the nose out. Now, I want to use Extrude, but we don't have a face right here that sits just right underneath the nose right now. So let's create some geometry so that we have a place to extrude this nose out from. I want to go to the Edit Mesh menu and pick the Insert Edge Loop tool and just click to create an edge that's going to go underneath the nose and I want to create an edge that's going to go on the inside of the nostril and another edge that's going to go just on the outside of the nostril.
I also want to create one more edge loop just above the nose, so that we can establish the laugh line. Okay, so now we've got this edge loop that's going to establish the laugh line and then this edge loop that's going to establish the bottom of the nose. And I'll go into Perspective view and grab these two faces, so we can extrude them out. And let's look in Side view and we're going to Move mode and just pull this forward. Okay, so the extrude for the nose is done.
Now let's go and look at how we can create the eye. I want the flow zone for the eye to be in this general area. So let's take these two faces right here and extrude them inwards. And I can just move this extrude so it's more on top of the eye. Let me go into the side view and safe that's lined up well. Okay roughly. Let's go in that Perspective view again and now we want to kind of just like the mouth where we create the eyelids. We need to push these faces back.
So I want to go to Extrude again and just move these back a little bit. Hit G to do Extrude again. I want to go into the Scale tool and scale those up a little bit. Let's look at the back. Okay so we've got the inside of the eyelids going and we can just delete these new polygons around the inside. So now we have this opening for the eye. The last part of this face that we're going to create is simply extruding from these edges around the face and we want to bring them back towards the side of the head a little bit to establish the jaw and the temple on the forehead.
So I'm just going to select these edges around here and extrude them back. Let's see in the Side view. We're going to go into Move mode. I'm just going to push these back a little bit. And I'm going to Vertex mode so we can tweak them so they fit the face just a little bit better. Okay, so this is the basic block out of the face. You can see we've established the flow zones for the eyes, for the mouth, the basic structure for the nose, and we've also got the forehead and the side of the head and the jaw going and they're all very blocky, very basic.
The next thing you want to do is just take one vertex at a time and just line it up with your reference. So you can see if I go in the Side view and this is a vertex that's just underneath the lip. So we'll just move that into place and just make sure it's in place in the Front view as well and just start moving these verts around, so they line up with the reference better. You can go ahead and do that on your own. So I'm just going to stop tweaking the verts right here, but you continue going on and make sure everything lines up with the reference. So this way of starting a face is very fast. It's very easily configurable. You can use it for all but the most extremely stylized of faces.
It even works for many animal faces. Although what we've established so far is crude and blocky, you can see that the flow zones have been established, so that when we add more detail it will automatically follow the major anatomical forms that we've defined.
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