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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 eyes are a crucial part of any character model. The window to the soul needs special attention in order to look its best. It's worth the time to make sure the eyes look right, because they're going to be conveying a lot of the characters emotions. Proper edge flow here is crucial to good deformations and thereby good animation. Luckily we've already established the edge flow. So we don't have to worry about that. All we have to do now is add more detail, add more geometry and tweak it until it looks right. So we've got the exercise file open. The mouth is all tweaked out from the last video, and I just want to zoom in on the eye and take a closer look at what we're working with here.
So it's still pretty loose. It's very general, very smooth, not a lot of detail going on, and I want to insert some more edge loops so that we have some more detail to work with here. I'm going to get out a smooth preview mode and just make it a little bit easier to see. We're just going to throw away in more edge loops. We might need some more later, but that's enough right now. Now there should be an eyeball in here. One thing I want to do is create a sphere and stick it in where the eyeball should go. That's going to make it easier to define the shape of the eyelids as they wrap around the sphere of the eyeball.
So let's go into the front view. I am going to zoom in a little bit closer on the eye and I'm going to get a polygon sphere off of the shelf. Just click roughly in the center of wherever the eyeball is and drag out a sphere. Now you might be wondering how big you should make this sphere. For a cartoony model it's really up your own discretion. Cartoony models don't really have to follow the rules of reality very much. But for a realistic character, I do have a rule of thumb that makes the size of the eyeball really easy to calculate.
What I like to do is I make the size of the eyeball about the width of the visible part of the eye and then I make it a little bit bigger about 20% bigger. So once you've created that sphere, you're making a realistic eye. You can go into the Scale X, Y, and Z and just make it 1.2. That's 20% bigger. That's roughly the proportion of a human eyeball to the visible part of the eye, from corner to corner. Since this is a cartoony character, I'm just going to make it as big as I want to, a little bit bigger than that.
So let's start shaping these eyelids around this eyeball. I want to go into the Perspective view and first let's move the eyeball so it's up close inside the eyelids. I am just moving it forward until it's roughly inside the eyelids. Now if I zoom in on the eyeball, let's just take a look around and see what kind of a gap we're talking about. So we need to move some of these parts closer to the eyeball and move some of the other parts farther away. I'm just going to go into the Vertex mode and select some of these vertices and I've got Soft Select already turned on. Let's make it a little bit bigger so I'm grabbing more vertices and I just want to push this around, get that little bit closer to the eyeball.
Let me go into wireframe mode, so I can see this more easily. So there're some of these vertices that are hiding inside the eyeball. I want to pull those out so it's easier to select them if I do this. Go back into shaded mode by hitting 5. I'll just pull this forward so it's outside of the eyeball. I'm just going to go all the way around and just see where there are gaps or where the eyeball might be intersecting the eyelids and just fix these up. Now I might want to shrink the area of influence on the Soft Select as I get more and more detailed.
Just a couple of more tweaks here and there. That's pretty close for now. I could take it farther, but it's kind of tedious watching me tweak for hours on end. Now we can get into the real meat of shaping out the eyelids. If I turn on the smooth preview really quick, you can see it's still kind of just a very generic oval-like shape. We want to bring some more character into this. Now we want to define the eyelid. So there's actually this bag underneath the lower eyelid, to separate that from the rest of the face. We want to create some more definition and bring out the upper eyelid.
We want to tighten up the corners a little bit. All these different edits that we're going to make bring more character and personality into this. It really helps it feel like it's a real character with a real personality. Some other ways I can make these edits. I'll start with the lower eyelid. I just want to create a little bit of a definition, kind of a separation between the lower eyelid and the rest of the face. So I'm just going to do that with Soft Select. I'm just tweaking these vertices to create a little bit more a sagging bag shape under the eye.
I can also push in some of these vertices and I'll create kind of that crease or an indentation. So now we're getting a little bit of our lower eyelid shaped out here. We can also do the same thing with the upper eyelid and take some of these vertices and push them in a little bit. Take some of these and pull them out. It's really up to your artistic discretion at this point, how you want to shape these eyeballs out. Do you want a more simplistic cartoony eye or do you want something that's in-between realistic and cartoony or do you want realistic? It really just comes down to the look you're going for and deciding how much detail you need and how much you need to refine until it looks good.
So now we're getting some upper eyelid. It even brings out the brow a little bit. Let's go into the Sculpt Geometry tool. Make sure we turn on our settings and let's go to pull. It's okay that I don't have Reflection on, because I'm going to go and delete this other half anyway later on, but for just right now I just want to shape out this eyebrow. Maybe that was a little too much. Maybe I want to go into the Relax and just tone that back a little bit.
Something else I might want to do to get this guy a little bit more character is tighten up the corners. They're a little bit loose. If we tighten up the corners, it's really going to help the character feel like there's some solidity to these eyes. So if I zoom in on the corner of the eye right here we can even add a little bit of a crease to help define the outside corner of the eye. I'll push this in and I can take these vertices here and push them down a little bit. You can see that there's just that much more personality coming out in the eyes now.
So you can really spend all day tweaking on this if you want and you probably will to get the result you're going for. But if you just compare this side of the eye that I haven't touched with this side that I have edited, you can see in just a few minutes you can really start bringing out a lot more personality in these eyes. With attention to detail, patience, and a lot of tweaking, the eyes that you model can really show personality and emotion. The great thing about this method is that it's easily adapted to almost all cartoony and realistic eyes. Just line up your model with whatever reference you're using and then keep tweaking it until it looks right.
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