Spline Modeling Heads
|By Michael B. Comet - This article, all images and character designs are Copyright 1998 Michael B. Comet All Rights Reserved.|
Heads and Splines and Software . . . Oh my!With the advent of more powerful 3D software, the ability to create organic shapes has improved much over the last few years. Artists are no longer restricted to simple geometric objects, and are free to easily create flowing, more natural items. Of these, the human head is one that is often chosen because of it's distinctiveness, and uses in animation.
This article gives an overview of the process of creating a head out of splines. Specifically, I will discuss using 3D Studio MAX 1.2 and the Surface Tools plugin by Peter Watje. The surface tools plugin should be available for purchase by Digimation, and is a relatively cheap plugin. Note that there are other techniques for spline modeling, especially when using NURBS or other spline types. However, the process here should still yield some insight into the techniques I use, and be applicable to basic patch and spline modeling in a variety of other packages.
IMPORTANT: MAX 3.0 and later now has the surface tools suite built in. However, version 2.5 and later no longer allow you to weld the spline points! This is simply how splines now work in MAX. I am not sure why they changed it. So in cases below where it says to weld points, you will have to be happy simply 3d snapping them to the same location and leaving them separate. The surface modifier should still work. As a note, I'd now highly recommend using box modeling/meshsmooth modeling, instead of surface tools, even for modeling the face. In fact, the anime head, while it started as a surface tools model, was eventually converted to a low poly meshsmooth model the same as the body and finished up that way...which is why the final image here looks different than the ones in the images elsewhere on my page.
In fact I now have a Head Poly modeling tutorial on my site now as well that you can use instead!!!!
Finally, if you want to know more about how I did the hair, read the bottom of the body modeling tutorial on my site.
Note that this is not so much a tutorial as it is a walkthrough or overview! If you are looking for a tutorial, I'd highly recommend Bill Flemings book, "3D Creature Workshop" (ISBN: 1886801789). This book covers facial modeling in detail for a variety of packages, and may be more helpful.
The front image should be put on a box for front view. The side image
on a box lines up for a right or left viewport. The reason to use shaded
boxes instead of just a backdrop image, is that you can then zoom and
pan in the front and side viewport as you work on the splines. This gives
more control over the modeling as you can zoom in and still have the background
line up to your splines as you work.
The next step is to start making the spline contours of your face in front view. Simply trace the outline of half of the head and major features. Trace the contour around the eyes, nose and mouth, as well as any detail you want around them. Then add cross sections so that you have 3 or 4 sided patches. An easy way to do this in MAX is to turn on the "3D Snap" button. Then in the Edit Spline 2 modifier, you can "create line" and create the cross sections. Make sure you weld newly created points together.
Note that the anime head shown here isn't the best contour layout, since I was trying to keep it very low detail. I ended up fixing the splines later on as you can see in some of the later images. You probably should not use this image as a perfect example of how to start laying out your splines!
The image on the right shows the anime head after being pulled into 3D.
With the anime head I had to drop following the profile too closely since
the drawing in side view didn't really match the way a 3D head would look.
Even with real photos the side view should be used as a starting reference
only. After a certain point you may become aware of perspective problems
with the photos, and generally it is better simply to tweak it by hand,
using the photos as a guide only.
At this point you can also model the back of the head and neck area.
This can be done before, or after mirroring and welding the two halves.
Just make sure you remove any extra splines at the joining edges, and
weld all the vertices together. The image at the right shows the back
of the head and neck for my anime model. I tend to draw the back of the
head out in side view, and then pull it out sideways into 3D using front
The images to the right show the final spline model and rendering. In this case I opted to model the eyebrows as separate poly models, but in many cases it's just part of the texture map. I also created the gums, teeth, tongue and eyelashes out of simple polygon objects as well.
For texture mapping I applied a cylindrical map around the head, and then did an unwrap texture to see the polygons. In photoshop simply paint on top of the features creating the textures. For photoreal heads, I'll utilize the scanned reference photos, cutting and pasting the major features like the ears and mouth, and distorting them to fit the unwrapped texture map. If you want to know a little more about how I did the hair, read the bottom of the body modeling tutorial on my site. I also now have a full blown hair guide under my 3d help pages as well.
A basic overview is below:
Remember also that I now have a Head Poly modeling tutorial on my site now as well that you can use instead of this one.
This article, all images and character designs are Copyright 1998 Michael B. Comet All Rights Reserved.
This article may be reprinted for personal use only. It may not be packaged or sold in part or in whole, either alone or as part of another package. Unauthorized duplication is strictly prohibited. This article and related artwork, samples or text, are not to be copied onto other sites without prior written consent from the author. When in doubt, ask.