Easy way to make the 3D model of a face using a reference image


Cre­at­ing the 3D mod­el of a face can be a chal­leng­ing task, espe­cial­ly when we're just get­ting start­ed in the 3D world. In this arti­cle we will see an easy and prac­ti­cal way to make a 3D face with a well-achieved geom­e­try in Blender, but the tech­nique can be applied in any 3d design software.

Timelapse of the modeling process of a 3D face

In the fol­low­ing video I use this process to make the 3D mod­el of a Venet­ian mask. The tex­tures were made using Sub­stance Painter.


Topol­o­gy is the dis­ci­pline that stud­ies objects and their geo­met­ric prop­er­ties. In 3D mod­els it refers to the set of ver­tices, edges and faces and their interrelation. 

It's very impor­tant that our 3D mod­els have a good topol­o­gy, that way the mod­i­fiers, pro­por­tion­al defor­ma­tion, tex­ture paint­ing and oth­er func­tions will have bet­ter results. 

We achieve this by using 4 ver­tex faces (quads) and cre­at­ing edge loops that fit the nat­ur­al curves of the object we want to mod­el. In the fig­ure 1 we see those faces and how they are dis­trib­uted in the 3d model.

Fig. 1: Ref­er­ence image for 3d face topol­o­gy.
Source: Blender Artist.

If we use this kind of images as ref­er­ence for our mod­el­ing proc­ces we will achieve a 3D mod­el of a face with a cor­rect topology.

Reuse of the 3D model for a character

Marit­tie is a chibi char­ac­ter I made from a draw­ing my girl­friend made some time ago. 

conceptual chibi anime image for 3d design
Fig. 2: Ref­er­ence image for the Marit­tie 3D model.

At the time, I had a year's expe­ri­ence with Blender and was not yet famil­iar with the con­cept of topol­o­gy. How­ev­er, I man­aged to make a mod­el and at that time I liked it very much. 

model 3d made in blender of anime achibi, girl with lenses, blue hair and red jacket
Fig. 3: Ren­der of Marittie's old model. 

The topol­o­gy of course was not good. The mod­el had a very high num­ber of poly­gons, tri­an­gles, quads and n‑gons, very bad­ly optimized. 

The ani­ma­tion was of course dif­fi­cult to achieve. There were irreg­u­lar­i­ties that were dif­fi­cult to correct. 

model 3d made in blender of anime achibi, girl with lenses, blue hair and red jacket

Fig. 4: Anoth­er ren­der of the old model. 

As time went by I learned to improve the geom­e­try and it was time to remake the 3D model. 

I had made the 3D mod­el of the Venet­ian mask, so I thought why not use this 3D mod­el as a start­ing point for my char­ac­ter design?

I made a copy of the mask and start­ed apply­ing pro­por­tion­al defor­ma­tions. As the topol­o­gy of the face was good, it was easy to trans­form the Venet­ian mask into Marittie's new face. 

model 3d made in blender of anime chibi, girl with lenses, blue hair and red jacket
Fig. 5: Ren­der of the new model.
model 3d made in blender of anime chibi, girl with lenses, blue hair and red jacket
Fig. 6: Anoth­er ren­der of the new model.

Comparison of the old 3d model and the new model.
Fig. 7: Com­par­i­son of the old mod­el and the new model.


It is impor­tant to achieve a good topol­o­gy in our 3D mod­els, because that means we can apply trans­for­ma­tions to that mesh and it will respond appropriately.

The improved topol­o­gy of the new mod­el makes ani­ma­tion eas­i­er. The pro­por­tion­al defor­ma­tion tool has bet­ter results and also the seam mark­ing and UV unwrap­ping will be easier.

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