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.


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



Topol¬≠o¬≠gy is the dis¬≠ci¬≠pline that stud¬≠ies objects and their geo¬≠met¬≠ric prop¬≠er¬≠ties. In 3D mod¬≠els it refers to the set of ver¬≠tices, edges and faces and their interrelation. 

It's very impor¬≠tant that our 3D mod¬≠els have a good topol¬≠o¬≠gy, that way the mod¬≠i¬≠fiers, pro¬≠por¬≠tion¬≠al defor¬≠ma¬≠tion, tex¬≠ture paint¬≠ing and oth¬≠er func¬≠tions will have bet¬≠ter results. 

We achieve this by using 4 ver¬≠tex faces (quads) and cre¬≠at¬≠ing edge loops that fit the nat¬≠ur¬≠al curves of the object we want to mod¬≠el. In the fig¬≠ure 1 we see those faces and how they are dis¬≠trib¬≠uted in the 3d model.

Fig. 1: Ref¬≠er¬≠ence image for 3d face topol¬≠o¬≠gy.
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

Marit¬≠tie is a chibi char¬≠ac¬≠ter I made from a draw¬≠ing my girl¬≠friend made some time ago. 

conceptual chibi anime image for 3d design
Fig. 2: Ref¬≠er¬≠ence image for the Marit¬≠tie 3D model.

At the time, I had a year's expe¬≠ri¬≠ence with Blender and was not yet famil¬≠iar with the con¬≠cept of topol¬≠o¬≠gy. How¬≠ev¬≠er, I man¬≠aged to make a mod¬≠el 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: Ren¬≠der of Marittie's old model. 

The topol¬≠o¬≠gy of course was not good. The mod¬≠el had a very high num¬≠ber of poly¬≠gons, tri¬≠an¬≠gles, quads and n‚ÄĎgons, very bad¬≠ly optimized. 

The ani¬≠ma¬≠tion was of course dif¬≠fi¬≠cult to achieve. There were irreg¬≠u¬≠lar¬≠i¬≠ties that were dif¬≠fi¬≠cult to correct. 

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

Fig. 4: Anoth¬≠er ren¬≠der of the old model. 

As time went by I learned to improve the geom¬≠e¬≠try 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 start¬≠ed apply¬≠ing pro¬≠por¬≠tion¬≠al defor¬≠ma¬≠tions. As the topol¬≠o¬≠gy of the face was good, it was easy to trans¬≠form the Venet¬≠ian mask into Marittie's new face. 

model 3d made in blender of anime chibi, girl with lenses, blue hair and red jacket
Fig. 5: Ren¬≠der of the new model.
model 3d made in blender of anime chibi, girl with lenses, blue hair and red jacket
Fig. 6: Anoth¬≠er ren¬≠der of the new model.

Comparison of the old 3d model and the new model.
Fig. 7: Com¬≠par¬≠i¬≠son of the old mod¬≠el 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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