Before we begin, let me just say that organic modeling is not my area. I modeled only what I had to in school when it came to humanoid figures. Only one of those was actually animated. That said, I thought I’d share some of the tips and tricks I have learned so far.
3ds Max 2009 is being used for this tutorial because that is what I have at home. Many of the buttons and locations may have changed in newer versions of Max.
If you are wanting to model a realistic human head, good reference pictures are the way to start. At the very least you will need a front view and a profile view (either left or right). The two pictures should match fairly well, meaning that if you placed them side by side and drew a line across things like the bottom of the ear would line up on both photos. You’ll have to allow for there to be some differences because it’s really difficult to find photos that match exactly.
One place you can find excellent reference images is http://www.3d.sk/. Be WARNED before you go, the site is an artist reference site and most of the photos contain nudity. If you are offended by this, then please don’t click the link. The site is not shy and there is nudity on the home page. Be aware also, this site may be blocked in certain countries.
If you want a basic head that is more of an anime style, then go here http://dreamofdoll.com. They have basic doll faces that you can model and then adjust to whatever look you want.
Another option, particularly if you are not going for realism, is to draw your reference images. Again you will need to make sure that you have at least front and profile views and that they match up.
Prepping the reference images
Now that we have reference images, we need to get them ready for Max. Open up your image editor of choice and bring the pictures in.
There are a couple of free image editors that work quite well: Gimp and ArtWeaver. Just click on the names to get to their respective sites. They are both good, but ArtWeaver is similar to Photoshop which is what I was trained in, so I prefer it just that little bit more. For this tutorial, I am using Gimp because that is what we have at work.
In the image editor you will need to copy both pictures into one file. Make a new layer and draw straight lines across the images to make sure things line up. You will probably need to adjust one of the pictures by scaling and rotating it slightly. Make sure to save your work. Once last thing before we head to Max, check the size of your phicture (usually under the image window depending on your software). It will help in Max.
Setting up the References in Max
Once the size of the photos is determined, open up Max.
Right-click in the Front viewport to select it. Click on Plane, then open up the Keyboard Entry rollout. Enter the length and half the width of your reference image and click on create. So if your double image was 604×402, you would make your plane 302 wide and 402 long.
Open up the material editor (M) and bring in the picture you are using. Apply it to the plane in the front viewport and make sure to turn on “Show Standard Map in Viewport.” Next turn on self-illumination and set it to 100. One other thing you’ll want to do is to hit F3 in the front view port so that you can see your image.
Right now it looks a mess, but we’re going to fix that immediately. We only want to have 1 view on our plane, not both front and profile. To fix this we’ll go back into the material editor. Click on the little M beside diffuse.
If your photo was a nice even number in width you can select use real world scale, set the width size to 2, and then adjust the width offset until the front view is centered on the plane. If it wasn’t even, then you’ll need to tweak the U offset and tiling until it works.
Now we’ll do the same thing for the Left viewport. (If your profile picture is facing the opposite way then you’ll want to use the Right viewport instead.) Create your plane to the appropriate size, and throw your texture on, adjust as needed. You should end up with something like this.
Finally, if you look at the Perspective viewport, you should see something like this.
It’s pretty ugly at the moment, but next time we’ll get started on the modeling.