Character Design- Head Structure

Having recently wrapped up the dystopian vehicle project, it is time to move on to new pastures. Next on the agenda is an exercise in character design, but before we jump into it without preparation, Tony took us all through head construction. While we briefly covered this at the beginning of the course, that was more of an exercise in finding out peoples current ability. This time its for real!

By the end of this project we’ll have approached creating heads from three angles, observation, constructed (using shapes and guide lines) and freeform. We will use one of these methods or a combination to create our own unique designs.

We began by considering the major features and angle changes in the human skull, using the person beside us as a visual aid. The landmarks we ended up considering were large structures such as the frontal bone, cheek bones and the jaw line.


Before jumping into the next part of the exercise, the topic suddenly changed to model topology. It seemed like a jarring jump at first until all was explained. Tony demonstrated using this image:


If we understand muscle structure and how the face moves it will aid us when modelling. The model needs to deform while doing character animation and this can create geometrical nightmares if the topology doesn’t mirror muscle structure.

Therefore our exercise for the day was to take a photo of a head from the internet, open it in Photoshop and draw the musculature over the top. To help us with this Tony introduced us to ecorche, a French term for a painting or sculpture with skin removed to display the musculature. Seems pretty handy! Then it hit me where I’ve seen this word before, during the summer I took a trip to see the Body Works exhibit at the Life Centre in Newcastle.

The exhibit consisted of a plethora of preserved bodies (animal & human) using a process called plastination. Some specimens had nearly everything preserved with ecorche style cut aways, some were fully preserved cardiovascular systems and some were mere skeletons and major organs. Looking back I kind of wish I had paid more attention to the finer details as they would have been useful right about now.


Anyway back to the exercise at hand. I jumped onto google and pulled a front facing image of Mark Hamill, then got to work trying to place the muscle groups using reference.

I won’t get into the painting process as this isn’t the aim of the exercise. I tried my best where possible to match certain muscle groups and shapes up to Mark’s face. I started by defining where the eye sockets were using his brow and cheek bones, this gave me the first muscles to draw on and then used those as a reference to place more.


I have admitted before on this blog that I have a much harder time drawing anything biological than I do hard edged constructs. Maybe with some time spent further understanding the human framework I can address some of these weaknesses and come out of this project having conquered a personal wall.

Before the next session I need to gather photo references for a whole variety of heads in preparation for sketching our own.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s