Modeling a Head in Maya

There is a million ways to model a head and there is no right or wrong way, only different approaches. This is one way to do it and it's just the basic steps involved, but I hope You'll find this little tutorial useful.

Before you start You should be aware that modeling a head is a long and time demanding process. There is a lot of CV manipulation moving, stretching and rotating. The process could easily take several hours, perhaps days. I can only encourage You to keep up the good spirit and continue. - Good Luck.

Figure 1 Step 1 - The Curves

Start by drawing two curves with approx. 20 control points each, starting inside the mouth. Its crucial that the two curves has the same number of points. This makes the surface a lot easier to work with. To make the next step easier, make sure that the start points of the curves are aligned in the X direction
Figure 2

Step 2 - Building the surface

Create a circle as a shape and align it inside the mouth as shown in figure 2. The Shape has to touch the two rail curves or the Maya won't create the surface - annoying - yes, but that's life hehe. Select Surfaces->Birail 1  and turn on Proportional. If the surface is created with Non-proportional you will get a flat surface .

Click on the Shape, then the 1st rail curve and finally the 2nd rail. Hit Enter to accept and have Maya create the Birail surface.

Figure 3 You should now have a surface like Figure 3. The surface has a strange look in the mouth area, but don't worry, we'll fix that.
Figure 4 Step 3 - Fixing the surface

Now its time for the promised and tedious CV manipulation!!. Hit F8 and select the CV's that is on the wrong side of the axis - See figure 4.

Now move the selected CV's on the other side of the axis. You might have to move the CV's in two or three steps to get them all on the right side.

In figure 5 the CV's have been moved and as you can see, the surface is still not looking right.
Figure 5

Step 4 - Forming the surface

Now this is where You take over. Start moving the CV's until you have the surface in the basic shape of a head. Don't worry about detail - this can be added later.

You should concentrate on getting the basic shape around the nose and cheeks. Try to keep the CV's evenly spread over the surface to avoid kinks in the surface, these can be a real pain to get rid of later.

Figure 6

Step 5 - Adding detail

When you have the basic shape correct, You'll probably want some detail. Add a couple of isoparms to the nose, to be able to create the area around the nostrils.

Again be sure to insert the isoparms evenly so you wont get those kinks in the surface. If you have an Artisan license you could use it to smooth out the surface and pull/push it around - Just be careful, Artisan sometimes pushes a lot, sometimes too little - so keep the undo key (Z) ready..

Remember to save often, and in different steps so that if you change your mind you can always step back in the modeling process.

Figure 7

Step 6 - Creating the eyes

Hide the head surface and draw a curve similar to Figure 7. This will be the the shape for the eyelids.

Figure 8 Revolve the curve around the X-axis to get at surface like Figure 8.
Figure 9 Again its time to hit F8 and enter the world of CV manipulation. Start moving around the CV's to shape the eye.
Figure 10 When you have the shape correct, then select an isoparm as shown in figure 10 and choose Surface Edit -> Detach. Delete the other surface so you end up with a surface like figure 10. Place the eyelid object in place.
Figure 11

Draw a curve surrounding the eye - in front of the head. Project that curve onto the head and trim out the hole for the eyelid. Then use the Surfaces -> Fillet Blend Tool to create the blends between the face and the eyelids.

You might have to adjust the blend directions to remove kinks. Create a Sphere as an eyeball and place it in the eyelid object. Group the half head and select Edit Duplicate  and set Scale Z = -1 and hit duplicate.

Now you should have a face. Select the two face half's (not the eyes) and attach them to get one surface of the head instead of two half's. You might have to rebuild the head surface to get a more even spanned surface without any kinks. This require a bit of fiddling, but in my case I only rebuild the surface in the V direction with a V span number of 31.

Figure 12

Step 7 - More facial detail.

In figure 12 I have created the objects for the eyelashes. I did this by duplicating the isoparm around the eyelid and cut the lines in to smaller bits (half's).. And lofted the curves to get the shape of the eyelashes.

Figure 13

Step 8 - Creating the ears

Start by drawing the shape and path curves as in figure 13. Move the shape curve to one end of the path curve, using curve snap, press and hold the [C] key and middle click on the path. Freeze the transformations of the two curves to avoid unnecessary information on the curves.

Figure 14 Select the Shape curve and then the Path curve and choose Surfaces -> Extrude. You should now have a surface much like figure 14. Choose Surfaces -> Open/Close to close the surface so that you'll have the ear, with a hole in the middle.
Figure 15

Sculpt the surface, in component mode - hit F8 - until you are satisfied with the shape of the ear. Perhaps something like figure 15.

In my case I used Surfaces -> Rebuild, to add more Isoparms. The reason I used rebuild and not inserting Isoparms manually is that the Rebuild can create an even spanned surface.

Figure 16 Attach the ear to the head using the same procedure as earlier, when attaching the eyes. Project a curve surrounding the ear onto the head. Trim the head surface, removing the area by the ears and finally use the Surfaces -> Fillet Blend Tool to create the blend between the ear and the head. Again You might have to adjust the blend manually.
Figure 17 In figure 17 you can see the ears attached to the head.
Figure 18

Step 9 - Starting to texture

In figure 18 You can see a partially textured head. I have earlier created the eyelashes (Figure 12) and now it has been textured using a simple hand painted texture - I used photoshop, but any paint package can be used. I saved as TIFF and created a Lambert shader, applied the texture at the color slot and reused the same file for the transparancy. The head itself has been applied a Lambert shader where the color has been changed into something like skincolor..

Figure 19 This is the texture that I used for the eyelashes. The four eyelash objects use the same shader.
Figure 20 The eyeballs have been applied a preliminary shader. I created a Phong shader and applied a circular ramp looking like figure 20. I am later going to draw a real eyeball texture, but for now I have used this ramp.

If you like this tutorial or have any questions, please don't hesitate to send me an e-mail. I would love to get some feedback on this. Also contact me if you have alternatives or ideas to create this in a more efficient way.

Carsten Lind 1999