Ive ripped this straight from my thread at Polycount which can be found here:CLICK
I thought I would post it here as well so I can keep track of it, and I thought it may help some people out there that have been asking me how i approach making a pretty female face
Stop reading now if you are looking for a step by step or how to guide to modelling or painting, this is NOT one of those guides. This is about my thought process, and how i break down the approach. Something which a step by step cannot give you. Im also breaking this into parts.
Its long, so get some popcorn and get prepared for some epic wafflage.
Tackling the Female Face part 1:
For any face that I'm about to undertake I do hours of serious 'looking' first. I look at photos and pieces of concept art that I find visually appealing. I spend time surfing deviant art, flicker etc etc for female faces and I often look back through my own massive image bank of female face reference photos.
This kind of serious looking I find helps in multiple ways, sometimes you'll find new photographers, new artists that you like etc, also it gets the gears in your mind ( whether you realize it or not ) working, your brain is actually taking in all of those images, and the more you consume during this time that's relevant the better.
I always tend to prefer the extreme photos, because I find every idea tends to ( at some degree at least ) get watered down and loose impact.
What I mean by extreme photos is, let's say you want to create a really wicked set of makeup on this chick - then don't bother with just pics of makeup that looks average on a average looking chick, look for a chick wearing makeup that makes you go ' holy shit! ' that very sensation is the wave you want to be riding when your 'looking'.
You're Moms Makeup:CLICK
Holy Shit Makeup:CLICK
Your mom's lips:CLICK
Holy Shit Lips:CLICKCLICK
You get the point....
Also without a doubt, every time I do this I pick up nuances that I like to try and capture that I didn't see / notice before, it's like a never-ending reward system that keeps giving the more you look and the more you put it into practice - its super addictive.
Once I'm through that stage I'll get straight into sculpting in zbrush - I have a fairly average head base mesh that I use, it kinda looks like a generic and somewhat naive 'poser' looking head, though I think I will start to not use this anymore as I'm afraid my faces may start to look derivative over the long term and it's always good to build things from scratch as it keeps your knowledge up and encourages you to 'go back to basics' as it were.
For the actual process, I ALWAYS start at a low subdivision and work my way up. getting as much as possible out of the lower before moving to the higher - I'll always be jumping back and forward between these especially if I can push or refine something more.
It's at this point I make the decision on whether i want to go for a more realistic or stylized approach.
Idealized but Stylized Exaggeration:CLICKCLICK
I tend to hover somewhere in between which seriously, isn't a good thing at all and something I need to work on - but I think it's been a necessary step in my evolution.
Once I've got a rough idea of the proportions and stylization of the face I'm looking for, it becomes a process of refinement. I'll break each feature down and work on it for maybe 15 min at a time, lips, eyes, nose, whole face, then lips, eyes, nose, whole face - always zooming right out and paying very special attention at the outset to the profile and the front view, once those 2 views are beginning to take shape, it's all about giving volume to those features which is where you begin to focus on your 3/4 view.
When I'm working on any given feature I can't stress enough how important it is to be constantly looking at it from every possible angle, trust me, you'll find an angle it looks weird, fix it asap. Also aside from having your favorite sculpting matcap, get into the habit of constantly be changing it for inspections while you work, it's like instantly changing your lighting and can really highlight problem areas with forms.
Once you get into this micro-building flow of constructing the face, you'll see it all starts coming together - I keep doing this loop of lips, eyes, nose and the whole face ( relationship between all of them ) until I can see that its going in the right direction.
Your typical 'pretty' female face is the opposite of a male face, in that I mean you can keep adding and building up forms and cutting lines into a male face and it just keeps getting cooler and gnarlier, more weathered, more epic - a process of addition. But a female face is all about smoothing instead of chiseling, rounding out forms instead of defining them, it's about adding strokes as mass, and then polishing them into a nice appealing shape - more akin to a process of subtraction.
You can see particularly in a lot of the eastern games / anime etc where their male characters end up taking on androgynous and effeminate qualities, when they switch the principals from addition to subtraction for the males as well, you get guys that look more girly than guy'y:CLICK
But Western Fellas too:CLICK
You questioned your sexuality for a microsecond or more looking at that pic of Bill just above didn't you, it makes you feel uncomfortable doesnt it! *evil laughter echoes* ....don't lie.
Anyway, *cough* I digress:
Once the sculpt reaches a point where I know it's going the right way, I stop and go straight into polypainting mode. I always start with the eyes - easily the most important part of any female character - get these right and it will light the way for the rest of the face. I absolutely always look up reference again at this point, searching for sultry Smokey eyed reference and or pieces of stylized concept art that hyper-realizes 'the look' you're going for.
Remember again that all the reference I use don't necessarily have to be images that I simply want to replicate, but the emotion or sensation of ' fuck that's awesome ' is what I look for, and it's in that, that I find inspiration.
I'll polypaint the face because at this point it gives me a brand new perspective on the forms and direction I've chosen. I usually don't spend any more time than a couple of hours doing this - it doesn't have to be fancy - just enough to reaffirm that I made the right choices. Sometimes at this point I can fuck it up and I realize I need to go back and rework some stuff. So I'll do that and then come back to the painting.
My Chun Li for brawl is a perfect example of this:CLICK
Looking back and reflecting - I think I made the choice that I always tend to make and ended up pushing her to a more boring / grey area rather than running with the weird mousey stylisation and pushing that stuff even further. Hopefully I'll be able to break out of this in the near future.......
Once I'm happy with the polypaint ill often go into photoshop and start painting over a screengrab - playing with things like a matching hairstyle volume, eye makeup style, lipstick style and basically the colors of stuff to find something that I like. I hate to use this pic to illustrate because I really hate the look of this face now but its a good ilustration of what I'll tend to noodle around with at this point, in thise case some simple eye color completely transforms her persona:CLICK
If that all goes awesome, I basically go back to sculpting and attempt to realize the face to the best of my abilities using that same approach of moving from one area to another always remembering to jump back and see the face as a whole.
And that's pretty much how I tackle the base sculpt for all my girls faces with some other random nonsense thrown in there to ponder
1) Do some serious 'looking'.
2) Only pick the photographic or concept extremes for your reference.
3) Get straight into sculpting and creating.
4) Break the head down into the lips, eyes, nose and the face as a whole and get into the cyclic rhythm of tackling these regions 15 min at a time each.
5) When it starts to take shape, stop and jump straight into polypainting.
6) Jump to photoshop and start playing with colors and makeup styles and choices.
7) If everything is satisfactory, go back and refine your sculpt until your happy.
I'll write more about this in Part 2.