Welcome back! In our last tutorial, we took a look at plugins and add-ons in Blender. We demonstrated how to install add-ons within Blender, and we also installed the FaceBuilder plugin from KeenTools. This gave us a simple generic head that we will now use to shape more like a better, more realistic human head. How do we do that? Queue the free Microsoft PowerPoint images!
Humans are amazing, incredible creatures. We’ve developed the ability to interact socially, physically, and use our mental prowess to tackle some of the most challenging science and math problems we can think of. We’ve also developed the ability to recognize each other by our faces well before we even know each other’s names. Therefore, it’s particularly important to make our human face as realistic as possible. To stick with royalty free images, I’ve grabbed a front and side profile of this gentleman from Microsoft Powerpoint 365 (Insert –> Icons –> Cutout People –> Dennis). In practice, you could use any images, especially of yourself!
Modeling the face
So we have two profile pictures of the same person, and we’ve saved the images as “front_view.png” and “side_view.png”, respectively. As in our last tutorial, we’ll generate a FaceBuilder head. As a quick recap, the steps are as follows:
- Open Blender
- Click past the splash screen
- Delete our beloved companion cube
- Use the SHIFT+A keymap to add an object
- Select Mesh –> FaceBuilder Head
That gives us the basic human head form, and gives us an additional menu on the right-hand side:
Our new FaceBuilder menu has a variety of options, but for now we’re only interested in using the
Add Images button under the
Views section of the Facebuilder menu. When we click this button, we’re presented with a dialogue box that allows us to choose the two images we saved earlier (
side_view.png). After we select the two images, they now show up in the FaceBuilder menu under the Views section Furthermore, if we click on the top image (front_view.png), we see a mesh view of the face object we added, overlayed on the image we chose:
At this point, we want to match as many features of the mesh face with the face of the image. We can do this by clicking and dragging: click in the center of the eye on the left side of the mesh and drag the point up to the center of the eye on the left side of the image, then release the mouse button. If you need higher resolution, you can scroll the mouse wheel! Rolling the mouse wheel forward (away from your body) zooms in; the opposite direction zooms out. Furthermore, holding
SHIFT and clicking the mouse wheel allows you to move the image and mesh together laterally.
Let’s repeat this step to align the right eye. You can see that each time we click on the mesh, a new alignment point is created (if there are no nearby aligned mesh points). As we position the new points, the mesh of the face rotates to fit the position of the head given the constraints of what a realistic human head could do — we do not see any weird warping, stretching, or painful angles! If we continue in this manner, aligning different points on the forehead, ears, chin, eyes, etc., we wind up with an image similar to the following (although yours may well look better!)
Not too painful, huh? So far, we’ve customized our mesh based on one image, but remember — we also have a side profile of the same individual! With our mesh roughly aligned in the front view, we can click the “side_view.png” entry under the “front_view.png” tab we chose a couple steps back. Although the mesh starts out by sliding all over the place, this is just FaceBuilder’s way of trying to figure out how the head is oriented. After a handful of points, though, the mesh really starts to match the face and posture in the image!
At this point, we’ve aligned a mesh to both the front view and the side view — but remember, since we changed the mesh on the side, we’ll need to revisit the front view and correct any errors there. In fact, we will want to keep switching back and forth between the front and side views until we get a mesh we’re happy with from both perspectives! After a number of iterations, we get a mesh that looks pretty nice! It roughly matches the face, minutes the hair, eyes, skin tone, and teeth.
I’m not a professional by any means, and my attempt leaves a lot to be desired. However, I think it demonstrates the sheer power of KeenTool’s FaceBuilder add-on in Blender. I mean, consider the simplicity in which we were able to modify and customize the generic face to two images! During the process, it may feel like we weren’t changing the mesh all that much — but check out the comparison of the original unaltered face (left) with the face we modified (middle)! However, there’s one more thing we can do
Rough-fitting the face
I’m not a professional by any means, and my attempt leaves a lot to be desired. However, I think it demonstrates the sheer power of KeenTool’s FaceBuilder add-on in Blender. I mean, consider how easily we were able to modify the generic face using to two random images! During the process, it may feel like we weren’t changing the mesh all that much — but check out the comparison of the original unaltered face (left) with the face we modified (right)!
There’s one more thing we can do to get a quick feel for how well our mesh is suiting the face, and this is to have KeenTools build and fit a skin from our images onto our mesh. This will get us the image on the right — although not perfect, we can certainly see that adding back in skin tone, hair, and eyes gets us much closer to a model resembling the original image.
To accomplish this, we return to our Blender model. In the FaceBuilder tab on the right-hand side (the same menu where we uploaded our images!), there is a Texture section at the bottom. Opening this section gives us the option to Create Texture. When we click this button, it shows us the images we’ve been using to generate the mesh, and lets us choose all, none, or any combination of the images. If we then click “OK”, FaceBuilder combines these images into a UV map, and intelligently applies the UV mapping to our mesh.
After a short wait (it’s a complicated operation), an image map of the face is generated, laid over our mesh, and really helps to bring out the resemblance between our original subject and the model we’ve created.
In this tutorial, we looked at a specific Blender plugin: FaceBuilder by KeenTools. We saw how we could easily create a generic face object, download and ingest a front- and side-view image of someone, and begin to fit the generic mesh to the face in the images. Additionally, we saw the intelligence in FaceBuilder, as it moved the orientation of the head for us while we worked. Finally, we compared our modified mesh to the original unaltered face object to show the enormous improvement we had made in a very small amount of time.
As we alluded to in the introduction, our face is nowhere near complete! In our next tutorial, we’ll add hair to our face model and begin to add skin tones to the model as well. I’m really enjoying this tutorial, and I hope you are too. Thank you for dropping by and learning with me!
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(Header image: Sci fi background by user6702303)