Digital Human Contest 2020 - Head shape

Making Of / 12 November 2020

I decided to use a real person as a guide and reference for the character. I didn’t set myself a task to make a digital double; I just liked the appearance of the young guy, which I accidentally found. It turned out that the photos of this rap singer are all quite old, most of them dating back to 2007. I managed to find photos of a less decent quality on the photo stocks, but even on them, it is difficult to see the small details

To begin with, it was my first time encountering the anatomy of an African American man. In the place where I live, there are many nationalities, but this is mainly uncommon and quite rare; I like learning and discovering new things, so I chose it as a challenge to myself.

I want to note that the book - Anatomy of Facial Expressions has given me a great help in studying the anatomy of a head.

From it, I learned that the shape of the African skull differs from the European one, which in turn leads to a change in the size of the nose, the planting of the eyes, the position of the chin, and many other quite significant characteristics.

I returned to the book occasionally, especially when sculpting different areas of the face tightly adjacent to the skull.

A couple of words about references: already in the working process, I realized that it is necessary to collect not only high-quality references with a neutral expression (which I almost could not find) but also collect good photos taken at various moments and the craziest angles, such photos can help when, for example, some area is constantly in the shade or looks flat, but the camera takes an unusual angle and we can see it in full glory.

At the time of writing this post, I've used the following software:

Character Creator 3 



The work begins in Character Creator by finding a basic mesh template that will be the easiest to shape in the final character. 

As a base model, I chose the CC3+ African (who would've thought) from the Character Creator’s Basic anatomy set.

As a rule, in design, it is recommended to move from large to small and from large primary forms to secondary and tertiary forms. The official Headshot plugin for Character Creator has an option “Active Sculpt Mode” that allows you to quickly switch between primary and secondary forms on the face and automatically display sliders to fine-tune your chosen area.  There are a lot of sliders in Headshot category of modify tab, so I often used keyword sorting like depth, scale, width, height, rotate, etc.

Note: Headshot adds its own facial morph sliders tab to the modify window, but standard sliders from the base model are still relevant and complement each other with headshot sliders.

On the rare occasions when I couldn't find the right slider or model complex round 3D forms, I’ve switched to Zbrush with GoZ. 

GoZ allows software to seamlessly share data in both directions at the touch of a button, I found it very convenient.  

Note: While modifying the mesh in Zbrush is preferably to be very carefully and try to follow the direction of topology of the base mesh to avoid stretches on UV coordinates and breakdown of topology guides for blend shapes with expressions.

Also, Character Creator have a flexible PBR Shader, with its help I adjusted the color of the skin to more conform to the reference while modeling. I also had to disable some of the default layer effects in the SkinGen editor because they didn't fit to my character's mood and age.

To have a little more control over the color in the Character Creator's viewport, I temporarily turned off all post-effects in Visual Settings.

While I was getting used to the workflow, I made about 20 unsuccessful versions of the character before I found the right direction.

After I achieved matching the shape of the face to the reference, I moved on to work on the texture of the skin.

To do this, I bought the images with scanned skin from Male 30s Multichannel Face #42 pack at

For projection, editing and baking textures I used my main digital content creation tool - Houdini.