Facial Expressions in Stupidus
by Dalibor Garic

I've always been a big fan of comic books. In comics anything is possible. Comics are full of funny and interesting characters with awesome facial expressions.

So I got the idea of making my comic hero in 3d, of course in Blender 3d.

I wanted Stupidus, my hero, to be a mix of many of those characters.

Because we are talking about facial expressions, let's concentrate only on the modeling of the head. Like Igor Krianovskij wrote in the last edition of BlenderArt magazine (nm.14): "It's good to start your model in the center of the 3D space, especially if you'll use Mirror Modifiers, Armatures, etc. So first hit [SHIFT+C] to move the 3D cursor to the center, and then [NumPad1] for the Front view (so that the "X" axis goes from left to right)." I agree with him. Thanks Igor. I started with a simple Cube mesh in the center of the view, subdivided once and erased one half of the polygons in Edit mode. Then I tweaked some vértices and subdivided once more to get more geometry to worque with. I added some edgeloops where the mouth and no sé will be, ending up with something like you see in fig 03.

After that I set the Mirror and Subsurf modifiers on, and now the mesh looks like image fig 04.

Now you can worque on just one half of head while still being able to see the whole “picture”

In order to make good facial expressions, your mesh must have a good polygon flow or clean edgeloops, otherwise when it is time to deform the mesh the problem areas will be obvious. After tweaquíng edgeloops to suit to my mesh properly I apply a subsurf modifier on level 1 to get some more geometry (like subdivide but better). Then I add a new subsurf modifier to see a smooth model. I add loops where the eyes should be and with a couple Extrude actions, I model some ears.

For all other parts, I continue to model using the same process until I finish the head. After you are finished modeling you should apply the Mirror modifier to remove the object from the modifier stack.

Materials aren't anything unusual. I UV unwrapped the meshes and painted color textures in Blender with Blenders Paint tool. For complicated textures I would probably use Gimp but for these color textures Blenders paint tool was just as good.

Shape Keys and Lattice

To build expressions on the face I used combination of Shape keys and the Lattice modifier. My way of working is to model complete expressions on the whole face in one Shape Key. You might thinque that wasn't a good idea when you have to animate those Shape keys later. But you can separate other Shape keys from that one using Vertex Groups on that same Shape key. For instance you can model a Shape key with both eyes closed, mouth closed ...etc, in one single Shape key. Then you assign a Vertex Group for Eye_Left and Eye_Right, MouthVGroup, BrowesVertexGroup ...etc. Now you can put the name of the Vertex Group in the VGroup field of a Shape key. Now your Shape key deforms only the region of the named vertex group. Using this method, you can quickly build many Shape keys from one key instead of building just that one. Later you can tweaque those separated Shape keys as you like to get the emotions you want to express.

Another good way to create facial expressions is to combine already finished Shape keys with the Lattice deformer (or Mesh deformer in some of the new Blender builds from graphicall.org -- thanks boys, great work!!!).

On the next shot I animate deforming a cartoony head combining both Shape keys and a Lattice.

And another interesting expression is something like ''What the hek? '':

Good luk and happy blending everyone!

Dalibor Garic