Facial Features Sculpting

All the developers have spent many years studying the fundamentals of anatomy. It has always been essential to developing credible and realistic personalities. Your ability to create sculptures will be substantially enhanced by increasing your anatomical knowledge.

Of course, realistic characters require it, but cartoon and stylized characters also require it. Even though they may initially appear to be practically invisible, muscles, bones, and cartilage are nevertheless the fundamental building elements of anatomy.

The facial feature sculpting will be the main topic of this tutorial. You’ll discover the underlying muscles and bones as well as how to physically sculpt the muscles that are visible on a skull. It shouldn’t be difficult to follow this training with other sculpting applications as long as you are familiar with the software, even though I used ZBrush (opens in new tab) for this course.

Basic Shapes

We’ll begin by sketching the skull’s basic shape. The major muscles and cartilaginous features, like the eyes, ears, nose will then be sculpted, and we’ll conclude by fine-tuning each component.

You should load the mesh. On top, we’ll develop the muscles. To achieve this, select a sphere in the pop-up window by clicking the Append button under the Subtools menu.

A sphere has now been added to your list of subtools, and it is evidently also present in your scene. Choose it, then switch on Symmetry (X on your keyboard). Using the Scale and Move tool, position it correctly on the skull by first drawing a transposition line on your mesh with the buttons at the top and then moving and scaling your sphere along this line.

To generate a dynamic mesh, select the DynaMesh button under Geometry. You can update your mesh while you work thanks to this feature as well. If you feel the need for it, all you have to do is Ctrl-drag on the canvas, and ZBrush will calculate a new mesh that takes all of your changes into account. You can carry out this activity as frequently as you like, every time you need to. By doing this, you will create completely new geometry that is dispersed uniformly throughout the mesh.

Establishing transparency

To activate transparency and see the skull beneath your sphere, click the Transp button on the right. This feature gives us a point of reference, which is incredibly useful when sculpting. Play with the sliders in the Preferences section of the Draw menu if you want to change the opacity/transparency level.

Our sphere can now be adjusted on the skull. Start by using the Move Brush to create the shape. Now that you are in DynaMesh mode, don’t be afraid to stretch your mesh. If you need to update your mesh, hold down the Ctrl key while you click and drag on the canvas. If you believe you don’t have enough polys to work with, you may always increase the resolution.

On the back of your head, adjust the mesh. Since the skin is so thin at this point, you can adjust it very near to the skull.

Facial shaping

The eyes and the nose can be shaped once the overall contour of the skull has been generally altered. Keep an eye on the skull through your mesh as you sculpt because it will aid in more accurate modelling of each of these components. It’s entirely up to you whether to use the Standard or Clay Brush or your chosen sculpting brush to add extra volume to the eyebrow areas.


To better observe the eyelid region, we will now sculpt the closed eyes. If necessary, apply the Pinch brush to this area. Switch to shaping the nose and the main cartilage parts when the shape has been largely carved.

Bone Structure

Look at the skull that is hidden by your mesh to determine if the bone structure has changed at all. The nostrils and the tip of the nose are made entirely of cartilage and muscles if you look at the nasal area. This is because the bone there is quite short.


The mouth should now be shaped, and parts of the surrounding muscles should be blocked out. Don’t waste time on minutiae at this stage; rather focus on the broad strokes.

Increasing muscle

At this point, the objective is still to lay the primary foundations and maintain as many straightforward shapes as possible.


It appears clear and essential to examine those muscles in this workout because it’s difficult to conceive a head without a good neck. The head is activated by the neck, which performs a critical role. The muscles in the neck have a significant influence on facial expressions as well.

Under the head, create a mask (hold Ctrl and simply draw on your mesh). Holding Ctrl while clicking on the canvas will invert your mask. Stretch your selection downward and contour the neck by using the Move tool. Once finished, hold Ctrl while clicking and dragging on the canvas to totally remove your mask and enable free-form modelling everywhere. Use the Move brush to enhance the main form, and the Smooth brush to soften your work.

Keep in mind during your training that the primary muscles are really powerful and pretty huge to support the head. Their visibility changes when the head moves because they also play a part in head movement. For instance, when the neck is twisted as opposed to when it is facing forward, the neck muscles are more noticeable. At this point, everything should move along quite quickly, so avoid wasting time on intricate shapes.


The ears will be made next. The majority of this portion is made of cartilage. By making use of an existing foundation mesh in ZBrush, we can expedite the process. To accomplish this, press B on your keyboard to launch the Brushes menu, select IMM BParts Brush, hold down M while selecting the ear from the pop-up menu.

After that, click and drag on the side of the head, roughly where you want the ears to be. At this point, ZBrush will mask the entire head, allowing you to scale, rotate, or move the ears independently of the head as if they were a separate subtool.

Once the ears are in place, update your mesh with DynaMesh (Ctrl-drag outside your mesh) and use the Move brush to accurately alter the primary contour of the skull.

Placement issues

Smooth the merged region and sculpt the ear’s anatomy, which is formed of cartilage but has no obvious muscles. Block in the primary shapes and strive to be more accurate by using references.

Once you have a thorough understanding of their extremely specific anatomy, ears are not particularly challenging to sculpt. A helpful approach is to utilise as many references as you can and to use a mirror to examine your own ears. Be careful with placement and ratios.

If you position the ears too high or too low, for example, they will not appear right. Try to position them between the top portion of the brows and the space between the bottom half of the nose.

Continue working on the face by roughly sculpting the jaw and the cheekbones, which are the attachment points for various muscles. While attempting to work on the entire face as a whole, it is a good idea to also shape the chin and eyelids.

Imagine the muscles Working

We will now concentrate our efforts on sculpting the face’s muscles as precisely as we can. We’ll initially shape them rather coarsely before individually refining them.

Continue sculpting the key muscles surrounding the lips and the eyes as you continue working on the muscular system. They resemble circles and are manipulated by the other muscles that are linked to them to produce the different facial emotions. In this phase, when you wish to construct

Once you have a foundation mesh with deformable polygons ready for animation, you must use edge loops to produce the same flow around the mouth and eyes.

Try to comprehend the function of each muscle as you sculpt. The minor zygomatic muscles, for instance, raise and extend the top lip. For the corner of the lips, the major zygomatic muscles perform the same function. Because of this, smiling and laughing are incredibly beneficial. When closing the lips and mouth, the orbicularis oris muscles work similarly to the orbicularis oculi muscles surrounding the eyes.

To maintain the same flow as you sculpt, it’s a good idea to draw stripes on the muscles. Visualizing the actions of each muscle will also be beneficial. Draw vertical lines on the neck muscles and circular stripes around the lips, for instance. Try to visualise how each muscle will respond when the face is joyful or sad throughout this process. Try to keep this in mind when shaping because every muscle has a role in how the face conveys emotion.

Now, hone each muscle and add some facial definition. To do that and to be more precise, try using a brush with a smaller radius.

Chin and Jaw

Draw the muscles in your chin and jaw, keeping in mind that you need a strong muscle to move your lower jaw and chew your meal.

Work on the skull and the temporal areas more. Due to the near proximity of the underlying skull, the muscle in the frontal area is relatively superficial. The temporal region, though, is a little bit stronger and deeper.

Now concentrate on the neck and fine-tune the key muscles. If you feel you need more polygons, don’t be afraid to update your mesh and raise the resolution using the slider next to the DynaMesh button. (Drag the canvas with the Ctrl key.)

You might also wish to turn on Lazy Mouse in some circumstances. When you need to sculpt highly precise and clean lines, this tool is really helpful. You only need to press L on your keyboard to complete this.

At the base of the neck, examine the position of each muscle and the configuration of the spine’s bones. At this point, I make some minor tweaks to the neck and the lips.


The eyelids can now be improved. Use the Append button to import a sphere as a new subtool to accomplish this. Then choose the skull while hiding the face. Place your sphere within the skull’s orbital hole at this point. Verify your mesh and make the sphere’s eyelid adjustments. It’s a fantastic approach to achieve the ideal form.

By holding down the Ctrl and Shift buttons while dragging and dropping an object onto the eye area, you may isolate the eye area and make it easier to work on. There will be a green rectangle displayed. Unless you simultaneously hold down Alt, which turns the selection red and conceals everything inside the selection region, nothing outside of this area is concealed when you let go of the mouse button.

When it’s finished, click on the canvas while holding Ctrl and Shift to reveal the entire head. The sphere can now be deleted because it is no longer necessary. Draw circular lines and add dimension to the muscles that surround the eyelids.

Nose shaping and final details

When you’re finished, concentrate on the muscles next to your nose. To create the proper flow and to make the muscles easier to read, paint stripes on each muscle. Remember that every muscle has a specific purpose.

Refine the entire face even more. When the muscles are stronger, such as on the jaw, draw wider stripes. Although it may seem obvious, doing so will help you better comprehend and read the entire muscle system.

The major cartilage of the nose should be sculpted. If you feel a muscle is incorrect or doesn’t match your references, don’t be afraid to smooth it out and redraw it. Try to bear in mind that the nose is made up of bones, muscles, and cartilage as you shape each component.

By sculpting and applying stripes to the final muscles, the process is finished.

Now It’s Over to You

It’s always much simpler to create something when you are aware of the steps taken to get there, so I would strongly advise anyone wishing to learn or advance their understanding of head and portrait sculpting to obtain a clear and thorough understanding of portraiture through this type of anatomical training. You should do this at least once because it should greatly enhance both your workflow and the calibre of your work. Good fortune!

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