Suleman’s Tutorials #4: Getting Started With Heads

Here is the 4th and Final ( at least for the time being ) installment of Suleman's Tutorials. Look for it after the jump below.

If you're just starting out with heromachine, chances are you might be having some trouble with heads. The default sizes and locations for head-related items in Heromachine are not that great. The purpose of this guide is to give you a starting point for constructing faces on your own. This is just my way of doing things, and it's far from perfect. For more complicated images, this will not be quite enough. Still, you have to begin somewhere!
I am assuming you know the basics of masking and shading. If not, check out my tutorial here:
How to get started with basic shading in HM3We'll be focusing on shadows/depth, for now!
What you want for just about all your shading needs is this particular item in Patterns:

Set color1 to white, alpha 0
Set color 2 to black, alpha varies on darkness of shadow
Set linecolor to  e.g. red, so you can see where you've applied shading. This is important when you're playing with multiple layers! You don't want a character's body shading appear on top of their clothes! We'll remove those lines later.

Place it on top of some object you want to add shading to and Mask it on.

If you want more than one "shadow" on t

We're going with a forward-facing head without any rotations or such, for now. I like to start out with a a face item as reference for where to place eyes, noses, eyebrows and mouths later.  Otherwise, you're gonna have to improvise that and the results can be... awkward.
What we see here is a default head and face.  The combination does not look great. The face is all smushed in the middle, with an enormous chin.
Hm3-beta (5) by Sulemania

Let's adjust the proportions a little. I typically widen the head somewhat and adjust the face until it starts looking decent. I'm not a fan of heads that look like they continue seamlessly from the neck. So my characters' heads are typically a bit wide. I also place ears on the picture and adjust their size and location until they look natural.
Hm3-beta (7) by Sulemania

I proceed to place eyes, a nose and a mouth on top of the ones on the face item. That way, they are about the right shape and size and located at the correct part of the head.
However! Sometimes I like the facial features on the face item! In that case, I just mask the features I like to an Insignia item, thus only keeping those particular ones. In this case, I like the big nose on the Face item, so I Mask it on a triangle that only covers that part of the face.
In order to track which item is which, it's good to use temporary colors! I use very bright blues and reds. Remove the colors when you feel you're read with them.
Hm3-beta (8) by Sulemania

I proceed to place eyebrows on the picture. These default locations aren't quite good enough. Eyebrows are important for determining the design's expression and character. Find good positions, sizes and rotations!
Hm3-beta (9) by Sulemania

I used the eyebrows to give this guy a cocky look.
From the Faces category, I find forehead wrinkles and undereye wrinkles. These will initially look stupid, but will make your character's face look more real. Don't forget to adjust their size, location and rotation to match the rest of the items (e.g. eyebrows).
Hm3-beta (10) by Sulemania

I adjust the transparency of the wrinkles:
Color1 alpha 0
Color2 alpha 0
Line Color alpha 5-30, depending on how old the character needs to look, and what their skin tone will be. You can always adjust these later.
I also choose a haircut for the character around this point, if I haven't already. This guy gets a very basic haircut. Personally, I like longer, multi-part haircuts, but this will do for now. Adjust the hair's size, rotation and location until it fits the head size.
Hm3-beta (11) by Sulemania

Since we're making a MANLY MAN, I also want to give him some stubble. The item looks sort of silly as-is, though, it covers the jawline. We need to do some work.
Hm3-beta (12) by Sulemania

In order to make the stubble look better, let's adjust it to the head size and Mask it to the head.
The stubble's colors are:
Color1: Alpha 0
Color2: Alpha 0
Line Color: Same as hair color, generally
Adjust alpha based on length and heaviness of stubble.
Hm3-beta (13) by Sulemania

At this point, if I haven't already, I pick colors for everything. The skintones should not clash too much! Pick them carefully, maybe even try custom colors.
If the hair looks like it casts a shadow on the face, I turn another hair item into a shadow.
Make a copy of the same hair (or another appropriate hair item), place it below the original hair in layers and adjust its size and location and change the colors:
Color1: Black, alpha 10-50
Color2: Black, alpha 10-50
Line color: Black, alpha 0-30

In this case, the character's forelock casts a shadow on his forehead.
He is also a brown-haired caucasian with blue eyes. Different skin tones function a bit differently for shading purposes, but we won't be getting into that here.
Hm3-beta (14) by Sulemania

At this point, I start the shading process. I begin with shadows that do not need masking. Let's go over the shading decisions.
(Hair -> Forehead shadow)
Brows -> Shadows on eyes (Also, eyes deep in the head should have darker shadows)
Nose -> Upper lip shadow
Lower lip -> Shadow between the lips and the chin
Chin -> Neck shadow
(Beard -> Neck shadow)

Place the shading circles where necessary, keep the line colors, for now.
Hm3-beta (15) by Sulemania

Let's start shading the hair now. Remember: Items in the foreground (closer to the viewer) are brighter, items in the background are darker. This gives even the hair a sense of depth!
When you're pleased with the locations, Mask the shadows on.
Hm3-beta (16) by Sulemania

I follow the same logic for the shading on the head itself. Don't forget to shade the ears as well! The ears are not as close to the viewer as the face is. You're not making a pug here, the head and the face are not flat!
Hm3-beta (17) by Sulemania

When you're done with that, you can remove the line colors and take a look at what your shading currently looks like. Hint: It looks terrible. That's okay.
What you will then start doing is adjusting the intensity of the shadows until the end result looks good.
Rules of thumb: The smaller the shadow, the lighter it should be, and vice versa. The shading should not stand out on its own, it's supposed to enchance the rest of the design!
At this point, you should also make sure that masking errors don't stand out too much. Look at the bases of the ears and the jawline on the right. The masking isn't working great there.
Face Construction Shading by Sulemania

Here's my end result. I think it's looking alright for something I cobbled up really quickly. Could be better, could be worse! You can compare it to the pictures above and see what you think.
Face Construction Shaded by Sulemania

You're free to use these techniques as a starting point, but they're only that. Do your own thing, experiment and learn. Soon you'll be better than me and start teaching me instead.


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7 Responses to Suleman’s Tutorials #4: Getting Started With Heads

  1. hawk007 hawk007 says:

    OK, so, with the hair, how did you mask two things to that? Did you make another, transparent hair over it?

  2. Avatar dblade says:

    I’m glad you are doing these tutorials. I’m sure they are giving users ideas on how to create effects of their own.

    Now on to another thought: something you did just struck me with an idea. You masked out a nose that you liked on the premade face. Are there any other face parts that the Machinist routinely use but have to mask out? As a side project (when I have time) I can take the original artwork and break out pieces and add them back into the Machine as individual assets. Just a thought for now.

  3. JR19759 JR19759 says:

    @dbalde- Separating out the pre made faces would be a good idea, but it would take a while. If you could take the pupils out of a few of the eyes, so people can mask their own pupils to get different eye directions, that’d be quite neat as well. I can’t think of anything else personally.

  4. Suleman Suleman says:

    @Hawk: Yeah, essentially. You might make the other Hair transparent, or just send it to the bottom in layers, where it will be hidden by the other Hair.
    The same applies to the multiple shadings on the Head as well. There’s three Heads: The one with the stubble masked on, and two for the shading. I mentioned this method in the very first tutorial.

    @dblade: Good question! I occasionally use the faces of some of the Companion-Humanoid pieces, e.g.
    I just mask the Companion to a conveniently-sized circle or something so I get their face and nothing else.
    It might (not actually sure) also be handy to have half-circle versions of the gradient patterns I use for shading.
    For my purposes it might be handy to have a separate chainmail Legwear skirt piece like back in HM2. I’ve had to do some annoying masking to make one, previously. The same piece could also be resized to work as sleeves or whatnot. This is a very specific request, though, and I’m not sure if it’ll be enough to alter the existing chainmail item.

  5. Avatar Herr D says:

    @Suleman: Very nice tutorials.
    @dblade: half-circle gradients or cornered shape gradients would be amazing–a tapered triangular gradient shadow (gradient from two connected sides) is beyond my skill to make real-looking at this time.

  6. Avatar cliff says:

    Way to go. Very helpful, particularly to the new people.

    I use the highlighted female lips a bit.(Page 1, Row 2, Number 4) but then I also have used their various eyes, noses and lips when it comes down to it, so … All of them heh heh
    I hope that the “Winners” are included in the separation of the premade faces/heads. I tend to use elements from the “Winners” a bit, including just the face shape and original hairstyles.

  7. Avatar dblade says:

    Cliff: I hadn’t considered plundering the Winners heads. Good idea. Especially for the hair.
    If anyone has specific requests like Cliff’s female lips (giving page/row/number is very helpful) and Suleman’s chainmail pieces feel free to post in the Whiz Bang Item Dispenser on the forums. It’s much easier for me to review requests there since they are in a fixed spot.