Learning to sculpt characters - lunchbreak or 1 hour a day

Hi Polycount!

About a year ago I started teaching myself Zbrush because I wanted to create characters.
After about 3 months, I started a university course that is strictly environment art, and haven't had a chance to do any character practice or anatomy studying since.

I've now decided to try and start learning this again during my freetime/downtime and wanted to post what I'm working on and hopefully get advice as I go along.

This is the last sculpt I did before I stopped last year. I was attempting to do a likeness sculpt of Lucy Liu, but hadn't really done enough anatomy study to get the fundamentals down of the face. I think I worked on this for about 3 weeks intermittently.

This is the first head sculpt of any kind I've done since last July. I think it shows. I don't really know what I was going for, but this was as much as I could get done within my 1 hour lunch break. This was done by following a Youtube video on how to begin making a head in Zbrush.

40 minute Lunchbreak on day 2. I've apparently developed a fear of mouths because both times I've done this now I've completely avoided that region.
I also keep making the cheekbones really exaggerated. 

This is my latest sculpt. Again I squeezed this in during a 1 hour lunchbreak, this time looking at a diagram of a skull and trying to replicate it by eye.
I genuinely tried to pay closer attention to anatomy and accuracy this time, but I think I haven't studied it enough to really get the landmarks and proportions right yet. Struggling to figure out the best method to study. I'm not very expirienced at drawing, but I think from today forward I'm going to attempt one sculpt and one drawing every lunchbreak, and a little bit in the evening if I can make time.
Any advice/critique on this latest attempt would be amazing.


  • carvuliero
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    carvuliero interpolator
    Looks like you should really hit the books or if you dont like books some quality video tutorials
    Asian tutorial is very good but if you dont speak the language or have some knowledge of what is he doing might not be of use too you but its free
    If you have some money to invest Faraut head tutorials are probably the best (personal opinion) , maybe check Jordu Schell or new master academy for comparison, If you are willing to invest even more in yourself  I could tutor you
    Books that you could check :
    Lanteri modeling guide for teachers and students volume 1  free on the internet
    Goldfinger anatomy
    Peter Rubino The Portrait in Clay
    Burne Hogarth - Drawing the Human head  maybe free too

    Another modern alternative is to get 3d scan of skull/head and copy that till you can do it without reference
  • Vulpes_Vulpes
    Thanks for the reply! I've had a look through the suggestions you've posted, and I liked the look of Jordu Schell, and the Goldfinger anatomy book.
    I also really like the idea of trying to copy a 3D scan, so I'm going to be using that method for now as my daily practice.
  • carvuliero
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    carvuliero interpolator
    Be aware that we have tendency to not see what you don't know about , so blindly copying might not produce satisfactory result you have to supplement that with some anatomical studies and actually "learn to see"(this is probably the first most important skill you want to acquire -> basically your eyes become your best tool) .The more you know about subject you want to sculpt the easier will be to do it  and more finer volumes you could be able to see
  • Vulpes_Vulpes

    Day 3 & 4: Didn't manage to squeeze in much time on Tuesday, so what I started in the evening that day rolled into today.
    I was a little bit embarrassed to even post this image, but I feel like it will be a good exercise to keep track of my progress.
    For this sculpt I somehow managed to botch the back of the skull quite a bit, and had some trouble trying to figure out how to sculpt the muscle and fat sitting over the cheek bone. I did challenge myself to place an actual mouth in for the first time.
    I had a 3D total book on anatomy open beside me as I did the sculpt, and tried to use that as a guide. Hopefully I'll get better at reading the forms of the face further down the line.

    A few people have suggested various reference materials and videos that can be bought/watched online, so I'm hoping to start incorporating that into my learning by next week (as soon as I decide on which one to go for)
  • Brian "Panda" Choi
    Looking better.
  • Vulpes_Vulpes

    Day 5:  I had quite a bit of extra time today, so I started off the day reading through "The Artist's Guide To The Anatomy Of The Human Head" from 3D total. Mainly I was looking at the planes of the face, and how that corresponds to the bones and structure of the skull.
    I started an attempt to sculpt Asaro's planes of the head, and while it was super useful to try and recreate, the end result was a bit of a mess so I didn't even bother continuing with it. If anyone has any advice for a good way to recreate that in Zbrush without it being lumpy, that would be amazing.

    After that, I started another head sculpt, this time trying to pay more attention to the planes I looked at in the morning. I was trying to make a female face, and hopefully some of that comes through in the image. While doing this I had a video by Danny Hensley (Hired Gun Games) in the background while I sculpted, and tried to pay attention to why he did specific things in terms of facial anatomy. I also had my 3D total book and a model of a skull near by to consult.

    Some parts of today's sculpt felt like they went better, but somewhere along the way the overall silhouette of the head feels like it got misshapen. This might be because I changed the perspective FOV at some stage and didn't realise.

    Again, any critique or advice on what is and isn't working is always welcome.

    (A basic hair silhouette makes it look marginally better, probably because it hides mistakes!

  • carvuliero
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    carvuliero interpolator
    Why don't you start with something simpler , just a simple head(without features) and neck maybe shoulder ->
    learn proportion and big shape
    Check post below, it contain some useful reference  :

  • Vulpes_Vulpes
    That post is brilliant, thank you! There's so much stuff in there to look through.  I'm going to try and keep it simple for now until I can figure out the main shape of the head, as I seem to get that quite wrong every time.

    I had a quick attempt this morning to do a really simple head. Is there anything you can point out to point me in the right direction with what went wrong with the shape?
    I'm going to have a good read of the posts suggested to me so far and keep trying to get these first big shapes right then, then keep practicing.

  • carvuliero
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    carvuliero interpolator
    You can probably see why doing fragments without knowing about whole is not a very good idea , in your case there no structure to connect neck to .Adding some bones/shoulder will be a wise thing to do
    Id say you did good for a first attempt , top view been the biggest offender .Do 10-20 more block outs and you will be natural (using reference in the post I send you ) . Master this first step so you have solid ground to build on .Do few generic and then start playing with different head types
    Image below is from Goldfingers anatomy , it have similar simplification for the rest of the body

  • Vulpes_Vulpes

    Day 6:  As with yesterday, I haven't been able to get a whole lot of sculpting time in, but during my commute to and from college I watched some videos on anatomy of the head from Ryan Kingslien, and read some more of The Artist’s Guide to the Anatomy of the Human Head.
    I'm slowly starting to pick up on terminology and major landmarks of the skull from reading about them. 

    Generally, pretty sure I keep making the frontal eminence too narrow, and placing the parietal eminence in the wrong part of the skull. Usually either too far forward or too far back. An issue with this sculpt that I'm just seeing as I'm posting this is that the cranium feels really high up.
    I also haven't done much study into the neck and shoulders, so there's a lot of work to be done next time.

    I think for tomorrow or whenever I next get a chance to try another blockout, I'd like to make it completely planar just so I can get a really clear idea of it all. I have a feeling my next attempt will be much better!

    Does anyone have any advice on the best way to cut the planes into the head? I was thinking I'd use the Trim brushes so it's really clean, but if that doesn't work maybe I could use trim dynamic to make planes?  Or....starting off with a polysphere and lowering the subdivisions, and pushing polys around.
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