Face Texturing for Morrowind - Human Faces

A Tutorial for Beginning to Intermediate Texture Artists by lochnarus

Using Rhedd's Models and Textures and Photoshop 7


1. Source Pictures
a. Best kinds of source pictures
b. Size and detail matter
c. Lighting, color
d. Locating source pictures

2. Initial Prep Work
a. Gridding and Symmetry
b. Cropping
c. Removal of obscuring obstacles and hair (Clone Brush)
d. Mirroring (Layers and Liquify)
e. Unmirroring (and eye surgery)

3. Source Texture
a. Mesh and Source Texture choice
b. Resolutions (revolution)
c. Layering, Free Transform

4. Texture Transformation
a. Fine cropping
b. (De)Saturation and brightness
c. The cloning process

5. Skinning and Fine Tuning via Liquify
a. Model Viewer
b. Eyes
c. Mouth
d. Nose
e. Finalizing your texture


1. SOURCE PICTURES - Which ones work, how big they should be, what colors and lighting, and how to find them

a. Best Kinds of source pictures

The best kinds of source pictures are the ones in which the person is not smiling (mouth closed- I can close an open mouth with my skills, but I think most people cannot, so we won't go into that here), facing forward, and not making any kind of expression whatsoever. Eyes must be open normally, without looking either surprised or sleepy. The mouth should not be smiling too much or with teeth showing. A small smile is ok, as that can be changed via Liquify filter as explained in detail later in this tutorial in section 5. The nose should be relatively square on with the camera, showing nostrils. A lot of people's features are not symmetrical, so therefore you must exercise use of the aforementioned Liquify filter (explained in Section 2d). Also, the face does not have to be upright, it can be sideways or at an angle at the camera, as long as the person is FACING the camera (explained in section 2a).

b. Size and detail matter

Size matters in relation to picture files, because usually the larger the picture, the more detail is contained within it. This is true of all pictures you see on your computer. If you see a picture of a car at 256x256 pixels, then blew that picture up to 1024x1024, you would see that it gets increasingly pixelated due to the original size not containing enough information to compensate for the large size increase.

Usually you will want to use a human face that is larger than 512x512, the bigger (and more detailed) the better. I find that when working with famous female (and to a smaller degree male) faces, the BEST size pictures often come from celebrity magazine covers and ads. Magazines in general have the best sizes and detail. If you have a scanner, and you also have lots of magazine, you just may find a treasure trove of human faces to work with. Otherwise, Yahoo and Google both have image sections of their search engines that will also yield a plethora of quality photographs. Remember, the larger and more detailed, the better the end result.

c. Lighting, color

This is important to the end result, and it has an effect of the detail level of the finished texture. It is best NOT to use pictures that are oversaturated in color, being too much of one color, like red or blue, any color really. The best color photographs again, usually come from magazines or photo session pictures. Humans in real life have an infinite variety of colors even within the same race, often even within the same family line. One person can be deep tan, while another may be pale white. When fitting the color to a Rhedd face texture, it is best to choose a pic that is relatively close to the Rhedd texture. It doesn't have to be exact, as we can change the hue and brightness later in section 4b. Just remember that the closer to natural it is, the better it will end up.

d. Locating source pictures

As stated before, the some of the best places to find source photos is in magazines. A lot of models, celebrities, and photo sessions of people are located in magazines of all kinds. Be it Playboy or Popular Mechanics, there are large pictures of faces. Also the internet is a HUGE source for photos, often having scanned images that have been in the aforementioned magazines. Yahoo and Google have their own search engines for images, with settings for large, medium and small. Yahoo even has a setting for wallpaper size. Fan sites for celebs will turn up great pictures. I have been told by a respected face texture artist that military and business websites (including news websites) will have mug shots of their staffs. Look far and wide, there is bound to be a large source pic for every celebrity, and there are numerous photos of military personnel, law firms, etc.

2. INITIAL PREP WORK - Getting it to the texture point

a. Gridding and symmetry

We're down the actual work...Now that you have located a large, front facing, normal-colored photograph of a human face (or made one yourself) it is time to grid it. I coined this term to apply to the process or righting the face from an angle that's not right side up, or say, if the person in the photo is lying down, or has their head tilted a bit to either side. If the face is symmetrical, then this step should not take too long. If the face is not symmetrical, then we must grid it to make sure that you get the symmetry to be as best it can from the picture before you mirror it (explained in section 2d).

Gridding is as such: Open Photoshop, first of all. Go to your Preferences section in Edit on the menu, and set the grid lines to 1 every 16 pixels. This is tailored for Morrowind file sizes, as they are always multiples of 16. You can set the subdivisions however you like, although I like to have just 1 as it helps to see the photo.

Now, open the face in Photoshop, making sure you can see the whole thing via Zoom or Fit On Screen. Then click on View in the menu, and then click on Grid. You can now see the gridlines over the face. Here's the fun part:

Click Select from the menu, and then click All. This will put a bounding dotted line around the entire photo. Now, with the gridlines as a guide, click on Edit, then under the Free Transform menu, select Rotate. Next you must make sure the each body part (eyes, nose, and mouth) is as symmetrical as it can be given that humans arenít symmetrical to begin with. I use the reflection of light in the eyes, usually, as a guide. The corners of the mouth can be used (unless the person has a strange curl or has a slight expression). I find that the best thing to look at is the reflection in the eyes, the little spots that come from light. Do this process until you think you have the best position to mirror the face later on.

b. Cropping

This step can be done at a later point, but I feel that it should be here because it will help you in the mirroring process more efficiently.

Now, you have a fairly righted face in front of you. Notice the edges of the cheeks, the upper tip of the forehead, and the bottom tip of the chin. Take the square selection tool and select everything within those boundaries. The entire face, but nothing more. Sometimes hair can be on the forehead. That's ok; we will get rid of that later (in the next step).

Having selected the entire face, and only the face, click Select then Inverse, this will put a dotted bounding box round everything BUT the face. Now select Edit and then Cut. This removes the outer portion which is of no use. You now have a pretty close shave, hehe. We will crop the face even more in a later step (4a).

c. Removal of obscuring obstacles and hair (Clone Brush)

It is sometimes the case when working with human faces that the models or subject has bangs or locks that are covering a portion of the forehead, and sometimes the eyes. Thus is why mirroring is necessary most if not all the time. This step you will use the clone brush to remove such things and make for a cleaner photo.

Setting the clone brush: Select the stamp looking tool (2nd section of the Photoshop vertical tool bar, 2nd tool down on the left). Then you will see that its menu has opened at the top of the window, right under the main menu. Where it says Brush, click on it and select any size brush from the drop down menu (they can be changed on-the-fly) but MAKE SURE it is a feathered brush and NOT a hard brush. You can tell which is which, and the best ones are near the top. DO NOT use the odd shaped brushes for this step.

Now, set up the Opacity of the brush. I usually go with a higher number for this step; around 60 - you can use a lower one if you want. The Opacity menu is directly to the right of the aforementioned Brush menu. This will ensure that you get a good blend that wonít look too fake or painted on.

The next step requires a bit of learning and making mistakes, so read carefully and then learn the best way that works for you...

Cloning: Using the clone brush hit you ALT key and select a part of the forehead VERY close to the part you must cover up hair or objects. Selecting a nice part of the skin with the ALT key held down, you then let off the ALT key and start cloning over the hair/object until you think you have it looking close to real as you can. The forehead should look like it is NOT covered by anything. Do not worry if it is perfect, as most Morrowind models have lighting that will cover up (and stretch) most blemishes in this area. Just get a relatively uniform color, with shading that is relative to the photo. If there is a light glare in the middle of the forehead, clone in a light glare.

You donít have to do past the edges of the forehead, as this will be cloned in a different way in a later step (4c).

d. Mirroring (Layers and Liquify)

Now we will mirror the face to provide absolute symmetry, so that it fits the models you use better. Most models are made in this fashion, and then afterwards the mesh maker will tweak parts of the model so that it is slightly non-symmetrical for realism. Humans by nature are not symmetrical. Even celebrities are far from perfect. I've seen it, hehe.

Using the square selection tool, drag it over the photo so that exactly half of the face is selected. If there are parts of the face which donít look like they are going to work, you must use the Liquify filter to fix these imperfections, which is located in your Filters part of the main menu, at the top.

Liquify: *IF* you must do this step (sometimes you donít have to) then it is a matter of balancing the part that is unbalanced between the two halves of the face. Using the default tool within the Liquify menu, select a size approximately the same area as needed to change (i.e. if the nose is off, size it about the same as the nose) and pull the part so that it is more symmetrical. DO NOT pull things diagonally very much, as it will blur. Usually pulling it to the right or left, up or down will do the trick.

Back to mirroring: Select half of the face. Once that is done, then click Edit in the main menu, then Copy to copy the section to the clipboard on your computer. Now, click File, then New to open a new, blank workspace, and choose a large size, like 1024x768 with a white background.

Once you have a new workspace ready, click Edit, then Paste to paste what you copied onto the new workspace. Do the same thing again, making two separate copies of that half face in the new workspace. You now have 2 halves of the same side of the face.

Layers: These 2 sides are in layers. You have a Layer window in Photoshop where you can select between any layer, and the background layer. Make sure the Layer window is active during this process, and all processes after.

Now, select the top layer, Select the Free Transform menu and click Flip Horizontal to the top layer, and position it to where it is EXACTLY symmetrical to the other half of the face. There may be a line within the features of the face and it may look mirrored right now, but that will be taken care of in the next step (2e). You should now have a perfectly symmetrical face in front of you.

e. Unmirroring (and eye surgery)

Now we will make the face lose the mirrored look, making it look more realistic, yet keeping the symmetry gained from using two halves of the same side of it.

First, make sure that you flatten the layers so that it's only one. Then using the selection (or crop) tool, crop the picture again so that it's just the face, and nothing else around it. Now you have the beginnings of the texture.

Look at the eyes now. Are they facing forward? Do they look walleyed or crossed? If so, then you will need to fix that.

*FIXING EYES*: Easy stuff if you ask me. Since the face is mirrored, you only have to do one of them. What you do is zooming in on one of the eyes up fairly close, and use the Polygonal Lasso tool (found under the lasso selection tool- right click) to point and click your way around the iris of the eye. Then close it off, and move the iris over to where it looks like it is facing front. Now you must use the Clone tool (set to a small size and 75% opacity) to clone the section that got cut out by moving it. Make it look as natural as you can, cloning is a talent you must learn well to do this. Once you have the eye set and looking good, then use the selection tool to select half the face again, and copy/paste it back onto the background, just like before. Then, use Flip Horizontal from the Free Transform menu again, just like before, to set the new fixed eye layer over the other side, so BOTH sides are now with fixed eyes.

Back to the Unmirroring...Now you have to make the face look natural. If there are mirrored parts like a line on shadow or light down the middle, you must use the clone brush to get rid of them. By now you should have a grasp on what clone is. Clone gently over portions (size varies by part/ 50%-75% opacity) and try to get rid of the mirrored effect as best you can. Usually the chin, forehead and bridge of the nose are the trouble spots in this step. Remember the size of the brush needs to be changed AS you work, appropriate to the part you are working on.

You should now have a more natural-looking face in front of you. It is ready to be applied to the original texture.

3. SOURCE TEXTURE- Choosing the right one and shaping the photo to it

a. Mesh and Source Texture choice

By now most everyone has heard of Rhedd. He changed the face (literally) of the game of Morrowind. His models are by far the highest quality many have seen and they have set the standard by which others have based hundreds of mods upon, including other heads. I choose to use Rhedd's models for the most part because of the uniform structure they have, fitting a variety of textures. I have fitted HUNDREDS of textures onto just a handful of his models with relative ease.

There are other models of course, by a handful of other authors, but this tutorial is geared more towards the beginner, so preferably a Rhedd model should be chosen to provide ease of learning. You may of course choose to use another model as you get better at skinning faces.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT TEXTURE: I NEVER choose a face by its mesh. Always look at the original texture to see if the features are close to your new face. Rhedd did a great job matching his textures to his models, so if you go by the texture it should be quite fine. LOOK AT THE EYES FIRST!!!! Always look at the shape of the eyes first. This is the most important feature, as they are animated and will be opening and closing. Most people look you in the eye when you talk, right?

For the most part, humans have a relatively uniform shape to their eyes. This is not always the case, especially with elderly, or children. But with 20/30/40 year old average aged Caucasian people (which this tutorial deals with) there is somewhat of the same shape running through human anatomy- only the size really changes. In a picture, you might open your eyes a bit, or close them depending on light, mood- showing expression. Hopefully you have chosen a photo with eyes that are not too wide or too narrow, not showing too much expression. You donít want your face stuck in one expression all the time. Would you be smiling benignly as you fought a guard? Would you be frowning if you just bought a nice set of armour at a great price?

The original texture you choose as a base for the new face should have roughly the same eye size and shape as your new face. Period. The nose and mouth are not as important at this stage because the process of changing them is different than the eyes. It doesnít look as good to liquify the eyes as it does when you liquify the mouth or nose. This is explained in a later step (5b, c). Basically look at everything, but focus mainly on the eyes at this point.

b. Resolutions (revolution)

Most face textures are sized to 256x256 pixels. This was the size that Rhedd made his at and a lot of people have done so since. I had done mine at that size up until not long ago, when I decided to double the size to 512x512. Why? More detail. You can squeeze an infinite amount of detail into the texture with that size and not kill your Frames Per Second. The way face textures are UVW mapped to the model, it doesnít matter what size you use as long as it is divisible by 16 (256,512,1024), but if you go too high you may experience FPS slowdown.

The philosophy behind using 512x512 pixels:

Your character is your persona in the game, it is important to you, correct? More important than a Hlaalu building texture, I assume. You want to look sharp and smashing, or dark and forbidding, or beautiful in every detail, it's safe to say. Well, a higher resolution face texture will make sure of that. You can tell the difference between 256x256 and 512x512 pixels just by the skin tone. The higher res texture will yield much more than detail than the lower res texture: it's that simple. Thus why I advise to go with 512x512. This is how you do that to a Rhedd head:

Open the texture you are going to be using for your new face. Click Image from the main menu and then click Image Size. From that menu, check the Constrain Proportions box so both the x and y dimensions are changed, and then select Percent instead of pixels. All you do now is type in 200 into the percentage and hit enter or click OK. Now you have a 512x512 texture to work with. You can choose to use 256x256 if you desire, but know that it will lose details from the photo you are using.

There are few people who do this. It is my opinion only, and lower resolutions may be better for your work.

c. Layering, Free Transform

You now have your new face, ready to be applied...and you also have a 512x512 (or 256x256) original texture ready to have the new face applied, here we go:

Select All of your new face. Copy it to clipboard. Then go to the texture you will be applying it to, and Paste the new face over it. It should be covering the original texture, in whatever size it is. Now, go to your Layer window, which should be on the right side of your Photoshop window. See that opacity slider? Move it to 50% for your new face. You should now see both faces with yours superimposed over the original texture. They arenít the same size at all. Now, click on Edit then click Free Transform. You must now resize the face so that the features of your new face match the one underneath it to the best you can, focusing on the eyes, then the mouth respectively. Get the face approximately the same size, and then look at the eyes.

EYES: Match the irises as best you can, taking care of the RIM of the eye as well. This is VERY important, if you do this well you wonít have to mess with them again, ever. The rim is the thing that has to be matched closely, the iris is not as important because it does not fall on a SEAM per se. The eyes will be opening and closing in the game, so those rims must match the seams.

MOUTH: This is next in line of importance. As you did with the eyes, try and match the SEAM of the lips, where it will open and close. If it isn't exactly matching its ok, we will be using liquify at a later step (5b, c) to correct both lips and nose.

NOSE: Donít even worry about this part yet. As stated above, it's not until a later step (5c) that this will be corrected if necessary.

Now set the Opacity on your new face back to 100%. You should now have a close approximation of the two faces (in 2 layers- old and new) to each other at this point, having matched the eyes and only positioned the mouth to be fine corrected later. On to the next step.

4. TEXTURE TRANSFORMATION- Cutting unneeded portions from the face, color-matching, and blending into the original texture

a. Fine cropping

Here we will fine-cut unneeded sections from around your new face. Using the Polygonal Lasso tool, you must click once on a point on the edge of the face, anywhere is fine. It should be right where the skin meets the air, so to speak. Now, you'll have to cut around the face, clicking around every edge so that you get a very fine cut around the face (like you are cutting it with scissors). Make sure you get the whole face, but only the face. Close off the cut at the first click you made. Now, click Select then Inverse and finally Edit and Cut to get rid of all the extra parts on your new face. You now have what should look like a detached face with hard edges, but it is now ready for color-matching to the original face texture.

b. (De)Saturation and brightness

Now you must get a basic match of the overall color on your new face to match the original texture. Click on Image in the main menu and then highlight Adjustments, finally clicking Hue/Saturation. In that menu, you will need to slide the Saturation and Lightness sliders around (usually desaturation is best- most photos tend to oversaturate) until it matches approximately the color under your new face, on the original texture. If needed, you can ALSO use the Brightness/Contrast filter to fine tune the color and make washed out features much more contrasted, or take contrast AWAY from over-contrasted pictures. Usually numbers less than 10 work best, donít overdo these filters. Try doing it a little at a time.

You should now have a somewhat close match of your new face's color to the original texture underneath. We will be doing a lot of Clone brush in the next step (4c), so don't worry if sections are too bright or too dark.

c. The cloning process

Here's where all those hard edges go away and you'll have very close to a finished texture on your hands.

Using the Clone Brush tool (size 40 for 512x512, 20 for 256x256/Opacity 40%) you will now have to start cloning the edges away (with YOUR new face's layer selected of course). Here is how you do it:

Start with the forehead, always. I start on the left side, I'm left-handed. You pick a side that works best for you. Hold the ALT key down, and click NEAR THE EDGE (as near as the clone brush size is) and click. Now, your talent comes into effect. Clone the edges along the edges of the forehead, clicking the ALT key to adjust the position of the cloner. Try to keep doing it along the edges, and not towards the inner areas. It is best to keep away from anything but the edges at this point, because you might accidentally erase some good detail from the skin, and you donít want that. The edges of the face will start to blend into the original texture's outer area, but not so much, it will still be slightly off. Once you get the entire forehead done and looking nice, move on to the cheek (SKIP THE TEMPLE ARE FOR NOW, YOU CAN DO THAT LAST- It needs detail). Do the same process of blending outward along the edges until it blends somewhat (it doesnít have to be a perfect blend yet). Once you have it looking ok, THEN change the SIZE of the Clone brush to something smaller (so it fits between the eye and the edge of the new face area). Here you can get into the crevice and blend it into the background without risking loss of details.

Again, learn the Clone brush well; it is an important part of texturing faces and skin. This takes a lot of practice to master.

Now you should have partially blended the new face into the old one's outer area. It will look odd still, but then you will be fine-blending it, like so:

In the Clone brush menu, set the Opacity to 10%. You can now click a lot more and it will blend the color/texture much more subtly, allowing better blending. Now take the Clone Brush and blend the new face's outer parts into the original texture to a fine degree. You may have to go over things a few times to get it right. It's on a case-by-case basis; males might need more, while I find that females need less work to blend. You may find differently.

Flatten the layers now so it is one layer. It certainly looks like a finished texture now, but it's not over. We still have to skin it.

5. SKINNING AND FINE TUNING VIA LIQUIFY FILTER- using a model viewer and Photoshop in tandem to fine-tune features to the mesh

a. Model Viewer

If you are reading this, you likely own Morrowind. Morrowind comes with an editor that allows you to add models of your own making to the game. This editor has a preview window in which you can view the models with the textures on them. What most people do not know is that you can use the editor as a model viewer while you edit the texture. A lot of people use a program called SceneImmerse, which is an alternative, but I prefer to use the Construction Set for this task. Open the Construction Set now.


You can view head models in the Preview window easily. You donít even need to load any master files to do so. By loading the head model *AS A STATIC* (with the texture attached- that is another tutorial and we wont go into that here- if you have NIFTexture or a HEX Editor you know how to do it) into the editor and clicking on the entry for it, it automatically shows in the preview window. You can turn it, move it up and down, left to right, and closer or farther away.

The reason for loading the model as a static instead of a body part lies within the Construction Set. It's buggy as hell and sometimes will crash. It will not do so if you load the head as a static model.

Now, say the texture needs to be changed in some way. Easy. Going back to Photoshop and changing it is no problem, right? (DO NOT DO ANYTHING YET THIS IS HYPOTHETICAL). When you change something in Photoshop (and save it), you can go back to the Construction Set, click on ANOTHER entry aside from your new head's entry, then click BACK ONTO your head's entry, and the texture will be updated accordingly. Cool eh? No need for fancy schmancy model viewers, just the CS will do. Letís get back to skinning the texture at hand...

Sit back and take a good long look at your new head texture as it looks on the model. If you did a good job in choosing the right texture match for your face, then it should actually look pretty good at this point. Take a closer look by hitting your PageUp key. Now does it look good? Turn it around and up and down a little so you can see the nose's edges. Does it conform to the mesh well? Does the mouth and nose texture overlap the mesh's parts at all?

If it still needs fine tuning, that is what I call skinning. This is where the Liquify filter comes in handy.

Liquify does a great thing. It moves things around without cutting it up (and if you mess up something, you always hit Revert and it will initialize to before you moved things). Albeit there is a bit of blurring, but that will be taken care of in the last step (5e). Now to the task at hand, starting with the eyes...

b. Eyes

If you did a good job in matching the eyes when you used Free Transform in step 3c, you wonít have to do anything to them here. If the eyes from the texture match the mesh's seams then you are done with them, no fuss no muss (and this is easier to do in 512x512 pixel resolution). Chances are that you may have to move them to fit the mesh, though.

Take note of what parts are out of bounds on the mesh in the CS. Now, in Photoshop on your face texture, click Filters then Liquify. The face will come up in a new window. A whole new set of tools is at your disposal, but we will only use the default one, the icon at the top of the left menu. It moves selections around like wet clay.

Here's where your eye for detail comes into play: Going back and forth between Photoshop and the CS, you'll have to fine-tune the eye texture to the mesh using the Liquify filter (choosing a size brush that works for you). Here are the minor steps involved:

- Make the needed changes to the texture a little at a time (donít move things a lot) and click OK
- Save the texture
- Click back to the CS
- Click on another ID in the statics tab
- Click BACK onto the head's ID, which now shows the updated texture

Repeat this until you are SURE that the eyes match the seams (eye sockets). After all this the eyes should now look really good, if a little blurry (which we'll fix in the last step).

c. Mouth

This one's easy. Using the Liquify filter (choosing a size brush that works for you), position the line where the upper and lower lip meet to the one on the mesh by the same method you used in the last step with eyes. If there is a dip in the mesh's upper lip, make one in the texture. If the person in the texture is smiling, move the corners of the mouth down so it isn't smiling. Do it a little at a time, take it slow and donít rush. Use the minor steps detailed in the eye section of this step.

d. Nose

This part is also pretty easy, and it's the last step of molding the texture to the mesh. Again using the Liquify filter and taking note of the way the texture looks on the mesh (in many different angles) you must mold the nose so that the nostrils are about centered on the underside of the mesh's nose, and the sides of the nostrils donít overlap onto the cheek. Again, go slow and do it a little bit at a time not over-moving things, you will get better results. Use the minor steps detailed in the eye section if this step.

You should now have a texture that fits incredibly well with the mesh. All parts should look like they were tailor-made to fit the mesh, with no overlapping areas and excellent blending. You'll notice that after you did all the liquify filter that patches of the texture have become blurred...Here is what to do about that...

e. Finalizing your texture

Ok, last thing before you're completely finished. As stated above, you will notice after blending and liquefying things that parts have become slightly blurred...well there is a solution to that.

The Sharpen tool. Not the filter, the tool. It is located by right-clicking on the Blur tool, which looks like a drop of water on your tool menu. It turns into a pointed triangle when you select it.

Set this tool's Strength (in the tool's upper menu settings) to 20-25%. Now, all you have to do is gently go over the blurry areas affected by Liquify and make them more sharp looking. *DO NOT* go overboard and do it too much (or you'll get a crappy mess)...usually just a few clicks on each section will do the job.

Donít worry about blurriness on the outer regions of the texture (outside the face, to the sides of the head), most head models will stretch that area anyway, so in fact that outer blurriness helps keep your new head from looking like it has acne or measles.

At long last, you should now have a finely-tuned and sharply detailed face texture! Enjoy!