Body topology


I think I follow… I’ll try to fix it



       I am starting to model a character that I've designed for my college course but I am having great difficultly establishing topology that I am happy with. 
       [i](Sorry if this is the wrong place to post)[/i]
       There seems to be plenty of excellent meshes to use as reference and I have plenty of anatomy images. My main issue is that my character is a very decrepit bony old man who needs to deform and have good sculpting topology. All the reference meshes I have are of really muscled characters or curvy women. I find it hard to use these as reference as they are so different to my character. 
       How important is body topology when modelling an old person?.....since my character is more skin and bones surely there is not the same need to model in all the muscle detail? but still I'm confused as to which would be the best way to approach modelling this character....
       I am fairly competent when it comes to 3D modelling, I have completed the base mesh for my character's head but like many other young 3D artists I get a bit confused when it comes to body topology especially since I am a very analytical person and a bit of a perfectionist....
       [b]Is there a general rule of thumb concerning edge loops? for instance when modelling a head/face...[/b]:hmm:

I’m getting the impression that its all about trial and error and that there is no spoken set of rules to make your characters topology perfect. Ideally what I’m looking for is some general advice on how my mesh should flow so I can achieve a realistic look while still having animatable topology.

Failing that some links to some good reference pictures of old people would be greatly appreciated.

I have attached my conceptual sketches as well as a screen shot of my mesh so far.

Many Thanks

Lee :argh:




In general you’re going to be following the generalized topology you see through out this thread. The major difference is that some of it is going to collapse inward where it would normally bulge out under due to muscle. The general topology used for most of the bodies here will support that scranny-old people just as well as big-buff-people. You may find the need to add loops where normally you wouldn’t need to.

The images:
First Gollum - his neck is all well scranny and old-man like.

Second old man head posted somewhere in this thread (way back I think) good example of old man head though.

and third, I’ve taken the liberty of drawing a few of the main cuts as I see them on your sketch. As you can see from just those simple cuts the topology of the body is going to be very similar to the usual.


Yeah its generally a good idea to get some good edgelooping going on in the facial muscle area. When you compare the muscle groups and edgeloops in a face made in 3d there should be a similarity in the way they flow. If you can achieve this then it will make for a more realistic deformation in the face if you wish to animate it in the future.

The same can be said of the jointed areas in the body as well to a certain degree.



Just learning, and learning…


Well my cousin had lent me his copy of the D’Artiste Character modeling book, and being one of the very first times I had seen topology similar to Steven Stahlberg’s face modeling tutorial, I decided to try modeling a face with similiar topology.
I absolutely love the level of detail you can get with a relatively clean mesh.

What I really wanted to know was how efficient it is to use an ‘eccentric’ topology, and when and where would you use it, in general.
Also, has this method become less significant because of the fact that I could just use a lighter, more standard topology and just sculpt it instead of doing it entirely in maya?

Also, I was wondering how efficient something like the mesh(especially the face) in this post would be considered for a still piece and for animation,today.

Here are a few wireframes of the facial topology I achieved,only major deviation I made was using edge extrude to model a large portion of the face.


OK I’m not near on the level of Stahlberg or Jason Edwards but my general take on the model you’ve shown, flatulentFuzz, is that it shades nicely as it is, unposed, but that it needs modifications (different and/or increased edgeloops) for it to be animated well.

Edgeloops at the corners of the lips should continue out horizontally into the face.  You have them all pinched and a triangle pointed in toward them continuing loops back out into the face.  I think you should change this, not because I hate triangles, but because if you want to animate the mouth opening you need enough geometry to support the stretching of the corners of the lips.

I think you should continue that edgeloop down around the smile lines.  Again not b/c it forms an n-gon, but b/c you'll need more definition in that area to create a good smile line when the face smiles. And b/c there are few edgeloops around the chin/jaw area.

Speaking of which, I think you need more edgeloops around the chin/jaw. Currently the shape is very well defined, but imagine the mouth opening (bottom jaw hinging down, not just lips spreading).  Currently I notice only 2 edgeloops defining jawline, this will thus stretch from middle of cheek and middle of neck (ok maybe a bit of an exaggeration), causing weird deformation and texture stretching when jaw opens.

Your non-standard geometry around inner eye causes pinching when smoothed.  If you're intending wrinkles/pinching, then go for it, but it looks more like an unintended irregularity in this case. Just make those into clean loops/circles around eye.

Other than these examples I think your topology looks pretty good and pretty standard.  If you address those issues then it will be more or less standard topology.  So I guess my conclusion would be that, yes the standard topology is standard for a reason: it's the most efficient.  That is, it's the most accurate way to define facial anatomy using as few points as possible.  Unless you never plan on animating this model, you should use regular edgeloops and topology. (i.e. the lips in the smoothed shot look really realistic, but if you want to animate the mouth open, the corners will probably look weird).

BTW I think the differences between extruding edges v. subdividing geometry are less than they're cracked up to be.  I see them as two different methods of achieving the same result.  subdividing geo automatically creates new clean edgeloops but you can do the same with extruding edges, and sometimes subdividing is annoying if you want to re-direct topology (i.e. w/3 or 5 pointed star) so then you have to manually edit a new full edgeloop anyway.  as long as end result is good topology, it doesn't matter how you get there.  Unless you're going to do a 3dsculpt in zbrush et al, and then retopologize, then your base mesh topology is inconsequential, you just have to retopologize to look good.

As for that link you posted, I suspect what he’s counting as “polys” are quads, not tris. The head is slightly too high poly for today’s real-time video game standards, IMO, except maybe a head-to-head fighter with only 2 chars onscreen at once. Virtua Fighter 5 has highest poly counts per char that I can recall off top of my head, which is something like 40-45K tris per char. For a rendered feature film with hi-budget (thus render farm to speed up rendering), I think that mesh would be fine. The topology looks great IMO.


Thanks for the quick reply,jarisky.For the most part I’ve understood what you’ve said about the jaw needing more edgeloops if it is too be animated,and the eye too.

I’m not too clear on what you meant by the edgeloops at the corner of the lips being pinched in a triangle.
Do you mean that to be able to stretch the lips I’d need more mesh at that area,rather than just a single tri supporting the whole corner of the lip?

Another thing,over here in India CGart is still catching on,and a lot of the techniques they teach here are out of date and sometimes leave important things out.Pretty much every institute here will teach how to make a face like the one I’ve made(with more standard,complete edgeloops) and leave it at that.
So I’m not completely sure how subD modeling works.
Is it similar to zbrush in the sense that you create a base mesh like the one I’ve made,tweak topology,subdivide,add a little more detail without actually modifying the mesh,and then finally adding creases,etc where more detail is required?

Thanks for the help


I tried to show how I’d recommend adding edgeloops with a brief paintover. This is to give you a general idea; I wouldn’t recommend following my guide exactly b/c I couldn’t see all the mesh. It’s an approximation for general flow of edges.

What I meant about the lips–it would initially seem to make sense to converge your edges to a point at the corner of the lips since lips are somewhat “pointed.” But in actuality with human lips the skin pretty much just folds under and turns inward at the corners. The lips aren’t so much pointed as the skin has an angle and folds around inside of the mouth. I’d recommend not terminating edgeloops at the corners of the lips; instead find a way to keep those edgeloops going either inside the mouth cavity or up along the cheek/chin/etc. (I do terminate edgeloops inside the mouth cavity, if you’re actually modeling inside of the mouth, because it’s barley visible and not worth the extra polys). You had several edgeloops converging to one or terminating to a point at edge of lips. I think terminating edge loops here is not a good idea because you need enough edgeloops to support a “mouth opening” animation.

We miscommunicated about subdivision modeling. I wasn’t talking about using SubDs as in the type of geometry that Maya uses besides polygons and NURBS. I was talking about the method of constructing a detailed model. Some say it’s better to start with a box or cylinder or primitive, and then cut in edgeloops to add more detail. They argue that by starting with a basic shape and adding edgeloops each time they want more detail, this ensures that the edgeloops flow smoothly. This school of thought argues that it’s a bad idea to make just one piece of the model at a time by extruding edges or faces individually into the exact shape you want, because it can end up with irregular topology and broken edgeloops. The point I was making is that I personally think either method is fine, it’s the end result that matters. Either way you model you’ll probably have to do some cleanup to get great topology.

Anyway hopefully this all makes sense, good luck with the model! And btw I don’t think this type of facial modeling is out of date at all, it’s pretty standard.


I have actually continued the edges inside the mouth,but I’m not too sure what you mean by having them continue up the cheek or chin.
Like in the paintover,there’s only one edgeloop forming the actual corner of the lips.
Would about 2-3 more edges supporting the corner help?

What I wanted to know earlier(when I was referring to subD) was how you add detail to a light base mesh without taking it into a sculpting program.

Since the only way I know how to add significant detail to a model is in zbrush,I was just wondering how you’d do it in maya itself.
Do you subdivide/smooth once,delete unnecessary edgeloops,leave edgeloops in areas that need proper definition(like around the eyes and ears) and then start adding detail where needed?


its amazing how just breezing through this threas is giving me overwhealming infor on character topology. i’ve been trying out mr. stahlbergs and the other posters modeling tips during weekends and would like to express my thanks!

2d and 3d job listings


Working on a Facial Planes Bust, geometry is not important at this stage because its all about creating the facial planes for new surfaces to be projected from, for clean topology and accurate planes of the female head.

i noticed after posting that this chin should be a tiny bit more narrow, I hope to wrap this up and move on to z-brush to truly try this experiment. Anyhow, I’m not shy for critiques here, if anyone has any experience dealing with facial planes i may have missed, please post =)



tweaked chin, and working on adding influenced weight to the planes (slight curves)


What I really wanted to know was how efficient it is to use an ‘eccentric’ topology, and when and where would you use it, in general.
Also, has this method become less significant because of the fact that I could just use a lighter, more standard topology and just sculpt it instead of doing it entirely in maya?

Also, I was wondering how efficient something like the mesh(especially the face) in this post would be considered for a still piece and for animation,today.

Here are a few wireframes of the facial topology I achieved,only major deviation I made was using edge extrude to model a large portion of the face.

“Eccentric” topology is at the artist discretion. I usually go by the what the rigger is willing to put up with, but if you are rigging it yourself feel free to experiment. It will take many variations of edges here and there to get the facial folds you are looking to achieve for the shot. Mostly trial and error, you can follow edges loops like stalhbergs and try to see where they apply in facial animations… You can also use a mirror at your desk and make funny faces to see where they might apply.

If your not planning on doing anything crazy, then your edge-loops seem suitable for basic animation. The animated face on Stahlbergs site, makes use of these very custom edges to provide the ability to make the tight creases that are revealed during animation. This however is not currently easily doable with sculpts, without quite a bit of technical knowhow.


I’m a new maya user and I’m doing self study. Can somebody please help me with my topology. thanks. Here’s the link, sorry cause I can’t paste the jpeg here.


hey been goin thru the motions of learning all about topology.
and wow did it prove to be such a headache when I started modeling at the begining of this year, as I became obsessed with it without really understanding. Anyways starting to get the feel for it and I’ve built up enough courage to post some pictures for some much needed guidance.

Still working on the body using Stahlberg original topology. But wanted to get some feedback before moving onto the shoulder and arms which could be tricky.

(never mind the ear area its a mess :slight_smile: )


What kind of trouble? There is no upper limit on the number of faces a subdivison mesh can have in PRMan, 3Delight, AIR, etc. And they all work fine.

Maybe yor mesh was non-manifold? That might be an issue, n-gons with n>4 aren’t.

Also, when you render a Maya subdivisoon surface through RfM or 3DfM, it gets converted into a RenderMan hierarchical subdvision mesh automatically, behind the scenes.

Result wise, there is zero difference between rendering a polygon mesh as a subdiv or converting that into a Maya subdiv before, when rendering with RfM or 3DfM.
The only theoretical difference is that Maya’s subdivs allow hierarchical edits, so the latter always has to be rendered as a hierarchical subdiv mesh with PRMan or 3Delight.
However, if no hierarchical edits were applied in Maya (the poly mesh was just plain converted), the resulting geometry inside the renderer (and hence the resulting image) is identical.



Thanks for the insight. I’ve noticed that while working with a rigger I tend to stick to very clean, standard topology, but experiment more when just messing around.

Your facial planes experiment seems pretty interesting. Would you mind explaining a little bit? Thanks in advance.

Well, your facial topology in general is pretty good, but you need work on a few things.

I’m far from the best artist around here, but I hope you don’t mind me doing a quick paintover as best I can.

For one, before you worry about what goes where, begin by spacing out your edgeloops a little more, and try and cut down on unnecessary edges. Take a look at your mouth area. Getting rid of a couple of edges on the bottom and top(the ones marked with slashes) will probably clean that area up significantly. Also notice what I did to the median(the area above the upper lip, just in the center)
A little more spacing will really help in the cheek area. You might also want to add an edgeloop to the lips for more definitition.

Next, you general meshflow is pretty good, but there are a few key areas that will lose out on deformation with your current topology.
One area which sticks out right now is the loop I’ve outlined in yellow. I’m guessing you planned this loop to pull the corners of the nose up along with the smile lines, but most people tend to use an edgeloop more like the one I’ve done in red. What that loop does is allow for deformations formed by the muscles that sort of pull the bottom of your nose slightly upwards when you ‘crinkle’ your nose.
Why your yellow loop is not completely accurate is because it should continue down the cheek and form the smile lines. The loop I’ve drawn in orange is more along the lines of what should be over there.
One last change in topology you need is to have a loop coming horizontally from the center of the nose and forming the cheek(the green loop)
I’ve also added a few fill-in loops in blue.
Hope it’s not too messy, haha.

Sorry I don’t have time to really help you with the body right now. When I’m free I’ll try and post.


thanks flatulentFuzz for the gr8 reply mate… been a little busy but now Im back to cracking on my modeling… busy on another head model right now will post it up for some tips :slight_smile:
im so obssessed with topology now ;/ I cant even finish projects off;) :smiley:

ok quick updateskies!


Wow I abandoned this thread for a while…

@FlatulentFuzz in response to last post to me from last April…
as far as adding in more detail in a program like Maya or Max without taking into Zbrush etc. and sculpting…

I would say depending how much detail you want to add, and if you will be adding in detail all over your model, or just in certain areas…there area couple ways to go about it. You could either smooth the whole model after adding in as much detail you can at a simple stage, and then continue moving points from there. Or you could just select a few faces for a particular area that needs more detail, subdivide those faces, edit those points to your satisfaction. Then probably want to cut the edgeloops connecting them to the rest of the model in a way so it doesn’t make a bunch of ngons.

But really what I usually do just depends on what the model needs and what stage I’m at. For example with a character you could start with a box, extrude out arms/legs…@ this point the torso, arms, and legs are all 4-sided cylinders. Then you could subdivide the entire model. This will make the torso/arms/legs all 8-sided cylinders, automatically nice and uniformly spaced verts. Now you can edit these points manually as you wish. At this point if you’re trying to keep a fairly low poly model, if you want to add more detail in an areas, say sculpting muscles of the deltoid and bicep, don’t subdivide the whole model again, because that would just cause a headache with tons of points. Instead just use your cut poly tool and manually cut in the edgeloops and extra polys you need for this particular area of detail.

The above is just a generic example of when it may be a good idea to use different tools for adding in detail, really it just depends on the situation.

Hope this helps if you are even still looking for an answer to your 9-month old question


Not sure how active this thread is anymore, but here goes…

I’m working on a low to mid poly character with a target polycount around 10K, i.e. should be able to run realtime for game animation with diffuse, spec, normal maps.

On the modeling stage, currently I’m looking for critique of my topo. This is a WIP, obviously lacking head. Areas I am still working on are shoulder, breasts, upper back. Also I realize center creaseline in belly and buttcrack don’t look right. Topo for other areas I’m fairly happy with…but of course I’m open to critique of topo/proportion/etc of any area.

The end character will be a fairy, mostly tight clothing, draped areas will be transparent probably, so I’m trying to get the basic surface anatomy looking right in the model. She’ll be wearing boots or slippers or something so I’m not bothering modeling toes.

So far the model is 4636 tris. Head/hair I imagine will be 4000, so I don’t want to go over ~6k for body. The images each show the game-res character, and the character subdivided once; the smoothed version will be used to bake normal map. Any comments welcome, thanks!