Body topology


come on, stop nitpicking, you know well what he was talking about. the same as i referred to male body as “has muscles” but you know damn well that that means ‘has muscles more visible’.

come on :slight_smile:

EDIT: actually now that i think of it, i know at least about one muscle the female body is missing and about a few that males are missing, hehe…
but yeah, the politically correct phrase should be something like ‘female body has less muscle tissue’ i guess ^^


That’s the answer I’m seeking for. Do you think that the topology should be the same in both cases???
And then, I meant that female body has less pronounced muscles structure, but more fat. The muscles just ‘sliding’ underneath the fat. So, what approach must be taken to build a correct topology for a female body?

… and sorry if I did not explain myself correctly…

Thanks again

edit: maybe it’s just my obsession about topology… I’ve just seen the Freedom of teach dvd…


I would have the polygon wires follow the dominant edges of the body’s surface whether the edges are created by bone, muscle, or fat.


I wrote a lot of funny stuff here, really. However, most of them are true.


Hello all! I’ve been digging and digging through information regarding quads, poles, n-gons, edgeloops, and all manner of other information regarding anatomy and proper deformations in CGI. I’ve done a few little projects including a self portrait to try and get a workflow down regarding these topics in a real-life situation.

I wanted to see what you guys think about my current edge flow, and whether or not you think this is a good starting point for facial deformation? I’m mostly concerned about the pole placement. I can’t figure out where to put them to hide them, both for deformation and aesthetics. I always end up stuck in the middle of a model because I can’t figure out how to split my polys to move or get rid of a nasty pole placement.

I’ve attached a clean version of the image as well, in case my lines are too sloppy, making it hard to see.

Thanks for the help :thumbsup:

edit: I just want to make sure you know this is a quick sketch, and my final topology would be much cleaner.


This edge flow is way too simple for anything other than building a simple base mesh for Zbrush sculpting. Here’s an example of how some of our production models look like, notice that the polygon density is 5 to 10 times as high as on your sketch:

I’m also wondering why you’ve posted in the Body Topology thread, we also have one dedicated to faces, here:

Might be a good idea to read through it :wink:


Thank you, Tamas! It was definitely nice to see an image of a production grade facial model. I will absolutely look at that thread. This was the first related thread that I came across, so I apologize for it being in the wrong place.

Also, as I said in my original post, that sketch is just a starting point for a base mesh. I can’t add detail until I get my edge flow right!


Wow! Tamas! Thanks for posting that. I love the way you handle the topology on the chin. I also love how far back you were able to get the pole on the cheek. I’m gonna look into that myself. I normally put that pole more toward the front of the cheek, but your placement makes a lot more sense!


I don’t really think about poles with faces, their tendency to mess up the smoothed surface isn’t as important at this resolution. And you’ll displace the hell out of the face anyway because only babies have smooth skin, just look at lambert shaded scanned faces. So it doesn’t matter if the smoothness is a bit compromised.

What I consider instead is the forms and shapes that I need to follow (that’s why we always start with a concept sculpt, a digital maquette), and the directions of the surface deformations. So it would probably be very different for a girl, or a fat guy, or a really old man, or even an alien.

I’m aware that there was a lot of discussion about poles on the subdivisionmodeling forums, complete with theories and layouts and names and such. But I always thought that it was a classic case of putting the cart in front of the horse…
Sure, there are some patterns, especially if all you’re making are these square faced heroic guys (most of our movies, heh) but it’s the result of similar faces and not because the same topology should be used on everything.


That makes sense. I do really like the way the forms are defined in the face you made.

I agree with you about the digital maquette. One of the reasons I love about the “sculpt first-topologize second” workflow is that you can really tailor the topology to the model.


Regarding poles on faces and the rest of the body:
I always see a lot of people concerned about the poles messing up the smoothness of the face and causing odd shading sometimes. And now I want to ask the experienced guys: Don’t those artifacts that poles can produce on surface are “erased” as you put a complex shader on it like a SSS?
From my short experience, surfaces artifacts are apparently diminished when I apply SSS on them. So, maybe and just maybe we should not care that much about poles in bodies/faces if we are going to put SSS, textures, displacement and all that.
Note: I am not quite sure about this. Forgive me if I’ve just said something evil.


The thing is that most people in production model characters that will be animated, they have to deform and do it well. For that it’s better to keep poles in areas that stay relatively smooth even during the most extreme changes, and there are very few places like that so this means you’d better have as few poles as possible.

Also, any 6-sided vertex can be removed, only 5 and 3 sided vertices should be allowed on any model.


I myself tend to use poles as an asset in the modeling process. I think that using them makes for better topology. I am constantly getting near film quality models to have geometry counts in the same as decent level game characters. Without the proper use of poles I don’t think this would be possible. I tend to use them more then normal geometry as can be seen by the videos I contributed to Digital Tutors. I will admit the lower arm area geometry is something that I am still experimenting with.

The key is to use the geometry purposefully and the deformations will always be great.


Farley, could you post a link? I can’t find the videos you are referring to. Thanks for your feedback.

And I agree: the more I model, the less I’m concerned with poles. Pole placement might be a concern, but I can’t escape using poles entirely, as they are required for proper edge flow.


HI Shark,
The Idea is to use the poles to change the direction of the geometry, i find it makes for quicker rigging and less geometry then normal. The extra polygons tend to get used in extra details. The models below are supposed to be of game-ish quality, they have some details that a Normal map would take care of. I still put full geometry resolution on the ears for instance, yet manage to stay under 7K. I’ I’m debating i’ve been able to get some of my students understanding the techniques and some of them are consistently hitting lower polycounts then mine. I debated lowering their grades for showing me up like that…

Below are two different models just to give an idea on two different resolution targets:

The back for instance has alot of muscles and many people neglect it. but just following the structure gives a nice almost sculpted look.

The has so many muscles and this method helps with solidifying the cheek bone

The front also is able to get a nice cheat as well.


I’m sorry to say but the modeling paradigm that you seem to use has already been outdated five years ago. Nowdays computers can easily manage far, far more complex meshes which allow better deformations.
Even some of the leading games like Uncharted already use 20 to 80 thousand polygons for the characters. The head I’m building blendshapes right now is about 11.000 polygons alone, the entire character is above 350.000 (granted, most of it is hard surface and not organic).

If you really reach modeling and rigging than I also have to say that you owe your students to take the time and effort to get up to date with current industry practices. This kind of stuff wouldn’t really get them hired even at smaller studios, not to mention big movie VFX or animated feature houses…


Hi Tamas,
I tend to concentrate on how or why they should or shouldn’t do something and this has seemed to serve my students well. Most the modelling I’ve had to concentrate on are game engines (on decent machines) and locally people are looking for mobile to console games. Low polymodeling is more in demand. I am a big fan of higher poly craft myself, but if you look at the edge loops you can see they mimic anatomy as well as possible at that polygon count. The poling here is used mostly for anatomy and not polygonal reduction and localization like what you posted. Localizing geometry to add detail seems to be your biggest concern as it does allow for more articulation to occur. I assure you this models topology can be turned to a higher poly mesh with more anatomical detail, with cuts and bevels. But the base form of the body deforms pretty well, since it was used in a training video. Except the forearm, it’s one area, I feel


It would be nice to push the boundaries in models in the 350K range but at some of the locations I taught it would crash the computers
yes…I know
I know. Hence the concentration on lower poly’s and building a solid technique that allows for expanding into higher levels of detail easy and more importantly easily explainable to beginners.

The image you posted earlier, I do like the heavy use of localization in the face. I am curious to know, so I can stay up on industry standards, how did you build it out? I usually don’t have the luxury of a maquette so I start depending on what the final resolution is allowed to be I trace out muscles and combine them into one object before hitting a computer.


There are two separate issues here IMHO.

First, if you’re working for games you will almost certainly use normal maps, or if it’s an even less capable platform then you’ll rely on pre-painted shading in the textures. In both cases the focus should be the silhouettes and not the small surface details which will be washed out by the shading in the end. Most game studios prefer evenly spaced polygons for this and tend to cover large areas with very few edges - they want to focus the poly detail on the highly curved parts instead.

Second, anatomy shouldn’t be treated as static, one always have to keep movement in mind with characters. And there’s a lot of movement under the skin here, clavicles and scapulas and rib cages move around a lot. The way you place your edges based on that single pose can not accomodate the range of movement, the vast changes in shape that a real living creature goes through. This is mostly why every studio prefers to work with a lot of even geometry because they want to separate the anatomical structures and the flexible skin that covers them.

Localizing geometry to add detail seems to be your biggest concern as it does allow for more articulation to occur. I assure you this models topology can be turned to a higher poly mesh with more anatomical detail, with cuts and bevels. But the base form of the body deforms pretty well, since it was used in a training video. Except the forearm, it’s one area, I feel


Localizing is actually quite rare, we tend to remove the edges from the cranium to keep the model a bit lighter because that area is going to be covered with hair anyway. It does make the surface a bit bumpy so we don’t use it on other areas as much.

The models are actually quite similar to NURBS patch models of the previous decade, with the exception that we can place the poles at irregular intervals and we don’t have to pay computational and other costs to keep the patch edges stitched together, there are no cracks and we can UV map the model in whatever way we want, too.

It would be nice to push the boundaries in models in the 350K range but at some of the locations I taught it would crash the computers
yes…I know
I know.

There’s quite a range between 7,000 and 350,000 and I’m sure that there’s room for various compromises. I merely pointed out that staying that low isn’t a good idea nowadays. Also, your models are clearly subdivided which isn’t really possible in games.

The image you posted earlier, I do like the heavy use of localization in the face. I am curious to know, so I can stay up on industry standards, how did you build it out?

I’d like to note that I merely try to keep up myself, in no way do I consider our stuff to be at the front. We don’t have schedules and budgets to be the leaders in anything, we just try to learn and follow as best as we can.

Now the modeling method is simple - we start with concept sculpts for most organic stuff where an artist defines the forms and shapes, and then the modelers come in and build the geometry on top of that sculpt. Maya has Nex, 3ds max has Wrapit and the Graphite tools, there’s Topogun, 3D Coat, even Zbrush.
This way we can concentrate on the mesh itself as the artistic decisions have already been made, and the approach also makes it easy to completely rework any area without loosing the shape.

I see no reason not to start with Zbrush 3D concept sculpts any more, it just makes sense in every possible way. No wonder everyone’s doing it, even for hard surface with the new brushes in R4.


Tamas, as usual I love your response. To be honest, it was never quite clear to me before what your workflow was, so I was under the impression that you were using some kind of subdivision method and adding detail with complex edge flow.

It’s really nice to know your opinion of “best practices” in modeling. I’m going to take a look into resurfacing tools. Currently, I think that my best bet is learning good edge flow and modeling techniques. That way, when it comes time for me to use the sculpting method, I will have the skills necessary to create an accurate base mesh.

Do you agree with that?


Nice post Laa-yosh.

It’s so true. It’s hard to find a reason not to start in a 3d sculpting program anymore and then take the sculpt into topogun or something like that. And Normal maps and Displacement maps lend themselves much better to more a more even and squared out distribution of polys.