Facial rigging or body rigging first?


I’ve just finished this fantastic new character model, textures and all. However now I’m stuck… I don’t know if first I’m supposed to rig the face or the body.
Which one do I do first?
Thanks in advance :slight_smile:



Well, it may depend on how you’re going to rig the face. Are you going to use joints or blend shapes?

Normally, I rig the body first, but that’s just me.

Cactus Dan


I think either way you should do body first… unless face rig is like super high priority for some reason. But if you are a beginner I think its easier to get the basic rigging knowledge from rigging the body. Then when you are a little more comfortable you can get going with the face. And yes as Dan said, you should also then get a plan for if you will rig face with joints, blendshapes, curves, or a combination of those…



I’m going to use blend shapes.
Does it make any difference in the rigging workflow?


OK then I will do so.
Thanks man :slight_smile:


also a reason why you should do body first (considering you will use blendshapes for face) is that you may find discrepancies in the model topology while rigging the body, now if you already had made facial shapes youd need to transfer them over to the new topology, that can be done with the click of a button (edit blendshapes > bake topo changes to targets) but I prefer to avoid things like that and get a nice finished and working topology before doing any blendshapes.



I understand, you’re absolutely correct.
Is it me or rigging the body is a pain?

Also, let me ask you a question about non-spherical eyes:
I have a character that has oval-shaped eyes, so I used a FFD box space warp to edit them to my need.
Then I associated a CAT biped to the model through the skin modifier and tried using CAT’s automated walk cycle to test it. Look what happens to the eyes:

What should I do to keep the eyes from deforming?
Thanks a lot man :slight_smile:


Well, I don’t specialize in rigging and I assume this will depend on the software’s algorithm when doing certain things. But at least when working with rigs in Maya, I tend to rig the face first for a very specific reason. Because I work in VFX mainly, and a lot of the characters are a single mesh from to to head, I separate the facial part of the mesh and create the rig with blendshapes or whatever else I need, and then I Combine the head mesh with the body, merge it and continue with the body rig. There are a few reasons I prefer using that route.

  1. Since the facial rig is more local, this way you can use duplicates of only the face part of the mesh, without having to duplicate the whole body with it, when it comes to creating blendshapes. Nowadays you can also use the blend editor in a slightly different way, without having to duplicate the mesh at all, but I still prefer the older method because it allows for easier preview and modifications of each blendshape.

The reason that workflow requires the face to be rigged first, is due to the way Maya works with the vertices’ id’s. Because when you combine two meshes together, the Ids on one of the mesh’s vertices will keep the same values, while the ids on the other part will be changed, in order to avoid repeating Ids. The order depends on the order you select the meshes, so the last one will keep the vertex id’s. Because if you have one array of ids from 1-100 and the other mesh holds id’s from 1-150 for example, 100 of the id’s would have the same number, which wouldn’t make sense. So I assume other 3D software packages will process this in a similar way. So if you have your head rigged separately first, then you can combine the head with the body and merge the vertices, while maintaining the ready rig for the head which will work correctly.

There are a few workarounds to that, like manually adjusting the ids using a script, or using projections to reskin certain parts of the rig, but this can save a little extra time that you’d spent on doing that.

That only applies, of course, if your final mesh has to be a one piece mesh.

  1. The second reason is for better personal energy distribution throughout a project. This will depend on the situation, because sometimes you might be required in a pipeline to do the body rig first for various reasons. But generally the facial rig and animation will be more focused on by your audience than the body rig very often, and if you start by creating the facial rig first, it is likely that you will be more motivated during the first stages of the rig than later on, because you haven’t burnt out your creative fuel yet with that specific project. So while your on your energy peak, you’ll be more attentive and more creative with the rigging system, so it might be a good condition to be creating a nice facial rig.

This mainly applies to personal projects or freelance projects where you have more control over the whole workflow, and it will also depend on your character and the way your brain is wired to keep organized and motivated.

  1. Finally it can be psychologically easier to use the top down approach, because we often think of the facial rig as a more detailed and confusing rig, and the body rig sounds more natural to our mind than the facial rig for whatever reasons. So finishing the facial rig straight away, might save your new creation from being abandoned and thrown into the CG Niflheim to be forever forgotten.

So really the reasons to choose one path or the other are not absolute, and whichever way you go, the result will probably be the same and possibly even the time spent on it. Rather the reasons for using one or the other will depend on each artist’s style and workflow, as well as the requirements of the project. These are just my reasons for going for the head first very often, but your tools and workflow may vary, so you should just analyze the process and your analyze how your brain is wired, to understand which works best for you. Technically there is no right or wrong here imo.