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Facial Expressions through Shape Keys in Blender

After modeling my Goth Lolita character I felt that I needed more insight into Blender character creation, rigging and animation, so I decided to purchase the book Introducing Character Animation with Blender by Tony Mullen.

introducing-character-animation-with-blender

This book is a great start point for Blender Newbies, and following Tony Muller’s instructions I could rig my character very easily.

I found the book to be pretty basic and the truth is that with exception of a few very good chapters, I didn’t learn much.

In all fairness I had already studied the book Mastering Blender (also by Tony Mullen) so maybe that’s why I found the ICAWB book to be much of the same.

I did, however, found some pretty useful lessons in this book:

 

Making Facial Expressions with Blender Shape Keys

To make these facial expressions I selected my character’s head mesh, and in the Data Tab I created a new Shape Key.

The "Basis" Shape Key stores the original position of the vertex of the mesh

The “Basis” Shape Key stores the original position of the vertex of the mesh

This Shape Key will become the Basis of the Mesh, and it will retain the original vertex position of the face.

Then I added new Shape Keys, clicking in the + icon.

The beauty of Shape Keys is that once you have created a Shape Key (other than the Basis) you can alter the position of the vertex of your mesh, and the Shape Key will store it for you.

These mesh alterations will not affect the original model (that is safely stored at the Basis Shape Key) so I could edit the mesh however I wanted without destroying my original work.

Be extra careful not to modify the mesh adding extra geometry! You must use the same number of vertex as the original mesh, or else, the whole thing will crash.
With Shape Keys you can modify the position of the vertex of your mesh and make new expressions, that will get stored and will not alter your original mesh

With Shape Keys you can modify the position of the vertex of your mesh and make new expressions, that will get stored and will not alter your original mesh

I continued creating Shape Keys, until I got a full repertoire of Facial Expressions for my Goth Lolita Character.

Facial expressions for a character made through Shape Keys in Blender

Facial expressions for a character made through Shape Keys in Blender

 

Using the Facial Expressions

Once the expressions are created and safely stored in the Shape Keys, it is possible to activate them by simply clicking on them on the Shape Key Panel.

Changing the expression by selecting Shape Keys

Changing the expression by selecting Shape Keys

These Shape Keys can be mixed to create new Facial Expressions and they can be easily animated.

If you are interested in lerning in very easy to follow steps how to model a character, rig it, make walking and running cycles and all about the Shape Keys, I recommend you to get Tony Muller’s books.

He is a great teacher and I found his works to be of great help!

 

Join the discussion

Are you a Shape Key user? Or you prefer to rig the facial features with bones?

Which method do you think works best?

Thank you for reading this post! If you liked the contents, don’t keep it to yourself… Tell your friends! Thanks to your support I can create amazing projects.

Check them out on my web/social media and tell me what you think!

See you there!

Heledahn
sara.martull@gmail.com

I am a 3D artist. I like making 3D illustrations, modeling and rigging characters and watching hundreds of movies and TV shows.

2 Comments
  • ck Kennedy
    Posted at 23:51h, 21 June Reply

    thanks for this post Sara.
    the info is basic and self explanatory. i am currently learning blender and to be sincere is that i can’t get to understand some things. i hope to share my artwork soon too.

    • Sara
      Posted at 05:38h, 21 September Reply

      You are welcome! I’m very happy you found this useful. Let me know when you share your works, I’d love to see them ????

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