Head Tutorial

by Desdemona

This tutorial is written for Paint Shop Pro. It’s supposed to help you getting started on making heads for the sims, and hopefully it can be a guide and inspiration. It goes through some of the techniques that I use, when I make a head. However, don’t think of it as a complete guide, feel free to pick and choose from it as you like. That’s what I do anyway, and I always like to try out new techniques and get inspiration from other peoples work.


Here’s what you need before you start:
SimShow: Program by Maxis, that you use to view your skins in 3D as you work. Or you can just use SimPose.
A good graphics program: I use Paint Shop Pro myself. The program must be able to handle layers and have shadowing tools. Lots of people use Photoshop as well.
SimPose: If you want really great looking pics of your finished skin, this program is the one!
“The do’s and dont’s of skinning – what every Sim artist should know”: This is something I wrote to help you get started right without stepping on any toes. Contains all the unwritten rules of the sims community… Read it before you start.

Content of this tutorial:

1. Creating a base
2. Getting the file ready
3. Eyes and eyebrows
4. Mouth
5. Hair
6. Shading
7. Making 3 skintones


Making a head:


1. Creating a base

You want to start with a base head to get the skin tone and face right. Just drawing on top of a Maxis head limits your options for making a unique looking face, so I create my own ‘faceless’ bases to start from. Feel free to just grab my bases, they fit the C001 heads, come in all skintones (including the pale one) and in both male and female. Click on the pic to download.

If you’d like to make your own bases or if you’re using a mesh that doesn’t fit the C001 format, here’s how you do it:
Start with a maxis face (ONLY maxis, don’t steal from another sim artist!) that fits your mesh. You can check this out in SimShow if you’re not sure.
Open the .bmp in Paint Shop Pro and choose Colors -> increase color depth -> 16 mio colors. This allows you to use all colors and all tools in PSP.
Then paint over the eyes and mouth, using the color picker on the face to get the right skin color. Leave the nose and ears, no need to draw that from scratch.
Finally use the Retouch – Smudge tool to blend the color nicely into the skin and finish with the Retouch – Soften tool.

And here’s your base. You might want to remove some of the hair too, depending on the mesh.
You can use the same base for all your faces, so remember to save it before you add the face.


2. Getting the file ready

Open the base head in one skin tone. A C001 head will do for most meshes, eg. all Fionn’s real hair meshes. If the color palette to your right doesn’t contain all colors, choose Colors -> increase color depth -> 16 mio colors. This allows you to use all colors and all tools in PSP.
Now open the bases in the other skin tone. Copy the image and paste it onto the first base as a seperate layer (choose Edit -> paste -> as new layer). Do the same thing with the remaining skin tone. Now you should have an image with three layers.
To keep yourself from getting confused, you can rename the layers by right-clicking them in the Layer Palette. Name the light base ‘light’ and so on, this will make things much simpler as you go along. Here’s how the Layer Palette should look, this is with the pale skintone included:

Keeping each skintone as a different layer will make it much easier to make heads in all skintones. You can skip this step if you only want to work with one skin tone, but you still have to keep the base as a seperate layer.

Now you save you work as a .psp file. This allows you to keep the layers intact. You might as well name the file correctly from the start in stead of having to rename the file later.
The first part of the file name is a code that will tell the game which mesh to use and the age, gender and skintone of that sim, so it’s important to get it right. The part after the ‘_’ is the name you give the head. Here’s how the ‘code’ is made:


The first letter is ‘B’ for body or ‘C’ for head.
The three numbers following is the number of the mesh fx. ‘710’ or ‘001’.
Then there’s a gender/age code: ‘FA’ means female adult, ‘MA’ means male adult, ‘FC’ means female child, ‘MC’ means male child and ‘UC’ means universal child (both male and female).
The texture (the .bmp file) also has one more code for skincolor: ‘lgt’ is light, ‘med’ is medium and ‘drk’ is dark.
The part that comes after the code is the name. It’s separeted by an ‘_’ so it’s easy to tell apart. The name is up to you to decide.
Basically, your head must have the same code as the mesh you’re using plus ‘lgt’, ‘med’ or ‘drk’ (use the ‘lgt’ for pale skins as well) and then add your own name after the ‘_’. I’m using the mesh C1k2fa_battie by FrillySims for this tutorial, so I’ll name my head ‘C1k2falgt_desdTutorial’ – when I do the other skin tones I’ll just have to replace the ‘lgt’ with ‘med’ or ‘drk’. If I decide on another mesh, I’ll just have to replace ‘1k2’ in the name with something else.

IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT SAVING YOUR FILE: To get your file to work with The Sims and SimShow you must save it as a bitmap (.bmp) file in 256 colors. But because the .bmp format doesn’t support layers, you will have to work in .psp format. This means that you save your work as .psp, then decrease the color depth to 256 colors (colors -> decrease color depth -> 256 colors) and save it as a .bmp – I use the Maxis/SimShow/GameData/Textures folder. When you’ve checked out your head in SimShow, just open the .psp file and continue working from that. That way you’ll never loose the layers you’ve created.


3. Eyes and eyebrows

I start by making a seperate layer for the eyes (choose Layers -> new raster layer) and name that layer Eyes. Now I draw the outline of the eye using a dark color and a paintbrush size 1. I draw the iris and pupil and fill out the rest with a whitish color (not too bright). This will be a rough drawn eye. Then I set the opacity of the paintbrush to 20 and draw along the outline of the eye to give a smoother impression and also under the top lashes for shadow. Then I use the Retouch – Soften tool with a low opacity around the outline and iris to soften the lines and blend the colors.

The shape and size of the eye and how much you soften will depend on the look you want, so just try different styles. Get inspiration from checking out other heads.
When you’ve finished one eye, just select the eye using the Selection tool, copy and paste it (Edit -> paste -> as new selection) and flip it (Image -> mirror).

Before I do the brows I check the position of the eyes by pasting a maxis face as a new layer. I drag that layer in the Layer Palette so it goes underneath the eyes I’ve just made. Well, it looks like they’re placed OK…

Then I just make that layer invisible again, I can use it for the right positioning of the mouth later if I want to.

The eyebrow I do pretty much the same way: I make a seperate layer called Eyebrows. First I do a rough outline, then smoothen it along the edges using a brush with low opacity and finally soften it a bit. I only do one eye brow as well, and then copy, paste and mirror it when I’m done.

The next thing I do is some makeup and shading around the eyes. Again, the color, shape and intensity of the makeup and shading is what makes that face unique, so just try out different things.
Ok, I make a new layer, draw some eyelids and shading with a dark brownish color using a brush with low opacity. The parts I want to be darkest I go over several times with the brush.
Then I choose a color (or just dark brown) for the makeup, lowers the brush opacity even more but increases the size. I do the makeup, and again I go over the areas I want to be darkest several times. (At this point I found out that I was drawing on top of the eyes (doh!), so I moved the makeup layer down by dragging it in the Layer Palette.)
When I’m happy with the make up I do the copy, paste and mirror thing.

New layer for the mouth.

I start by drawing the rough shape of the mouth. (The mesh might tweek it, so it can be a good idea to check it out in SimShow at this point, just to see how big it is.) Then I draw a darker line to part the lips.

And because I’m lazy 😉 I then use Effects -> blur -> gaussian blur… on it. This will smoothen it nicely.

Then I grab the Retouch tool. I use both the darken RGB and the lighten RGB for this, both in a very low opacity.

First I use the darken tool; a bit around the mouth, more at the sides and at the bottom, and also quite a lot between the lips.
Then I use the lighten tool in the midle of each lip; I put the most highlight on the lower lip.

Nice. Now she looks like this:

And like this in SimShow:

(Note: Remember to save your file as .psp before saving as .bmp. Otherwise you won’t be able to go back and edit or add to each layer. The .bmp file format is only used for viewing your head, not for the actual making of it as it doesn’t support layers.)


5. Hair

I find the hair the most tricky part. It’s not easy to make good looking hair, but practing and experimenting with different techniques helps a lot I think…
You can just use the easy solution and cut and paste some hair from a Maxis head (Maxis ONLY, don’t steal hair from other sim artists heads!), and maybe change the color if you want to. But hey, this is a tutorial, so we’re doing it the hard way. That way you’ll get a more unique look too, allthough cutting and pasting from Maxis can work just fine as well. It’s up to you really…

Before I start on the hair I find a head in SimShow that looks good on my mesh. I do this because different meshes have different texture mapping, i.e. uses the same bitmap differently. So one kind of hair shading may look good on one mesh and crappy on another. It doesn’t have to be a Maxis head that I find to fit the mesh, because I’m just gonna look at it, I’m not gonna use parts of the bitmap.
For this mesh, C1k2fa_battie by FrillySims, I find one of my own heads look ok.

I then open that head texture in PSP, to check out how the hair is done. (Just to make it clear I’ve drawn lines to show you the direction of the hair, you don’t have to actually do this.) Now I know how to draw the lines on my hair to make it look good on the mesh.

Now I start with my own hair. I make a new hair layer. I pick a color, draw the outlines of the hair and fill out the rest with the same color. (At this point it might be a good idea to check out the head in SimShow to make sure the hair is right).
When the outlines of the hair is right I select the hair only. This way I won’t have to worry about drawing outside the hair. One way to do this is by using the Magic Wand selection tool and clicking where there is no hair. This should select everything but the hair. Then choose Selections -> invert. (This method works even when the hair is in different colors and the shading is done.)
Then I pick a darker color and draw on some lines. (The lines can be thick or thin, one straight line or lots of small strands or even curly, and the drakness may vary. This is entirely up to you.)
I now pick a color a bit lighter but still dark and make more thin lines. At this point I use the Retouch – Soften tool on the thick lines.

Keeping the selection on I use Effects -> blur -> gaussian blur… on the hair.

For the rest I use only the Retouch tool darken RGB and lighten RGB, using different brush sizes and opacities. Soften and smudge may come in handy as well depending on the look you want, but I’m not gonna use them for this tutorial.
First I use lighten with a big brush and a low opacity and draw some highlight across the hair lines. The position of the highlights depends on the mesh.
Then I use the darken tool with a small brush and a high opacity along the hair lines.
I lower the opacity and use a larger brush and make some areas slightly darker; I do this both along the lines and across the lines in some areas.
I finish by going back to the lighten tool and making light streaks along the hair lines. I may switch even more back and forth between the lighten and darken until I’m satisfied.

Now I check out the hair in SimShow.

If I don’t like the hair at this point I have some options besides starting all over again… Changing the brightness/contrast can make a lot of difference (choose Colors -> adjust -> brightness/contrast)


6. Shading

Adding extra shading or color to the face is totally optional. I do it with some of my faces, but not all of them.

Again I make a new layer for the shading. Shading to the face can look better when you use the lighten/darken tools directly on the skin, but I want my head in all three skin tones, so I’ll just do it as a seperate layer.

I start by picking a dark color (rember that it must appear dark on all three skintones), use a fairly big paintbrush and set the opacity very low. I change the size of the paintbrush as I work, and I go over the areas that I want to be darkest several times. I exaggerate the shading a bit, because I can always turn down the opacity of the entire layer later.
When the shading is right I go over it with the Retouch – Soften tool with a high opacity.
Then I pick a color, dark red for this head and add some color to the cheeks, still using the paintbrush with a low opacity. I might use the soften tool again.
Then I turn down the opacity of the layer in the Layer Palette, until I get the look I want.


7. Making 3 skintones

My head is finished and all the features are done as seperate layers. All I have to do now is making the light toned layer invisible and make sure the head bases are placed correctly in the Layer Pallete – and voila, the skin tone has changed.

I like to make some adjustments on the other skin tones before I save them though. I make the most changes to the dark skintone.

I use the Colors -> adjust -> hue/saturation/lightness on each layer (except the base): I make the brows and eyes darker, and for the makeup, mouth and shading I change the saturation as well. This step is optional , but I think it makes a lot of difference.
Especially with the dark face you can see the difference. Now all you have to do is change the ‘lgt’ in the filename to ‘drk’ and ‘med’ when you save them as bitmaps, and they’re ready to go.

All done and ready to use in your game 🙂