A rant about MakeHuman, and how to learn how to make characters

Time and time again, i see both beginners, and even intermediate users make the same mistakes, trying to take the easy way out, and downloading models and textures online to use for their characters and access, and even as far as to generating entire worlds and calling it theirs. So i’d like to take my time and explain in detail why its a bad idea to use Makehuman, and other easy-to-generate tools so i can simply reply with this thread in the future, and also give you guys this article to do the same.


  • Why Make-human is a good tool, but also a curse if used incorrectly:

Makehuman allows you to quickly generate what is called a “base mesh”, which is simply a model where you make further adjustments in order to get the desired look you want. What Makehuman lets you do that traditional downloaded models dont, is the ability to adjust features such as height, strength, and overall profile so that you start with something closer to your end goal than you otherwise would, which can significantly cut down on tedious unproductive hours. And even though almost every single character in the AAA industry is created either this way, or by 3D scanning an actor, there are several reasons you should avoid this workflow, regardless of how convenient it may seem.

Your goal as a beginner is not to create products, its not to make a game, its to learn. The first thing you need to do, is learn all the fundamentals. What is Anatomy, Topology, Silhouette, Proportions; How does bones work, how does muscles work (yes, you should know this almost as well as a doctor…), how does skin fold? All these things should sit!

Lets take a fun example How well do you know your own hand? Look at it for a good 30 seconds, and study it. Move your fingers around, and notice how the skin around the knockes move, notice the muscles on top of your hand, you can see them contracting and expanding, move your fingers apart and notice the skin in between your fingers, how it stretches, the wrinkles on your joints, how they disappear and reappear as you close your hand.
All these things seem very obvious, you can see it, you understand it, so it must translate into your digital work right? Wrong. All though you may think you know much about your hand, there is a really good chance that you will fail if you attempt to sculpt one digitally. And a hand is something you look at daily, now imagine trying to do this with a face, or a body. You wont have any idea what you’re doing until you learn the rules for anatomy and proportions.

Lets take the hand as an example again, how far do you think it is from one join to another? - Make a guess, take a pen and paper, or photoshop/paint, whatever, and draw a hand seen from the top without looking at your own hand.


Would it ever occure to you that each joint is about half the distance form the previous join, and that the finger nail starts approximately in the middle from the last joint? If you drew the hand, which you most likely didnt, but if you did, make the measurements and check how far off you were. These things are not so easy to notice when just looking at a reference, there are a TON of rules for hands, the face, the body etc. and you need to know all these rules!

  • Why does this relate to not using Make Human?

Because you get a mesh, and dont know what to do with it! Every single change you make to that character is an uneducated guess, and will most likely end up in what we call uncanny valley. When you start out, it will look like absolute TRASH until you get the basics down, and you should start with as primitive shapes as you can until you really start to understand, THEN you can start to use base meshes. And preferably one you’ve made yourself.

  • So where to begin?

It might seem tempting, because its “easier”, but NEVER EVER start with stylised! Styalisation is the process of exaggerating certain features and proportions to get an appealing character, i mean look at Wreck it Ralph as an example, almost everything about that character is anatomically correct, but proportions have been taken completely out of wack. However, this was done by an experienced and talented artist who knows what features to play with without ruining the character.

Warship this quote, always start with realism, because that’s what everything is based on.

  • So, lets begin…
    First, pick a tool, and pick carefully, as it will affect your learning process significantly. I wont give you a recomendation. I want you to do your own research before you decide whats best for you, but personally i chose Zbrush because its the industry standard, and now that ive learned i think i made a wise choice, even though its expensive. Blender will work just as well, but lacks some tools and features that other programs has. Mudbox is another alternative, or you may even find something else that works for you.

  • Once you’ve picked a tool, do research, and do a lot of it. Its very easy to just jump into it, start with a blob, and try to get somewhere with it, but this will often result in you spending hours upon hours getting nowhere, learning nothing, and burning out.

  • Then spend a good couple days just playing with the different tools. Take a sphere, or any primitive shape, and just sculpt on it with no goal in mind, just to learn how the tools interact with the mesh. When sculpting, you should not spend any time figuring out what stroke to make to get the result you want, you should by this time know what each brush and setting does to your strokes, and you should now be able to focus 100% on anatomy and proportions.

  • Then pick something you want to make, start with a head, the body, a hand, anything, but please pick ONE thing! dont try to grasp everything at once, that will just cause you to fail and burn out again. Also be aware of what you’re practising, if its proportions, then dont do muscles and anatomy, only proportions. And if its an anatomy study, then make sure you already have the proportions down before you start. Feel free to download a model in this case, but pick one that is very plane.
    Notice that the proportions one has no hands, none of them has a face, and the anatomy one has no toes. Because these things are irrelevant to their study.
    Feel free to do poses when studying proportions, its more fun and its still educational.

  • At this point, its up to you. What workflow you’ve chosen to adapt, what tools you decide to use, weather you want to start with a sphere, or a box, or a basemesh, this is now all up to you, but please take your time, and do research! Proportions and anatomy are the most critical things to learn first. And always, ALWAYS ask for feedback! Instead of making the same mistakes over and over again, and adopting it as a habit!

And on a last note, this will take time. Dont expect to get anywhere in a week. It will most likely take you a week to learn how to use the tablet properly… Dont push yourself too hard, make sure you’re having fun. Watching streams is one way to learn and tune out at the same time. I recomend Ashly Adams [A Cubed], shes very talented, and relaxing.

And as ive said to so many people before, if your goal already is to make a game, or an epic character, then you might as well quit now, as you wont get anywhere for months, and chasing a dream will just cause you to lose patience and motivation. Dont set a goal in terms of production, set goals for learning and improvement.


This post deserves more attention.
Even when people use base meshes there are people who still screw up.

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More people need to learn anatomy! Actually I’ve found that watching makeup, and hollywood makeup videos on youtube to be very helpful as well.


Why is this not famous?

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