Modeling in 3D can be fun and occasionally frustrating but nothing is more painful that trying to model a face that can deform without breaking when it moves. If you are studying topology then you understand what I mean when I say that.
In my opinion, the true skill of modeling comes in when a character/object not only looks the way you’d like, but also moves the way you want. The modeling artist needs to have a thorough understanding of human anatomy and muscles as well as a basic knowledge of how bones and deformers affect topology.
Since this post is not about either anatomy or deformers, I’ll talk about topology and how one should plan out their characters.
The first step really does involve planning. Grab pencil and paper, or doodle on your tablet, but definitely doodle!
Make Expression Sheets and get to know your character well, and then draw a front-view of the face and play the topology game on it.
By that I mean you draw lines over your (awesome) drawing and figure out where the major muscles are and how they will be represented by your edge-loops when you actually model the head.
This is a good way to figure out what the major features are on your character’s face. The loops drawn here are incredibly generic and will work on almost any face, but remember, different types of features will require adjustments of where some of your loops will go.
So if your character has buggy eyes, or a huge jaw or a big nose, the topology will have to change to accommodate the exaggeration.
This is also why expression sheets are important because they help you figure out what things are going to need to move more and what things will hamper deformation.
Once that is done and you have your front and side orthographic drawings complete, you can load them into your viewport cameras and use them as reference to start modeling the head.
I’m a fan of the Box Modeling method but it is probably the oldest method to start with. There are many other techniques to model faces with and they are easily found elsewhere on the web. I think they are all equally valid ways to develop character models.
I like this technique because I feel it gives me more control over what I create.
Anyways, here are 2 videos to help you try your hand at Box modeling.
The shorter video is just to demonstrate the placement of edgeloops on the face while the longer one is a more detailed process.
Go with whichever works better for your level of expertise. Good luck!