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3D Face Model – How to Make a 3D Model of Your Face

Picture of Jaime Rios Velasco
by Jaime Rios Velasco
Apr 16, 2019
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Immortalize your face! In this article, we generally describe how to obtain a 3D face model, whether you need it for a graphical application or 3D printing!

How to Make a 3D Face Model Scanning Your Face

3D scanning a figure of a horse and a man.
3D scanning a figure of a horse and a man. Source: 3D Printing Systems

Simply put, 3D scanning is the process of turning a real-world object into a 3D virtual model. The resulting model can be used for many different application areas, including animation, architecture, and 3D printing.

3D scanning will be the key to producing a 3D model of your face. But perhaps you’re unsure about the scanning process. In that case, we’re here to tell you that it can be both easy and cheap!

Many believe, for example, that scanning equipment costs a lot of money and isn’t accessible to everyone. The truth is, you can scan objects with devices as simple as your phone! Then, preparing the 3D model can be just as simple thanks to free programs such as Meshroom.

In this article, we guide you through the process of scanning an entire human head, including the face. To that end, we’ll look at the necessary equipment, how to scan, and finally how to process the resulting model.

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How to Make a 3D Face Model Necessary Equipment

Pick your poison.
Pick your poison. Source: Jaime Rios Velasco / All3DP

There are several ways to scan your face, depending on the recording equipment you use:

  • Smartphone: Simply download an app and start scanning!
  • Xbox Kinect: Believe it or not, you can use a Kinect, from the Xbox 360 or the Xbox One, to perform 3D scanning. If that’s an option you’re interested in pursuing, you’ll want to check out our article on 3D scanning with the Kinect.
  • USB-powered webcam or camera: Naturally, you’ll additionally need a PC or laptop.
  • 3D scanner: There’s a large variety of 3D scanners out there, from budget devices to professional tools. Alternatively, if you’re comfortable working with your hands (and don’t mind saving some money), there are also quite a few DIY 3D scanners.
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How to Make a 3D Face Model Necessary Programs

Agisoft Photoscan in action.
Agisoft Photoscan in action. Source: digitalhumanities.duke.edu

Depending on the device you choose to scan with, you’ll need a particular software tool in order to start scanning:

  • Using a smartphone: As mentioned above, if you’re using a phone, you’ll need to download an app. Just bear in mind that phones with better cameras are more likely to give better results. 
  • Using the Kinect: If you’re 3D scanning with the Kinect, you have a few options. One is Skanect, a platform that’s free, simple, and easy to use.
  • Using a webcam or camera: For a generic USB webcam or camera, a number of free and paid scanning platforms exist for Windows, Mac, and Linux. If you don’t mind spending a bit of money, we recommend Agisoft Photoscan, which is available for both Windows and Mac. Meshroom, available for Windows and Linux, is a free tool but still provides good results.
  • Using a 3D scanner: Generally speaking, commercial scanners come with their own proprietary software. Therefore, if you buy or have bought a 3D scanner, directly follow the user instructions provided by the manufacturer.
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How to Make a 3D Face Model Types of 3D Scanning

A handheld 3D scanner used alongside a laptop.
A handheld 3D scanner used alongside a laptop. Source: payehberkahinimah.chefloggins.pw

At this point, it’s important to note that, for the options discussed so far, there are two types of techniques used to produce 3D models from real-world objects: photogrammetry and 3D scanning.

Photogrammetry

Photogrammetry consists of taking multiple pictures at different angles and later stitching them together. This is what’s typically done using a smartphone, webcam, or camera.

The advantages of this technique are that it requires less sophisticated equipment, doesn’t require a PC to be used simultaneously, and can be done in outdoor environments. The main drawback is that the final results aren’t generally as clean as with 3D scanning.

Moreover, photogrammetry requires a lot of processing power in order to turn photos into a 3D model. With a slow computer, this could mean a tiring process.

3D Scanning

Although the 3D scanning process might appear similar to taking pictures, what’s happening in the “background” is much different. That’s because the scanner, with the help of a PC, generates the model as it identifies points on the surface of the target object.

Some scanners can provide outstanding scan quality, and scans are done in real time without the need for heavy post-scan processing. Nevertheless, the scanning device itself typically represents an extra expense and cannot easily be used outdoors.

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How to Make a 3D Face Model How to Scan

Scanning a boy's face with a smartphone.
Scanning a boy's face with a smartphone. Source: XDA Developers

With your equipment and software ready, it’s time to start capturing your face! Again, the process depends on the particular technique you’re using.

If you’re using a smartphone, your app will likely guide you through the “scanning” process. Some more sophisticated 3D scanners might also provide some guidance.

Nevertheless, here are the basic steps:

  • First of all, you’ll need to enlist the help of someone else in order to capture your own face.
  • The 3D scanning process will likely need to be started with a button that says something like “Start Scanning.”
  • Most photo taking or recording will need to take place at a distance of 30 to 50 cm from your head. That said, follow the specific instructions of your device or software, if provided.
  • As your friend takes photos or scans, they should slowly revolve around your head, making a complete ring with the scanning device.
  • This revolving process should then be repeated at different heights.
  • Your friend can always move closer to your face if they want to capture extra detail.

In the case of photogrammetry, the more photos the better, but anything more than 40 images should be enough to produce good results. Once finished, transfer the photos to your computer in preparation for processing.

For 3D scanning, once the entire face has been covered — visible through your software — click the “stop recording” button and the scanning process will be finished. 

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How to Make a 3D Face Model Processing and Exporting the Model

A 3D face model rendered in software.
A 3D face model rendered in software. Source: motionview3d.com

Once again, this process will depend on the specific software you’re using, but it should be relatively straightforward, regardless. Programs like Skanect, Agisoft Photoscan, and Meshroom have step-by-step procedures that are very easy to follow.

Regardless of the 3D scanning technique used, most of the work should be handled by your software. The only things you might have to worry about are adjusting settings and exporting the final model.

Most platforms will offer a variety of export file formats. STL, for example, is most suitable for 3D printing.

Feature image source: Microsoft Research / YouTube

License: The text of "3D Face Model – How to Make a 3D Model of Your Face" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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