Your Character Portrait

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Through casual chit-chat with several long-time players it has come to my attention that there are people out there unhappy with the way their character looks. The visual design aspect of character creation in EVE is absolutely fantastic. You have the ability to create a truely beautiful character. Unfortunately, with all the intricate details at your finger tips, to the inexperienced, or those in a rush, this can spell disaster. Since developing a character in EVE requires real time, rather than buckling down and grinding, you're going to be in it for the long-haul if you decide to stick around, and you don't want the weight of an ugly face on your shoulders.

I've split this guide into two parts. The first is designed to go over the basic yet important areas that decide whether your face is going to be something of beauty or something terrible, as well as how to add a bit of personality to your avatar. The second expands on the idea of personality, while stressing the importance of subtle changes.


Part 1

To set this up, I have chosen a Caldari Deteis Male as our subject, and have randomly morphed his face.

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The first thing you need to do is remove as many distractions as possible and make the face clear. Straighten the head and align the body and eyes so that everything is facing forward. Adjust the lighting so that the facial features are well lit. That is where we will be focusing first.

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The bottom right part of the screen contains four boxes. These control the shape of the head, jaws, eyes, and mouth respectively. I put them in two groups, the first containing the head and jaws, as this sets the defining background. No amount of work can save a poorly shaped head. Too long, and you lose any appreciable human characteristics.

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Too short and stubby, and you're left with something very dull. You wouldn't want to make friends with someone who looked like this.

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After finding a happy medium, the jaws come next. This slider controls the chin width, cheek bones, and the shape of the skin between them and the jaws far more than the actual shape and width of the jaw bone itself, and this is worth remembering. You may find yourself selecting the most desirable head shape, but feeling that it is too thin, or the chin is too large. Play around more with the jaw slider than with the head slider. A good human head has rounded edges. Cheek bones are round and set a shape, but do not protrude. The cheeks themselves should not be sunken in else the character ends up looking emaciated. As with the head, you're looking for a happy medium. Something nice and clean to work with.

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Once the bone structure has been perfected, the fun begins. The second group of sliders is all about conveying a facial expression. The eyes slider controls eyebrows as well as the shape of the eyes themselves, while the mouth slider also controls the shape of the nose. This is where you'll really want to spend most of your focus on, as the most subtle movement can make or break your character's look. I've butchered our poor model to stress this point, and he doesn't look too happy about it.

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Here are a couple of things to remember: - Eyes squint when smiling. If someone's eyes don't squint when they smile, it's usually not authentic. - The shape of the nose is vital, as it is the focal point of any face. - This part of the creation tends to drag and smear the face around rather than letting you truly arrange pieces individually. Because of this, you're going to want to focus intently on subtle changes.

If you want your character to smile, find an area where the nose looks good, and then very gently move the slider up and down. Only the edges of the mouth have to rise to convey a smile. Subtle is the key word here. I have decided to give our model a slightly evil grin. Not the maniacal kind attributed to loons, but more the cold, cunning smirk of someone who knows a bit more than the next guy. This comes about by moving the slider just a bit from the straight face so the corners of the mouth rise. I've also slightly tilted the head down to enhance this effect. The eye balls will stay looking in whatever direction you set them to, regardless of the position of the rest of the head.

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The features are complete. Nothing drop-dead astonishing, but remember that this is the face your enemy will see whenever they click "Show info" Better to have a face people can appreciate than one which causes people to shake their head in dismay. Time to move on to the next set of details. I've chosen darker hair and a dark costume to further underline the slightly-evil grin theme, along with a quick scar. Again, nothing major, but at the same time, nothing laughable.

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Or perhaps you'd prefer to go with something a bit more exotic? Brazilian, perhaps.

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Let's push the evil grin a bit further and bring this chap as close to Hitler as possible.

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Another deciding factor in the quality of your character portrait is the background. Clutter behind the head will prevent it from being defined as the main focal point. You're at the stage where you can either let your character fall into the background and become part of the jumble, or take advantage of some of the less detailed backdrops to really push the face forward.

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The last, but arguably second most vital step next to the actual facial expression, is lighting. Lighting does amazing things to a face. You can make the same head look completely different depending on where you choose to position your light sources and which colours you decide to use. Certain facial features can be brought out or hidden solely by the lighting. The image below is exactly the same as the one above, but the light has changed. The character's forehead just above the eyebrows is more prominent and textured, while his left eye/eyebrow appears to look quite lower than before.

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Unfortunately, a poor lighting choice can ruin a portrait. The adjusted lighting on the image below now enhances the shadows of the eyebrow bone structure, and adds a nice shadow just below the eyes in the crook of the nose, but it's just not nearly dynamic enough to fit the facial expression.

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Let's go for something in between. We've got shadow under the eyes, and a light coming down from the top left to add some contour while still keeping that nice forehead texture. Coupled with the red glare from the lower right which draws a strong outline along the nose, chin, and cheek, this lighting choice has added a nice helping of malevolence without going over the top.

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A good character portrait goes a long way to setting you above the flock of boring, unimaginative assholes who have no respect for the wonder that is EVE character creation.


Part 2

In the second part of this guide, we're going to focus a bit more on head positioning as a method of adding an extra bit of personality to your portrait. I've chosen to use a Minmatar Female as our model this time. We're in for a treat lads.

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Jesus Christ maybe not! Okay, it's alright, we can fix this. One step at a time...Step one, align.

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Now to remove some distractions. The lighting is good, but that bald head...well, it has to go. Pick some stuff at random if what you start with is too horrible to stomach.

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Time to get down to business. The female face can be really beautiful if you pay attention to the small details. In my opinion, this face needs to be a tiny bit shorter, with just a tiny bit more in the cheeks to make it nicely rounded. This change involved moving the jaw slider about two pixels to the right.

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Let's hook her up with an expression now. One of coy self-assurance, perhaps? A slight raise to the edges of the mouth and an equally slight squint to the eyes, and bam. This is the sort of look we like to see staring us down from the other side of the bar, right?

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We're going to play around with tilting and adjusting the direction of the face. This can either work in our favour or it can compromise the whole image. Do not make your female character ugly by tilting her head in the following way!

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We want her looking sexy, not fifty. Instead, tilt it slightly to the side and over just a bit. Subtle changes and real attention to detail are what make a portrait great.

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Her eye's a bit cocked. As I said before, the eye balls will continue to point in whatever direction you choose regardless of how you move the head. Let's adjust that slightly, and give her some decoration. I'm going with the hot goth look here, minus the shitty poetry and cutting. On female characters, this part of development is very important. Lipstick, much like lighting, can make the mouth look very different depending on the colour and shade. Eyes are also important. The direction of your character's eyes serve several purposes. First they determine where the character is focusing. Often you can convey a lot of power by having the eyes off-set, implying that your character is looking past or ignoring the viewer. Looking straight forward is very confrontational, but only really works when you specifically design a head that will be looking straight ahead too. Off-set eyes add yet another level to the detail of your face. They also serve to direct the viewer's attention. A basic but important rule in all visual art is to use angles and directional lines in the image to direct the viewer's eyes, and lead the focus around the image. This rule applies well to eyes in EVE character creation, as the viewer's eyes will move in the direction of the character's eyes once they've finished taking in the facial details. I believe the selection of eyes with large pupils, while limited, looks better than the small-pupil/vivid-colour grouping. Regardless of the millions of people who say the first thing they notice about someone else is their eyes, in this instance, you won't be focusing on them much. Large pupils with dark colours make it easier to convey which direction the character's looking, while not distracting the viewers attention.

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Background and lighting. I've chosen a background with a bit more bang to really push her into the foreground, but have picked a horrible light position. Look at what it's done to her forehead! Her soft skin has been replaced by something unspeakable, and the overall effect is too strong to ignore.

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We could go with something a lot darker, and add some mystery to this beauty.

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But personally I find soft colours compliment the darker qualities of her hair, clothing, and makeup. Soft is a good rule for designing a pretty female portrait. Don't forget the skin textures. Lighting can have a strong effect on them too. Play around with both together to find a good pairing.

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When I first started playing this game I spent quite a few hours making pretty girls, and I'm not afraid to admit it.

I hope this has helped to inspire you somewhat. I often find myself judging people by their character portraits, and I'm sure others out there do the same. If this is your first character, don't pass up the opportunity to create a pretty face in favor of getting out into space right away. You'll end up either hating every time you have to click on your Character Information to change skills, or spending money down the road to change your portrait. Fair enough to those who want to make gimmick uglies, as long as your satisfied when the way you look. If there is one thing I'd have you take from this guide, it would be the fact that subtle changes really make the difference between an O.K. portrait and a really nice one. Don't go crazy, and spend some time experimenting. Move those sliders around to see the extremes, and then work on avoiding them. Good luck pilot.

-Tetsujin