I love to explore the relationship between the fictional worlds we create for movies, books, games, etc. and the real world.
Skyrim and Character Customization
Arguably one of the best features of Bethesda's role-playing games is the amount of control they give you to customize your character's appearance. This tutorial will help you understand your own personal definition of beauty and what goes into creating good-looking characters.
It might seem surprising that I spend so much time on theory in this article instead of telling you where to set the sliders, but let's be honest: the sliders aren't the problem; what's preventing you from creating the characters you want is not the sliders or the presets, but a general lack of awareness of what constitutes beauty for you as an individual. With the right understanding and a bit of practice, you can make any Skyrim character much more attractive.
If You've Already Started Playing . . .
Have you already started playing but want to change how your character looks? If you are on PC, you can follow this guide to safely change your character: How to Change Your Appearance and Name. (Just don't try changing their race!)
Why Appearance Matters
Character customization is not a trivial feature in a role-playing game. In a linear game where you play as a character created by a writer and follow that character's progress, your bond is formed through the story. A good writer can help you identify with the character through sympathy, well-written dialogue, and commonly shared values.
In a role-playing game, where the developers allow you to create your own character and write your own story, they can't count on a writer to create your identification with any particular viewpoint. They have given up some (but not all) control over to you and your character.
You must learn to identify with your avatar, at least in part, by customizing your character's appearance. By being able to create the character you envision, you are able to take something from your imagination and place it in the world created by the developers. You participate in that world. This participation creates an instant bond of identification and is a primary means of immersion. If you have trouble creating exactly the kind of character that you want to create, it can cause a loss of immersion.
One of the characteristics that many people imagine their characters possessing is great physical beauty. Who doesn't want to be able to play a character who is not only physically or mentally superior to their ordinary selves, but also much better looking? If you have trouble creating beautiful characters in Skyrim, this guide will show you a few things that you can do to increase your ability to model the characters of your dreams. First off, here are a few tips and tricks.
Character Creation: Tips and Trips
Understanding beauty requires both observational skills and an understanding of theory, which will be discussed below. That's pretty much all you need in order to create more attractive characters. Nevertheless, here are a few practical tips that will help you get started:
- Sliders: For a quick, easy, conventionally beautiful appearance, set all of the sliders controlling the shape and size of a feature to the middle and slide all of the textures to the left. This will give you a well-proportioned character with a good complexion. This can serve as a good template for making changes. You'll still have to pick an appealing nose, eyes and lips, but leaving all of your sliders in the middle will generally eliminate odd stretching. For some people, this will be enough. This works with all races.
- Start Out Bald: Get rid of the hair. When you start creating your character, set the hairstyle to bald or shaved. This will allow you to focus on the features without being distracted by extraneous details. A good looking character will look good with any kind of hair, so don't worry about it before you have to.
- Start With a Clean Face: For the same reason, get rid of the war paint, scars and make-up. Like hair, these elements will just distract you from your primary objective. Leave them until the end.
- De-Emphasize Orc Features: Orcs are distinguished by their overemphasized jaws, noses and brows, so to make them 'more attractive' to humans, you want to tone those features down. For females, you want to offset their masculinity by giving them more delicate features. Most of the time, if you want to make a non-human face more attractive to you, as a human, make the features more human.
- Decide on Human vs. Animal: For beast races, start by deciding whether you want something on the 'human' pole of the spectrum or the 'animal' pole. If you want a more human-looking character, eliminate exaggerated features. If you want a more animal-like character, exaggerate features. Drawing out the nose is usually a good way to make them more animal-like. The beast races (Argonians and Khajiit) are different enough from human faces that I can't really offer any good suggestions beyond that; whether or not a cat-person or lizard-person is 'beautiful' is highly subjective.
- Be Particular With Elves: For elves, widen the face, shorten the chins and pick smaller eyes and noses. Elven faces tend to be long and thin with exaggerated features (big eyes, long noses) which account for their unique appearance. Elves and orcs present special problems because they are similar enough to humans that their unusual geometry can easily lead to the creation of ugly characters, but not different enough (like the beast races) to be left to whimsy. Honestly, these are the hardest races to 'get right' (though see my screenshots for a few examples of 'better' and 'worse'). The dark elves, in particular, are hard to make attractive owing to an undesirable emphasis on 'bags under the eyes'. (You can correct this with a mod on the Skyrim Nexus if they bother you. See the next section.)
- Don't Be Too Idealistic: Don't try to create that 'ideal face' on your first try. Take some time to get comfortable with the sliders.
- Don't Be Afraid of Sharp Contrast: Don't be afraid to push the sliders to the extreme. Sometimes certain features only become well-defined when contrasted sharply with others.
- Think About Race: Pick a race that provides the kind of presets you want. This really depends on which is more important to you: your race or your appearance. You can create a beautiful character in any race, but if there is a very specific look you are going for, you may want to choose the race that has the closest-matching preset. Nords tend to have very angular jaws, Imperials tend to have squarer jaws and Bretons tend to have very round features.
- Pay Attention to Little Details: At the same time, beautiful faces are more often created in inches than miles. Once you have a general shape that you like, often all it takes to take a face from average to extraordinary is a large number of small tweaks.
- Go Easy on Facial Cosmetics. When it comes to war paint and makeup, very often, less is more. Subtle tones tend to provide softer, more natural appearances. That doesn't mean there's never a time or place for bold colors, but they should be reserved for creating striking effects, not used as a way to make your character 'better looking'.
- Step Away From Your Creation: Sometimes, in the heat of inspiration we lose our objectivity and a face that seems original and inspiring at the moment of creation is often too extreme for us to appreciate when we sit down to role-play the following day. Generally, if you wait a day after creating your character, you will have enough perspective to correct any over-exuberant choices you made. Obviously, this only works if you can edit your character later as PC users can. If you are on a console, I recommend you wait an hour before finalizing your character. Get up, do something else for a while and then go back to it. Even an hour can make a huge difference. If it seems like a hassle, just remember: you might be playing this character for hundreds of hours. One hour isn't going to kill you and will pay off handsomely. (Pun intended.)
The Subjectivity of Beauty
This might seem like strange advice, but an important place to start is getting to know your personal definition of beauty. Don't assume that you already know what you like. You may know who you think is attractive, but think about why you think they're attractive. Many people are much less consciously aware of what they find attractive than they think they are.
Pop culture promotes all sorts of stereotypes about physical beauty. Big eyes and full lips, for example, are often exaggerated in cartoons to denote female beauty. These features are, indeed, attractive on many women for many people; but do the people you find attractive actually possess these characteristics?
When I first started studying faces, I was surprised by how often my preconceptions (what I thought I thought was beautiful) failed to match my observations (what actually attracted my interest). As a teenager, I had always assumed that big eyes and full lips were what I found attractive in women, and that women who possessed these features would be more attractive to me. When I sat down and started comparing features I discovered, much to my surprise, that many of the women I found most attractive possessed neither of these features. In fact, many of them had smaller than average eyes and lips.
The point of this personal anecdote: If you don't know what you actually find attractive, you may be customizing your characters to match your preconceptions instead of your desires. This doesn't mean that these features are unattractive—the characters you make following your preconceptions will no doubt still be attractive to you—but they will lack that special quality that you associate with beauty and will fail to live up to your expectations.
How Do YOU Define Beauty?
To create a truly beautiful character, you must discover your own personal definition of beauty.
- Look at Pictures: The best way to do this is to find pictures of many different men or women that you find attractive and start taking notes. Try to get pictures that show them looking straight forward, profile views and three-quarter views.
- Pay Attention to the Frontal View: Study the shape of the head from the front. Is it round, square, rectangular, oval? Is the chin pointed or flat? How wide are their jaws? Does the jaw slope steeply from the chin to the base of the ear, or is it flat and square? Notice how the slope of the jaw from the side view affects the shape of the jaw from the front. A steep, sloping jaw will result in a more triangular appearance for the chin from the front.
- Notice the Cheekbones: What about the cheekbones? Are they high or low? Are they wide or narrow? Are they prominent or subdued? High cheekbones are another one of those cultural stereotypes. They are beautiful on many people, but there are many equally beautiful people who have rather undefined cheeks.
- Forehead Size Matters Too: Also, notice the size of the forehead. The forehead is one of those areas that no one notices unless something looks 'off.' Skyrim doesn't really give you any control over this, but is useful to know about.
- Don't Forget About Facial Features: Now, pay attention to facial features. Now that you've examined the broad, framing elements of the face, let's take a look at the features that tend to get the most notice: eyes, noses and mouths. (Skyrim doesn't give you any control over your ears, so we won't even go there.)
- Eyes: Do the people you find attractive have large or small eyes? Do their eyes slant up or down as they approach the nose? How about as they approach the edge of the face? Are they spaced close together or far apart? Do they sit high, close to the brow, or low? Are they deep-set, or bulging?
- Nose: What shape of the nose is most attractive to you? Is the bridge shallow or deep? Is it straight, curved or hooked? Is the nose long or short? Does it extend down close to the lips, or is it more petite? Is the tip of the nose rounded or pointy? Are the nostrils broad or narrow? Do they have a tilt? Noses are wonderfully complex shapes and a great source of interest in a face. Unfortunately, they are also very hard to get right. Skyrim doesn't give you a lot of control over specific features (not as much as Oblivion) but it is still good to know what you are looking for so you can find the best match from the available options.
- Mouth/Lips: Mouths can be just as complex as noses. It's not as simple as just bigger or smaller. Lips come in a wide variety of shapes, so it's a good idea to take a careful look at the shapes that you like. Some lips are long and thin, others short and pouty. Very often, one lip hangs out farther than the other. One may be full while the other thin. Many have graceful curves but many are almost formless. The appearance of the lips in Skyrim is controlled by three sliders: Mouth Shape, Mouth Forward and Chin Forward, which controls the overbite/underbite. Like the nose, Skyrim doesn't give you a lot of control over the way your character's mouth appears, but understanding the different shapes will help you pick one that works.
Studying facial anatomy will help you identify the different features of an interesting face. Many of these features are customizable in the character creation screen in-game. The ones that aren't will at least tell you why you can't create a certain look that you're going for.
One thing you will probably notice as you study these faces is that many of them have very different features. It might be hard for you to identify a single set of features that you like. You may find that one person you find attractive may have features in direct opposition to the features of another, equally attractive person. You may also find when you sit down to create your character that certain features, which you find attractive in isolation, don't work very well when combined together. (I refer to this affectionately as the 'Frankenstein effect'.)
This happens because every face is defined not only by the individual features that go into it, but by the balance or harmony that exists between them. If the balance is good, the face 'works' and is attractive to you. If it doesn't, the face fails to be attractive even though it may possess attractive features. That's part of the reason why different people find different people attractive. Fortunately, when creating your character, you only have to worry about pleasing one person: yourself.
How to Create a Well-Proportioned Face
- Tweaking Features: If you think about the overall shape of a person's face as the canvas, you will find that you need to make the individual elements that you have selected as attractive work within the confines of this surface. Big eyes and big lips won't work together on a face that is the wrong shape—there simply won't be enough room and the face will look cartoony. The same thing can happen if you choose features that are too small. But combining two very different features, for example, very big eyes with very small lips, can result in equally odd results.
- Finding a Balance: A certain harmony has to exist between these features. Choosing larger eyes, for example, may require that you choose slightly larger lips and a slightly larger nose to provide balance. However, depending on the size and shape of the head, you may find that this doesn't work, and you might have to scale the eyes down slightly to get a good result. (Skyrim doesn't let you scale the eyes--or many other features--directly like you could in Oblivion, unfortunately, so often your only choice is to choose different eyes.)
Balancing features is a very iterative activity. Every time you adjust something, you'll find that you have to adjust something else to accommodate it. Often, the only difference between an okay face and a beautiful face is a few small tweaks.
Too much tweaking, however, can result in something I call 'mannequin face': after hours of tweaking, the face no longer looks human, but like a mask or some sort of creepy doll. When this happens, I sometimes have to start all over again from scratch.
A good way to avoid mannequin face is to get to know how the different sliders work and how different features work together before you sit down to create your masterpiece.
- Again, Understand Balance: Mannequin face is often a result of failing to understand balance, and how the different sliders interact. If you widen the jaw, it's going to have an impact on how the mouth looks, and probably the eyes as well because it's going to affect the relationship between them. The same thing happens when you adjust the cheekbones. Nothing exists in isolation.
- Everything Is Connected: By the same token, because a head mesh is composed of a limited number of polygons, if you stretch one area of the face, it's going to have an impact on another area. In Oblivion, this impact could be quite significant, and it was very easy to create grotesque monstrosities at the push of a slider. In Fallout 3, Bethesda corrected this by creating presets and reducing the number of sliders. The result was less control over the final appearance of your character, but it also made it much, much harder to create an ugly avatar.
Skyrim uses basically the same system as Fallout 3. In Skyrim, it is relatively easy to create an attractive character, but you have somewhat less freedom than you had in Oblivion. Nevertheless, since the head meshes use more polys, even without all of the control of Oblivion, most of your characters are going to look better, and look closer to what you imagine. Many of the presets in Skyrim, in fact, are fine just the way they are. But it is always possible to create more attractive characters by learning how to use the sliders.
The Makeover Challenge
One good way to learn how to use the sliders is to experiment with features you don't typically find attractive. Pick a feature that you wouldn't ordinarily pick and try to make a beautiful face that includes that feature. This takes the focus away from creating some abstract ideal and places it on learning how to balance different features. After doing this a few times, you will probably discover that you can create a beautiful character using any feature.
If you really want to test yourself and grow as a face sculptor, I recommend you try the Makeover Challenge: pick the ugliest preset you can find in the game and turn it into something beautiful.
I've done that here with three faces Dark Elf 1 (above), Wood Elf 9 (below) and one of the Orc presets (below).
The Wood Elf 9 preset is, in my opinion, the ugliest preset in the game. Many of the less attractive presets are simply wrinkled and easy fix with a quick tug on the Complexion slider. The Wood Elf 9 preset, however, looks more like a wooden mask than a living character. (To be honest, I'm surprised by some of the presets they've included and can only assume that they have intentionally made them unattractive to encourage you to customize them. It certainly worked on me!)
Engaging in these kinds of experiments will help you refine your skill with the sliders and will teach you about many different kinds of beauty. More importantly, they may lead to some fresh and surprising characters that you would otherwise never have discovered.
If you're playing on PC, you can improve the appearance of your characters in significant ways by downloading mods.
Most beautification mods use file replacement to achieve their effects: replacing the diffuse, normal, or specular maps, for example. Some use other techniques, like making all eyes or hair available to every race.
A great place to find mods is the Skyrim Nexus. In particular, I recommend the following:
- Detailed Faces, by Xenius: Increases the resolution of the diffuse maps.
- High-Quality Eyes, by Xenius: Replaces the diffuse maps used for the eyes. Makes a much bigger difference to your character's appearance than you might think.
- Detailed Lips, by Xenius: Increases the detail in the lips.
- No More Blocky Faces, by Xenius: Improves the normal map by removing compression artifacts in the original files.
- Detailed Bodies, by Xenius: Increases the resolution of the body textures. Hands and shoulders, for example, will look much crisper.
- Beauty Faces for Females, by necKros: Replaces the female face textures. An alternative to Detailed Faces.
- Less Harsh Elves, by Amanda LaPalme: Removes the wrinkles and bags under the eyes from elves.
- Better Females, by Bella: This is a skin replacer. Good if you want your characters to look a little more glamorous.
- Younger Females, by Chanon: This is another skin replacer. Removes most of the lines in the faces without making the skin look too airbrushed. Gives women a softer look.
- Proporsia, by Zonzai: Proporsia is a character save with proportions set to 'scientific' standards of beauty and includes slides showing the relative proportions of each feature. This can be a useful tool if you want to understand the mathematical mean of beauty. Don't forget that these proportions are based on statistical averages. They don't define beauty, per se. Many very good-looking people vary tremendously from these averages.
The characters in the screenshots in this thread use Beauty Faces for Females, Detailed Bodies, Detailed Lips, High-Quality Eyes and No More Blocky Faces.
Give Your Character 'Character'
This is the fun part, where you get to play with things like scars, dirt, war paint, hair and makeup. Use these tools to give your character a personal history, social class and attitude.
And don't forget to give them character! Sometimes the difference between like and love is a small imperfection that gives a person's face individuality and history and makes them memorable.
The airbrushed models you see in magazines are certainly beautiful, but they also frequently seem to have the personality of cardboard. For me, the absence of imperfection is the absence of character. Don't be afraid to take your perfect character and add some minor flaw to give them life and make them feel more real. Make the lips a little smaller or the brows a little lower. This small, subtle difference can make the difference between a character you like to look at, and a character you like to spin a tale with. Remember, these details are the best way to capture a character's mood or attitude!
CG Jargon: Identify and Solve Problems
Knowing a bit about the different files that go into making a game character can help you identify problems and select appropriate mods to address them.
Here's a quick run-down of the biggies:
- Head Mesh: This is the 3d polygon mesh that determines the shape of the head. Different races use different head meshes: humans and Argonians, for example, have differently shaped heads, which is what makes their features so strikingly different.
- Diffuse Map/Texture: The diffuse map or texture (also known as a color or base map or texture) provides the head mesh with color, like wrapping paper around a box or paint on a sculpture.
- Normal Map: The normal map controls how smooth or bumpy the face appears, and is used to simulate things like wrinkles, bags under the eyes, scars, etc. Normal maps can be identified by their primarily bright blue appearance.
- Specular Map: The specular map controls how shiny the surface of an object appears. Specular maps are important for simulating human skin, which has a wide range of shiny and dull patches across its surface. Specular maps can be identified by their primarily black and white appearance.
When you're playing Skyrim, the engine uses all of these different files (along with a few others) to determine how to render your character's appearance. As you can see, character models can be quite complex!
If you really can't get the look you're going for and you're on PC, you can always try downloading a save game created by someone else. The Skyrim Nexus has a whole category devoted to it with almost 500 saved games (there will probably be thousands by next year).
If you have a specific look you're going for, I might be able to provide some advice, or even take a request. Just shoot me an email or post a comment below!
General Tullius on August 02, 2019:
I don’t find any people too attractive, let alone in Skyrim. I do like this one person, who ruled over Roman empire back in the day, and would like to make myself look like... well, more like him. Anyone know who I’m talking about?
Curtis on July 18, 2019:
For females, you can always make your characters look better by using Coverwomen or Better Females along with Eyes of Beauty and Demoniac. A skin mod is good too. These mods coupled with the advice from this article makes a perfect character.
Khajiit on May 03, 2019:
Khajiit has wares
If you got coin...
yeeted on April 21, 2019:
how to make character with the scars on chin?
GabrielSantosMariano on March 17, 2019:
Add your comment...
Pandora on December 24, 2017:
This was a very interesting read and incredibly detailed. Thank you for writing this!
Gamer Girl plaz skyrim on December 16, 2017:
Thank you for your help
Scribbling Geek from Singapore on March 16, 2016:
I fussed over this for hours when I started Skyrim. Then actually restarted the game, and considered restarting AGAIN, just because I thought my character was ugly.
Eventually I concluded, most builds look ugly. Rugged, tough, but ugly. :P
Rui Carreira from Torres Novas on January 05, 2016:
Mods :p Mods all the way!
Avoid the creepy ones though, plenty of those around. And no, Khajit aren't meant to be kawaii.
Alfie Lee on December 24, 2015:
Thanks for this amazing tutorial! It's super detailed and brimming with creativity! Amazing stuff!
Sp4rk5 on October 18, 2015:
Hopefully this thread is still active. First of all, wonderful article thank you! I was wondering if you could please provide the slides for your first female? (Seen again next to Nord 2) I just cant get her nose right:(
nipster on June 05, 2015:
Wow just wow. This is creativity on a whole new level. The possibilities are endless.
JaneD on September 23, 2014:
I have a request for character sliders, but how do I email it to you?
Khamos on June 07, 2014:
But what if I like the elves look already?
I actually prefer a more alien look then the pretty human with pointed ears look. I don't think they added the presents in to make you want to customize them, though I always tweak each character, rather they're just trying to move away from the standard image of elves which has frankly worn itself almost completely out.
But if you want the generic elf look, theres at least a dozen mods you can use. The best part of this game is the modability, allowing you to not only customize your character, but the entire game.
j-u-i-c-e (author) from Waterloo, On on April 07, 2014:
@copper9lives: I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for the comment. :)
copper9lives on April 06, 2014:
I just stumbled on your article, and it was eloquent, thoughtful, insightful, and beautifully written (pun intended). I signed up for Hubpages specifically to tell you so. Thanks very much for this — this is philosophically the antidote to the beauty industry, and something that might benefit teenagers to read, to become more aware of what they're absorbing from modern media. Cheers!
hidudes on March 17, 2014:
thanks that really helped :D
j-u-i-c-e (author) from Waterloo, On on March 10, 2014:
I'd give you a link, but HubPages is weird about overlinking, so I'll give you directions: go to the top of the article; in the box that says 'Slider Database' follow the link that says "database of slider settings for non-player characters from Skyrim"; that will take you to my site. On the sidebar on the right on my web site, follow the graphic link to the War Baby page. All her settings are on that page; just scroll down and when you get to her picture, click the thumbnails.
hidudes on March 09, 2014:
I could really use the sliders for the girl where it says this on the bottom of her pic Studying a wide range of faces will help you refine your understanding of what it means to be beautiful.
Source: Personal screenshot
dotdot on March 09, 2014:
im trying to copy the girl where it says this on the bottom of the picture Studying a wide range of faces will help you refine your understanding of what it means to be beautiful.
Source: Personal screenshot
torrilynn on December 20, 2013:
I never really played Skyrim before but it seems like an awesome alternate video game world to be apart of. Extensive information and very useful. Voted up.
Adrian Cloute from Cedartown, GA on August 26, 2013:
This is one thing that I have had a struggle with. I think that this is the best game but it's so hard to get a good looking character.
Woolie from East Coast Canada on July 19, 2013:
Cool... With Skyrim, I honestly took 2 hours constructing my dark elf. I liked the "get rid of extraneous features - or features that detract from your focus" good plan. Well written, and easy to follow. Well done!
lifeintheworld from The World on July 10, 2013:
AMAZING :) Love this game.
Cinalu on June 06, 2013:
Do you have the sliders for the makeover challenge wood elf? She's amazing! I'm on xBox so did you use mods to create her? (although I'm pretty sure you did because no bosmer can have bright yellow-orange eyes...)
Kaomi on May 03, 2013:
As always, those posts talk a lot about creating beautiful female char, but where the heck are the black-haired tenebrous slim, tall and strong handsome male for us, girl players ? T.T
Kyle Fawkes on April 25, 2013:
I took it upon myself as a challenge to make an attractive Orc female. To my own surprise, I succeeded.
Billy on February 21, 2013:
Can you please create a really fierce looking khajit perhaps with a black/white mix coat?
Chris on January 04, 2013:
How do you create a good looking male imperial?
Popcorn:) on December 01, 2012:
What no khajits? (racist)
M on November 15, 2012:
I couldn't find Loric slider settings amongst the NPC characters on your website.
TheIncomingWave on November 13, 2012:
Hey, I would like to know how to make a character (Women) Nord or any human race that would look like Kate Upton
loric on November 05, 2012:
can I know whtas your website? and where loric is? i did not find him in nexus. cheers from VeryFluffy4 (nexusname)
John Mallette on October 19, 2012:
Hey this is an amazing article, and I am very happy that your thoughts have been shared. I just made an amazing dark elf chic, and you mentioned adding a backstory to characters, I always start with the story idea and make a character around it. Lately tho I make them kinda out of whim (like the dark elf) and I made a character to look like Sam Byrne from gears of war 3. She turned out pretty good. If you ever feel like making a character look like Sam, that'd be something I'd like to see. All in all I really liked what you had to say, and your mentioning of examining what makes someone attractive to you was great. Really made me look at it differently! Thanks again!
Brann on October 09, 2012:
Nevermind, found the War dogs page :)
Brann on October 09, 2012:
Hey mate, how to create a male High Elf like the one you portrayed here?
Bumps on October 07, 2012:
I would love to attempt creating a beautiful character for each race and gender, since i'd want to play as a stereotype of each race, as well as unique personalities type thing. God that would be a lot of work... This is my objective! I want to accomplish it without somebody getting suspicious XD
Matt on September 15, 2012:
Excellent article. I'm a serial re-roller, and often spend an hour or more on character creation; it's good to see somebody else putting as much thought into the process!
One thing I found helpful to accustom myself with the sliders was trying to create the faces of actual people. Leonidas was my greatest creation, but once I'd done a few I'd really Got to grips with the mechanics behind it all.
GwiZMo on September 05, 2012:
Can you make a female khajiit?
Luni on August 11, 2012:
This was really really helpful for me, thank you very very much. I can't even tell you how many times I've sat in woe over how bad I am at creating attractive characters in creation, regardless of the game. I realise now that having a path is the best, just to make sure I don't get fed up with how my character is not turning out the way I want them to, attractive or not. I'm going to go through some of your other articles too - you've put a lot of thought into it. Thanks!
taylor on August 02, 2012:
So many wow's lol, this is a good article and you put a lot of work into it. Good Job~ :b I've found this helpful in more ways than one.
j-u-i-c-e (author) from Waterloo, On on July 07, 2012:
@dsfds: Here's a quote from my article, which I assume you read: "When I sat down and started comparing features I discovered, much to my surprise, that many of the women I found most attractive possessed neither of these features. In fact, many of them had smaller than average eyes and lips."
Yeah, I'm aware of different standards of beauty. It's one of the main reasons why I wrote the article. The screenshots are meant to illustrate specific concepts and many of the characters are based on vanilla characters where I haven't changed the size of the lips at all. The other characters do not all have 'huge' lips, like the blonde Orc, who has small lips for her race, or have 'huge' lips for a reason, like the High Elf, who was designed to appear soft and feminine specifically because it's a hard look to produce for a High Elf. The Redguard has fairly average size lips for her features. The Nord 2 preset, which appears in a few places, is a stock vanilla head. I just used it as an example because it happens to be the most popular preset. The screenshots are not meant to be representative of 'beauty', which, as the article mentions in several places, is dependent on personal taste; those images just happened to be useful to me.
It's good to know that you have a keen eye for this sort of thing. It will serve you well.
@TaYLoR x PiRaTeS: Real people are almost impossible to create with the stock assets. You have to be lucky enough to find a real person with features that are almost identical to the handful of features available in the game. It was easier to duplicate real people in Oblivion because you could control the shape of the face much more precisely. It was also much harder to use, which is why they simplified it for Skyrim. Anybody can create an attractive character in Skyrim, but it was actually fairly hard to do with Oblivion. You really had to be a bit of an artist to do it.
TaYLoR x PiRaTeS on July 06, 2012:
I can tell you worked hard on this dude
Lol i was so inspired i tried to make Victoria Justice But it was IMPOSSIBLE for me :(
dsfds on July 05, 2012:
Nearly (or all) of your women characters that you screenshot have huge lips. You know there is beauty in thinner lips. Holy crap dude.
j-u-i-c-e (author) from Waterloo, On on July 04, 2012:
@TaYLoR x PiRaTeS: It's actually supposed to be Dianna Agron. She was my first request for a celebrity. I've made a few since then, and none of them look like the people they're supposed to look like. It's hard to appreciate just how much small details influence a person's appearance. If each feature is off by even a little bit, it won't look like the person you're trying to model. The best you can hope for is a family resemblance. Also, the way faces are created in Skyrim, the eyes that match best won't necessarily be compatible with the nose or mouth that match best since each feature changes the surrounding geometry a little bit. Sometimes you have to choose between entire feature sets instead of just picking the best match in each feature. Some faces fit the existing features better than others, of course, which is why the Conan character is so popular. :)
TaYLoR x PiRaTeS on July 03, 2012:
The part where he says try Nd guess this celeberity it kinda looks like Britanny Spears. Doesn't it?
j-u-i-c-e (author) from Waterloo, On on June 29, 2012:
@toomuchmint: Knowing is half the battle. Once you understand how faces work and know what you like it's a lot easier to create attractive characters and the frustration levels go way down. Thanks for reading.
@skyrimdude: One does not simply make a Boromir tutorial! Some day I may get around to making some of the LOTR characters. If I do, they'll show up on my web site. Once you have slider settings, the tutorial is moot. This article should help people who don't have slider settings, though.
skyrimdude on June 27, 2012:
Could you make a Boromir tutorial? Also an Aragorn one would be interesting as I had a pretty good attempt at him and would like to see how yours is different.
toomuchmint on June 26, 2012:
Voted up and interesting! I usually give up on character design or go with a random selection of slider choices. Your tips are a great help in putting thought into the design process without getting incredibly frustrated that things aren't turning out right. Thanks for sharing!
j-u-i-c-e (author) from Waterloo, On on June 25, 2012:
@hg: Well, here's my current character: Loric. (Look up.)
hg on June 24, 2012:
make more human males
j-u-i-c-e (author) from Waterloo, On on June 24, 2012:
@skyrim_ : Follow the truancyfactory link under Character Resources and click the War Baby link on the sidebar. Tabanaryl is a modified version of that character (different hair, and coloring, mostly.)
@Skyelou: The biggest difference between PC and console is the skin texture, which comes in a higher resolution on PC. This tends to make the characters look a few years younger. There's nothing I can do about that, unfortunately.
I don't think I could tell you anything that I haven't already said in this article. Study faces you like so you know what it is you like about them, and then practice recreating those features until you get good at it. There's no secret, really; the problem most people have is that they aren't really conscious of what they actually like, so instead of creating characters they genuinely find attractive, they try to create characters they think they should find attractive.
If you're no good at using the sliders, this usually means you overemphasize or underemphasize features: if you're a boy creating a female character, you make the eyes and lips too big and make the jaw and nose too small and make the eyebrows too high or otherwise exaggerate what you think is feminine instead of copying what you actually see in people you find attractive. This happens because you absorb a huge amount of stylized impressions of female faces through the media. It might be that the women you find attractive in real life actually have small eyes or prominent noses or wide jaws, but if you don't study a lot of faces and compare features you might never know that. (Typically, you'll find that you like different combinations of features and have more than one 'type'.) If this describes you, you probably find that your female characters look freakish in some way. You're probably right. If real people had cartoon proportions, they would look freakish in real life.
If you're good at using the sliders, on the other hand, but don't know what you really like, you end up with plenty of dull, carbon-copy Barbie and Ken dolls that don't really inspire you but that everyone else finds attractive. You may 'know' what perfect proportions are, but you don't know what you yourself actually find attractive. I doubt it's perfect proportions. I don't really try to create 'perfect' characters because I find perfect features boring. There has to be something unusual about a face to make it interesting. If your characters are too 'perfect', you need to spend some time experimenting with different ratios and proportions. The best way to find interesting compositions is to study the faces you actually find attractive.
@Geeki: Let me know the next time you're in Waterloo. That's in Canada. ;)
@Jazzy Quicksilver: Glad you liked the article. Most people think I think too much.
@Hannah Langone: Thanks for reading. I've always had difficulty sticking to one topic. :D
Hannah Langone from NY on June 22, 2012:
Very in-depth and well thought out. What I like best about this article is that it doesn't only pertain to the video game, but also to our perception of beauty in the rest of humanity. Very interesting, keep up the great work!
Jazzy Quicksilver from New Jersey, USA on June 21, 2012:
I'll admit, I came into this article thinking this was gonna be shallow as hell. I'll gladly admit I was very wrong. Great article dude.
Geeki on June 14, 2012:
I would love to sit down with a coffee or something with you man xD
Skyelou on June 03, 2012:
is there any more help u can give me on female creation im on ps3 and pc version is different 2 consoles
skyrim_ on May 30, 2012:
What are the slider settings for the wood elf?
j-u-i-c-e (author) from Waterloo, On on May 09, 2012:
A lot of people feel that way, but just as many don't. People put hundreds of hours into this game. You don't need to wear your helmet all the time. :) Plus, some characters don't use a helmet. I played most of the game in a hood. Besides, helmets just improve your AC. It's not like not wearing one is going to kill you, it just makes combat a little harder. Thanks for reading and taking the time to reply.
Notimportant on May 08, 2012:
Wow even though they look good its pointless if your on console the game demands the use of a helmet just about and that just ruins all the time you spent on the char looks, fun for when your not being serious though
j-u-i-c-e (author) from Waterloo, On on May 03, 2012:
It doesn't matter which preset you start with. The presets are just different slider settings; all of the presets for a race use the same head mesh and textures.
For elves, you can make the face look less long by making the chin very short and moving the mouth up a little. Pick a smaller nose and move it up a little to leave room for the mouth. If you move the cheekbones down and make them a little wider, you can make the face look a little rounder. Bring the eyebrows together and move them down a bit (and flatten them) to make the brow more feminine. Of course, the eyebrows depend a lot on the eyes you use. All of these suggestions assume you want a face that is softer and less angular.
Those are the steps I used to make Tabanaryl on my War Baby page. (The link for my website is truancyfactory under Character Resources above.)
Daft Punked17 on May 03, 2012:
I am an xbox user and I am trying to make a young looking female wood elf but I want to know what present I should start with and some tips on how to do so, as you said elves are hard to create.
j-u-i-c-e (author) from Waterloo, On on May 03, 2012:
@Jeremiah: If memory serves me correctly, the Nord on the left is one of the presets. The Nord under Tips and Tricks uses the Nord 2 preset with each of the shape sliders pushed to the middle, and each of the color sliders set to the far left. I put it up to illustrate the first point. There are tons (over 60) characters on my web site with full sliders you can use for reference. Follow the link under the first sidebar: Slider Database.
Jeremiah on May 03, 2012:
Is the Nord on the left under the heading "Well-Proportioned Faces" totally default without changing any options?
Also what are the settings for the first screenshot under heading "Tips and Tricks"?
Thanks for all the help and information so far!
j-u-i-c-e (author) from Waterloo, On on April 30, 2012:
Hm. I've never made any video tutorials. I'd have to get a mic and figure out what I'm doing. Probably won't happen any time soon as I'm pretty swamped as it is. If you want to send me an email I might be able to help you with some pointers. Just let me know what you're having problems with.
Rane on April 29, 2012:
Would it be possible to post a video on how to make some of the ones you have made I'm having trouble on certain races
Katrina Masdiana on April 06, 2012:
wow..good work ..i love Skyrim
j-u-i-c-e (author) from Waterloo, On on April 01, 2012:
@bbmc: Glad you found it useful. :)
bbmc on March 31, 2012:
I was feeling stupid reading this but my nord is so awesome now !
Animeplay on March 28, 2012:
Thank you so much! ;D I'll go try it now!
j-u-i-c-e (author) from Waterloo, On on March 28, 2012:
@Animeplay: The default textures make all characters look like they're in their 30s or 40s with the possible exception of Nords. If you have the PC version, you can dl a skin replacer like the ones mentioned in the Beauty Mods section of the article. Without a replacer, the best you can do is pick bigger eyes, fuller lips, and a smaller nose, shorten the chin, and shorten the jaw height. She won't look like Zelda, she'll look like what Zelda would look like if she grew up in Skyrim.
Animeplay on March 28, 2012:
Hi, uh, I'm trying to make my female wood elf look around the age of 16-25 if that's even possible 'xd I'm going for an elf that looks similar to the Zelda from Twilight Princess. Zelda as in Legend of zelda?
sonnhy on March 27, 2012:
@juice thanks, but i'm on ps3 so i can't use mod or change after made him, now i ll try to make him
j-u-i-c-e (author) from Waterloo, On on March 26, 2012:
@sonnhy: If you're on PC you can dl younger male skin textures from Skyrim Nexus. (Search: 'younger'.) Short of that, there's not a lot you can do. The youngest looking males still look to be about 30. Older men typically look more 'jowly' (simulated with a higher jaw), larger noses, smaller lips, and heavier brows (resulting in smaller eyes). Giving your character the opposite might help.
sonnhy on March 26, 2012:
hey, nice post, how can I make a young (25-30 years) Male Imperial?
poo on March 06, 2012:
skrim is epic man
j-u-i-c-e (author) from Waterloo, On on March 03, 2012:
@Sutami: I haven't really experimented with the male wood elf presets, yet. It isn't easy making 'good-looking' elves in this game, but I have seen a couple so I know it's possible. Keep an eye on the War Dogs page (under Custom Characters). I get a lot of requests, but I'll see what I can do. What kind of look are you going for?
@Hydro: My first characters looked pretty terrible in comparison to what I can do now. Even the ones in this tutorial seem kind of shabby now. Just keep working at it; the more you do it, the better you'll get. The female wood elf is on my War Baby page (it's still being revamped).
Hydro on March 02, 2012:
The wood elf is really gorgeous. I already started playing the game (Im on console) with my male high elf, and after reading this, I feel that my guy is really ugly! :/
Anyway this tutorial is really good. Il follow this on my second character. :D
Sutami on March 02, 2012:
Hi there, really nice work. Do you have any Wood Elf males that you've done? I want to make an attractive one by I can't seem to do it. Thanks in advance.
mcfdj on February 15, 2012:
Great page! I have been trying to recreate this face I found on Google, and have had no luck. I can't even figure out what race he is. :(
karmin 2 on February 12, 2012:
i use karmin for a name for every game i play lol but i agree good stuff
Karmin on February 11, 2012:
Good work, very good ideas here. Guys, please do not use my name for anything that requires a name. Thanks-Karmin.
Tony from Ohio on February 10, 2012:
Very well written. Though I'm happy with my current Skyrim build, I think I'll put some of your ideas into practice on my next run though.
Very in depth and helpful. Thanks.
CrimsonPhoenix on February 10, 2012:
how did u make that dark elf!? :O its gorgeous i want one :D
Erik on February 09, 2012:
There s a lot of good info on beauty here but what if beauty isn't your issue, for example my issue is age i play on xbox so i can't use mods what could i do to get my male characters to stop looking so old ive tried every race but nords, bretons , and imperials are my favorite races any advice on how i can stop my characters from looking like old men
j-u-i-c-e (author) from Waterloo, On on February 05, 2012:
@Kensai: Texture replacing mods can do a lot to help eliminate wrinkles, but for the most part how good your character looks depends on how well you understand anatomy. The characters in these screenshots were my early attempts. I think the characters I can make now are even better looking. It's just a matter of understanding how faces work. The biggest restriction in Skyrim has to do with the nose and mouth presets that are available, imo. Some of the characters that I've seen posted online by other players are simply phenomenal.
@Senri: I don't think I have that specific set available anymore, though I believe I have a modified one (that I think looks even better). I can dig those up if you want to send me an email.
Senri on February 04, 2012:
is it possible you have anything on the presets of your ork used here with the ornange eyes, if so plz email me a response
Kensai on February 04, 2012:
When I first played Skyrim and got to the character creation part I do remember having "Urg! Wha! Gah!" moments when clicking through the character presets... Especially the elven faces.
I recall thinking that wow most of the races and character models looked atrocious compared to other games like this, such as Mass Effect series, and felt it was hard to make pleasant looking characters. I didn't think it would have mattered much, but I guess it did to some level. At least the npc character Lydia's face was nicely rendered
I was really amazed at most of the face pictures in this article. They look much better than I would have thought possible in the game.
Simon Ecco from United Kingdom on January 28, 2012:
That's some great content on the different characters and looks you can create on Skyrim. I'm currently slashing my way through Skyrim as Conan The Barbarian, with a mod created on Skyrim Nexus.
j-u-i-c-e (author) from Waterloo, On on January 06, 2012:
@gazi & Chris & anyone with requests: I'm happy to talk about requests, just click my name and select the contact link to send me an email with the details. I can't make any promises because the presets don't allow you to duplicate many features with any precision.
Chris on January 05, 2012:
Can I commission you to make some characters for me? I will provide pictures/profiles.
gazi on January 05, 2012:
could you help me make dianna agron face?, preferably something like this pict :
i have tried to make one but im really unskilled, and i play on ps3 so i can't use those mods, any helps would be appreciated!
j-u-i-c-e (author) from Waterloo, On on December 22, 2011:
@tiger: Really? I think Skyrim's one of the most beautiful games I've ever played.
j-u-i-c-e (author) from Waterloo, On on December 22, 2011:
@TheKraken: Well, there's one: the Orc. "Note: Although I only show female characters in the screenshots, the exact same principles apply to creating attractive male characters. I am a better judge of female beauty than male beauty, and find female faces more interesting to create, so I've stuck with them through most of this tutorial." That's from the blurb at the top. I plan on adding more male examples in the future, though.
TheKraken on December 22, 2011:
Why are all the examples women?
j-u-i-c-e (author) from Waterloo, On on December 13, 2011:
Thanks, jericho. There's a lot more that could be said about the subject, but it's a start.
jericho on December 13, 2011:
this is awesome! very nicely done :)
j-u-i-c-e (author) from Waterloo, On on December 08, 2011:
@John Kolka: Thanks. Writing this was a bear, actually. Took me a lot longer than most of my hubs.
@Gofygure: Sometimes I think I put TOO much thought into these things. Thanks.
@JGG: That's true. The characters match the rugged terrain. But they can be beautiful as well, like the mountains gleaming in a rosy sunrise. To wax poetic. Thanks for reading.
John Roberts from South Yorkshire, England on December 08, 2011:
Wow, loads of detail and perfectly written. Beautiful isn't something I'd go with - the environments (like Fallout) can be rugged and ruined at times, and my mucky Nord seems to fit in well.
Excellent as always ^_^
Gofygure on December 08, 2011:
I'm impressed by the amount of thought you put into this. Great job!
I somehow managed to make an Argonian who I feel is very pretty, for a lizard lady. :P
John Kolka from Oregon. on December 08, 2011:
You took a load of time with this.