How to create Face rig in Maya

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Do you want to create super spectacular animated characters? Making aFace rigis easy with the help of modern technologies, in particular Maya software. Do rigging, and make your character express emotions so that it is as realistic as possible. In Maya, expressions can be created using the shape editor, sculpting tools, or rigged faces. Combine expressions and enjoy a great result.

Human rig 

What is rigging? The rigging is a preparing 3D model of a character for animation, in which a set of virtual joints and bones – a rig – is placed inside a pre-drawn blank, and patterns of functioning and possible transformations are also established. Making facial rigging of a person in the program is easy. You must understand what movements are needed to express joy, anger, sadness, etc. A smile is not only the movement of the lips but also the movement of the eyes.

Rigging: male character

If you find it difficult to understand exactly which parts of the face move to express certain emotions, then use blend shapes with some connections for specific movements. Blend shapes help create more organic shapes, such as wrinkles that change as facial expressions change. Everyone must interact perfectly with each other in dynamics. Maya, 3D animation and visual effects software, is designed to quickly, easily, and efficiently create realistic characters. It’s essential to constantly test the rig to see how all the blend shapesand controls work together.

Rigging: female character

Facial rig in Maya: Blend Shapes

Blend shapes are 3D models of identical topology but with different shapes. Let’s take a smile as an example.   

Stretch the corners of the character’s lips to the sides. We can turn off one side so that only one side moves. So it turns out to be a crooked smile.

Rigging with blend shapes is very easy. Often many people are working on character creation, for example, in an animation company. The use of blend shapes allows you to preserve the individuality of the character.

Face rigging process

The blend shapes are used to create a transition from one shape to another. With a blend shape, a coherent impression is obtained; not only one muscle move, but emotions are reproduced holistically, and the expression of the character is expressed.

We have two joints, for example, in the corners of the lips. Without a blend shape, it’s just a joint with a certain weight. And with a blendshape, the impression is much better.

Make curves and place joints on the curve  

Editor – Animation editors – Pose Edit. Select the Geometry.

Create a blend shape. Add target. It is the form we will be transitioning into.

You will see an edit button.

Making manipulations on geometry.

Tool settings – Symmetry settings. Select the object that we want to change. Symmetry.

After we have sculpted the emotion, we exit edit mode and move the slider.

Shape Editor

You will see how the smile is in dynamics.

The smile should be broken into two parts so that you can move each corner separately.

Manual method: how to paint blend shapes?

Deform – Blend shape – Add. Check the mark next to specify the node. Apply and close.

Smile created on one side! Duplicate.

Flip target.

Thus, the smile is broken into two, and we can separately animate each corner.

Add personality to your character!

Facial rig plugin for Maya

Plugin Edit ramp weights: 

Select the head mesh.

We select the target. On the window Edit ramp, press the plus sign.

We connect nodes and see that the smile works on one side.

We can press invert. We have several targets: smile, blinking.

We copy the shape and geometry and apply them. 

Advanced Skeleton: face rig in Maya 

It is a collection of tools for Autodesk Maya making character setup easy.

Advanced Skeleton allows face setup on any rig. There should be a bone. Set an auxiliary object under the jaw and top above the head. If the character has voluminous hair higher than the top of the head, it is better to set an auxiliary object above them. This helper is needed for the deformer to work correctly. You should specify which mesh is responsible for the head.

Rigging process: 3D model

Advanced Skeleton checks for symmetry. If there is an asymmetry, this program will notify you about it. However, if the asymmetry is slight, it can be ignored. Specify all the geometry that belongs to the area of the head, for example, teeth, hair, cap, etc. The Advanced Skeleton will offer to tie the teeth to some bone. The Advanced Skeleton will suggest this if you still need to create a skin cluster.

Indicate the right and left eyes. If there are a couple of objects in the eye, we specify all the models for both eyes. If the 3d model has lower and upper teeth and a tongue, it is unnecessary to indicate them, but you can do it. In the setup of the face, one or another part of the face must be indicated through the vertex.

Press Fit. If we click on the eye bone, we will have an additional object with a locator that needs to be aligned according to the volume of the eye model. Drag this object to the eye mesh. Tip: the guide mesh should be slightly larger than the eye mesh. It is necessary so that there are no gaps between the eyelids and the eye. Click on the question mark and see the help; you can figure it out if something is unclear to you.

Facial rigging: male character

Indicate the boundaries of the eye: external, internal, and the border where the eye closes. Choose a closed Edge Loop to mark the boundaries. Just double-click on Edge. Edge Loop is selected automatically. The entire area around the eye should be closed. The auxiliary object along the outer border is divided into two colors. We see which part of the area is responsible for the upper part of the eyelid and the lower. In multi-mode, specify the Edge Loop and two vertices that are the corners of the eyes. Press the assist button, and the eye pops out so we can do everything right. You can put additional controllers around the eye.

Do the same with lips. Specify the outer and inner border and the border of the closure of the lips. You can press the assist key to select the internal Edge Loops. Specify eyebrows: inner controller, outer, and center between the eyebrows.  

You can create three more controllers. Indicate the center between the eyebrows, the center of the eyebrow, and the corners of the eyebrows. Three vertices – the bridge of the nose, the top of the forehead, and the temple – are the area that is involved when the character frowns.  

Jaw.  It is the area opposite the ear that must be selected. It is necessary so that the character’s jaw can move. Specify the vertex. Indicate the corner of the jaw and the most protruding part of the chin in the center. Then indicate the border of the larynx where the jaw meets the neck and cheeks. Also, indicate the bone on the cheek under the eye. And specify the area between the lower eyelid and the bone as a vertex. The nasolabial fold is essential in expressing emotions.

Facial rigging: the richness of facial movements

Then specify the tip of the nose, the vertex of the lower part of the nose in the center, and the corner of the nose. Crooked lines of jaws are created. So the boundaries are indicated, for example, where the neck mesh will deform when the jaw drops. You will see the locators that are responsible for the language. Select them and set them according to the shape of the tongue. Locators form a spline along which the bones for the tongue are built. The preparation for building the face rig is ready.

You can get controllers automatically. Advanced Skeleton will deform areas of the face automatically.

Script editor – Face building complete. It is a face setup. If there are problems, click Fit and make edits! Then comes the important part – setting everything up. 

Maya face rig: eye movements  

Create controls and bind them to the eye bones. Tie the upper and lower eyelids to the central eye. Make your character’s eyes express a lot of emotions. So that when the eye moves, the surrounding points must not remain still.

Do what you want with the selected area, raise, lower, and create the expression you need.

Facial rigging: eyes

Expression Editor. Selected object and attribute.

Name the location chosen. It will make the job easier.

Write a comment (Expression). Please make it so that you can easily find the given facial expression. The following steps follow:

  • Creating control curves to the eye. 
  • Creating the blend parent attribute for the eye. 
  • Creating IK handles for the eyes.
Rigging: female character

Context menu

There are several ways to access context menus to make it easy to create face animation rig Maya. Press and hold the spacebar. It will bring up the context menu. Note that the bottom one duplicates the currently open main menu bar. But you can make it show everything.

You can access additional menus if you click on any of the six areas. Right the mouse button – and you will see a context menu that will help you in your work.

There are also additional context menus for each type of selected object or part of it. They are invoked by pressing CTRL or SHIFT + right mouse button.

Facial rigging: male character


Creating a Maya human rig is easy if you understand how it works. We at Kreonit are well-versed in various programs. We have extensive experience in animation rigging and so on, and we can make any character for you: a human, an elf, an animal, and so on, which will express the brightest, most spectacular emotions. Contact us and order a face rig at any time!


  1. How long does it take to build a high-quality facial rig?

As a rule, creating a spectacular facial rig takes one to two months. 

  1. How do I constrain an object to a curve in Maya?

Select the object you want to animate on the path, and then Shift-select the curve. You can Shift-select multiple objects and attach them to the same path curve. Select the path curve last. Select Constrain > Motion Paths > Attach to Motion Path in the Animation menu.

  1. How do you make a curve in Maya?

Select Create > Curve Tools > Pencil Curve Tool.

Drag to sketch a curve. When you release the mouse button, the curve is drawn.

  1. Where is BlendShape in Maya?

In the object’s history, the BlendShape node will be placed above all other deformers, directly below the object’s Shape node.


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