How to Create a 3D Character From a Photo

3D model from a photo 1350x540

Taking a picture is relatively easy, but what about converting that flat image into a 3D model? While this is not an easy task, it is more possible today than ever before with the help of AI and powerful, innovative software. Let’s talk about how and why you might want to create a 3D model from a photo.

Why You Should Create 3D Models From Photos

Maybe you want to make a deep fake Instagram account and wow the world with the stunning accuracy you are able to achieve mimicking famous faces like, say, Tom Cruise. Or more likely, you work hard creating lots of 3D models and are always looking for new technological trends to speed up your pipeline. And let’s not forget all the hobbyists and indie creators who can benefit from shortcuts that warrant fair results.

There are a number of reasons why this might intrigue you, and we are here for it. Saving time is extremely valuable. There is also something to be said about lowering the barriers to entry in 3D. While advanced learning is invaluable, it is now easier than ever for anybody to hop into 3D and start making progress. If you are looking to achieve realism, photos are a great place to start for obvious reasons: they represent the perfect real-world proportions of the object, and you already have the source material to create the textures for the model as well. Working from photos is a win-win if you know where to start and have access to the right tools.

There are a number of different ways you can go about doing this, so let’s dive in and talk about these different methods and programs!

Use Free Software like Blender

If you want to take the most hands-on approach to creating a 3D model or character from a photo, this is a cheap, albeit difficult route. Blender is a powerful software with a lot of capabilities. That said, an endless number of tutorials exist on the internet, alongside Blender’s own documentation.

The nice thing about Blender, besides being free, is you can import the JPEG or PNG of the image you are working from right into your workspace, then start tracing or drawing right on top of it. This works best with geometric shapes and models, though becomes harder with organic things like people. Once you have the basic outline of the object, it is easy to extrude and add depth to the shape you created.

KeenTools FaceBuilder for Blender

If you want a more advanced solution in Blender, consider using a free trial of the add-on by KeenTools called FaceBuilder for Blender. This tool provides you with a base mesh of a face, which the user overlays over a photographed face. With their suite of tools, you can adjust the mesh to fit the face with keen accuracy. The tool even has a feature that will automatically generate textures from the photo as well. While this tool only works for faces, it is an excellent way to create working 3D face models for your characters, all from a few photos.

At the time of writing, the FaceBuilder add-on costs $150 for an indie license and $300 for the commercial solution.

Try 3D Photo Scanning for Free With a Smartphone

Another exciting technological advancement has come in the form of Polycam, an IOS app that simplifies the 3D photo scanning process. While true, this process doesn’t work from a single image, there are two options available: LiDAR capture, or Photo Mode, which essentially takes hundreds of photos for you. While that may seem daunting, in practice it really isn’t. The app takes the pictures for you, and it lets you know if you are moving too fast or too slow.

Once the app — and the user — are satisfied with the information collected, the program’s AI will take all of that data and generate a 3D model. Not only will it create the mesh for you, but it will also generate textures as well.

To make the most out of Polycam, users who have an iPhone 12 (or later if you are seeing this post down the road) are able to use Polycam’s LiDAR capture feature. This allows you to use a mesh preview feature that shows you the mesh Polycam is creating in real-time. If you notice you’ve missed a part of the scene or object you’re capturing, simply return to that spot, or bring the camera closer and watch as all the details are captured.

Image from Polycam Press Kit
Image from the Polycam Press Kit.

Polycam is free to try, however, if you want to get the most out of the app, consider subscribing to one of their premium account levels.

Check Out Daz Studio’s Face Swap Feature

If you would prefer to stay within Daz Studio, there is another great option for creating character faces from a photo. Daz Studio offers a premium product called Face Transfer Unlimited. You can try it out with a free version that can generate any number of renders, however, they will be branded with a Daz Studio watermark.  

This plugin will produce similar results to the Blender add-on we referred to previously. The main difference is the AI used in this plugin does all the work for you, so you won’t have to adjust the mesh yourself. Another major benefit here is that the face is put directly onto any Daz character, meaning you have all the benefits of Genesis characters, including morphs!

For an in-depth look at Face Transfer Unlimited, how to use it, and a helpful checklist to get the most out of this plugin, check out our post Everything You Need to Know about Daz Studio Face Transfer.

Daz Studio Face Transfer

How to Source Photos If You Aren’t a Photographer

If you are using photographs with technology like FaceBuilder, Polycam, or Face Transfer Unlimited, having good source photos is crucial. Things like lighting and resolution are crucial to get the best results, especially where textures are concerned.

If you don’t have the knowledge, skills, or equipment necessary to take your own photos to use in your 3D work, finding a good source for high-quality images is your best option. Google Images will show you any photo posted online, however, these images are low-resolution, and the majority of them are copyrighted. There are a number of stock photo websites, free and paid, that you can use to find photographs often to good results. We recommend using industry-standard sites like for all your reference photo needs. 

Get Started Today With Daz Studio

Now that you know three easy ways to create a 3D model or character from a photo, you’re ready to take the next step in your 3D journey with Daz Studio. Enjoy all the features of powerful, modular software that can take you from beginner to expert fast.

To learn more about Daz Studio and how to make the most out of our free software, check out our learning videos.

Featured image “Emery” by Essentials in the Daz Gallery

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