Top-Heavy, Part III: The F-Team

datetime April 9, 2020 7:02 AM

The Faceless

On the previous page, I complained about not liking Hannibal’s costume because it contains details that don’t make sense or are flat-out ugly.

I also don’t like Laxmee’s costume, but hers is a far milder sin– absolutely nothing is wrong with any of it (except perhaps some violent colour choices); I just find it all a bit generic and boring. So, that’s way easier for me to get over than details that are actively confusing. And I still found a way to have a ton of fun with her, as you’ll see in a sec. 😀


Models that aren’t intrinsically interesting can often be their own kind of fun, because you can fill in the interest gap that the original creator left with your own silly ideas. In the case of Laxmee, I created one of my favourite models in this entire project largely because she didn’t have any pre-set personality that I felt a need to adhere to. Instead, I came up with my own fun pitch:

“She’s the team’s hacker, so she’s sitting up on a crate, zoned out on her phone and pretty much ignoring the battle.”


The generic armature was twisted into shape using needle-nose pliers. My armatures terminate at the tips of the toes, and then I leave a bit of extra slack to let me embed the extra wire in a wine cork, which becomes a handle I can hold onto throughout the sculpting and painting processes.

I sculpt in Fimo, which is a polymer clay available at most craft stores. Fimo doesn’t stick to metal on its own, so you need to apply a layer of Green Stuff putty over the armature as an adhesive layer. The Green Stuff is thinly applied using metal sculpting tools.

The first layer of Fimo is immediately applied directly over the still-soft putty. Once again, it’s pressed into place using metal sculpting tools; clean surfaces aren’t terribly important at this point, since many layers will be going on top.

Clay is added to the model in shreds and slabs to arrive at the desired thickness for each part. I keep applying bits and pieces of clay and blending them into each other until the model has the general type of physique I’m after. At this point, I finally do a smoothing pass using silicone clayshapers, which are able to achieve a much smoother finish than metal tools thanks to their pliability.

Once I’m happy with the basic body masses, I start adding clothes. I typically start at the model’s feet and work my way up. Thick garment breaks are added first, and then I add smaller surface details.

I built Laxmee’s phone on a pie plate.

It took 2 minutes.

I ran into a bit of an issue with Laxmee that I never really solved. See, a normal person could easily assume the posture she’s in, and be posed to be looking down at the phone in her outstretched hand.

However, Laxmee’s head is the size of a wheelbarrow. Given where the phone needs to be and where her head needs to be, there’s basically, like, no way she could possibly see the screen over her own mouth and nose. This is one of those situations where the skewed chibi perspective really fights against you. :/

I don’t allow the slight disconnect in her eyeline ruin the end result for me, but yeah– it IS there, and you’ll definitely notice it at the end if you look for it. Just, like, try to roll with it so you can enjoy the joke. 🙂

The eyes are given a more expressive shape by laying clay on the top and bottom of the eye. These will go in different positions depending on the facial expression you’re trying to convey.

In Laxmee’s case, her boredom combined with her downward gaze mean that I’m dropping her eyelids about 3/4 of the way down over her eyes.

These are then blended into the face to form eyelids.

A blob is planted in the center of the face to create the main bump of the nose.

That bump is then heavily blended in every direction, leaving just the suggestion of the bulb and the bridge.

I build out the lower lip by laying on a thin clay snake and blending it in. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it on any of the other models, but they all needed a chin to be manually added under the lips, as they all looked really dopey when their mouths dropped directly down into the general bean shape of the head.

As was the case for the crouching Zero, Laxmee’s extremely scrunched pose allowed me to skimp a bit on the chest details, as I just couldn’t reach them properly, and you can barely see any of it without turning the model on her back anyway.

Garment edges and fully embossed straps are both done in pretty much the same way– I roll out a very thin clay snake, and apply it either as one long piece or in smaller snippets. The snake is then pressed flat and blended into its surroundings.

Alright, I know I said I was going to cover the full steps for every model, but I have nothing interesting or informative to say about Laxmee’s courier bag.

It exists. I made it with sticks and goo.

Can you tell that I’m getting a bit tired of writing, 22,000 words in? 😛

Laxmee’s arms are the only part of her outfit that I like. I’m not sure if they’re intended to be prosthetics or an outer layer of supplemental musculature, but either way, she has a bunch of muscle underlay running down both of her arms. I lay out the panels that frame the sides of the muscle areas using metal tools.

Laxmee’s artificial muscles use the PanOceanian braided style from the back half of my muscle video.

And unlike with the ORC, I actually did the work on this one and made the braids. Go check out the video for a way better explanation than I’m capable of providing here. 🙂

I spend a lot of time carefully massaging Laxmee’s face. The left side of her face is being squished up by the hand she’s propping her head up with, which smushes most of her face meat on that side up toward the middle of her face. This then offsets the nose and mouth slightly toward her right side, and effectively paralyzes that side of her face from assuming much of a facial expression.

The other side of her face is tricky. I’m trying to tread a pretty fine line between “bored” and “slightly amused by whatever she’s watching”. At this stage, I think she looks a bit too “quietly content”, so I’ll need to probably turn the corner of her mouth down a bit and maybe droop the eyes back down to really sell the boredom.

As has been the case with several of the other models, I don’t plan to get the face right all in one go– I make adjustments, then move away to work on things so that I have time to observe it from many angles and come back when new ideas occur to me. Faces are super important for all models, but ESPECIALLY for exaggerated chibis, so it’s important to give them the time they need to develop.

To create ears, a blob of clay is cut in half (to ensure equal size on both sides) and stick down in line with the eyes, about 2/3 of the way toward the back of the head. The blob is blended with a hard edge on the top, back, and bottom, but blended flat toward the face.

I press very shallowly in the center to create a very slight suggestion of a ridge around the ear, bulging slightly upward to suggest the earlobe at the bottom.

To build the hands, a bit of clay is applied to form the entire block of fingers. Hands are one of the many elements that are easier to sculpt on a chibi model than on a normal-scale model. You can often get away with a more simplified grooved “mitten”, which then allows each finger to support its neighbours.
The grooves are pressed in about halfway down the mitten, and then things are smoothed out a bit. Once that’s all formed, I use a knife to separate some of the finger tips and slightly pull them away from the rest of the hand.

Laxmee has pretty distinct “robot hands”, so I use a pick to define individual segments on each finger.

Hair chunks!

Laxmee’s hair is gonna be a whole thang. This is just some early prep work for the labours ahead, mostly because I want to finish her face and knowing where the hairline sits is helpful for that endeavor.

A bunch more time later, I think I have a face that I’m happy with. Erasing the very slight smirk felt wrong somehow, but I found a way to temper her look of contentment in spite of the smirk by playing with her eyebrows; the uneven brows give her a look of mild surprise, which nicely communicates the scenario of “very slightly amused by something she scrolled to on her phone”.

Yeah, welcome to what your face looks like when you’re browsing memes, in case you didn’t know. 😛

Alrighty, I’m running out of ways to procrastinate starting this hair.

Honestly, this part right here isn’t even the issue. This part on top of the head is super easy, actually. It’s the stuff behind it that I’m dreading:

So many individual dreads. ;_;

But, whatever. That’s a problem for Future Spud. For now, Present Spud gets to just paste another text block from his spreadsheet.

The foundation of the model’s hair is applied with long, parallel strips that follow the direction of the hairstyle. I join the clay strips partially together with a metal tool, but I don’t blend them flat– instead, I form them into a hills-and-valleys texture to show the direction of the hair.

While the previous haired models had their “hair rows” criss-crossed into each other, in Laxmee’s case I actually do want hem to remain in distinct rows, as her dreadlocks are held tightly in parallel to each other by a pair of hairbands.

Speaking of which, hairband!

The front band is made with a flattened clay snake; the back one, which will mark the transition into the free-standing sculpted dreads, is built out of an entire clay disc.

Each one is adjusted to look like they’re about the same size and shape. I then go in with an angle chisel clayshaper and detail the dreads, adding ribbing patterns perpendicular to the flow of each row. This is very easy to do messily; it takes a while to do cleanly. :/

I have to look up some reference online to see how the dreads should terminate at the hairline. From what I can find, multiple dreads often converge down to a single “root” of hair, so I do that with most of the rows (basically, anywhere there isn’t space for a row to terminate all on its own).

Of course, these aren’t just any hairbands; they are SPACE HAIRBANDS, and as such, they need weird dots and panels etched into them.


With the hair coming along nicely, I add the structure for Laxmee’s hacking-visor-slash-prosthetic-eye.

I’m still really unclear on whether the tech stuff on her costume is prosthetic or just supplementary. Was Laxmee severely wounded in a plumbing explosion, or has she just read too many cyberpunk novels?

Surely someone knows…

Note: You may be wondering why I haven’t sculpted the lens over her eye the way I did Hannibal’s glasses. The short answer is, “you’ll see on the painted pictures”. The longer answer is, “I’m not going to explain the process for how I did it until Part IV of the series, because it’s kind of awkward to fit it anywhere in this article.”

You’ll see though, it’s pretty cool. 🙂

Oh hey look, it’s another holstered gun that I took zero progress photos for.

Honestly, guys, I’m starting to think you aren’t getting steps for any of these things even though almost every model has a holstered hip pistol. Either I’m making them so fast that there’s no time for pictures, or they’re so fascinating that I zone out and forget to take pictures.

Honestly, both of those sound like lies, so I don’t really have an explanation for the omission.

Alrighty, time for The Worst Part. See these dozen or so wire hooks?

HA, this is only like half of the ones I’ll need!

I cut holes all around the back of the head, trying to group them slightly closer than the dreads on the side (as I would also need some to form the interior layers).

I didn’t get a picture of the next step, but: I plant a wire hook in each hole, then press down on the clay surface to seal everything up. One cleanup step later, the wires are all firmly spiking out the back of Laxmee’s head.

There’s nothing else I can do at this point, so I do my customary hour of cleanup on the entire model with clayshapers and then bake her in my halogen oven.

Now that the wires are held in place, I’m free to bend them. Starting with the bottom row and moving up, I bend them into a general draping pattern, getting wider apart as they get further from the head.

I trim them to a reasonable length, and then drop a really ugly wad of putty to fill space in the center and support the outer layers.

Apparently I was getting a bit depressed looking at the remaining work on the hair, so I put off the inevitable by adding in her remaining hand instead.

Green Stuff over the wire, clay mitten over the putty, divide fingers with a knife, clean up with clayshapers.

Y’all know the drill by now. 😛

Also, a thumb.


Oooookay, back to this.

There’s really no getting out of it, every single one of the dreads is going to be its own free-floating snake. So, I get to it: each one gets a putty snake over the wire, and then a flattened clay snake wrapped around that. I bend the top wires upward temporarily to give me access to work on the bottom layers.

Hey, remember how I mentioned above that it’s very easy to do a messy and terrible job of adding ribbing to the dreadlocks?

Here’s how I know.

Don’t worry, it’ll get cleaned up. 🙁

When the lower layers look passable, I bend the next higher layer down and work it up in exactly the same way.

All told, the hair took an entire evening’s work, about six hours total.

I like the result, but holy crap. :/

The very last step for the hair is to add her bangs. The studio design has a really fake-looking lock of straight hair (read: white people hair) here, but I’d rather give my version a more natural look. That’s going to involve a bit of volume, hence the support staple I’ve jammed into her skull here. 😛

I spend a while researching interesting African hairstyles, and settle on a bangs style where the hair is basically allowed to floof out in the front, in contrast with the tightly-wound rows of the dreadlocks. I really like the end result. 😀

And with that, one of the least interesting stock Foreign Company characters becomes one of my favourite Chibi Foreign Company models. 😀


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