This is my version of a character creation guide for Skyrim. It’s not perfect and things will change, but you’ll get the idea of how to create a character for your liking.
One thing to note, I play mainly women in Skyrim so most of my creation mods center around women. I am trying to get into making male face presets (and maybe one day followers?!?), so most of these are things I’ve collected are to improve that or they improve my game in general.
Mods I see as “necessary” (general gender):
- RaceMenu (learn and get comfortable with the Sculpt tool)
- ApachiiSky Hairs (I use almost all the files for male and female)
- Retexture from ApachiiSkyHair Natural Retexture with the option of LESS CONTRAST
- KS Hairdos
- Salt and Wind retexture to make the hair less perfect and more lived-in, like someone who lives in Skyrim would have. Not that you can see it from the darkish interior.
- Freckle Mania
- Northborn Scars
- Battle Hardened Warpaint
- YevMods Makeup Pack (I think males and females can wear these)
- The Eyes of Beauty
- Improved Eyes
- Eye Customization Mod (technically optional, but really cool)
- Alternate Start – Live Another Life
- Not an appearance mod but helpful to allow you to create a character right off the bat as well as allow the game to load start game scripts from mods and vanilla in a neutral environment which will help your game to “catch up” and not get wonky when you do the Helgen wagon ride) (New Beginnings has more start options)
- Pride of Valhalla
- Pride of Valhalla Sparkle Eyes optional file
- SRG Female Textures Lightly Muscled Varient Normal Map
- 2k Lip Tints
- UNP Body (NSFW images to show off body, not due to pornography)
- Combined KS Hairdos (optional, but I like the combinations, plus has a tutorial for making your own)
- SG Female Eyebrows
- Female Facial Animation
- Better Males
- Sundracon meshes with Younger/GenoxFaces (NSFW pictures, see above)
- Vitruvia – Skin Texture Overhaul
Optionals that I have used and liked:
See some of my favorite Skin Texture Overhauls for Skyrim’s females.
- Enhanced Character Edit (never used, but it’s very popular)
- Better Males other files
- Women of Skyrim (and the Enhanced Normal Maps) (Good, but head only. Have to blend with a skin; I used this and it worked well)
- Better Makeup for SKSE (if you aren’t using a skin option with HD tint masks)
- Seductive Lips HD (alt HD lip tint mask)
- Pretty Lips (alt HD lip tint masks)
- CBBE Body (NSFW images, see above)
- Somewhat different than UNP but they have a lot of similarities.
- CBBE Skin Texture (for UNP also) (NSFW images)
- Has a good muscle variant, but the skin is not 4k. It’s still lovely in closeups.
- Alt Navetsea UNP Seamless Skin
- This is a better way to install the Navetsea’s CBBE/UNP Skin Texture and works correctly for UNP.
- Ethereal Elven Overhaul
- Requires a LOT of patches to work with other mods. Some are on the EEO page, others are on the mod page that needs the patch, and still others are in files of their own. Just look up Ethereal Elven Overhaul on Nexus and you’ll find them.
- KJ Tattoos
- The Neith Team Warpaints
- TairenSoul Warpaints
- Warpaints by Auriana
- Lore Styles Hair Set
- Superior Lore Styles for Hair (retexture of vanilla)
- Lovely Hairstyles
- Vanilla Hair Variety Plus
- CITRUSHeads (be careful with the mesh, it’s sort of wonky, but it’s nicely high-poly)
- Vanilla head mesh is just fine for me until there is a better one. CITRUS Heads is just too painful to work with. However, I will keep the mentions in this tutorial as I made this particular face with it and some people like the mesh.
- Coverwomen (low resolution now because it’s very old, but the glitter look (#2) used to be my favorite skin for the face. Just leaving this here if anyone wants to make a new one with that glitter! otherwise, don’t recommend anymore as it doesn’t mix with the better skins)
- HDT mods (Ugh, they are so buggy ((the meshes will get “stuck” and stretch all the way across the entire game world or get your head stuck in a door)) so I won’t ever use them, but there are a lot of mods that have alternative versions using HDT meshes in them. They’re cool, but use at your own risk!)
Vampire Overhaul Mods for Appearance:
I like beautiful vampires. An ethereal type of vampire that reminds me of the ancient myths and folktales. These legends always made me think of eerily beautiful beings that have an air of mystery and power which makes a mortal want to be in their presence. I was always unhappy with the Skyrim vampire (WTF ARE THOSE EYES?!?! THOSE FACES?!?! BURN IT WITH FIRE!) so when I learned I could change a vampire’s appearance I jumped on it. I, myself, choose two eyes from The Eyes of Beauty mod to replace the vampire eyes in both the vanilla game and in Dawnguard (see below for a quick tutorial to change the vampire eye textures). I used eyedevil.dds for my Dawnguard eyes and eyeblueice.dds for my vanilla vampires. The lightish blue eyes make them seem more otherworldly to me (but not so strange that they can’t pass off as being human) and the discoloration in the devil eyes looks really cool and creepy at the same time since these particular vampires are vastly different than the common rabble. Perfect for being “touched” by Molag Bal himself!
- DVA Dynamic Vampire Appearance
- Changes their appearance depending on their “hunger.” Also allows you to customize the face to a certain degree in-game. The facial changes are not required for this mod to work.
- Better Vampire Fangs and Eyes
- To make your female vampire have fangs and to fix some other issues.
- Better Vampires
- Not exactly an appearance overhaul, but lets you customize some aspects of your vampiric life which can affect the appearance change.
- No Sunken Vamp Faces
- Changes the .tri files for the humanoid races – beast races don’t have a change in the vanilla game. The mod uses the vanilla head morph and not the ugly sunken-in cheeks one. Custom races may not be supported as they have their own .tri files, check out the race’s mod information and/or replace the .tri file yourself if it’s the same morph.
- SG Skin, SRG Female Textures, Better Males, Pride of Valhalla, or any other skin that has a good vampire texture included, otherwise you’ll get a weird mismatched texture issue.
- Also look for files that don’t have the default Dawnguard vampire face msn.dds file as a base.
To change eyes for vampires: Go to Program Files(x86)/steam/steamapps/common/Skyrim/Data/textures/actors/Character/eyes and replace eyevampire_01.dds with the eye texture you want (make sure to make a copy of the eye texture you want for the vampire eyes and rename the copy so you still have the original eye texture as well). If you’re replacing Dawnguard vampire eyes, then replace eyevampire_02.dds. Note: These will change all vampires in the game based on which file they’re pulling from.
- If you use DVA (above), change the eye.dds under that mod and disable eye combat/nightvision in the MCM will allow only your eyes to change I believe. I will test this!
- Optional mods that have some eyes already in it and/or change the default vampire eyes: More Vampire Eyes, Underworld Dawnguard – Vampire and Werewolf Eyes, The Eyes of Beauty, Improved Eyes
I don’t normally use custom race mods, but there are a ton out there. However, because I don’t use any I can’t give any real information on them. I assume making a character is similar or nearly the same as how I do it, but I know many have their own textures and meshes. I would say explore and find out what suits you!
Creating Your Character
Alright! Got your mods downloaded and installed? (Install mods with Nexus Mod Manager or Mod Organizer. I only use NMM. I do not recommend installing manually as that can get tricky unless you’re picking and choosing specific textures and meshes to use from many mods.) Ready to get cracking? Great! Now load up your Skyrim and either create a new game and get past the wagon riding sequence or load a previous save and click the “`” key (without the quotes), type in showracemenu, then hit the “`” key again (without the quotes) to close the screen out. This should bring you to the race menu. I will break down how I get the general shape of my faces and bodies in a list, but I do go back and forth a lot to tweak as I go.
Good tutorials that inspired this one:
- Face Time by anaphiel, flickr
- Making Beautiful Female Characters (applies to males as well)
- How to Create Beautiful Characters in Skyrim
General Tips and Tricks:
- Study faces. People are beautiful and everyone is almost completely unique (even identical twins, who can undergo the same environmental strains as everyone else and can end up looking remarkably dissimilar). But realize that every face has quirks. Nothing is exactly the same on either side and the pictures in the fashion magazines are highly touched up.
- Understand the Golden Ratio and how it applies to faces. While there are a lot of ways faces are not perfect and things don’t line up all the time, the primitive part of our brain is wired to see things a certain way and it “sees” a face as lying near the geographical lines of the ratio. If something deviates widely from this our brains pick up on that as something unnatural and non-human (even if it is human).
- Use the Golden Ratio as a guide to get realistic proportions and then alter to your own taste and character need.
- If you want realistic faces, don’t base your work on cartoons or anime. They don’t have realistic proportions simply because they are drawn to a specific style or to exaggerate a look. Look up faces of models and actors (unedited ones) and base your look off that. Combine faces together to get a look you want!
- Alternatively, if you want the anime look, then study a lot of different anime and manga styles. Here is a good tutorial with helpful mods for that look.
- Don’t be afraid to add “unique” features: moles, pot marks, acne, freckles, wrinkles, deformation, or scars are just the tip of the iceberg. Try making a longer than average nose, maybe a long chin, have the ears stick out some, the possibilities are endless.
- Play with features that are out of the box for you. For example: I like to make faces similar to this a lot. I find it attractive. But I have tried changing up features like nose shape, jaw width, chin variations, and lip fullness. I have added scars on faces I thought were too perfect to have them. I have played around with moles and freckles. While I’m not always successful in playing characters that look varied, I do try and play around with the looks and see if I can make them unique.
Onto the tutorial!
- Race is important because they all have racial abilities and all races have different stats (especially if you’re using a race overhaul mod like Disparity).
- Gender, Presets, Weight
- Gender, weight, and possibly height can come into play more if using race overhaul mods. See my article on the subject.
- Camera View
- I try to pull it up as close as possible so I can see finer details
- I take off any war paints and scars so I an see the whole face clearly
- If there is a lot of hair I might take that off as well under the Hair tab
- I do a lot of sliders here, but this is where I get the general idea of the face shape, the nose, and jaw down
- The mouth area covers the chin and mouth. It helps with the general idea of the face
- I don’t always worry about the colors of the basic makeup or the iris when I first get to this tab, I mostly worry about the position of the eyes and their width
- Again, once I have the basic shape down the brows can be used to accentuate it or completely alter the look depending on style
- Touch Ups
- After I hit the main tabs I’m constantly going back and forth until I have a very basic shape I want
- Head, again
- This time I go to face to get any scars if I feel they’ll fit (war paints come later)
- On CITRUSHeads the scars don’t always show properly at first. This will be fixed in the Sculpt section. If you can’t visualize, then choose a scar, go to sculpt and use smooth to even out that part of the face until you can see it and make a judgment.
- OR YOU CAN USE THE VANILLA HEAD MESH FOR THE FACE. It’s less buggy.
- I also start focusing more on colorations like giving color to the cheeks, eye colors, etc…
- This is also the time I save the head under the Presets tab (pictures below) so if I make a mistake later in sculpt I can fix it
- Learn this tool, it’s a lifesaver or it’s a life wrecker. It helps so much in getting the face smooth along with CITRUSHeads, but you have to learn and understand how the tools work. Best way is to play around with dummy heads.
- Smooth is my favorite brush
- If you do a lot of sculpting and then “Clear All” it will revert back to the face you made with ALL extreme edits attached. Bug, mayhaps? This is why I save a version of the face unaltered by sculpt so I can go back and edit that file.
- Only if you want hair ^_<
- More basic changes if needed
- Add in extras like Makeup (you can download mods or do warpaints here)
- Body does the whole body, hands does hands, feet does feet…
- Save face in the Presets tab
- Finish your character
- SAVE GAME
- Seriously, you have no idea how many times I’ve crashed after making a character.
- Expressions are useful for screenarchery, but can be tedious. If you change up the face it can alter how other expressions are applied and make a huge mess, so I usually leave this blank except for pictures. I always change it back after.
- I don’t use many other tabs, I have no need to. If I want to pose I use a pose mod. If I want magic to show up I have them magic ready and then pose. 🙂 I will post a tutorial on how I do screenarchery soon. I’m still learning that!
Still having problems with getting the face to “look right?” Try some face presets!
Mine. Can possibly be used on other races, but I don’t think the Orc or Elf would transfer well.:
- Duldresi – A Dunmer Face Preset
- Hathor – A Redguard Face Preset
- Mazoga – An Orc Face Preset
- Lagertha of the Vikings Face Preset
Others I use from time-to-time. These can be used on a variety of races if you tweak them.:
- -Khinara Jade –
- Adriana Preset for Racemenu and ECE
- Mona Preset for Racemenu and ECE
- Racemenu Megan Fox Preset
- Daenerys Targaryen Preset (ahhhh! Looks great, but I’m still going to make my own!)
- Scarlett Johansson
- Olivia Wilde
- Tannick (long title so just putting his name here)
Next up, Building the Inner Workings of your character!