There's a number of these guides floating around, but the more I get asked about how I got my elves looking so naturally attractive, the more I feel this is necessary to get here. I always took this stuff as being totally obvious as I'm an artist by trade, but I figure it's worth sharing!

Human (and demi-human) women's beauty isn't about how much makeup you can cake on or how sleek her hair is or how powdered and pristine her skin looks. Those certainly contribute to it if observed through a specific beauty standard, but by far the most important is accurate, realistic facial proportions.

I'm going to show you exactly how it's done. It's not rocket science - it's observation and proper thinking, mindfulness of the ratios between the elements of the face. And a little geometry and mathematics, but the easy kind.

Bear in mind that these are only meant to be taken as general guidelines to help your character editing - not as the end-all be-all rules of what they HAVE to look like. Variations and small deviations from these norms are a major part of human biology.

White lines: Vertical ratio. The head is divided into quarters, from top to bottom: Top of the head to the forehead/hairline, forehead to the eye level, eye level to between the lip and the nose, and from atop the lip to the point of the chin.

Green lines: Eye width and spacing. The space between the eyes should be the width of one eye.

Blue lines: In idealistic proportions, the nostrils' width is the same as the space between the eyes. A straight line should be able to be drawn from the middle point of the lips, passing the sides of the nose and running through the pupil of the eye to the highest point of the brow. This is something of a textbook case of perfect facial proportions.

Roughly all of the female EEO presets have been built to fit into these guidelines. It can be daunting to try and internalize at first, but it should be taken as more of a set of mental notes to help better observe your character's features and plan for an aesthetically pleasing whole.

Cinching the eyes downward, enlarging them, shrinking the nose and reducing the space between the nose and lips makes the face childlike. This is also often combined with making the nose too small for the rest of the face. This can work intentionally for very young characters, but can result in freakish looks for one with otherwise adult bodily proportions.

Spacing the eyes and nose too far apart is something I observe a lot of people doing. This is usually doubled with pressing the lips and nose very close to each other and recuding the chin. You should now be able to tell at a glance how disturbing this looks, deviating from the natural proportions.

As a general tip, I see many people choosing very flat, 'powdered' skins that look very lifeless as they don't really exhibit any signs of blood circulation in the face. A big part of realistic looks is visible signs of subtle hues in the ears (Neck slider for female EEO elves), the tip of the nose and on the cheeks. A small, barely visible dusting of freckles can also help make your character more lively if you don't want to be as outrageous with them as my elves tend to be.

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  1. vortex5000
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    There's no such thing as perfect proportions, different facial proportions look attractive to different people. It's a useful guide but I don't like the implications of what you're saying about what are attractive and unattractive faces.
    1. amarx93
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      You could say he is kind of being a little unfair when it comes to considering the huge number of diverse tastes people have in general, but that isn't what he was doing. He specifically says, "...but the more I get asked about how I got my elves looking so naturally attractive..." which was the context for making the guide. So he was personally asked by others to show his preferences because many others also liked them. So, yes, on a case-by-case basis there is such a thing as perfect facial proportions when looking at an individual's specific preferences which also appealed to a significant number of people besides the individual in question.
    2. Jazhara7
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      I totally agree that there are no "perfect" proportions. But there are natural proportions.

      He is basically listing standard rules for drawing faces. You'll find it in any instruction book on human proportions (others being that a hand with fingers is about as large as the person't face, to get the proper proportion of the hand. Small hands is a mistake many people make, so this is a good guide). You do not measure in centimetres, inch or anything, you measure in the units you have: Eyes, nose, etc.

      This is all not to get a general image of beauty, but rather to get a face that looks natural. An old woman, that not everyone would maybe perceive as "pretty" has the same proportions as a young one (apart maybe from the nose and ears, as those continue to grow even after the rest has stopped growing). By following these guidelines, you get a face that feels naturally beautiful, or rather comfortably natural as opposed to freakishly ugly/uncomfortably unnatural.

      If you follow these guidelines, you can still make every kind of beauty. Choose a part to change, and adjust the rest to that. You choose a different shape of face, take bigger or smaller eyes, but keep the proportions mentioned above to keep them looking natural. There's many factors that are not even completely dependant on these proportions that can be changed. Just think what you have in your face lips, ear shape, cheekbones, chin, and whatelse. There's a lot more than these proportions - You can diverge from the proportions too (nature does too), but not to much, or you'll wander into the freakish area (ever seen a. But this is where you start. A set of proportions that has been tried and proved working over and over. In fact, the little differences diverging from these proportions usually make a face memorable and unique. Just don't overdo it, or you'll have something out of a nightmare. In fact, it is important to understand these proportions to know how far you can go before making it look wrong, instead of just unique.

      A good example is in the movie "Splice". Google imagesearch that (maybe not at work, incase you get certain scenes. But most of them will be of the character "ren". The girl seen there, while you can certainly describe her as beautiful, also looks sort of alien. Open up one of the pictures where she's visible as frontal as possible (there's one where another character is behind her to the right). Now measure one of the eyes, and then take that measurement to see that the space between her eyes is slightly bigger than the size of her eyes. While not feeling repulsive or completely unnatural, this little diversion from proportions makes the face feel different, even a bit non-human.

      Also, on the subject of "Perfect beauty", I suggest reading up on the term "Uncanny Valley". While perfection might seem desireable for some, it's hard to achieve. And sometimes, it is better not to achieve it, but rather go for imperfection to avoid a gag reflex by your audience.
    3. HlaaluSlayer
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      Actually, there is such a thing as "perfect proportions". The phenomenon is known as the "golden ratio", which is seen in architecture, faces, and nature itself, to name a few (general) examples.
      (I do apologize for the wordiness of the article; you should be able to get the gist by skimming it, if you wish)

    4. OnHolyServiceBound
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      Golden ratio is pseudo-scientific nonsense, just so you know.
  2. MsRavenn
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    well to my reading on elves is they aren't supposed to look so fuggly as the defaultand the eyes look more from an alien sci-fi than what I have read on elves but that's my opinion personally. like all above If I had not know or played skyrim i wouldn't of guess they were elves instead I would of thought they were aliens but perhaps I have read way too many fantasy stories aboutelves and such thoughtbefore you says I read lord of the rings I never did but I did read the hobbit cause my roommate got the book haha
    1. HlaaluSlayer
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      Well, TES elves are their own thing. While the series IS based on D&D, which is in turn based on the Arda books (Hobbit, LotR, Silmarillion)(D&D elves are even, specifically, LotR elves. The standard are high elves, like Elrond. There are also wood elves (Legolas), and the grey elves are the Sindarin (I *think* Galadriel was one, but I don't remember)), TES deviated almost immediately from the norm of elves (though Altmer, and many Dunmer, are still giant snobs at best), and the Bosmer have had freaky eyes since Oblivion. Dunmer eyes looking like they are in EEO is likely because of their lore; because of the Tribunal's betrayal, Azurah cursed the entire species to have skin like ash and eyes like the fires of Red Mountain. I really like it.
    2. KallianShito
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      @HlaaluSlayer: Elrond is actually a half elf, descendant of Luthien and Beren. Galadriel is a Noldor and Thranduil and Celeborn are Sindar elves with Legolas' heritage being uncertain as nobody knows his mother (but half of it being Sindar). The wood elves are called Silvan who have a vastly different heritage compared to Sindar elves and I think are actually considered of less worth. Also, Sindarin is one of the elven languages, the name of the people is as stated above, Sindar

      Though I thank you for pointing that out, there is a parallel I haven't seen before. Following that logic Galadriel would be a high elf (and technically is), the Mirkwood elves would be wood elves.
    3. Jazhara7
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      @HlaaluSlayer: Also don't forget that that in the Elder Scrolls, the Orcs are also one of the Elven races (They are also known as Orsimer).

      And of course the " wemer" or " warves", which are actually just as tall as all the other Mer and Menfolk. There's a story they once met a race of giants who gave them the name of " warves", and it kind of stuck. I am not making this up.

      So you have Orcs/Orsimer which are quite different from the standard elves, and the Dwarves/Dwemer which are also different.

      And real life folklore elves are another story altogether, especially if you remember that traditionally elves and fairies are not the same thing. You know, the kind that steal kids and leave behind changelings, and cause Tuberkulosis and can't touch cold iron.

      Sorry, I love Elder Scrolls lore. Also, different kinds of elves in folklore and fiction is one of my favourite topics.

      (EDIT: Had to put a space between ever " w", or I'd have a laughing smiley there. Forgot to turn off emoticons. )
  3. Legend0fJan
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    Good guide. I really tried recreating the character of the very first image, rather unsuccessfully unfortunately. Any tips?
  4. DarkPrice21
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    For me this guide is brilliant! Hopefully its going to help me create some better looking characters that deviate from the weirdness of vanilla faces.
  5. nuska
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    There's a huge number of different 'facial beauty' graphs out there in varying interpretations, some of them are very specific - I didn't go into cheek/jaw width-height rules here at all since we're dealing with fantasy characters who fundamentally break some of the 'rules' anyway with ear length and eye shape. Hence why I made this more about mental notes to keep in mind than strict guidelines on what's good and what isn't. Even this type of inverse-triangle graph only really represents caucasian-like women and thus a pretty narrow beauty ideal.

    I wholesomely encourage creating diverse faces. I just want to see more correct eye-nose-lip-forehead positioning ratios than I currently do. The quarter format and positioning the eyes at the exact vertical half of the face generally helps that.
    1. Ingolenuru
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      I almost always tend to intentionally enlarge eyes and spread them farther apart as part of making an elf. It gives them a more feral and alien look which I prefer because I want to see a difference between humans and non-humans. I like the more predatory look on the elves because they are a more ancient race and I see them as more barbaric in their origins and so having the necessary time for the development of their current more refined nature. A remnant of their once unchallenged rule before the younger races came to be.

      I really cannot bear to see elves that personify the human definition of beauty be it Caucasian or otherwise. This is a very handy graph for making my humans look more human and keeping the differences between my elves and humans more apparent. Extremely useful and I appreciate your instruction along with the graph.
  6. OnHolyServiceBound
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    I prefer the look of the golden ratio, although I suppose it wouldn't apply to elves as well.
  7. CharrGazgre
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  8. Yamjisaka
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    @KadrKolubra, tian1chen, idtc ~~ :/ :\
  9. kevkas
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    Nice article, thx for sharing.
  10. EggyBread
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    Cobrahm is talking about the mod, not this guide. Give him a break.