How to Make Cool Miis
Since I started posting Miis online back in 2006, people have been asking me for advice on how to make Mii characters. Well, OK, that’s a lie. They’ve been asking the best Mii makers for advice. To my knowledge none of those people have ever written a guide, so you get me instead.
Why learn to make better Miis? You’ll feel a satisfying sense of creative accomplishment, you’ll entertain yourself and other people, and you’ll be able to make any character you want any time you want, instead of searching around and hoping someone else has made a good version.
This is just a basic guide, with the most fundamental advice I can think of to get you started improving the quality of your Miis.
Take Your Time
Some of my Miis came together in just ten minutes or so, coming out just the way I wanted them in no time flat. …A couple of them. It’s not the norm. Far more often, my best Miis have taken me anywhere from half an hour to several hours to get exactly right. I’ve even revisited many of my Miis years after making them, continuing to improve them with new tricks I’ve learned.
Making Miis is like most things: you get out what you put in. Unless you possess a talent that I don’t, making a high quality Mii takes time and patience. So be prepared to spend a bit of both.
Look at a Picture
I was really surprised to learn the number of people who don’t do this. Even when it comes to a famous face we’ve seen hundreds of times, if we try to re-create it only from memory, our minds play tricks on us and we get lots of details wrong. Even professional painters don’t usually work without a model.
Load up Google Image Search and find a high quality photo of the person or character you’re trying to make. It should be a well lit photo without a lot of shadows. Make sure the face is looking straight toward the camera, since that’s the same perspective from which we compose Miis.
Before proceeding, compare the photo you’ve chosen with a few others just to ensure the one you’ve picked is a good photo that captures the person or character in one of their most recognizable moments or expressions.
Keep referring back to this photo as you make your Mii. It will make a world of difference.
Study the Picture in Detail
Take a careful look at the photo you chose. What’s the most prominent feature of this face, not counting the hair? (Hair is usually the easiest part of a Mii, so you shouldn’t lean too hard on the hairstyle to make yours look like the real thing.) Does the person have small, close-set eyes? A big, bulbous nose? A high forehead? A crooked smile? Whatever it is, make sure that’s your number one priority to accurately reproduce with your Mii.
Here’s a trick to make this easier: Look at the picture with your eyes out of focus. What part(s) of the blurry face is darkest or jumps out at you first?
Proportions Are Just As Important As Parts
I see a lot of Miis for which the creator clearly went to a lot of trouble picking out just the right hair, eyes, nose and mouth, but didn’t do much to change the sizes or positions of those items. The default male and female Miis start off with very large eyes, which makes for a “cute” Mii but isn’t very realistic for an adult human face. You’re usually better off knocking the eyes down a few notches in size, unless you’re making a cartoon character Mii or a small child.
Take another look at your guide photo, and compare each facial feature to the others. How close to the person’s mouth is the tip of their nose, compared to where their eyes are? How much space is between their eyes and their eyebrows, or isn’t there any? How much wider is their mouth than the widest part of their nose?
Examine the eyes in the photo. Are the top and bottom flat or curved? Are the eyes wider at the inner end or the outer end? Do they have dark eyelashes? Find the Mii Maker eye shape that is closest to the eyes in the photo, ignoring size, width, and angle of tilt. Pick that one, then use the Mii Maker’s re-sizing tools to stretch, shrink, rotate, and adjust the distance between. The important thing is to get the best match for the overall shape, then adjust the rest.
For examples of what I’m talking about, take a look at this image. I’ve taken images of Robin Williams and of Gabrielle Anwar, zoomed in on their eyes, and done some filtering in Photoshop to highlight their outlines, so you can see what I focused on when choosing which eye piece to use for each of them in Mii Maker (I usually just eyeball this—so to speak—but I used Photoshop to make it easier for you to see the kinds of things I look at). I scan for the unique characteristics of each person’s eyes, find the piece in Mii Maker that has the same characteristics, and then hit the yellow “size and position” settings bar to give it the right location, rotation, and proportions.
Use this same thinking with all the other parts. Pick the right shape, but make sure you use the re-sizing tools and modify it until it has the same proportions relative to the other parts as the photo does.
Here’s a useful trick: Cover either the left or right half of the face in the photo with your hand. Look at the eyes, the tips of the eyebrows (and mustache if they have one), and the corners of the mouth. With each of those, which are they closer to: your hand or the sides of the head? That’ll help you decide whether that feature should be small (or closely spaced together), or large (or widely spaced apart).
Use Every Feature (Unless It Adds Nothing to the Mii)
Faces have a lot of detail in real life, even if we don’t always notice. We usually think of a face mostly as hair, eyes, nose and mouth, but sometimes what makes a face recognizable are other things: Crow’s feet (the smile lines older people get at the corners of their eyes). Sharply defined cheekbones. Deep, prominent nasolabial folds (Those are the two big wrinkles we all have that connect the sides of our nose with the corners of our mouth.)
These may be secondary features, but on some people’s faces, they’re among the most prominent. As an example, look at my Kevin Spacey Mii. Notice that in a photo of Mr. Spacey, his nasolabial folds are a quite prominent aspect of his face. In the posted version of the Mii I’ve made of him, I’ve re-purposed his eyebrows to create those skin folds (and used the “dark eye sockets pattern” to make it less obvious that his eyebrows are missing). If you take those away, even though he now has real eyebrows, the Mii no longer looks as much like Kevin Spacey.
While Mii Maker gives us some options for showing these secondary features, the choices can be a bit limited. So it’s important to use every feature you can, even if you have to recycle one type of feature as a different one, as I did above with the eyebrows. You’ll notice that I also used the birthmark as the divot in his upper lip (more prominent in most other photos of Kevin Spacey), and a mustache to give him a chin (a trick I employ often with my Miis).
Be judicious, of course. Don’t use an extra feature if you can’t make good use of it. Make sure anything you add contributes to make the face look more like the real thing, and isn’t just cluttering it up.
This may just be my perfectionist streak talking, but when it comes to your choices about which parts to use and where to put them, don’t just “set it and forget it”. There have been many times when I’ve thought I’d got a Mii’s eyes or mouth just right, only to fiddle around a bit more and come up with something I liked even better. Sometimes, changing one part makes another one not look right any longer, and you’ve got to change that one, too. But it’s worth the trouble when it all finally comes together.
If you’re afraid of messing up your Mii by fiddling too much, just make sure you save any time you think you’ve got a candidate for the final version. That way, if you decide you don’t like the changes you’ve made and can’t figure out how to get it back the way it was, you can quit without saving and put it back again.
Sleep On It
This goes hand-in-hand with Step One. When you think you’ve finished a Mii, go do something else for awhile, then come back and look at it again. Make sure that even after stepping away and getting your mind off it, you still think it’s as good as it can be.
My general rule for myself when making a Mii is that I’ll wait until at least the next day, then fire up the Wii U and look at it again. Often I’ll find that with a second glance, the Mii doesn’t look as good as I thought it did the night before. Then I’ll do some more tinkering, and I almost always end up with a better Mii than before. And as I mentioned earlier, I’ve continued to fiddle with a number of my Miis several years after initially posting them!
That’s my best broad-stroke advice on how to create awesome Miis. If this guide helps you in any way, be sure to let me know, and show me if you post your Miis to MiiCharacters, GamerCreated, or other sites!