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Modeling the shoulder joint of humanoid models is often a sticking point for me, due to the many degrees of freedom a shoulder has, and when rigged, my shoulders often pinch badly. What sort of edge loops and placement is best for that complex joint? Or is this more of a rigging/skinning issue than a modeling issue?

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The key with shoulder topology is to represent the deltoid muscle well and to separate the arm mesh from the body. The exact topology will depend on your subject. Most of the time every model will have slightly different topology.

For example, a muscular male will need far more dense and defined topology than a slim female.

The general rule of thumb with topology is to follow the muscle flow. Here is a front, side,, back, and top view of a fairly typical shoulder topology layout.

Things to notice:

  1. The vertical face loop roughly follows the inside and top edge of the deltoid, on both front and back.
  2. The horizontal loop is placed roughly where the deltoid, bicep, and triceps meet.

Shoulder topology front Shoulder topology side Shoulder topology back Shoulder topology top angle

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For a low-poly model I just added two additional edge-loops at the should and ellbow region.

The edge-loops should be added around your bones tip or root which also allows better control in weight paint mode.

enter image description here

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