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Pixologic's ZBrush 3 stands at the forefront of digital 3D sculpting and 2.5D painting, a new medium that is taking the art and entertainment worlds by storm. Visual effects artist Eric Keller shares his expertise and talents in ZBrush 3 for Windows Essential Training. He presents the concepts behind digital sculpting, shows how to produce fantastic images using the unique ZBrush toolset and interface, and demonstrates the power of the Digital Clay and Sculpting brushes. To offer a richer understanding of the application, Eric gives a guided tour of the interface and addresses the most common problems experienced by new users. Exercise files accompany the course.
Starting as sculpture in ZBrush has made a lot easier if you have reference plans, an image that you can use as a guide, as you make your sculpture. Let's talk a little bit about how to create reference plans and then how to use them in ZBrush. ZBrush comes with some useful tools and these can be found in the Program Files/Pixologic/ZBrush3/Ztools folder. The ones I'm talking about are the ImagePlaneCube and ImagePlaneX. Let's take a look at the ImagePlaneX tool. I'm going to open this and draw it on the canvas and I'm going to switch to Edit mode as always so I can rotate it around.
Do you notice, it looks a little bit strange because things are becoming visible and invisible. So, if I want to make the whole object visible, I go to Display Properties in the Tool palette, in tool>Display Properties>Double. By default, most 3D objects in ZBrush are single-sided, meaning the back sides of their polygons are invisible and this is just a way to conserve memory resources in ZBrush. So, if you see part of the model disappearing as you rotate it, remember to go to Display Properties and click on Double.
Now, we can see the ImagePlaneX object and let's switch to the Basic Material and how is this useful. Well, this is an object that you can add sub tools to and turn those sub tools into your sculpture. I'm going to load a texture here which will help us as a guide. So, I will choose Import. In the same Ztools folder, Program Files/Pixologic/Zbrush3/Ztools, there are two textures, ImagePlaneCube and ImagePlaneX. I'm going to choose ImagePlaneX.
This is just a two-dimensional texture that tells you're right there on the texture hidden backwards, there we go. Now it's forwards. This is the front image, and this is the side image. So how is this helpful? Let's take a look at the texture really quickly. This is what the texture is, front and inside. So, if I open this same texture in Photoshop, and I'm going to go to the Program Files/Pixologic/Zbrush3/Ztools, and here it is, ImagePlaneX. I can open this in Photoshop and now I can either draw my drawings that I want to use for a reference or I can even put photographs here. So I will put the front view photograph here and the side view photograph right here. I have actually created one of these images and this is available as ImagePlaneXGirl.
So this is just a very rough image that I have drawn, a sketch of a female head. Then I have used the same image, so it started out as the same ImagePlaneX image and I put the front view here and the side view here. Now, when I create these images, I like to use bold lines and I stay away from creating too much detail. All I'm really concerned about is the shape of the primary forms, because that's what I'm going to use as a guide in ZBrush. So, let's close Photoshop here and let's open ZBrush and I'm going to load that texture.
So I'm going to choose Import and I'm going to go to Essential ZBrush and I'm going to choose ImagePlaneXGirl. Now, I can see I have my side view and I have my front view. Now that I have that ready to go, I'm going to add a tool that I can use to start sculpting. I'm going to show you this because you might run into a couple of problems when you are working in this. I want to help you get out any problems you might encounter.
So, I'm going to go to Program Files/ Pixologic/Zbrush3/Ztools and I'm going to choose the PolySphere. This is my favorite tool to start add sculptures with. I get a little warning here in reference to this image. It's safe to ignore that warning. I'm going to move this down a lower level of subdivision. Now I'm going to add as a subtool, my ImagePlaneX tool. So, I'm going to append it and here it is.
Immediately, you can see that I have a number of problems. One thing, the PolySphere and the ImagePlaneX are not lined up. This is easy to fix. I just select the ImagePlaneX and I go to Deformation and I choose Unify. Now, they are lined up. I can turn Transparency on. Now I can actually see through the PolySphere to the image plane. So now I want to put my texture on this ImagePlaneX object.
So I will go over to the Texture palette and I will select ImagePlaneXGirl. I'm going to turn Transparency off for the moment so we have an idea of what's going on. Well, another problem that we are having. When you apply a texture to an object that has subtools, that same texture is applied to all of the subtools. It's great for the image plane, because this is what I want, but it's very distracting while it's on the cube. So, how do I get out of this situation? Well, what I want to do is I want to use my color controls to convert the texture that is applied to the ImagePlaneX. I want to convert that into a color that is applied to this tool. This is one way I can separate the texture that's applied to one subtool from another. Now, if you remember from poly painting, when you apply colors to an object, it's based on the resolution of the object.
If I turn on Frame right now, I can see that this is fairly low resolution, this tool by default. I would like to divide it a few times; increase the resolution on the object. Now, when I turn Frame on, you can see I have many more polygons and this will make the sketch of the girl a lot clearer when I convert it to a color. Let's divide it one more time, just for fun. Okay. So I have six levels of subdivision on my PolyPlane. That gives us a total of two million polygons, that's a lot but these here work fairly well.
Once I have that divided, I can go down to the Texture palette. Now, all of these that I have been using, they are all part of the Tool palette. So, let me scroll down and find Texture and I'm going to do Texture to Color. I'm going to convert this texture to a color that's applied to the plane. The Texture has turned off. There is no texture applied, but you could still see this sketch on the planes. So, now we know that that texture has been successfully converted to a color that is applied to the object. Now, when I turn on PolySphere, I have a nice, clean sphere that I can work with. I turn on Transparency. I'm setup and ready for sculpting. Turn on the Visibility on both subtools, select the PolySphere and I'm going to turn on Activate Symmetry, so I have X symmetry enabled.
Switch to a side view, I'm going to add some lower levels of subdivision to this model. Choosing Reconstruct Subdiv, so it is nice and low resolution. Switch to the Move tool, increase the size and start dragging the object until it starts to conform to the shape drawn on my reference plane. The way I like to do this is, I create the head shape and then I extrude the neck using edge loops. So let's do a quick recap of the entire process from the beginning, because this just is something that I do every single time I start a head model and it takes a little bit of getting used to. So I'm going to initialize Zbrush. When I do this, it removes all of the tools from the Tool palette, starting with a clean slide. I'm going to load the ImagePlaneX tool. Once again, this is in Program Files/Pixologic/Zbrush3/Ztools/ ImagePlaneX. Load onto the canvas, draw it, switch to Edit mode, turn on Double Sided and switch to Basic Material.
Now, I'm going to load the PolySphere object. This is the best way to start ahead in my opinion. Let's lower the subdivision and a slight change there. Now, I'm going to go to the SubTool palette and append my ImagePlaneX. When I do that, I need to realign them. I just pressed F to zoom out there. I'm going to select the ImagePlane, go to Deformation and choose Unify, now on the same place.
I want to apply the texture to the ImagePlane. So, I choose from my textures, my ImagePlaneXGirl texture. It's applied to both objects. So, let's hide the PolySphere as we just have the ImagePlaneX visible. I'm going to go down to Geometry, divide it, it has about five or six levels of subdivision. Let's just stick with 5 for now.
Now, that it is nice and dense, I can go to Texture. For the most part, remember, we are all in the Tool palette. I will switch to menus and I'm going to go Texture to Color. There we go. I will turn my PolySphere back on, turn on Transparency, switch to a side view and start sculpting. Another variation of this is the ImagePlaneCube tool, if you like to have six sides to your reference planes. You will also find that this has its own special texture as well, ImagePlaneCube texture, which you can bring into Photoshop and use to arrange your reference images. The workflow for the most part is exactly of the same, it's just a cube as opposed to two planes. There you go!
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