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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.
So when you are working with the Alphas in ZBrush, you are not limited to just what you have in this library here, there is a lot of creative potential in creating your own Alphas. I'm going to show you how to make your own Alpha right here in ZBrush. Now, I have my oldMan that I have been working on. I'm going to switch over to Illustration mode and paint directly on the canvas. To do that, I switch out of Edit mode; this has been dropped to the canvas so it's no longer available as a 3D model. But that's okay because all these changes are stored right here in the Tool palette, and as long as I have the ZBrush session going, that will be available to me.
It's always a good ides to save your tool often, so I'm going to do that right now. I'm going to call this man, oldMan_ alphas, and I'm going to save him. It's going to ask me if I want to save the currently selected alpha. I'm going to choose No, because that's one of the default ZBrush Alphas, but if I had my own alpha here, I can save it with the tool. So now I'm going to press Ctrl+N to clear the screen, and I'm going to change my document size. Turn off the Constrain Proportions button. Let's put this in the tray by clicking right there. 512x512, Resize, that looks good. Now I'm ready to start creating my own Alphas.
To start with, I'm going to go to the Tool palette and I'm going to choose my Regular PaintBrush. I'm going to lower the Draw Size. I want to create sort of a crosshatching Alpha, something that I can use to create fine wrinkles on the skin. Now, I'm just going to start drawing on the canvas. I'm varying the pressure on the tablet. When I do that, I get thinner lines with less pressure, thicker lines with more pressure. So let's do this. Open the breaks in there is good. Maybe just a couple of dots here. It's good to keep your Alphas nice and simple, makes them a little bit more versatile.
Then once I'm finished painting on the canvas, to convert this to an Alpha, I go to the Alpha menu, and I choose GrabDoc. Now this alpha is available to me right here in the Alpha palette, here in the User Alphas. I'm going to create another one just to show you some of the other aspects of working with Alphas. To do this, I'm going to choose Sphere3D and I'm going to start dragging spheres on the canvas. Some are going to be closer; some are going to be farther away. Some are small and some are large. All I'm doing is just dragging these spheres on top of each other. I'm going to go a little bit faster now and start filling the screen.
Of course, if I really want to go fast I can switch to Spray. Increase the Draw Size. There we go. Now I have really got some spheres coming. It's going to be an interesting texture for sure. Maybe make a few more big ones right here in the front. Now I'm going to create an Alpha from this image. To do that, I'm going to go to the Alpha palette and do GrabDoc.
Let's take a look at this Alpha by hovering over it. What you will notice is that it has actually stored the depth information as a value on the Alpha. Those parts of the image that are farther away from us are darker and those that are closer to us are lighter. This is going to create some very interesting effects. So I'm going to create a New document. I don't need to save the changes, I press No. I still have my Alphas, both of them, and I still have my tool. So I'm going to take the oldMan Alpha's tool, I'm going to drag him on here.
Switch to Edit mode, and I'm going to zoom in. I have got my Standard brush loaded, so I'm going to switch to the first Alpha that I made, and with the DragRect selected, just start drawing out here. That looks like some scarring. So let's hold the Alt key so it's digging in. I'm just going to create a crosshatching pattern here on the skin by dragging across. It doesn't look very realistic at this point, until I start smoothing it out.
So I'm holding the Shift key and just smoothing out on top. Blending where I need to. As you layer these wrinkles on top of each other, and continue to smooth and vary the size, you start to get some very realistic looking wrinkles. It's all about variation and creating organic looking details. I'm varying the Size; maybe you can vary the Intensity. I have raised the Intensity, so dig in a little bit more. I'm just overlapping them. You can see, it starts to make some very interesting wrinkles.
Let's see what happens when I choose the other Alpha. You can see when I drag on here, those white parts are actually closer and the darker parts make less of impression. I hold the Alt key, I get the opposite. Now, of course, this is going to end up looking a bit like some kind of skin problem and less like an organic detail, but I just wanted to show you how the lightness and the darkness of the Alpha actually affect it. One other thing is you might want to get rid of this square shape around the Alpha. To do that, we can go to the Alpha palette. I'm going to put this in the tray. We have a bunch of controls here that allow us to vary the Alpha.
The RF or the Radial Fade is a very useful one for creating a nice circular border to the Alpha. So now it sort of fades out at the edges, and I don't have that nasty square shape around it. Just like sculpting in ZBrush, you can get lost in creating your own Alphas, and I think that you should spend sometime doing that. See what you can come up with and see how the Alphas affect the detailing you do on your 3D models.
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