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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.
In the real world, actual sculptors like to start their sculptures with an armature, basically a wire frame upon which they can add clay to make their sculpture. ZBrush uses ZSpheres to create armatures for digital sculptures and they work in kind of the same way. The basic idea is to have a starting point to create geometry that you can then sculpt into your highly detailed meshes. So right here I have a very basic Stick figure made up of ZSpheres and when I press the A button, I get a preview of what these ZSpheres will look like when they are converted to a mesh. Now this might not be the most realistic humanoid you have ever seen, but it's a great starting place.
When this is converted to a mesh, I can subdivide it and then start to use the Sculpting tools to turn it into anything from a simple cartoon character to Michelangelo's David. But the ZSpheres are the starting point and what I would like to show you is how to get to start in creating ZSpheres so that you can build and pose your own armatures. So to start with, I have the Tool palette loaded here in the tray and I'm going to click on the Main tool icon here and choose ZSphere and this will switch to single ZSphere on the canvas and you notice it's already in Edit mode. I'm going to press the F key so we can zoom -in really quickly and take a look at this.
Now it's just a simple sphere, it's got two colors and the two colors are there to help me remember the orientation of the ZSphere because that is an important part of working with ZSpheres. When I have this in Edit mode and I have the Draw button enabled, every time I click and drag on the surface of the sphere I add a new ZSphere and I can put these anywhere where I want. I can even put them on top of the other ZSpheres. When I click the F key to center and you will see when I click on the A key, I get a preview of what the final mesh will look like when I covert it.
Now this one is a little bit of a mess and that's mainly because I have added the ZSpheres randomly which you can do, you can add them anywhere you want but as you will notice as I'm holding my mouse over the ZSpheres, sometimes it's red and sometimes it's green. When it turns green, ZBrush is telling me that is an ideal place to add a new Zsphere. Ideal meaning that the resulting geometry when I convert will be nice and clean. Let's take a look at this guy real quick to get an idea of what that means. You see how the edges of the PolyMesh flow in a logical manner, there is no strange intersections or parts of the polygon mesh that are in the configuration that's going to lead to too many problems.
So when I switch back to my ZSphere here and I want to get started with just the basic ZSphere workflow, when you are just getting something started. So I will press the F key just to center the ZSphere so I can see that close. This usually works best when I have Symmetry mode enabled and you will see why in a second. I'm going to go to the Transform palette and I'm going to Activate Symmetry. By default the Symmetry is on the X axis. Now as I drag over the Zsphere, I'm going to drag on the canvas to rotate around and as I hover over the ZSphere you are going to see two Brush icons. The reason you see two is because Symmetry is enabled.
Using Symmetry I can find the exact center of the side of the Zsphere. As you can see as I hover over here and I bring them together, they sort of snap together. Now I'm going to bring it down to the center and this center point is where I want to add my next ZSphere and I do that just by clicking and dragging on the surface of the Zsphere. Now if I click the A key to see the adaptive mesh preview, in other words what its going to look like when I convert it to polygons. I get kind of a strange configuration here. It looks like part of the model is missing. This is a quirk about Zspheres. You don't want to start with just one ZSphere; you want to start with at least three, that's the ideal situation. To make sure that they are added and that the resulting polygon mesh is nice and clean, that's was the case with my stick figure, I'm going to add the second ZSphere on the opposite side.
So I'm dragging on the canvas to rotate around and I hold the Shift key to snap it into place. I hover my mouse over the ZSphere until they turn into one bright green Brush icon. I want to find the center there and I'm going to drag very carefully on the surface to add my third ZSphere. So if I rotate to the side you will see I now have three Zspheres. I'm going to press F here just to center so I can see the whole model and I'm going to press the A key and you can see I have this nice little sausage shape here and all of the edges of the sausage shape are sort of nice and clean. If we take a look at my ZSphere figure here, I'm going to press the F key to center. This basically how I started this guy. Here was the first ZSphere that I created and here are the two on either side and on top of this, I added additional ZSpheres.
So I'm going to switch back to this, I'm going to press the F key to center and press A to switch back to ZSphere Preview mode. Now this arrangement actually takes a little bit of practice. The first few times you try it, you may find that you get a few problems like one ZSphere might be twisted or you might have a hard time finding that exact center spot. Its okay, just practice it with a little bit of patience and eventually you will get it and it will become second nature. A few quick other notes about Zspheres. When I press the A key I get this Mesh Preview. Now this is a preview I can sculpt this using the Sculpting brushes but it's generally not a good idea to edit the shape of the preview. The preview is there to let you know how your arrangement of ZSpheres is going to look when you are ready to finally convert it.
So as I work in ZSpheres, I will show you with this guy, I'm constantly pressing that A button, flipping back and forth between the ZSphere mode and the Preview mode so I can see how the polygons are going to be arranged. When I'm finally ready to turn this into a mesh that I can sculpt using my Sculpting brushes. I go to the Tool palette, I have my ZSpheres loaded on the screen, and it's in Edit mode. I will go to the Tool palette and I go down to this Adaptive Skin sub-palette.
I just expand it by clicking on Adaptive Skin and I just press Make Adaptive Skin and what this does is when I press you will see nothing happens. Well nothing immediately obvious happens but actually what happened is it created a new model and put it in the Tool palette and this new model is called Skin_Zsphere. In other words this is a copy. Here is my original, the one that's on the canvas now. When I click on this one, now you see the meshed version. If I press the A key nothing happens that's because this is a mesh that's ready for sculpting with the Sculpting brushes and I can go on from here to -- I'm going to increase the Draw Size, I just have the standard brush here and I'm going to start shaping this fellow, giving him a pop belly and already it's Michelangelo all over again. Basically, that's my sculptable mesh but I still have the ZSphere version here in the Draw palette which I can go back to and change and I can even save this using the Save As button here in the Tool palette.
This is in the ZBrush file, so I'm going to call this the zsphereStickMan, just as an example. I also have this guy right here which is still, if I press the A key there is my startup. I'm going to save this as zsphereStart. Now that you have your basic three ZSphere starting configuration, you are ready to start adding more ZSpheres and then you are ready to also move these ZSpheres around so that you can pose your armature and that's the next step in the ZSphere workflow.
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