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When you are creating 2.5D illustrations in ZBrush, it's nice to have a way to organize all of the pixels that have been painted on to the canvas. To do this, you can use document layers. Document layers are found here in the Layer palette. Now these layers are very different from the layers you see here in the Tool palette. If I have a 3D object selected as my tool, you will see layers appear here as a sub-palette. These are the 3D layers and they are used to organize details while you are sculpting. They are a completely different animal than the document layers. It's a little bit confusing because they have the same name but if you remember to refer to these as document layers and refer to these as 3D layers, that can help you keep them separate in your mind as you are working.
So, let's take the Layer palette and I want to click on the switch and put it over in the tray. By default, there is already a single layer created on the canvas. There is always at least one. So I'm going to go to the Tool palette and I'm going to select the Ring3D. So I have Ring3D here. Here it is selected. Let's draw it on the canvas. I will switch to Rotate and you can see that I can now rotate this round in three dimensions. But as you know if I go to choose another tool or a brush, I get this warning and this is telling me that once I switch to on different tool, this ring will be dropped to the canvas and it will be converted to pixels. So I can no longer rotate it using this Transform Gyro.
So one way to get around that is to use layers. Layers will allow you to work around pixels that have been dropped to the canvas already. So I'm going to switch and I'm actually going to create a new layer. When I create a new layer, it's always created above the currently selected layer. We will get into that a little bit more in a moment but I would like to add another object to the scene. So let's make a nice red object that has a different material and we choose ReflectedMap. Let's choose another 3D tool. We will go for the simple sphere and I'm going to draw this on the canvas and here it is. Switch to Move and move it around. Now you can see there is a preview. A very simple preview of each of the objects and each layer.
Now document layers are similar to Photoshop layers but notice that just because this one is above this layer, it's not going to obscure the object on that layer, because remember they are all sharing the same 3D space. So I can still move this sphere in front of or behind the ring. It doesn't matter that they are on two different layers. So let's actually make the sphere intersect here. You can think of layers as new ZBrush documents that have been stacked on top of each other. They all share the same 3D space but they are like separate documents altogether.
Let's add another layer. This is layer three and choose a different material. Go for something fun like the JellyBean, make it green JellyBean and we will choose the Sphereinder. Something nice and simple. Here is our JellyBean Sphereinder. Once again, I'm going to switch to Rotate. Rotate this around, maybe scale it out a little bit. Rotate some more. Not a masterwork of illustration but good enough demonstration.
So you can see I have three different layers here and each of the objects are intersecting each other. So a few tips about working in the Layers palette, because it's kind of an unusual workflow. For one thing, if I switch from one layer to another when I have the Transform Gyro activated or I'm in Edit mode, it immediately drops this to the canvas. So right now this is still 3D independent object but now when I switch to the first layer, that's now been dropped. So I can no longer move that. So you wan to be careful to only switch layers when you are ready to commit an object to the canvas.
I can't name the layers. I'm stuck with Layer 1, Layer 2 and Layer 3 and as you notice, I can change the visibility of the layers by the way that I click on them. So to toggle the visibility of a layer I click on it, then I select the next layer and that turns it off. It's a little bit of a strange workflow but if you watch carefully, you can see that when I click on this repeatedly, you can see it here in the border of the layer name, it turns from dark gray to light gray.
So when I click on it until it's light gray and then choose another layer, that layer disappears. If I select it again, it turns on. If I click on it again, so this is dark and then switch to another layer, the layer stays on. This takes a fair amount of practice as you can imagine. So now if I click on them all until we don't have a border here. So it is light gray down here and I switch between layers. Only the layers that are currently selected are the ones that are visible. If I click on this again, so that this is dark and this is dark, they all stay visible but I'm switching from one layer to another. I can change the position of the layer by clicking on these buttons. Notice that the layers are always numbered the same way but the positions are changing.
The only time that really becomes an important issue is if I want to merge two layers together because when I merge using Mrg button, that's going to merge this layer with the one below it. So if I decide that I want to merge the ring layer with the green sphereinder layer, I need to position so maybe the ring is just below the sphereinder. Choose this sphere under layer and then choose Merge. That's going to give me a warning that this is not undoable.
Now this layer is merged together. You can quickly Duplicate a layer so you have two copies of it and you can also clear a layer by pressing Clear or I usually use the hot key combination Ctrl +N. So I can select this and Ctrl+N. So now I have nothing in my document and finally I can use the Fill button to fill a layer with the current color and material. Working with layers takes a little bit of practice specially the controls in the Layer palette but it's very worthwhile because you will find that's it's a great way to organize the pixels on your screen and plus as you are working and if you decide that you do not like something, you can clear that by deleting the layer or clearing the layer without affecting any of the other objects that you created on the scene.
You may want to check out the robot_ island_layers document and when this opens, you can see in the Layer palette already. I have a number of layers and my general rule is every time I add something to the canvas, I create a layer for it. So I have a layer for the clouds, which I can turn on and off. I have a layer for the island, for the two palm trees. The robot is actually on two different layers, the shark fins as well as some of the white caps on the water.
Take a look at the scene, play with it, move the layers around, delete layers, add new layers, add objects to the layers and just get used to working with document layers. I think you will find they are extremely useful and they can help you maintain your sanity while you are working on a complex 2.5 dimensional illustration.
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