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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.
When you are ready to start working with a 3D sculpture in ZBrush, you can start by using one of the applications named 3D Startup Meshes. These are found in the Tool palette. Now I have my Tool palette here in the tray, the way I can put it in the tray is just to expand it, click on the switch and that's right over there. If I click on the tool icon here, I get the library of meshes. So these are the 3D Meshes up here which is what I'm concerned with. I'm not concerned with the Startup 2D Brushes down here at all.
Most of these models with the exception of PolyMesh and ZSphere, these are all what's known as parametric 3D models. What that means is, you use sliders and values to establish the basic shape of the model before you start sculpting on it. So I'm going to select the Gear model here, I want to draw it on the canvas. I'm going to switch to Edit mode by clicking on the Edit button, you can also use the T hot key and now I can rotate it around and take a look at the model itself. To start editing this model, I could just expand the Initialize sub palette here in the Tool palette; it's towards the button. These controls are all unique to this particular model. So in other words, each one of the Startup Meshes are going to have slightly different controls here, but they are all found in the Initialize sub palette. These are a lot of fun to play with and it get addictive.
I find myself starting a model this way and getting a little bit lost in all different ways to customize it. For instance, I can change the coverage by moving this slider back and forth and that changes whether it goes all the way around 360 degrees or just a portion of that. It starts to look like a little spiky mohawk hair. I can change the width to make it thicker. I can change the inner radius, change the width of the center here. Now, of course, all of these different controls do different things and it's not always completely obvious what they do. But if we want to know what a slider does, just hold the Ctrl key and hover over the slider and you will get a brief description over what the slider does. You can change the Tilts, get something somewhat radical there, maybe a little bit less.
This is a great way to come up with mechanical pieces or things that you can attach to a robot or maybe apartment complex where the robot lives. You can also use these edit curves to change the shape. These are found throughout the interface through these little sections right here with gray shape in them. To start working on it I just need to click on it and that will expand the curve. So in other words, if I want to expand the Outer Profile curve, I just click on it and the curve expands. If I want to work on the Outer Section curve, I click on that. There is also the Inner Profile curve and the Inner Section curve. So this particular model, the Gear model, has a lot of curves and each one controls a different part of the shape of the model. So when I start working on the curve, you will get immediate feedback over what it does.
This is part of what makes working these models, so much fun! If I'm working with a particular point on the curve, I can change its influence by dragging the circle back and forth. That changes the interpolation coming out of the curve, basically the curve shape. To add a point to the curve all I need to do is, click on it and a new point is added and I can start dragging around. If you see, you get some really, really cool stuff going on here. I can drag this one up towards the end right there, down like this and now we have robot dentures. If I decide that I want to make these curves less smooth and maybe more sharp, it's very easy to do that. I just select the point, drag it off and then drag it back on again. There we go; we get a different shape there.
This one still has a nice smooth curve to it, but this one has a hard angle. I want to make this hard as well. I just drag it off and then drag it back on again. To get quick look at some of these other curves, we have the influence, the shape. There we go; we already got something very interesting going. You may find that, if you really like these tools, that you're coming up about these different shapes, remember to save them, save them in your own folder, give them your own special name. I'm going to call this one myGear, save them in the ZTL format, that's the Ztool format. They will be available to load the next time you start off ZBrush and all these initialized settings will be right where you left them, so you can continue to work on the model.
If I decide that I want to start sculpting directly on the model, I'm going to get a warning when I try and paint on it with the Sculpting Brush. It's going to say, "...please convert this 3D- Primitive to a PolyMesh3D by pressing the 'Make PolyMesh3D' button in the Tool palette." So if I just do it, it says and I press Make PolyMesh3D, what's going to happen is, it's actually going to make a copy of the model. So if I look in here I actually have two versions, I have myGear and I have the PM3D_myGear. These are two different models, they look exactly the same; the difference is, the PM3D_myGear is a PolyMesh hence PM3D. So I can start sculpting on it. Whereas, the myGear is the original parametric model that uses the sliders and once again if I click on it, I'm going to get the same warning.
These parametric models found in the Startup 3D Meshes section of the Tool palette are a great way to get a sculpture going in ZBrush. As you create your own models, remember to save them to your local disk, because you never know when you might want to use them in a future model.
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