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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 want to start creating illustrations in ZBrush, specifically 2.5D illustrations, you are going to use the 2.5D Brushes located here at the bottom part of the Brush Library. Well, what does 2.5D mean? It's a way of saying not quite 2D, not quite 3D, something in between. It's a little bit easier to understand when we have some strokes on the canvas. So I'm going to choose just the regular Paint Brush and I'm going to set my Material to just the BasicMaterial, lower my draw size and start painting on my canvas.
And as I paint over existing strokes, you are going to see that the overlapping strokes start to bulge out a little bit, this little highlight here and this little shadow indicates that the stroke actually has a thickness to. Now if you have ever seen a Van Gogh in person, one of the amazing things about his paintings is that there is so much oil on the canvas that it's almost three-dimensional, it's like a sculpture and it actually pokes out at you and you can sort of think of this in the same way. I'm building up strokes on the canvas and if I go to the Light palette and change my lighting, you can see that the strokes actually update and the lighting changes, these highlights actually change position.
Let's take a quick look at some of the basic controls for 2.5D Strokes. Well I can change the color just by choosing different color in the Color palette. I can switch from adding to subtracting so this is building up. This will actually cut into it to the point where I can actually erase the strokes. I also can choose to paint Material Color or Material and Color. RGB is ZBrush's way of saying color. So if I just choose Color and turn on Zadd you can see when I paint on the blank parts I don't get the same shiny material quality. It's still 2.5D but it's not as obvious because there is no highlight to indicate that. If I choose Material then I just paint the material and it does not paint color at all. You get something that looks transparent which is kind of cool and if I choose Mrgb then I'm painting both color and material.
The ZIntensity, you can think of it as controlling the thickness of the paint. It's reflecting more of the Zdepth and then the Rgb Intensity, in this case, it's almost like an opacity slider. Less Rgb means, the stroke is more transparent, less of the color information is being used with the stroke and then the Draw Size, of course, is the size of the brush stroke. Take a quick look at some of these other brushes here. I have this Sphere Brush which paints like a series of spheres on top of the other strokes. As I build it up here it's going to increase the Draw Size, there we go. Now I can see what's going on, I get more spheres.
What's very interesting is the 3D quality of these strokes is made apparent when you actually start to move them on the canvas. I can actually see that it is casting shadows on the other strokes and I can rotate this stroke around and scale it. When I switch to another brush, it will drop the last stroke to the canvas so I can no longer move the stroke now, it's frozen in space there but I can still draw on top of it using the other brush strokes. So let's go to the Paint Brush, change the color, make this a bit more obvious and now I can still paint of top of it and it still looks like its 3D.
The best way to get used to working with these brushes is just to start playing with them. The two main categories of brush types you have are those brushes which actually add pixels to the canvas and these brush strokes that actually modify pixels that have already been painted on the canvas. So if I take Smudge tool, I can start smudging this around and smearing it. It will blend the color as well the depth information. Some of the other fun ones are like the SnakeHook which allows me to drag this out and make something that looks interesting to say the least.
Once again, some of these are addictive so be careful, what you want to do really is just go in here and start making a mess on the canvas, play with these tools and see how they interact with each other. That's the best way to find out which ones are your favorite and which are the ones that you are going to use every once in a while just to add that little extra something to your illustration.
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