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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.
One of the most powerful aspects of ZBrush is the ability to change the lighting of the pixels on the canvas. This is certainly different from a program like Photoshop or Painter, where you actually have to paint the lighting into your composition. It is also different from 3D programs that have separate light icons that work like spotlights or directional lights that you can position in a 3D scene. In ZBrush the lights are controlled using the Light palette. I'm going to take the Light palette, and I'm going to click on this little switch here to move it into the tray. Now it's very common to draw a 3D object onto the scene, start moving the light around, and wonder why nothing is happening. The reason in this case, if you remember, is because by default I have a Material Capture, a MatCap material applied to the object, and MatCap materials have their lighting baked into the material.
So to start working with lighting, the first thing you need to do, is change to a different material, and the BasicMaterial worked just fine for this. Now when I change the position of the light in the scene, it updates. Working with lighting is not the just a way to make your objects look great. It's also a great sculpting aid. As I'm sculpting this object, not only am I constantly moving it around, to check it from the side, to see how it looks in three dimensions. I'm also changing the lighting. Real world sculptures will make sure that in their studio they have a light that they can constantly reposition, because as you change the light, you are going to see different things in the sculpture. So as you are working, remember to change the lighting, and this is one of the reasons why it's a good idea to actually sculpt using a BasicMaterial, as opposed to a MatCap material. Because look at how much I can see the details here. If I switch to MatCap material, it might look really neat like the skeleton, but I'll lose some of that information.
It is harder to tell how far that nasal labial fold goes in on that character, and with the BasicMaterial I get a better sense. But there is no reason, of course, you can switch between the two, and use the benefits on both types of materials. But just remember, as you are working on a sculpture change your lighting, because lighting has a lot to do with illustrations in ZBrush too, not just sculpture. Well, let's take a look at how the Light palette works. I'm going to hold the Shift key to snap this to an Autographic View, maybe scale it up a little bit.
So to position the light, we just need to drag across this icon right here. We can add a light to the scene by clicking on an additional light bulb icon. I have to click it twice. Once it's orange, now I know the light is on. I just have a great border around it selected, but it's not on, which is a little bit strange. But let's take a look at how this actually works. I want to turn that light off, and let's go back to our main light. So this is the one that is selected, and I have number of controls down here, let's get rid of these palettes. So let's see what's going on. I have Intensity which is fairly self explanatory. I have Ambient, which controls the over all lighting, and I also have an Intensity Curve, so I can increase the contrast in the lighting alone by just playing with the curve. It's also a lot of fun to completely reverse the lighting, so if I want to create sort of a sadden look, with a look of a Electron Micrograph Scanning, look that you see in like scientific pictures.
You can get this kind of lighting there. I'm going to press Reset, to reset the lighting. So when I'm changing these controls, I'm changing the currently selected light. So that means if I have this selected, and I start making changes, notice I don't see any changes at all, nothing seems to be happening. Well, that's because I'm changing the attributes of a Light that is turned off, so I had to turn it on. Now when I make changes, I will start to see them update. So that's sort of the key working with the Light palette. Make sure that, first of all you are changing the attributes for the selected light, the light with the border around it, and you will only see those changes when the light is actually on. So it can continue adding lights to the scene. So as I add a light, this one is selected, I can change its position. Now this one is selected, and then I can change its position, and so on, and so forth. Sometimes the light gets a little bit stuck behind the sphere, just a matter of dragging all the way to the side and then back to the front again.
Of course, it's usually a good idea to work in one line at a time when you are making changes, so you can see how those changes affect the scene. I have different types of light, and I can change the Type by selecting from the Options in the sub palette. By default this first light is a Sunlight, so it behaves like a sun or directional light. In other words, all the beams of the light are parallel as it comes down and shines on the object. The Radial button here is actually a modifier for the currently selected type. In other words, if I turn Radial on, while I have Sun, and now Radial is affecting sunlight. Well Radial is, is it actually creates a type of Rim Lighting, so you can see it best on the icon here. It's a very special type of light, and it's great for making very creepy looking changes to the object, but it's also very helpful just to use as a Fill Light. So if I have a main sunlight here, I can add another sunlight by turning it on, and then switch to that type to Radial, and now I can use this as sort of Rim or Fill Lighting, if I want to create kind of a studio lighting type situation. I will turn that off for the moment.
Turn Radial off. The other Type of lights are Point and Spot. Let's take a look at Point, and I have Point on, and I made changes here, nothing happens. How do I change the position of a Point light? Well, it's done by using the options here in the Placement sub palette. I can do it interactively by clicking on P, and then choosing a place here in the scene, and then actually changes where the light is. In a Point light you can think of it as like being a candle flame, it's a light that emits from a single source. Great for making horror effects, and then you can dramatically change the position. Let's put it on the tip of his nose there, and bring the Radius down.
As I'm changing the Radius, you don't see much of a change yet. That's a bit more obvious when I switch to Best Rendering quality. Now let's increase the Radius, now I can definitely see change in the Radius of the light. And the same thing goes for changing the color of the light. So to do that, I can click on my swatch here and choose the color form the scene. But notice when I switch back to Preview Render type, I don't get a color sense there, I don't get a change in the color in the actual light. So that is something I can only see when I use Best quality.
Let's set that back to white. If I change to Spot light, this is kind of an interesting light type. It's kind of like a combination between the Sunlight and the Point light. So by clicking on the Point and clicking right here, I set where the Spot light is shinning on, and by changing the position here, I change where the light is shinning from. Once again, little bit more obvious when I switch to Best Render quality. Switch back to Sun, and then Glow adds an overall glow to the surface, and once again it's something that you only really see when you are in Best Render quality. I can change the position of the Glow.
The suggestion I would make for Glow other than a great way to add some interest to the lighting in the scene, makes it look translucent. Is if I create a Render with just a Glow light, and then another with my Color pass, and export both these versions into something like Photoshop, I can use the Glow version as a depth pass, then I can use Lens Blur Filter in Photoshop, to add a little bit of depth of field, based on this Glow color which makes a nice kind of depth pass. You will notice as I turn these lights on, they already have some default behaviors to them. Let's select this guy and send him back to Sunlight, so they all have settings, and this is a maximum number of lights that you can add to your scene. This is a total of eight lights, and for most cases that should be plenty of lighting.
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