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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.
ZBrush is not only a great program for creating digital sculptures and 3D objects, it's also a great way to texture 3D objects. You can paint the texture directly on an object and then export that for use in another 3D program or just use it in ZBrush itself. For instance, I have painted or I have started to paint a skin texture for this old man character and I have done this by painting colors directly on the surface of the model. I'm going to demonstrate how to do this. This is the oldMan_Painted2 model; I'm going to load a different old man character. I do have a lot of old man characters apparently. So let's load up oldMan_v01 and press F to center and here he is. I'm going to switch to the basic material and now we can see, it's just a white color on here.
When you apply a color to an object in ZBrush, the colors are actually applied to the vertices of the object. In other words, if I turn on Frame mode you can see, each point right here will contain RGB information and then the colors that are stored in these points are blended across the surface of the polygon itself to create a nice, smooth looking color. Pressing F to zoom out and I'm turning Frame off, I'm going to increase the subdivisions. Just like if you are working in a Photoshop with a 2D image, the more pixels you have, the more information you have in the image and the smoother the image will look and the more detail you can get into it.
ZBrush is the same way, but now we are talking about points rather than pixels. So if my object has a lot of points to it, the colors that I paint on it will look a lot smoother. I have this one up to about two million polygons right there which is a good start. So in order to start painting directly on the model, I'm going to go to the Texture palette and I'm going to turn on Colorize. And now I can choose a color from the Color Picker. You notice that his eyes are changing color there. His eyes are a separate subtool, as well as his teeth. So they are picking up the color automatically, they don't have Colorize on. So as I change the color, you will see the eyes change as well.
Well, let's pick a deep red. Now as I paint on the model, you are going to see a couple of things happen. You see a color, but you also see a raised lump. It is because I have Zadd on. So I'm going to undo that and sometimes when you undo, Colorize turns off, so I'm turning Colorize back on and turning Zadd off and now, as I paint on the model, I have a nice, smooth stroke. If I lower the subdivisions of the model, you can see the stroke becomes blurry, as I raise it, it's still nice and smooth. However, if I lower the subdivisions and then paint on the model and then raise it, it's not quite as smooth. So this is why you have got to remember, always do your Poly Painting at the highest subdivision level where you have lots and lots of polygons to work with.
So I'm going to remove this red stroke that I have painted on the model by choosing a white color, we go to the Color palette, do Fill Object and this is just like the Paint Bucket in Photoshop, I'm just clearing out the whole object with a white color. In fact, if I want to start painting some skin, maybe I will choose more of a pinkish hue, because I like s pinkish hue and then choose Color > Fill Object. A little bit dark, but that's okay. It is just my base layer, maybe I will pick something lighter and I'm ready to start Poly Painting.
To do the actual painting on the surface, I'm going to use my sculpting brushes, and what's great about this is that I can also use Alphas with the sculpting brush and even change to a different type of stroke. I'm going to lower my RGB Intensity. When you lower the RGB Intensity, you are lowering the opacity of the brush stroke. So let's raise the Draw Size here and start painting on the surface. So what that means is you are lowering the opacity, so the base color is going to blend with the colors that you paint on here. If I raise it up to 100%, this is what we get. Let me press Ctrl+Z to undo that, but if I lower it, even to about 8, it's like a very light coat with an Airbrush on the surface of the model and as I paint, I can blend different colors together to create sort of the color regions of the face.
This technique is known as Poly Painting because I'm painting directly on the polygons. I usually spend a long time doing this, but I'm not going to go through entire process here, but just give you an idea of how to get started. What I like to do is I like to build up the color over several layers, changing Alphas, changing Colors, changing Intensity as I go because a believable face is going to have a lot of variation in it. Actually, one of my favorite Alphas to use is the Spray Stroke, the Circle. When the Circle start to overlap, they create kind of a nice texture. A little bit more warmth for this part of the cheeks, maybe some coolness, just a little bit down in this area, on the beard line. Paint red where blood vessels are closer to the surface, and the ear lobe and these parts of the ears.
Poly Painting is one of my favorite parts of ZBrush. I really get lost in it. I get a lot of enjoyment out of it. All right, well he has got a little bit of a make-up going on there, but that's okay. Other things that you can paint obviously, include details such as freckles and other types of spots, pores and so on and so forth. When I have painted a model and I'm ready to convert this into a texture, I just go to the Texture sub-palette and I press Color to Texture and this converts it to a texture which is now stored in the Texture palette. I can export this texture and then use it in my other 3D programs such as Maya and 3D Studio Max.
The thing to keep in mind is, it's a good idea to have your UV texture coordinates laid out ahead of time before you convert the color to a texture. Now if I switch textures here, it looks like I have lost all of the work that I put into painting the texture, but that's not the case. Remember, that the texture is just wrapped over the model. The color that I painted on the texture is still there. If I turn Texture off, you can see it, it hasn't been lost. And what's great is I can store this color, this paint job with the model. Every time I load the model, that color information is still there.
So what that means is I can make several variations of the texture. If I need to make a 1024x1024 version of the texture, I can do that by sizing it and exporting that version, but I could also export 2048x2048 version of the texture and so on and so forth. It's a very wonderful workflow because you only have to paint it once, but you can create many variations of that texture depending on what you need for your animation program.
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