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When you want to create fine detail on your model, such as skin, pores, or wrinkles, or other texture elements, one of the great ways to do this is to use what ZBrush calls Alphas. Alphas are simply two dimensional, grayscale textures. The name Alpha is a little bit confusing at first, but that is what ZBrush calls it, and so that's how we are going to refer to them. But you can see the Alphas are located here in the Alpha Library, and these are all the Alphas that load when you first start up ZBrush. So let's take a look at how we can use these.
I'm going to load the oldMan_Painted model, and this is available for premium users. Here is my oldMan character. I have drawn him on the canvas; I'm switching to Edit mode, so now I can rotate him around. Let's take a close look at him. He is already a fairly dense model, but I'm going to increase the geometry even a little bit more. So I'm going to do that by expanding the Geometry palette. I'm going to click on the Divide button once. Let's give him five levels of subdivision, and then once again; it takes a few seconds but you can see when I hover my mouse over the icon in the Tool palette, you can see from the statistics, he is now got about three million polygons, which should be enough, but you can create even more if you have a powerful computer.
So to use the Alphas, I can expand the Library here. By default, there is no Alpha chosen, but I'm going to choose Alpha 33, which is this arrow. I have the Standard brush selected, and I'm going to switch to DragRect. So when I drag you can see very clearly that an arrow appears. So this arrow is like the end of the tip of the Sculpting Brush, as in the shape. It's very similar to when you are creating custom brushes in Photoshop or Painter even, when you create different nozzle ends for your brush, it's the same kind of idea.
So now he is looking like some kind of a superhero. When I switch my Stroke Type to Free Hand; I'm going to reduce my Draw Size and paint on the surface, and you can see now that arrow shape is at the end of my brush. I get a long snaky arrow on his face. If I switch my Stroke Type to Spray, when I paint, now I have got dozens of little arrows that quickly create a texture on his face.
So the Standard brush alone in combination with Alpha, I already have at least three variations that I can work with. So let's create something a little bit more elegant. I'm going to press Undo a few times to get rid of the arrows, and I will see how we can actually create pores on his face. I'm going to zoom in now, and I'm going to switch the Alpha to Alpha 23, and I'm going to choose DragRect again. I'm going to lower the Intensity of the brush, so it's not quite so strong. I'm going to hold the Alt key and then start dragging on his nose to create some pores.
I can vary the size by the amount that I drag, but the DragRect stroke Draw Size doesn't really do anything, the size of the brush depends on how large it is when you finally let go of the stroke after dragging it out on the surface. If I want to make bumps, I can just release the Alt key and drag. By releasing the Alt key I'm now in Z Add mode, so I'm actually pushing out from the surface. I can smooth these out by holding the Shift key and lightly brushing over them. I could do some on his nose.
Now, when I work I like to lower the Intensity of the Smooth Brush. So I'm going to select the Smooth Brush. By default its set to 100, so I'm going to lower this down to around 18 or 20 is fine. I want to switch back to the Standard Brush. You notice when I switch back the settings are still the same for this brush; I still have my Alpha loaded and its still set to the DragRect style, so now when I drag out, I continue to make bumps. Hold the Shift key and smooth. I just continue to do this on the surface. It's somewhat of a hypnotizing process.
Hold the Alt key to press end of the surface. So you should experiment with using the different Alphas that come with ZBrush, combine them with the different stroke types and even the different brush types and see how many variations you can come up with. It's a lot of fun to work with and there is an awful lot of creative potential in using Alphas on your sculptures.
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