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Working with alphas

From: ZBrush 4 Essential Training

Video: Working with alphas

First of all, let's talk about what an alpha is. Alphas are used in all kinds of computer graphics software and it's simply a grayscale image, a picture that uses a range of values from black to white. What makes a grayscale image an alpha instead of just an ordinary picture is how it's used. Different softwares can interpret these light and dark values as data rather than as simply a picture. An alpha could be used to define what parts of an image should be transparent; white could be opaque and black could be see-through and every shade of gray could be varying levels of opacity. Or an alpha could be used to define what parts of a model should be shiny and which ones should be dull.

Working with alphas

First of all, let's talk about what an alpha is. Alphas are used in all kinds of computer graphics software and it's simply a grayscale image, a picture that uses a range of values from black to white. What makes a grayscale image an alpha instead of just an ordinary picture is how it's used. Different softwares can interpret these light and dark values as data rather than as simply a picture. An alpha could be used to define what parts of an image should be transparent; white could be opaque and black could be see-through and every shade of gray could be varying levels of opacity. Or an alpha could be used to define what parts of a model should be shiny and which ones should be dull.

As far as ZBrush goes, alphas are used to define what parts of a brushstroke should get the full effect and which parts should remain unaffected. So let's just test this out. I am going to open up the DemoRhino, and let's change its color to something lighter so it's easier to see. I also want to make it more dense, so let's go into Geometry and click Divide a few times so that we have more polygons to work with. I just want to zoom in a little bit so we can see everything up close. Now, let's go over to the Alpha button over here on the left side and this palette pops up.

This is the set of built-in alphas that comes with ZBrush. Just for demonstration, I'll pick Alpha 17 here. It's kind of a target-looking image. So if we stroke on the model, you can see that the strokes take on this kind of target shape to them. That's because the grayscale image is telling the brush to be more pronounced in the light areas and less so in the dark areas. Let's just undo this. So, alphas really show their potential when the Stroke Style is set to DragRect. Let's change this from Dots to DragRect.

Now we can place a single instance of this alpha on the model wherever we want. You can load in your own alphas that you have made in other programs like Photoshop through the Alpha palette. Just click on the Alpha button and down here at Import. I'm going to scroll down to ZBrush, and inside of this folder is a folder called ZAlphas. Let's grab that Leathery Skin image that we were looking at earlier. So with this opened and we've got DragRect, you can just click and drag. We'll get this kind of rough, organic, leathery texture.

Feel free to experiment with all the different alphas and the way that they can be combined with stroke styles to create all kinds of fun effects. You'll use alphas all the time to stamp on detailed textures and patterns that would be difficult to sculpt by hand.

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This video is part of

Image for ZBrush 4 Essential Training
ZBrush 4 Essential Training

63 video lessons · 15193 viewers

Ryan Kittleson
Author

 
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  1. 5m 13s
    1. Welcome
      55s
    2. Using the exercise files
      59s
    3. What is ZBrush?
      1m 47s
    4. A note on screen resolution
      1m 32s
  2. 19m 17s
    1. Making sense of ZBrush
      2m 39s
    2. Understanding the interface
      2m 29s
    3. Using Light Box
      1m 23s
    4. Navigating the canvas
      2m 2s
    5. Using Perspective and Floor
      1m 51s
    6. Understanding local centering
      1m 9s
    7. Trying different materials
      2m 7s
    8. Activating symmetry
      2m 15s
    9. Viewing your work in various ways
      3m 22s
  3. 19m 59s
    1. Understanding polygon-based models
      1m 45s
    2. Creating ZSpheres
      4m 21s
    3. Using ShadowBox
      2m 15s
    4. Making a ZSketch
      2m 47s
    5. Extracting from an existing mesh
      4m 0s
    6. Using primitive 3D meshes
      3m 24s
    7. Importing from other programs
      1m 27s
  4. 23m 43s
    1. Understanding brush settings
      2m 45s
    2. Inverting brush effects
      1m 9s
    3. Switching to Smooth mode
      2m 35s
    4. Setting the stroke properties
      4m 14s
    5. Working with alphas
      2m 34s
    6. Using the Move brush
      2m 51s
    7. Using the Clip brush
      2m 58s
    8. Learning a few more common brushes (Polish, Clay, Flatten, Inflate, Tracks)
      2m 14s
    9. Saving and using brush presets
      2m 23s
  5. 26m 53s
    1. Working with tools and projects
      1m 52s
    2. Working with subdivision levels
      3m 4s
    3. Masking off parts of your model
      2m 28s
    4. Masking based on cavity and occlusion
      4m 23s
    5. Selecting and hiding parts of a tool
      2m 51s
    6. Working with polygroups
      2m 0s
    7. Using deformation
      1m 59s
    8. Mirroring geometry across an axis
      1m 49s
    9. Restoring symmetry
      1m 45s
    10. Creating morph targets
      2m 31s
    11. Understanding surface normal direction
      2m 11s
  6. 8m 57s
    1. Learning the basics of subtools
      2m 37s
    2. Making new subtools
      3m 12s
    3. Combining subtools
      3m 8s
  7. 7m 20s
    1. Masking with Transpose
      1m 49s
    2. Adjusting the Transpose Manipulator
      1m 46s
    3. Moving, scaling, and rotating with Transpose
      3m 45s
  8. 20m 25s
    1. Understanding how ZBrush uses color
      2m 36s
    2. Learning the basics of Spotlight
      3m 37s
    3. Painting and texturing with Spotlight
      2m 56s
    4. Texturing a head: A practical approach
      11m 16s
  9. 21m 14s
    1. Drawing new edge flow for retopology
      7m 52s
    2. Tips for making good edge flow
      5m 14s
    3. Creating new topology
      3m 55s
    4. Transferring detail from the old model to the new
      4m 13s
  10. 13m 28s
    1. Understanding the UV maps
      2m 47s
    2. Installing the UV Master plug-in
      1m 47s
    3. Using UV Master
      3m 46s
    4. Creating texture maps
      5m 8s
  11. 6m 36s
    1. Preventing problems
      1m 42s
    2. Recovering a corrupted model
      2m 28s
    3. Recognizing and fixing common problems
      2m 26s
  12. 4m 54s
    1. Examples of ZBrush work
      3m 16s
    2. Goodbye
      1m 38s

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