Join Ryan Kittleson for an in-depth discussion in this video Sculpting a tree branch, part of ZBrush: Tips & Tricks.
- Sooner or later, everyone needs to sculpt a tree branch, at least it seems like it anyway. Tree branches are a great exercise to practice because they are very organic and free form. Yet most branches follow certain kind of patterns and rhythms. A common mistake is to make branches that are too smooth, and curved too softly. In this video, I'll show some ways of making branches that are interesting, naturalistic, and original. So let's take a look. I'm just going to start out with a basic sphere, and a default scene, and we'll start building out from here.
Want to use one of the curve brushes for this. Let's hit b, c, and f, or Curve Multi Tube. Okay, let's zoom out let's zoom out, give ourself some room. Let's imagine that the sphere is kind of the base of the branch. So I'll get a bigger draw size here, and we'll just draw something out. Actually, I'm in symmetry mode so I'll hit X to turn off symmetry. And we'll just draw out some sort of random branch shape. And this is just telling us that our sphere has subdivision levels.
So, let me go ahead and delete lower subdivision levels. So, lower and then we can just click on that curve we already made to fill it with a tube. Okay, from here we can keep adding sub branches. So, I'm going to rotate my view a little bit so I have a branch coming out at a different angel. And I want to get close with my cursor to that branch so that I get that red line. That means that we can connect the two. So, I'm just going to start drawing a new one from right here and let it rotate around a little bit more and we'll just draw another one.
Oops, looks like that one didn't take. Let me try that again. And there's something a little bit weird abour that one, I'm going to undo that and try it from a different angel. Okay, let's see how this one works. Okay not to bad, there's occasionally something weird with this where it starts out with a really straight line but we can adjust that latter on. Okay, so now that we've got a start going with some branch shapes, lets go ahead and clear the curve by clicking in an open area without being close enough to where it creates that red line.
So, I'm just going to click right here on these spheres so we get rid of the curve. Now we're just left with the geometry. Now let's get some basic think to thin going here. So, I want the base here to be thicker and then I want them to be taper to be thinner towards the ends. So, lets get the inflate rush for that. b, i, and n, for inflate. Where you can just click here. Let's get a really big draw size on this and actually we're kind of maxing out the maximum draw size here. You can turn off dynamic by holding down shift and tapping on dynamic there.
Okay, now we can get a draw size that makes more sense. Okay, so I just want to inflate a little bit right here at the base, kind of build that up. And now I can hold down alt and inflate inwards so it tapers a little smaller towards the tips. It doesn't have to be super precise right now, just something very general. Even though everything is one sub tool, there's still kind of a separate pieces to each one of these branches and to the base. So, let's dinamesh it to all together into one. So, let's go to under geometry lets find dinamesh and I want to set the resolution pretty low cause we don't need any fine detail here at this point.
So, maybe 40 is good, actually I'll just type in 40 here and we'll clear the mask. Control, click, and drag in an open area. And now lets run that dinamesh. Okay, so if I hit shift F to turn on the wire frame you can see now, we've got a dinamesh meshed, as apposed to that generated tube. So, from here I'm just going to smooth out anything that looks a little to jagged or harsh. Okay, let's start adjusting the shape of this a little bit.
You can see from different angles some of these branches are really straight and that's because when we drew out the curves, they were only curvy on one plainer surface but they weren't curvy in other directions. So, let's get the move brush, b, m, v, and a little smaller brush here. And to start tweaking out the shape of this. Now, you can see as I'm pulling this out, the shape is pretty soft. It's a really noodley, snaky, curve. So, in order to make that look a little bit more natural and more organic, I want kind of a sharper corner on this brush when I'm moving things.
So, let me undo that with control Z and let's go under brush and open up curve and turn on accu curve. So, now you'll see what happens, is when I pull this there's a corner on it, pulls out into a nice sharp corner. So, this helps things look a bit more natural. A bit more organic, not quite so snaky. And you can get different sizes here on your brush for bigger or smaller angels that you might want to make.
And you just kind of want to go all around and start pulling this in different unexpected ways. You want to keep things looking very organic and natural. You don't want to get things looking to predictable. Just looking all around seeing for different places where it might make sense to just grab the shape and kind of reform it a little bit. Just creating some unexpected bits of randomness.
And something I like to do at this point is also make a few occasional, little really intense shifts in direction. So, for example, maybe making it kind of loop back on itself somewhat. You can do all kinds of interesting shapes like that. Just something to add interest, you know, feel kind of like Bob Ross here, making some happy little curves and branches.
And maybe I'll smooth down this so it's a little bit sharper, little bit more narrow with the tip. And I like to pay special attention to the branching points. I like to get sharper in that area. So, you can just kind of carve that in, just something to add interest. Okay, not to bad, looks good.
Okay, so we can spend a lot of time doing that but let me move on to some other tools that I like to use. One of them is the spiral brush. So, if you hit b, s, and let's see it's right here and a, should be the third letter for the combination there. So, what this does is you just click and drag and it just sort of twists up the shape. You can hold alt and it will twist the opposite direction. So, I like to go around with is and just kind of twist things up a little bit.
Just creating some unexpected bits of randomness. Don't want anything to look to predictable. So, I just want to sculp something that looks kind of organic and natural, just creating some unexpected randomness. And from here, we could continue to add detail, just by sculpting it on a little bit more traditionally with a clay brush perhaps. b, c, and lets see, maybe I'll get clay, just the regular clay brush here.
And now with this you can kind of look for interesting forms that you might want to extenuate. Maybe the branch form, to some particular surface direction to it. So, you can just kind of carve that in, maybe a higher intensity and a smaller draw size. Holding down alt you can carve in some cracks. Any sort of interesting shape that might form in this branch. Maybe even higher intensity here, just want to really carve in a crack there.
And of course here's where you get in to a point where you can kind of spend all day on it and kind of work out what the bark pattern looks like. Get the DAM standard brush out. So, b, d, s, and with this what you might do is kind of carve in some sharper creases and folds and interesting patterns going on, but this is where it can really start turning into an all day project. We just start finding all the really interesting things you can do with the surface area.
Okay, so just kind of imagine continuing with that process all over and you can end up with a really nice branch. So, even if you never really need the model of branch, these kind of techniques come into play when sculpting pretty much anything organic and natural. So, I'm sure you'll use these techniques again.
Skill Level Intermediate
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