Join Ryan Kittleson for an in-depth discussion in this video Turning a model into a bas-relief sculpture, part of ZBrush: Tips & Tricks.
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- Bas-relief has been its own kind of sculpture since the beginning of time, requiring specific skills and techniques that are separate from sculpture in the round. With ZBrush however, new possibilities open up that we never had before. In this video, I'll show you how to take a typical 3D model and turn it into a bas-relief sculpture of the kind that you might find on a coin or a medallion. Let's come take a look at how it's done. This video is going to build off a lot of tips and tricks shown earlier in this series, as well as add some new ones.
Okay, so in our scene, you can see we've got this coin in the background, and we've got this bull. And it's a sculpture in the round. And what we need to do is get it flat, and a, sort of an embossed effect on that coin. Since bas-relief is meant to be seen straight on, sort of from one angle, what I want to do is make sure that I'm looking at this from a perfect front view. So I'm gonna hold down Shift while I rotate my view, so it snaps to a front view. And then, we'll also turn off Perspective. This way, we know that we're truly seeing it flat and straight on.
This way, we can do whatever moving around we want, and then we can always come back to a perfect front view by holding down Shift as we rotate. Okay, let's make sure we've got the bull as the active SubTool. All right, that's good. Now, one thing I want to do is kind of rotate it, and position it, and make sure it's in a position that I really like how it looks. This is just sort of an aesthetic design decision. But I'm just gonna go into the Rotate manipulator, and just click anywhere on the bull. And then, just click and drag on the inner circle with outer end of the manipulator.
And just kind of rotate it, see if I can find an angle that I really like. And I could kind of drag out manipulators from different angles, and kind of toy with the positions, see if there's something that I find aesthetically appealing. Try to move this into place. Okay, I kinda like the appearance of that. All right, let's go back into Draw mode. Let's take a look at this from the top view. You can see our bull is at quite the angle. It's not nearly where we need it to be. It needs to be flat up against the coin.
So let's do some tricks to get it where we need it to be. First, I want to look at this from a perfect top view. So I'm gonna hold down Shift so it snaps. And let's zoom in a little bit here. Okay, so there's a trick that I'm going to do here. It's with the Move manipulator. And what I can do is sort of skew this so it flattens backwards. Let me show you what I mean. I'm just gonna draw a manipulator out here. I'm gonna hold down Shift so the manipulator comes straight out. And then, what I want to do is make a note on the grid where this hoof is coming out to.
So it's coming out a little bit past this grid line right here, maybe 1/4 of the way to the grid line next to it. So what I can do is just click and drag on the end of this manipulator, and it kind of skews the model in one direction. And I just want to make sure that hoof is coming out to basically the same distance. Doesn't have to be exact. Let it go, there. And maybe I'll move the whole thing forward a little bit by clicking on that center circle.
Move that back so that hoof is coming back to the same point. Maybe it needs to flatten just a little bit more. So I'm just gonna grab that and pull it a little bit more. Okay, good. Let's go back into Draw mode and see how this looks from the front. Gonna hit Shift, or hold down Shift while I'm rotating to make sure I snap to a front view. Now, let's hit Control + Z to undo that, and just see what kind of effect that had. See, it actually looks pretty much the same. It's just now flattened up a bit more against that.
So I'm gonna rotate that and make sure that that's where it was before. Okay, and now let's redo, Control + Shift + Z. Just want to redo those adjustments I made, put it back where it was. Okay, great. So you can see it's flatter up against that coin, but it pretty much looks the same from this front view. Okay, now we need to get this even flatter up against that coin. I'm actually going to take advantage of that glitch from a few weeks ago, where, when you scale something down, when it's on a lower subdivision level, the details actually don't get scaled down.
We're actually gonna use that to our advantage here. So I'm going to get the Move manipulator out, and let's drag a manipulator. I'm gonna hold down Shift so it snaps into a straight line. And now, let's go down to a lower subdivision level. I hit Shift + D 'til I get to my lowest subdivision level. Now, let's drag this from the end circle, and it just kind of flattens out in one direction, and I'm gonna hold down Shift as I do this so that, make sure it just flattens straight back rather than skewing off in a strange direction.
And maybe somewhere like, there, looks okay. We can always flatten it more later. All right, let's go back into Draw mode. Now, you're gonna see why this is so interesting that we scaled that on the lowest subdivision level. When I hit D to go up in a higher subdivision level, the higher detail in the higher subdivision levels actually didn't get flattened out as much as they would have if I had flattened that on the highest subdivision level. So we actually get to save some more of that bas-relief detail by scaling it on a lower subdivision level.
And okay, and let me look at this from the side a little bit. So we can see that a lot of these limbs and features of the anatomy are looking pretty thin. They're actually quite a bit thinner than I really want them to be. So I'm gonna do a little trick here to kind of puff them up, give them some more roundness. So let's look at this from a perfect front on view. I'm gonna hold down Shift so it snaps. And let's go ahead and make it transparent, so gonna turn on Transparency mode. And so the current SubTool is going to be fully visible, but everything else will be sort of an X-ray mode.
Okay, so we can just focus on the bull for now. Now, one thing I want to do is sort of isolate the front of this bull from the back of the bull. So let's go into Polygroups. And what I want to do is Group Front. So this is fine. Everything that is more than a 90 degree angle from the camera will be grouped into another polygroup. So let's click this. And let's see what this actually means. I'm gonna hit Shift + F to turn on Wireframe.
And what you can see that this did, is it actually took everything that's facing frontwards, put it in one polygroup, and everything that's facing backwards, put it in another. Now, this is just one step on this path to make that an interesting effect right here. You'll kind of see where I'm going with this eventually. I'm gonna hit Shift + D to go down to a lower subdivision level. Let's go ahead and Shift + Click on just the backside polygroup. And what I want to do is hold down Shift and click in an open area to invert the mask.
So we mask that off. Then, I'm gonna hold down Control + Shift and click in an open area to bring back the visibility of everything. Let's actually turn off the Wireframe, Shift + F. Okay, so you can see we've got it masks off in just the backside. So what I want to do here is go to my Masking palette. And let's just Grow this mask. So this is going to create a kind of blurred, feathered mask effect from the back to the front.
Okay, that's pretty good. Now, let's go up to a higher subdivision level. Just hitting D a few times. I'm gonna snap to a side view. We'll get the move manipulator out. And what I want to do is just kind of pull this forward a little bit. So you can see, it's using the masking as a way to kind of allow us to just pull forward some of the roundness of each of these shapes without actually causing the entire structure to stretch out too much.
Okay great, let's go back into Draw mode. I'm gonna clear the mask by hitting Control + A to mask everything, and then Shift + Click in an open area to invert that mask. Now, let's look at this from a side view. I'm gonna start positioning this bull so it overlaps part of the coin. So I'm gonna go back into my Move manipulator, and let's just slide this back so the bull is sort of half way embedded inside the coin. And then, we can do some adjustments to kind of tweak some of this forward so it's not going to be completed embedded.
And then, some of these other features and structures will be pushed backward so that they're half embedded. So let's go ahead and do that now. I'm gonna get my Move brush, B + M + V. And let's zoom in here on the tail. I'm gonna look at this from a perfect side view. And I'm just gonna grab this tail. I'm gonna need a bigger Draw Size. And I just want to pull this tail so it's coming up closer and kind of touching. We're sort of half embedding in there. But I don't want it to embed too far so, maybe I can push and pull.
I'm gonna hold down Alt, and just click and drag, and kind of pull it forward, maybe look at it from a top view, just want to be sort of half embedded. Let's see how that looks. Okay, not too bad. Maybe a little bit of a touchup there. All right, good. Now, let's see, I need to get both these legs kind of on the same plane. So I'm going to go down in the subdivision level with Shift + D a few times.
And let's get the Move manipulator out here, and I'm going to do a special kind of masking. I'm gonna hold down Control, as I click and drag on part of this leg, and it sort of does this interesting kind of mask where it sort of masks one side of the anatomy and leaves the other side unmasked. So this is gonna be really handy for moving this one leg. Let's use one of the macros we made in a previous video. I'm gonna go to Macro, and I'm going to contract this mask. So I'm just gonna click this several times.
So this mask goes backwards. So I want more of that leg to be selected for this. All right, that's pretty good. And let's also click on BlurMask in the Masking palette here. Just click that a few times to get a nice, soft falloff. And then, what I can do is snap to my side view, drag out a manipulator, and just pull this one leg back so it sort of half embeds inside that coin. All right, let's do the other leg like that. I'm going to hit Control + A to mask everything, Control + Click to invert that mask, and let's do that again with this other leg.
Holding down Control, click and drag until we sort of get just the one leg unmasked. We'll do that same thing again with the macro 'til you contract that mask. We'll just click it a few times. All right, looks pretty good. We'll blur that mask a few times so we have a nice, soft transition. And let's just bring this forward now. And we might want to kind of rotate it here. So I'm gonna drag out another manipulator from this point so we can rotate this. And it really just needs to look good from a front view.
So it's kind of strange how that leg is just sticking out from the knee. So I'm gonna drag another manipulator. And let's just move this so it's not quite so awkwardly located, and maybe rotate something here. I'm gonna hold down Shift as I drag this out so I can make sure it's nice and straight. And we'll just kind of find a better position for this so it doesn't look awkward.
Okay, maybe that's all right. You can go back into Draw mode, and let me get another brush here. Actually, I'm gonna get the Move Topological. That's B + M + T. And what's great about this brush is that it let's you move things that are separated by distance. So actually, it's, it might be easier if I just demonstrate it. I'm gonna Clear the mask here. And now, you can sort of see how this one piece of the hind leg, or the farther leg, is kind of poking through.
So I want to pull it back a little bit and grab this other leg and pull it forward. So what this does is, these two, even though they're close together, they're actually separated by topology. And so this brush, actually, will let you move one thing without moving something else that's next to it but actually separated by topology. So I'm just gonna hit Control + Z to undo that. That was just a demonstration. So we can actually kind of use this to move things around as well.
Maybe I want to bring this forward a little bit so that the other back half of that hoof is more visible. Okay, let's go ahead and do some more of this to position the front side here. So I'm just gonna forget about that masking and just use this brush here, to pull this back. Then, we want everything to be touching the coin. So I'm gonna turn on AccuCurve here, and just grab the very end of this hoof here, kind of pull it back some more.
And maybe we need to grab this snout and pull it back. And then, this one hoof is completely embedded. So we need to bring it forward so we can actually see it. Let's see how this looks from a front view. Okay, a little bit more needs to be done. I'm just gonna hold down Alt while I use the Move brush here, and that will kind of pull that forward and backwards. And maybe this little piece of the wattle is kind of awkwardly placed. Let me get a smaller Draw Size here and just kind of pull that out the way so it's not so visible.
Kind of making an aesthetic decision here. It's not really technically necessary to move that. All right, just a little bit more moving, and let's pull this forward a bit more. Oops, didn't mean to do that, undo. Let's make sure that horn is positioned nicely, embedded just enough, but not too much. It's okay if there's a little bit undercut. There's actually a trick I'm going to do to completely fix that later.
All right, let's see, trying to see this from a front view. There's a little bit more to touch up here, gonna pull this forward a bit more. And it looks like some of the back here, is getting sunk too far in. I'm gonna look at this from a top view, and actually pull some of this forward too. So that top ridge of the back, I want it to be in front of the coin, not behind it. Almost there, there's a little bit of this hip right here.
Okay. Let's take one last look to make sure that there's nothing out of place. Oh, I do see one other thing. Looks like his ear got a little bit sunk inside the neck there. So I'm gonna use this Move Topological, and just hold down Alt, and kind of push that neck back a little bit, and maybe pull the ear forward a little bit. All right, great.
Okay, let's go up in our subdivision levels and see what we got. Just gonna hit D a few times. All right, good. All right, we're almost there. I'm gonna turn off Transparency mode so we can see what this really looks like against the coin. And that looks really interesting. Now, there's one last thing we want to do. Let me get rid of the Floor 'cause it's kind of distracting there. We don't want to have any undercuts. So on a coin or a medallion, you couldn't have this horn just kind of floating up and out, and then having this negative space underneath it, and same thing with the leg here and a few other places.
So I've got a trick to fix that up. Let's turn Transparency mode back on. And I'm going to look at this from a side view. Now, what I want to do is take everything that is facing backwards and just pull it farther back so it embeds. It might be easier to demonstrate than to just describe it. So I'm gonna get my Move manipulator out here, and just draw out a manipulator, hold down Shift so it comes straight back. We'll go into Brush, and we're going to go into Auto Masking and BackfaceMask.
And then, what I want to do is just hold down Shift and pull this back. And you might see what this is doing. Everything that was in the underside, say on that leg and on that horn, is kind of pulled back. We can actually pull that back a little bit more if I grab that manipulator and hold down Shift. So it's kind of filling in any negative space underneath things. And that's what you need to have for something that's going to be bas-relief, like a coin, because it needs to be manufactured so that you can just stamp directly down so there's no undercuts.
All right, let's go out of Draw mode. And let's see how this looks. And there's a little bit that came out past the backside of the coin. So that's easy enough to fix up. I'll go get my Clip brush, B + C + R, Clip Rectangle. And this is just saying it's used with the Control and Shift keys. So we'll skip that note, and I'm just gonna hold down Control + Shift and draw a box. And what this is going to do, is it's going to take everything that's outside the box and just smoosh it up against the side of the box. So it's sort of like it cut it off, but it really just took it and smooshed it up against the side of the box.
All right, let's turn off Transparency mode and see what we have. Okay, great. So we have a bas-relief bull on a coin now. From here, you could continue to make additional design elements. You could put words, or other pictures, or text on the coin. But that's getting beyond the scope of this video. Now, if you were to try to sculpt this as a bas-relief from scratch, it would be a lot more work. I mean, it might seem like we went through a lot in just this video, but that would be a whole other course just in and of itself. So you can see you can get a pretty nice bas-relief effects by taking an existing 3D model and finding ways to flatten it out.