February 16, 2012

Sculpting In ZBrush 101 – Part 2

by Mathias Tangen Leganger
Note: this is a series of articles on sculpting in ZBrush. You can find part one here.

Welcome back! In this part we will start sculpting a humanoid character using ZSpheres. ZSpheres is a very useful (and powerful) tool in that it offers you a super-fast and highly flexible way of getting starting the sculpting process (often the hardest part). This means that you don’t have to create a base mesh in a 3D-modeling package first, you can just hit the ground running. So, let’s get started!


Open the ZBrush application and create a new document. Hit the SimpleBrush icon in the Tool menu, and then the ZSphere icon as shown in the picture below.

Click and drag with LMB to draw the ZSphere on the canvas. Your screen should look like the picture below. Hit T to enter edit mode. Forget hitting T now and you will draw a new sphere every time you click on the canvas. If your accidentally draw new spheres, hit CTRL+N to clear the canvas, LMB-click-and-drag a new sphere, hit T, and you are OK.

The red ball you have no drawn on the canvas is your root ZSphere, to which you now can add new ZSpheres (in a tree-like structure that branches out from the root). All you have to do is add new spheres, and adjust the position, scale, and rotation of each while looking at your shape from different angles. Your goal is to create a structure in this manner that resembles a basic foundation for the shape you have in mind, which you will use for starting the sculpting process.

Here are the actions you need to create a base mesh using ZSpheres:

  • Add new sphere: Hit Q to draw sphere. LMB-click-and-drag on a location on the sphere where you want to add a new one. Hold SHIFT if you want the new sphere to have the same size as its parent.
  • Delete sphere: Hit ALT+LMB.
  • Move sphere: Hit W to move sphere.
  • Scale sphere: Hit E to resize.
  • Rotate sphere: Hit R to rotate.
  • Enable symmetry: Hit X.
  • Preview: Hit A to preview the result.

So, as I said the the beginning, we’re going to sculpt a humanoid character. The way to do that is to use ZSpheres to create a shape like the one on the left in the picture below, and then proceed to make ZBrush convert the ZSphere object into a polygon mesh for sculpting (shown to the right).

The process

To create a base mesh using ZSpheres, you can use the following steps and repeat until you are satisfied with how your preview looks:

  1. Add a new sphere on an existing one (or create a root sphere).
  2. Move, scale, or rotate this new sphere while looking at your mesh from all views. (Enable symmetry if needed.)

The picture below demonstrates the process used for creating a humanoid shape. (Remember to look at the object from all sides and not only the front view!)

OK, so you have followed the process through several iterations and are satisfied with the preview. Time to convert to polygons!
Navigate to Adaptive skin in the Tool menu and hit Make adaptive skin. The polygon mesh will now be added to your tool menu, named Skin_… Select it and start sculpting! :)

That concludes this part. Feel free to add comments or pictures of your works in the forums. Have fun sculpting! :)

About the author, Mathias Tangen Leganger

Mathias is a student of technology and business in the day, and game artist in the night. He has been a mentor in 3D modelling at The Gathering, 3D designer at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment, and modeller and texturer on the game Evil Junior for Illuminatics Gameware. Currently stuck in the godforsaken city of Trondheim, he plays and coaches tennis when he is not pushing vertices or crunching literature.

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