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ZBrush "Fundamentals" Advice

polycounter lvl 6
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StormyBA polycounter lvl 6

I'm about to start on a new project which by the looks of things is going to be pushing a much more stylized art style and with that comes Zbrush! 

I'm pretty excited to be digging into Zbrush BUT one thing that is for sure is that it is a MASSIVE bit of software. Watching people work they seem to be using so many tools + options etc etc and it is pretty over whelming and it makes it hard to know what are the actual core skills / tools are that I should care about. 

For example, Maya covers SO much ground from Rendering, Modeling, Animation, Physics, particles etc but as an Env artist I know what parts of Maya I need and what to ignore. 

It would be great to hear some recommendations on what aspects of Zbrush for Environment Art. What aspects are Fundamentals must learn, what bits are good to know and what aspects are worth ignoring?



  • kanga
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    kanga sublime tool
    People use zB for a wide variety of purposes so pixologic have responded with tools to fit those needs. Having said that, you can also sculpt in Maya. I dont know what your requirements are but working strategically you might not need zB. You can also try both. Sculpt a tree in Maya and then try the same thing in a zB demo to help you choose. Just enter: 'sculp a tree in zbrush youtube' in google. Try a couple of those tutes till you find a goody. There are a plethora of tools, to begin with only learn the ones you need. A march of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
  • DebendraRoy
    Not sure about environment art per se, but I think Michael Pavlovich's series (Intro to Zbrush - Part 1) on Youtube is best to get started with. He teaches all of what is required to sculpt a head. I think that should help you get started.

    Once you have those basics tackled, then you could look for specific project-based tuts on Environment art. The Pixologic site has some good ones. Also, the Pixologic YT channel has livestreams of artists doing environment art.

    Generally speaking though (again, not sure about environments), Dynamesh, Masking & it's various options, Polygroups, Zremeshing, & Reprojecting details, Curve & Insert Brushes, Live Booleans, creating & manipulating Alphas, History Recall, Morph brushes, Layers, Surface Noise are essential. Also, most commonly used brushes & certain features relating to brushes found under both the Brush & Stroke pallettes.

    Zbrush offers you a variety of ways to skin a cat. So it's difficult to say what you can avoid. But maybe initially, you could ignore the 2.5d aspects, Zspheres, Zsketching, Shadowbox, & Cloth brushes, & Fibermesh, besides materials & rendering, of course.
  • icegodofhungary
    I mean there is no real need to ignore stuff. Anything could potentially be useful to you. It's not like Maya where making static meshes for a game is different from making animations, so you ignore the animation suite. You could use dozens of things in zbrush to make environment art.

    Things I use in Zbrush all the time:

    Trim Border Smooth Brush - used to beat up edges and cause damage. rocks, wood, bricks, maybe even lightly on worn metal.
    Clay Buildup Brush - wood planks
    Orb's brushes - various brushes for stylized sculpting but I find useful for even realistic stuff
    "Marble Damage" brushes - a free brush pack I found with lots of cracks and stone/concrete brushes.
    DAM standard - cracks

    Decimation master - used to turn high poly static stuff into lowpoly
    Zremesher - used to do the same as above only with a cleaner mesh

    zspheres - branches, trees, roots.

    dynamesh - i don't keep this turned on just hit it to get even poly density when I need to. If you don't keep even density you can get inconsistent crispness of details

    subtools - sometimes you have multiple meshes for a single object. think a statue and a pedestal. you can sculpt on one at a time so it's easier to manage.

    subtool master - quality of life plugin for subtools

    brush settings - used to help with automatic masking on thin objects

    alphas - using a square alpha with the trim border smooth brush, for example, will give a better rocky look when beating up edges.

    material settings - change material to white clay because it shows details the best.

    Something that might help is to look up videos on what you want to do. Do you want to do a stylized rock? Look up how people sculpt rocks. Then see the tools they use, adopt them and then adjust for your purposes. Trying to just learn everything about zbrush first will slow you down. Pick one thing and learn that, then learn other things. Eventually you'll get the idea of it and realize that it's just sculpting no matter what you're doing. Sure there are certain things that are more useful than others, but really you can sculpt a lot with just one or two brushes if you had to.

    As for what's possible in Zbrush, Gearbox had a library of subtools for Bandit shacks in Borderlands 3. They would piece together a few variations of the same shack all in zbrush as a highpoly. Then turn it into a lowpoly through retopo or decimation. And then texture externally. The shacks aren't enterable, they're just large props really. So you can make whole buildings in it.

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