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Unlocking ZBrush Mastery: Workspaces, Sculpting Techniques, and Mesh Optimization Secrets Revealed!


Discover techniques for setting up the ZBrush workspace and optimizing your view.

Learn about poly groups, divisions, and dynamic divisions for sculpting in ZBrush.


Explore the ZModeler brush to create geometric shapes and manipulate vertices, edges, and polygons.


Master the Zero Mesh tool for improving mesh topology effortlessly.








01. Zbrush - Polygroups


- Workflow

  • First, we’re going to set up our workspace by going inside the Document settings, making the size of our workspace Double, and changing the range slider to 0.


  • Add a simple cube inside the workspace by clicking the SimpleBrush Menu.

  • Once we selected the cube drag it into the scene, and click on the Edit and Make PolyMesh3D button.

  • From the start, we’re going to add a DynaMesh on a higher Resolution.

  • To see the poly groups we can either click the icon on the side to activate the Line Fill or use the keyboard shortcut Shift + F.


  • We can see that our cube has color. Each object or model we put inside Zbrush will have their own poly group. We can also add in playgroup on top of an existing one.

  • We can do this by masking an area using the masking brush inside of Zbrush by holding down Ctrl and drawing like usual, then clicking Ctrl + W to assign a new playgroup.

  • We can do this as many times as we want.

  • We can isolate playgroups by Ctrl + Shift + Clicking on them.

  • If we want to inverse the selection we can do the same shortcut on the poly group. Now it will hide the group that was isolated and show the rest of the poly groups.

  • We can isolate as many groups as we want using this shortcut.

  • Using the Ctrl + Alt + Shift and selection draw will hide entire chunks of your model no matter how many poly groups there are.


02. Zbrush - Divisions


- Workflow


  • Using the same cube as before we can see how Divisions work in Zbrush. When we click the Divide button we can see that the cube is changing its form but also the amount of Active Points it has. The slider will tell you how many Sub Division your model has.

  • Here are some images to show you how the cube changes the more divisions we add.

  • We can add divisions to our model by also using the Ctrl + D shortcut.

  • Going down in divisions also has a shortcut Shit + D.

  • This way you don’t have to constantly rely on the Geometry tab to do basic changes to your model.

  • When we go back to the first division we can see that our cube is no longer the same as it was before. This is because of the added divisions. It is a minor downside that has a fix to it.

  • The more divisions our model has the better we can add in details.

  • Not only that but it will also have a low poly version of those details when we go down in divisions.

  • If we want to lower down our Devisions we can set on which division we want our model to start on and click the Del Lower button.

  • We can then see that our cube starts from the 4th division as the first division now and goes up to the last one it has.

  • If we set the division on the highest one we have and click Del Lower it will remove all of the divisions and stays on the highest one.

  • When we have divisions we can’t use certain actions and tools on the model because of them such as the knife tool and some of the Modify Topology tools.

  • There are also Dynamic Divisions that are like false Divisions inside the Geometry tab. They are a preview of how the model will look if we added divisions.

  • To add these divisions click on the Dynamic button.

  • We can notice that the model does look like it has divisions but if you pay attention to the Active Points it still has only 400.

  • We can add more of these Dynamic Divisions by changing the value on the Smooth SubDiv slider. No matter how many Smooth SubDivs we add we won’t be able to add details like we did using normal Divisions. They won’t show up on our cube at all.

  • To make these divisions true we have to click on the Apply button.

  • Once we do that we can see that not only did the Active Points have changed but also the SDiv Slider. Now our details will show up whenever we want to add them.


03. Zbrush - ZModeler


- Workflow

  • Using a DynaMeshed cube as an example we’ll see a demonstration of what the Initialize options do.

  • All of the axes are set on 4x4 polygons so that there will be the same number of polygons on each side of our square.

  • Clicking the QCube button will turn our cube into a 4x4 polygon ratio.

  • QSpehere will turn the cube into a sphere with 4x4 polygons on each side.

  • And the same thing will happen if we use QGrid and QCyl.

  • Sticking with the Qcube for now we’ll continue forward with the demonstration of a new brush that we’re going to use for today's class.

  • By using the keyboard shortcut BZM we’ll activate the ZModeler Brush.

  • With this brush, we can do hard surface modeling inside of Zbrush just like we can do inside of Maya.

  • Depending on what we are hovering over we will get a menu with functions for that part we have are curser above.

  • For example, if we hover over an Edge it will not only give out a white highlight but it will also display a text below our brush.

  • The same thing will happen if we hover over a vertex or a face/polygon, it will highlight what we are currently hovering over on and a text will appear below our brush.

  • Hovering over a face/polygon and clicking space on our keyboard will open up a menu of different actions we can do on our model.

  • It may look intimidating at first but once we understand the tools and options it will help us a lot with creating interesting props and characters inside of Zbrush.

  • The top Menu is a menu full of all the different Actions/Changes we can do to our model. Some of these actions may sound familiar if you have used Maya previously like the Extrude, Bridge, and Bevel options.

  • The Menu options below are the Target Areas we want the Action to effect.

  • For example, if we have our Target set on a Single Poly and our Action to extrude it will only extrude one polygon from our cube.

  • If we set our Target to All Polygons while still having the extrude Action on it will extrude all the polygons on our cube

  • The Target Menu also has different types of polygons you want to be affected by the actions like the All Quads and All Triangles.

  • It will either only affect the Quads or Triangles in the topology.

  • Since our cube is made up entirely of Quads it will affect the entire surface area. And because our cube doesn’t have any triangles in its geometry the Action won’t be added in at all.

  • For today’s class, we’ll only stick to the Right side of Tragets on the Menu and the extrude Action.

- Plogroup All

  • Hovering over a polygon/face click space on your keyboard to open up the ZModeler Menu. Make sure the extrude Action is on the Polygon All Target.

  • When we try to extrude the cube we can see that it is only affecting the same colored polygroups. In this case, the cube has two of the same poly groups opposite of each other.

  • If we extrude the Pink Polygroup it will only extrude Pink colored polygroups.


- Polygroup Border

  • Opening up the Menu again change the Target to Polygroup Border.

  • Polygroup Border will only affect the borders of the entire polygroup as the name suggests.


- Polygroup Inner

  • Changing the target to Polygroup Inner we will see that it only affects the inside of the polygroup without the borders.


- Polygroup Island

  • Polygroup Island only extrudes the poly group that is surrounded by other poly groups.


- Polyloop


  • The Polyloop Target makes it so you can (in this case) extrudes along rows no matter if the next poly group is a different color.

  • To know which row is going to get extruded pay attention to the line on your brush. It will face the direction your cursor is pointing at.

  • You can also do extrudes inwards.



Actions


- Inset

  • The Inset Action behaves like an Offset extruded inside of Maya.

  • We’ll see how this action looks with the Polygroup Island Target.

  • Just like we’ve seen with the extruded example of this target it will only add the action on the poly group that is surrounded by different colored polygroups.

  • In the ZModeler Menu, we have Modifiers that we can add to our Targets. For this example, we’ll use the Insert Each Poly.

  • We can see that the Target is still affecting the correct area but because of the Modifier, it’s offsetting every quad individually.


- QMesh

  • QMesh behaves in a similar way to the Extrude Action but it will snap extrudes together and completely merge them.

  • We can notice when we make extrudes using the QMesh we have small delays in the drag as well as the slope that stays in the extruded polygon until you completely drag it out.

  • These are called Steps and can be changed inside the ZModeler Menu.

  • If we select the Align Full Step it will drag the extrude without bending.

  • Align Half Step will bend halfway through the extrude.

  • No Alignment will completely remove the steps, and the polygon will immediately snap to the one next.

  • It was mentioned that the QMesh completely merges the extruded polygons together.

  • These can be seen when we use the smooth brush on our cube when we make QMesh extrudes.

  • If we do the same thing with polygons that have been extruded using the Extrude Action we can clearly see they are not merged with one another.

  • If we extrude inward or down using the Qmesh it will completely delete the polygon.

  • Holding down Shift while using QMesh won’t continue extruding but instead, it will start to extend the polygon.

- Spherize

  • Just like the name suggest this Action turns the Targeted poly groups into spheres.

  • This is how it will look if the Target is set to Polygroup Island.

  • This is how it will look if the Target is set to Polygroup All.


- Bevel

  • Bevel on a single polygon looks similar to the Inset Action but if we do a larger poly group Target like Polygroup Border we can see that it is beveling the edges of the poly group.

  • The bevel is on a Single Polygon, Polygroup Island, Poly group Border.


- ZModeler on points/vertices

  • The ZModeler Menu for Vertecies is a lot smaller than the one we saw for the polygons/faces.

  • We will see what the Bridge Action does on the vertex.

  • We can see that it made a separate poly group around the vertex we selected in the middle of the poly group.

  • The Crease Action creases the 4 edges around the vertex.

  • The Delete Action Delets not only the vertex but also the faces that the vertex was holding.

  • This is a good time to look at the Stitch Action and its Modifiers.

  • The default modifier on the stitch action is To Mid Point.

  • This will stitch the vertices together in the middle.

  • To stitch two vertices together select one and then the one you want to stitch it to, it is usually the one opposite to the first.

  • When you select your first vertex for stitching it will give you a text below your curser telling you to select the 2nd vertex.

  • Stitching using the To End Point modifier will stitch the vertices to the end of the 2nd or last vertex you’ve selected.

  • Stitching using the To Start Point will do the opposite of the To End Point modifier.


- Split

  • Split works best with the Ring Target and it will do an offset extrude around the vertex turning it into a ring.


- ZModeler on Edges

  • Hover over an Edge then press space to open the ZModeler Menu for the Edges.


- Bevel

  • The first Action we’ll look at is the Bevel. Unlike the bevels for the points and faces this one works best with Edges.

  • If we bevel an edge in the middle of the cube it will only split the edge in two and create a new poly group that loops around the cube.

  • Beveling the corner edges will give us a more interesting result.

  • The Target is set to EdgeLoop Partial and it won’t bevel the edge completely all the way.

  • Setting the target to EdgeLoop Complete with Single Row and Linear Edge modifiers will make the bevel better.

  • In the Modifiers, we can add rows of edges when we bevel. We can go up to 8 rows in the modifier options.

  • Two Rows

  • Four Rows

  • Eight Rows

  • We can also add creases onto our Bevels by using the Sharp Edge modifier when we bevel.

  • When we add divisions the edges will hold their form and look sharp.

  • The Soft Edge modifier does the opposite and adds more edges in the middle of the bevel to make a smooth curve when divisions are added.


- Delete

  • The Delete action is self-explanatory, it deletes any edge you click.

- Bridge

  • The Bridge action works similarly to Maya and connects edges together.

  • Just like we did with the vertices we need to select one edge and then the other to bridge them.

  • We can see that the middle edge isn’t connected with the new edges we just added using the bridge options.

  • This means that the poly groups aren’t connected together and gaps can be found between the edges.

  • This will cause big problems in our model and need to be fixed.

  • We first need to add an edge in the middle using the Insert Action.

  • By clicking and dragging place the edge in the middle.

  • Now that we have our edge we can use the Stitch Point Action and stitch the vertices together on the top and bottom part of the new edge we just added.


- Collapse

  • The Collapse Action collapses edges into each other.


- Crease

  • The Crease Action adds creases to the edges you select.

  • Using an EdgeLoop Complete Target will add a crease all around the edge.


- Insert

  • We saw what the Insert Action can do previously, it adds edges around the entire cube.

  • If we set the Target to be on Multiple EdgeLoops it will add many edge loops at once by dragging our mouse up and down.


- QMesh

  • The QMesh works the same way just like we did on the faces but instead of faces, we extract edges. They function the same way otherwise.

  • If you hold down Alt while having the ZModeler Brush selected and drag across the cube it will change the color of the poly group creating a new one.

  • Letting go of the Alt key while still keeping your pen our mouse pressed down will change the color of the poly group.


04. Zbrush - ZRemesh


- Workflow

  • We have this model to use as an example for the demonstration of how the ZRemesh tool works.

  • We can see that the model was made using Booleans hence all the perfectly cut holes and dents.

  • The geometry is very messy and needs to be fixed.

  • The ZRemesh tool can be found inside the Geometry tab.

  • If we click on the ZRemesh button now without making any edits it will indeed fix up the geometry and turn everything into quads but the form is going to be deformed in most places where the holes and dents are.

  • We can try to keep the form from deforming by adding creases along the edges of the model.

  • To do that we’ll go in the Crease tool inside the Geometry tab and click the Crease PG option before activating the crease.

  • This will ensure that the creases will be around every poly group on our model.

  • In the ZRemesh tool, we can activate KeepCreases before re-meshing the model.

  • This will ensure that the edges where the creases were are going to be preserved as best as they software can do.

  • We are starting to get a better result but we can still see some dents on the bigger poly group (in this case the red one).

  • We need to make each side of the model its own group so the Crease PG can work better when we use ZRemesh.

  • Before we move go to the next step here is an example of how ZRemesh behaves when we enable the KeepGroups options inside the tool.

  • It will preserve the group but it will deform the rest of the model because it doesn’t have enough poly groups for the ZRemesh to use to maintain the form.

  • We will go on ahead and fix this issue by adding poly groups on each side of the model.

  • To do that we’ll go in the Polygroups Tool.

  • Here we have many different ways we can add poly groups to our model.

  • For now, we will use Group By Normals because it will add a poly group everywhere where there is a normal edge or angle.

  • We can see now that each wall of our model has its own poly group.

  • We can go ahead and do CreasePG again and it will add creases on every corner and around every poly group on our model.

  • Now when we ZRemesh our model with Keep Crease and Keep Groups on it will give us an even better result.

  • It’s still a bit bent in certain areas but we can always fix that by halving the topology on our model by clicking the Half option in ZRemesh and re-mesh it again.

  • Now that we have less topology, half of the topology than before, our geometry and form of the model are fixed.

  • The Adapt button on ZRemesh adds topology based on the Target Polygons Count slider, by default it’s set to 5.

  • This means it will try to fix the topology on the model to only have around 5k Active points while at the same time trying to preserve the form of the model using only 5k polygons.

  • This number can be changed using the slider and inputting a different value.

  • The Same option uses the already existing Active Points and tries to re-arrange the topology.

  • The Double option Doubles the existing topology and doubles the Active Points as well.


Humanoid Example


  • Moving on to a humanoid character, we can see that this model’s topology is very messy and needs to be changed so it can be further prepared for texturing, rigging etc.

  • When we ZRemesh it we see that the topology looks really clean and the form isn’t deformed.

  • It still needs further cleanup around cramped areas like the eyes but that isn’t too big of a problem.

  • Legacy also works the same way that ZRemesh does, it is an older algorithm that was sued till 2018.

  • It is still included in the new versions of Zbrush and doesn’t have any difference with the ZRemesh tool which is the new tool for re-meshing models.

  • There is a Brush that helps guide the polygons when we use ZRemesh.

  • Using the keyboard shortcut BZR we will activate the ZRemesherGuide.

  • With this brush, we can draw guides on the model so that when we re-mesh it the geometry will flow better.





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