Hard Surface SculptingSeptember 2012
As ZBrush evolves that fast during the last three years, many artists came up with new and innovative modeling and sculpting techniques by using the new tools and brushes Pixologic invented. I tried to test some of these workflows myself, used a concept sketch of the amazing Andrew Ley (http://cghub.com/images/view/3730/) and made a 3d model out of it. To be honest, I was much more focused on testing the new tools and techniques than to create an exact copy of his sketch. For me it was important to develop a fast and efficient way for creating complex machinery parts. I started with a sphere, turned it into a dynamesh and began to block out some basic shapes. Claybuildup, TrimDynamic and HPolish brushes are of great help. When I was done with the concept I created a clean mesh on top of it with the ZSphere edit topology function. After creasing and subdividing the resulting mesh I was ready to add small details. Below is a rough tutorial that describes the work steps from primitive to the final model. All in all, the outcome is really nothing special at all but the basis for more complex and much more detailed stuff I think…
Hard Surface Modeling in ZBrush 3.1
The following models are made in ZBrush 3.1 a few years ago. Back then it required a little bit more preparation in an external 3d package but the intelligent use of the available brushes and mostly projection master already made almost everything possible. With the introduction of Dynamesh, a bunch of new polish brushes, Shadow Box, the enhanced transpose tool, tillable alphas, the insert mesh brushes, the possibility to create insert mesh brushes from almost every object, the decimation master plug-in and now the new Qremesher makes it possible to work solely in ZBrush, even for the most difficult tasks. Don’t get me wrong, I know it sounds like I’m doing advertising for Pixologic here but to be honest, I don’t know any other package out there where you are capable of doing such things…
Short Modeling Breakdown
1. Start with a simple sphere or any other ZBrush primitive and turn it into a dynamesh. The dynamesh resolution doesn’t have to be super high. A few thousand polygons are already more than sufficient to block out the basic form. For a more complex shape, turn on Shadowbox and draw the outlines of your object as masks on the Shadowbox planes, then convert the resulting mesh into a Dynamesh. You can also import your basemesh as an OBJ from an external package of course!
2. Use Move, Move Elastic, Clip and ClayBuildup Brushes to create basic shapes. The new transpose-tool features become handy for transforming the mesh. Redynamesh the geometry from time to time to make it easier to work with. If you would like to keep sharp edges during redynameshing, enable “project”. Also the symmetry mode works in conjunction with dynamesh. When you are done, increase the dynamesh resolution for the next step.
3. Make use of the TrimDynamic, HPolish, Smooth, Pinch and Flatten brush to straighten the planes. Edges don’t have to be super accurate – so don’t waste your time; it only serves as a concept mesh where we build the final mesh upon. At this stage you can already start adding details, like the lines I made, to get a feeling for the overall look. Be aware that we will lose these details again during the next step!
4. When you are happy with your concept mesh, append a ZSphere to the subtool palette and start retopologizing the object. Make sure to add poly-edges along the edges of your concept sculpture. Don’t spend too much time creating nice edge flows, because we are turning the resulting piece into a dynamesh again later on. Also triangles are no problem at all.
5. Use the fantastic Crease and Uncrease function, located in the Geometry tab to add hard edges where you need them by hiding parts of the mesh you don’t want to be affected. On your select tool, switch from rectangle into lasso mode to speed up your workflow when selecting polygons.
6. Subdivide the new piece of geometry until the surface looks smooth and no polygons are visible anymore. Then turn it into a highres Dynamesh again. Dynamesh will close all holes created during the retopologizing step. So it’s not even necessary to make sure that your recreated mesh has a closed surface.
7. Use the Clipping Brush to create straight planes and to get rid of any dispensable material. Don’t forget to dynamesh afterwards to get rid of the squeezed polygons. If needed, make use of the slice curve brush with dynamesh “polygroups” function enabled to cut the mesh into pieces when redynameshing. Use the transpose-tool to move the pieces apart.
8. Create custom alphas or use the still great projection master to add all sorts of fancy details. Have a close look at the alpha panel and the settings there. Take a look at the “GrabDoc” button (Alpha Palette/Transfer/GrabDoc). This feature captures the depth of the canvas as an alpha – very useful!
9. Finally, you can turn off dynamesh if you haven’t already. In case your design contains many different parts, use the decimation master plugin to reduce the polycount. You can easily convert the decimated object into a workable mesh later on by using dynamesh again with highres settings and “project” turned on. The next step would be to run the new Qremesher for creating a lowres mesh with subdivisions. With the help of UV master, you can create your UV’s, generate displacement and normal maps, export the mesh with maps and import it in your external 3d package of choice for rendering and presentation.
Mike A. Nash, please visit Mike’s website! He is a true hard surface sculpting master!!
Eat3d, they have published two hard surface technique DVD’s with tons of useful tips and tricks – recorded by Mike Jensen