Pixologic,Inc. ZBrush

Johnny Rampant 01Fired up my copy of ZBrush software a few days ago. I bought the full version 2, maybe 3 years or so back. Gosh, maybe longer? Time files. Kept it up to date and have “played” with it from time to time. I also bought a Bamboo Wacom pad way before ZBrush to compliment Adobe Photoshop editing process. The Bamboo is also nice to use for ZBrush editing. The Bamboo pad is now at least two versions out of date. Still works.

The professional work done in ZBrush is mind blowing. (Example shown is drawn art, not a photograph) I do not aspire to reach that level. Only possible if that was the only thing I like to do. It’s not.

I do like the organic art that can be produced in ZBrush. I want to use it for 3D print models that are well…, more organic.

ZBrush is a two dimensional graphic arts program that added a third dimension (The Z in ZBrush).  The user interface is like the rambling old houses in New England (USA) that just have one addition after another added.  Sometimes one has to go through the kitchen to reach the bathroom. 

The interface can be learned but it is not an easy task. A lot of “shortcut” keys are available and many times a “tool” or “brush” can be found in several different locations.  The interface is extremely configurable to the users preference and that too makes it much more complex.

As I mentioned the artwork produced by professional users is inspiring as it is intimidating. I can only guess at the time spent on the vast displays of what has be done within ZBrush.  I am sure these artist may also use the ultra-expensive software like Autodesk Maya, one of the top rated. There are literally dozens of others. This is not a review of all options. Just my experience with ZBrush.

The good/best 3D graphic programs are very expensive and equally complex. Not intended for the non-committed artist and casual user hobbyist. Me.

There are reasonably good free software as well. Blender is one.  I just explored the Blender application once again.  I had “looked” at Blender a quite a few years ago in Linux and have noticed recent reports that Blender has now vastly improved in the last few years. The sculpting section looks and works almost exactly as Zbrush. I will say it looks like an excellent “free” starting point. Perhaps all that is needed.

ZBrush interface is based on a clay-like sculpting environment. That is what attracted me to the program. ZBrush is also highly “slanted” to the 3D printer printing artist, and that too is an attraction. Many “tools” included with ZBrush are intended to help the 3D print artist.

ZBrush has hard surface tools as well as the sculpting. It is also very good at color application and surface finishing. It just requires a huge commitment of time to master all the tools available. “All tools” is probably a very distant goal.

One fairly serious issue for the engineer in me is the total lack of measurement (dimensional) tools in ZBrush. It is foremost an art program, not CAD software. All sizing is by “eyeball” not ruler. There are tricks, like a drawn ruler, created in a CAD program and imported into a work-in-progress for reference. ZBrush is an “Art” program, not a substitute for CAD.  However, both can be used together. 

An .stl or .obj (and other) files can be imported into ZBrush for additional “organic” style editing. A basic dimensional base of correct size, then use ZBrush to add organic style decoration. This is one of several ways I see myself using this graphic tool. Not dimensional engineering, but applying organic details. 

Many ways to work with almost unlimited options. It may be this freedom that is intimidating to a beginner like myself. 

The Zbrush application is sure to pop up in future posts, especially when I have produced something worth printing. Probably before I have something worth printing… Ha!