Creating ram figure in ZBrush

Barbara Witkowska 2015-09-03 10:23 tutorial  > Zbrush  > modeling

See how Barbara Witkowska from Evermotion created this nice ram figure in ZBrush. 

In this tutorial I'd like to show you how you can quickly start making your own projects in ZBrush, with just a few tools.

At first, let's look at the speedsculpt and rotation of ready model:

Building ram skeleton with ZSpheres

Let's start with making a rough skeleton for our model. It doesn't need to be perfect, just to catch some overall proportions of the figure.

Click on image to enlargenr_01_ZSpheres_575.jpg

From the tool palette choose the ZShpere tool. Then click and drag your pen on the canvas to draw it. Click Edit or T shortcut to enable editing (you can always click ctrl + N to clear the canvas if you need). Our figure will be more or less symmetrical, so to make things easier, let's activate symmetry by clicking X shortcut, or choosing Transform/Activate Symmetry. 


Now we just need to click on the Sphere and drag to make another one. Notice that the pointing circle changes its colour from red to green when you move it close to the ZSphere axis lines. That’s why be careful when you draw ZSphere close to a symmetry line. Make sure that a pointing circle is green, so you drew only one ZSphere instead of two symmetrical ones

Click on image to enlargenr_02_ZSphere_basemesh_576.jpg

You can use Draw, Move, Scale and Rotate to create figure’s skeleton. Use all the transformations, except from rotation, directly on ZSpheres or on lines between them. But rotation transformations should be used only on lines between ZSpheres. 
  • To remove unnecessary ZSphere hold Alt key and click on it. 
  • To add a new ZSphere in the middle of others, just click on the line between them.
  • To draw a ZSphere, that has exactly same size as previous one, hold down Shift key while dragging.

If you want to preview how the skeleton will look like when converted to a mesh, click A shortcut. Click it once again to get back to the ZSpheres. It’s better to have Floor enabled just for now, to make sure that all four legs reach the same level.

Click on image to enlargenr_03_Basemesh_577.jpg

Let’s not spend too much time on this first stage. When you're happy with the overall proportions, find Tool/Adaptive Skin/ MakeAdaptive Skin button and click it. A new tool has been created. Our ZSphere sketch has been converted to mesh, ready to sculpt. Let’s switch to it now.


Start shaping

It's the new tool, so remember to activate symmetry for it beforehand (X shortcut).

Click on image to enlargenr_04_Brushes_578.jpg

We need only a few brushes when sculpting. To make a tail more round, let’s smooth it first. To do it we simply need to hold down the shift key and drag a pen over a mesh. To restore it's volume, use an Inflate brush.  


To catch a shape of the figure we may need to use Move Brush a lot, Move Topological Brush, Clay, Clay Tubes and StandardBrushes. A Stronger Smooth Brush can also be very helpful. You can find it in LightBox/Brush/Smooth/Smooth Strong.


At first it’s better to work on relatively low poly mesh. We don’t need to worry about topology for now, as we’re going to change it later anyway. Let’s just have fun with sculpting, dividing geometry when we feel we need it.

Click on image to enlargenr_05_Geo_divide_579.jpg

When you see  that you need more topology for some parts, turn on a DynaMesh option. It makes the topology uniform all around the mesh. To refresh topology flow after some changes, just hold down a Ctrl key, click and drag anywhere on the empty part of the canvas. 



Click on image to enlargenr_06_Masking_580.jpg

We may need to use a Mask tool quite often to sculpt only a part of geometry and to find even shapes between masked and unmasked areas. To use mask function hold Ctrl key and choose desired Stroke option. To unmask simply hold Ctrl key, click and drag anywhere on an empty space of the canvas. For more Masking options, go to Tool/Masking. 


Rotating legs

Click on image to enlargenr_07_Legs__positioning_581.jpg

Let's move to the the legs. To make sculpting easier, I decided to pose them vertically just for now. To do this mask everything apart from legs, then switch to rotation mode. Next draw a new Action Line, starting from a point around which you want the leg to rotate.  

You can always fix it’s position by grabbing and moving orange circles of the Action Line. Let’s position it parallelly to the leg axis. To rotate the mesh, grab and move the smaller red circle, positioned on the other end of the Action Line than our rotation point. Unmask all when you finish.

Detailing legs

Go back to the Drawing Mode. Then by holding down the Shift + Ctrl keys, clicking and draging your pen over the model, hide unused at the moment part of the mesh. We can choose desired Stroke mode for this operation.

Click on image to enlargenr_08_Hide_mesh_582.jpg

Alternatively if we have Polygroups, it's easier just to hold down Shift + Ctrl and click on one of Polygroups 


Click on image to enlargenr_09_Inflate_deform_583.jpg

As far as I know, the quickest way to make the legs look as lathed, is to use Inflate Deformation option together with masking. 


Click on image to enlargenr_10_Copy_legs_584.jpg

When the fore legs look good enough we may copy them as hind ones too. To do this duplicate the tool, hide unwanted mesh and choose Delete Hidden option (delete all the subdivision levels before). 


Click on image to enlargenr_11_Merge_tools_585.jpg

Now let’s put the hind legs in a place with a help of Move and Rotate modes, in exactly the same way, as the fore legs before. Turn on Transparency to see things better. When legs are on their place, delete hind legs from the first Subtool (delete all the lower subdivision levels before). Now mergeboth Subtools.


Click on image to enlargenr_12_Projection_586.jpg

Now we’re going to use Dynamesh function on the merged tool to connect both parts. Let’s duplicate it beforehand though, just to be sure we won't loose any details.  


Click on image to enlargenr_12_Projection_586.jpg

After using Dynamesh option, reproject all the details from duplicated subtool and resculpt a connection between hind legs and ram’s body. We won't need it any more, so let’s delete it. Finally we can rotate fore legs back to the right position. 


Tail detailing

Click on image to enlargenr_13_Tail_details_587.jpg

Let me introduce another very useful brush to you: TrimDynamic. It's great to sculpt hard surfaces. In this case we are going to use it to polish the tail. After polishing let’s mask everything but a narrow strap on the tail and push it out with Inflate deformation. To finish out that ridge just move some parts of it in, some out, till a wavy shape is formed. 



Click on image to enlargenr_14_Ornaments_588.jpg

For those bumpy details Standard Brush with Alpha is a perfect tool. To make things quicker, turn on and tweak Lazy Mouse and Roll options. This way, with a single brush stroke, we can draw a whole line of bumps. For other ornaments draw a mask  by hand and work only on selected part of the mesh. 



Click on image to enlargenr_15_Asymmetry_rotation_589.jpg

Finally it’s time to make our figure asymmetrical. Let’s start with rotating the head. Firstly mask the body, blur the border of the mask (Tool/Masking) and switch to the Rotation mode. Try to position Action Line right in the centre of the head, along its axis. Then you can switch off symmetry and rotate the head by grabbing a central red circle. 



After this operation, topology flow needs to be rebuilt once again. If we want to put our sculpture into a bigger scene, we should consider optimizing it a bit too. Especially if we want to expose it on a second plan, as in this case.

We will retopologize our sculpture with ZRemesher this time. Duplicate our subtool first. One will be optimized and another one will be preserved for keeping all the details that will be lost after retopology. We;re going to reproject them later.

Click on image to enlargenr_16_ZRemesher_590.jpg

It’s good to compare new shape with teh high resolution version. We can switch between them using up and down arrows on a keyboard. Now subdivide the new mesh a few times and reproject all the lost details from the previous version. I had to repeat the projection several times, smoothing and pushing the mesh in or out. 


Finally let’s make some polishing and add more ornaments, without symmetry active this time. Use those brushes we already know: Standard, Move, some masking too. New ornaments changed the mesh significantly, so I decided to ZRemesh it once again. This time I wanted to suggest ZBrush how it should lead topology flow. I used ZRemesher Guides Brush to achieve that. ZBrush will follow those guides quicker if we move a Curves Strength slide to an extreme right position.


We may need UVs to make use of the displace or AO maps later. The easiest and the quickest way to do this in ZBrush is to take advantage of the ZPlugin: UV Master. With this tool we can create UVs with a few clicks only. You can find UV Master plugin under ZPlugin menu. It’s much easier when you dock the ZPlugin Palette in the left tray.

At first let’s click the Work On Clone button. We need this step if there are any SubDivision levels active. Now there’s nothing more left  than click the Unwrap and the Flatten buttons if you want to check how newly created UV looks like. Click the Unflatten button to revert to 3D mesh.
If you’re not happy with that default UV (it’s surely very stretched), there is another quick way to fix it. You can create a few Polygroups, which will serve as a base for separate UV islands.


There is a separate division in Tool Palette for Polygroups options. Auto Groups button creates Polygroups based on topology continuity and its visibility. Group Visible button creates Polygroups based on visibility only.

Knowing those options only, you can create as many Polygroups as you wish. Just hide the whole mesh, apart from a section you want to become a separate Polygroup. I wrote roughly about Polygoups when describing figures legs creation, but just to remind: Ctrl+Shift+Click on a mesh to isolate a chosen Polygroup. To preview the Polygroups, turn on PolyFrame option. Each Polygroup has a different colour.

Back to UVs

Now when we have Polygroups created, we can go back to finish creating the UVs for ram’s figure. This time, before we click Unwrap button, let’s choose Polygroups button first. With this option chosen, ZBrush will create seams in place of our Polygroups borders.
Just like before, check how the new UV look like by clicking Flatten button. If it’s good enough (my favourite expression btw. ;), click UnFlatten.
Remember that we’re working on our figure’s clone all the time. Now we need to copy the UVs to the original, divided mesh. To do this click Copy UVs button, change the tool to SubDivided one and click  Paste UVs button on the UV Master division of the ZPlugin palette.

Click on image to enlargenr_17_UVs_591.jpg

Now, when we have UVs, it’s possible to bake Displacement and AO maps i.e. In the Tool palette you can find all the tools needed to create those. Last but not least, do remember about saving your work from time to time ;) And it’s good to delete undo history some time too (Edit/DelUH). 


Thank you for your time, I hope you’ll find those tips useful in your work. Feel free to comment and ask me any questions regarding sculpting in ZBrush.

Author: Barbara Witkowska Editor: Michał Franczak
Tags: zbrush sculpting ram
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mbialecki12:29:52  |  03-09-2015
I watched it. 10 minutes of CG poetry! :) Nice!!!


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