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Working with layers in ZBrush

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Date Added: 24th July 2014
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Insomniac Games lead character artist, Gavin Goulden, breaks down his tips for working with layers in ZBrush...


Chances are, if you have been sculpting for a while, you have had a moment where you have added details to your sculpt that you didn't like and had to remove them, only to then make your sculpt 'muddy', or ruin other details that you were happy with. You went a little too heavy with the wrinkles on a character's face, or added way too many pores to your character's skin. By working with layers, you can isolate these details, control the visibility of the information, and even remove the details entirely if you are unhappy with them; all without effecting the underlying details in your sculpt. Beyond just finer details, you can also have layers for posing, creating different body types, and blendshapes ? which adds a ton of versatility to your workflow.

Layers can add a level of control to your workflow and allow you to edit details on your model without harming your sculpt

Adding layers to your sculpt

Creating and working with layers in ZBrush is as easy as a one-click process; with your SubTool activated, navigate to Layers under the Geometry tab in your tools panel, and click the '+' icon to add a new layer. This will add a layer to your model that you can then sculpt on as normal, but also control the visibility of those details. When a layer is active, you will see a REC icon next to it (which happens by default when adding a new layer) and you can hide the layer entirely by clicking the Eye icon. Keep in mind that layers can only be added to the highest subdivision level of your sculpt. So, it is usually best to build your model up first before diving into layers. After creating a layer, you can move up and down subdivision levels, but you will not be able to add subdivisions after creating a layer without baking the information down to your sculpt.

Adding layers to your model is incredibly easy and adds flexibility to your workflow

Top tip 1: Adjusting and organizing layers

While you are working with layers, it is always helpful to rename the layers to something more relevant to what the layer contains. Simply click on the layer name, and then the button 'Name', enter a label for your layer and press enter. Keeping layers organized in this way, especially in a production environment, will help artists keep track of what layers contain. It will help avoid confusion when giving another artist a file if you have a lot of layers to sift through, or if you are returning to the file after a long break. In this same panel, you can delete, duplicate, merge layers down, rearrange them, and bake down all of the information into your sculpt. By baking all of the details down, it will remove your layers and allow you to create more subdivision levels. Some operations in ZBrush also require you to remove layers before moving forward.

Keep your sculpt organized by naming your layers ? it will help keep track of details and make work that much smoother

Related links

Check out Gavin Goulden's portfolio
Follow Gavin Goulden on Twitter
Discover more free tutorials!
Create believable fabric folds in ZBrush
Learn how to define seams with Polygroups
Learn how to use masks for fine details
Create an Insert Mesh brush
Form facial hair with FiberMesh
Painting skin textures with color spray
Using Shadowbox to create quick details
To see more by Gavin Goulden, check out 3D Masterclass: The Swordmaster in 3ds Max and ZBrush

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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
Mitchell Sturtevant on Sat, 03 February 2018 12:30am
Hello Gavin, I'm adding sculpt texturing to my mesh for the first time using layers. Everything seems to be going okay but with every brush I use it imprints a strange pattern in its strokes, instead of just being a good clean peak or a good clean valley. I think it may have something to do with the pattern that the Noise is using. I've created Noise on two layers and the pattern seems to be similar to that of the Noise pattern. If you have any suggestions as to how I can delete that pattern from the brushes, please let me know as soon as you can. Thank you for your time. Best Regards, Mitchell
AnimeDeviant on Thu, 24 July 2014 1:27pm
Can you output the layers as individual maps, like can I export the layer of pores as a bump map and not have it appear in the displacement map?
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