Create believable fabric folds in ZBrush

In this quick tip of the day, Lead Character Artist, Gavin Goulden will give you pro examples and advice on how to create believable fabric in the digital sculpting software, ZBrush

The key to creating great fabric sculpts is to know the material you are trying to reproduce, how it behaves under the law of gravity, how the thickness of the fabric appears, and typical ways that it rests on the body.

Once this has been observed, it takes layering up your sculpt with the proper details, marking key points of compression and tension, and finally refining details.

It is a common mistake by artists to rush into the detailing stage – resist the temptation! Build a solid base that reads as the proper fabric, and keep refining; there will be plenty of time to noodle with the details.

The final product of sculpting a leather jacket in ZBrush. Here you can see the major folds are located in compression areas with more subtle details throughout the model

Stages of Sculpting Fabric

Once you have gathered a library of reference images, and have studied your targeted fabric, it's time to move on to ZBrush. In this example, I am creating a tighter leather jacket, beginning with a base mesh that roughly resembles a jacket. From here, I move on to marking out the major areas of compression and construction seams throughout the article of clothing. Finally, once the fold work has been completed, I take a pass on the sculpt to add finer details, add wear and tear, and refine the fabric seams with stitches and smaller tension folds.

In this example, you can see the multiple levels of detail taken when sculpting a jacket. A solid base mesh, marking the major landmarks, and final detailing

Top tip - Know Your Material

Before diving into sculpting, make sure you reference your material with real world examples, or a series of great photo reference images. Different materials react to gravity differently, making the bunching, tension, and weight different from one fabric type to another.

In this example, you can see how different materials are executed, and how different materials rest on the human form

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