Making Of 'Birth'


This Project is going to guide you step by step, and to allow you to create a whole scene with Zbrush 3 from scratch, to sculpt texture and finally render it. This is an extensive tutorial, but there's still a lot I won't go into, such as interface configuration or ZScripts.

Featuring: Transpose, ZSpheres, SubTools, and Mesh Extraction

About Zbrush

ZBrush is different from other 3D and painting programs. It's a mix between 2D painting, and 3D modeling software, with good rendering capacities. In ZBrush, you don't have a 3D workspace, but a canvas. The canvas can be painted on, and can also be sculpted in and out (like a bas-relief carving, but with much greater depth). When doing pure 3D modeling, you simply manipulate the model with a (usually) blank canvas as the background. Your model can then easily be incorporated into a previously painted scene, and lighting, rendering, and so on, will all work to produce an illustration with true 3D appearance.

Of course, many artists use ZBrush as primarily a 3D program, and that's largely what we'll be doing in this tutorial. Because of this integration, a model in ZBrush can be thought of as a tool, which also includes 2.5D brushes, a 3D primitives, ZSphere skeletons, and of course standard 3D models, which are normally referred to as polymeshes or meshes.

A new feature in ZBrush 3 is that a single polymesh can be split into multiple subtools, enabling you to work on multiple items at the same time. To paint and sculpt a tool or the canvas, you will use 3D and 2.5D brushes, different kind of strokes, textures, alpha maps and materials.

The picture on the left was created from scratch in ZBrush, all the models are created, sculpted, posed, textures, lighted, and rendered without (almost) the help of any other application.

Before beginning this tutorial, let us have a look to the basic functions of ZBrush, as well as the main menus.

Basics: Tools, Editing, and Navigation in ZBrush

The Tool Palette (palette is another name for menu in ZBrush) is one of the most important menus. It's where you load, save and edit all of your models.

Select the Sphere 3d primitive and drag it on the canvas.

Near the top of the canvas, you can find the Edit, Draw, Move, Scale and Rotate icons. After you draw the Sphere, all these icons except Edit are now active.

You can use the Move, Scale and Rotate tools (respectively: W, E, R keys) to transform the sphere, or stay in Draw (Q key) to draw other spheres. For the moment, enter the Edit mode, and press the Make PolyMesh3D button in the Tool menu. The sphere primitive is converted into a standard 3d Mesh. Sculpting brushes will work much better with standard 3D meshes (polymeshes). Edit Mode mode will let you edit and sculpt the sphere. When this mode is on, the Draw, Move, Scale and Rotate icons will allow you sculpt, move, or pose your current tool.

In Edit Mode, to Move, rotate and scale the current tool, you'll have to use the Transform icons, on the right of the canvas area, or the following combos:

  • To rotate your Tool, just click drag on an empty area of your canvas...(or on the Safe area around)
  • To move your Tool, press the Alt key and click-drag on your canvas.
  • To scale your Tool, press the Alt key, click-drag on your canvas, then, release the Alt key.
  • To center your Tool, press.

A safe area (one that you can drag on to do the above) appears around the canvas that will help you to move rotate or scale your tool, even if your model one fills all the available space on he canvas.

For now, activate the Local transformations. If will help to focus on the part of the model you're working on.

Basics: Sculpting

The various available brushes, which are going to serve you for sculpting the model, are all in the Brush menu. Each has a different effect, and can be combined with different strokes and alpha maps.

Before beginning, take time to experiment with them.

On the top row, you can find the buttons to controls the color, opacity, and material of the tools when the Edit Mode is off, and the depth, color, opacity and materials of the 3d brushes when the Edit Mode is on.

  • Press S to change the Size to the brush.
  • Press U to change the Z intensity of the brush.
  • Press I to change the RGB intensity of the brush.
  • Press O to change the Focal Shift of the brush.
  • You can also show for a moment a Hotbox that includes all these options by pressing the Spacebar.

You'll find in the Transform Palette the Symmetry options. Symmetry will save you a lot of time. Symmetry in X, Y and Z can be switched on and off by pressing respectively, X, Y and Z keys.

Basics: Hiding and Revealing

(Upper half of figure):

  • Press CTRL + Shift and drag a rectangle to keep visible a section of the sphere.

The remaining part of your model is hidden.

(Lower half of figure):

  • Press CTRL + Shift and drag a rectangle as previous. While you draw the rectangle area, release the SHIFT key. The rectangle becomes red, and the underlying part of the model is hidden.
  • To invert the model visibility, press CTRL + Shift and drag a rectangle on an empty area of the canvas.
  • To reveal all the model, press CTRL + Shift and click on an empty area of the canvas.

  • The Lasso tool allows you to quickly create freeform selections by pressing CTRL + Shift and dragging out a lasso.

Basics: Masking

(Upper half of figure):

  • Press CTRL and drag a stroke to mask a section of the sphere.

(Lower half of figure):

  • Press CTRL+ Alt and drag a stroke to unmask a section of the sphere. In the same way as for sculpting, selecting an Alpha has an influence on the stroke.

(Upper half of figure):

  • Press CTRL and drag a rectangle to mask a section of the sphere.

(Lower half of figure):

  • Press CTRL + Alt and drag a rectangle to unmask section of the sphere.
  • To invert the mask, press CTRL + Shift and click on an empty area of the canvas.
  • To clear the mask, press CTRL, and drag a rectangle on an empty area of the canvas.
  • As with hiding faces, you can also use the lasso tool to mask them.

Now, go out of Edit Mode, and clear the Document, using CTRL + N. (If you're editing a tool, all but your current tool will be erased.)

Using Z-Spheres To Create a Stick Figure

To start, we will build a simple stick-model using Zspheres, which are a quick way to create a stick figure, and to create a model from. This model will be a template on top of which we will create the final topology of our girl. Select the ZSphere icon in the Tool palette, Click-drag it on the Document, and enter Edit mode.

Activate X Symmetry, using the X Key. You can also find the Symmetry options on the Transform Menu. You can notice that your cursor becomes green when it's over the symmetry axis.

Now, we will create the Spine and the head of our model.

  • Select the Draw icon, and start to add a first Z-Sphere. Pay attention to create this sphere on the axis of symmetry.
  • Go into Move mode (W key), and move it just above the original.
  • Go into Draw mode and add 2 other Z-Spheres the same way.

To shape your Stick figure you can Move, Rotate or Scale each Z-Sphere individually, or select the Link between each Z-Spheres, to transform the downstream hierarchy.

If you want to delete a Z Sphere, just Alt + Click on it.

It's time to add arms and legs to our model. Here is what the skeleton and the poly model should look like at the end.


You can preview your poly model, and go back to the Zsphere display at any moment by pressing the Preview button, in the Tool:Adaptive skin subpalette; or the A key

You can Switch on and off wireframe and polygroups display by pressing the Draw PolyFrame button, or Shift +F

Polygroups are just a quick and easy way to group part of your model, and to isolate these parts later.

Polygroup options can be found in the Tool:Polygroup subpalette. The creation of these can be made according to UV sets, or using to the visible polygons. If you import a model exported from Maya in .OBJ format, which has selections sets, these sets will be converted into polygroups. In the same way, these groups will be preserved when you will export your model again.

Polygroups Visibility

Hold CTRL + Shift and click on a polygroup, or the junction of two polygroups: the rest of the model is hidden. Revealing the model or inverting the visibility works as usual.

Have a closer look at the poly model, and especially at the hands. You will notice that our poly model has multiple colored parts. Each part is in fact a polygroup. A new polygroup is created each time the ZSphere hierarchy is split. You'll have to add an additional Z-Sphere on both side of the palm, so that fingers have good topology. When you will model your character, ensure every finger is in a separate polygroup. It will help us later. When you have finished, save your model.

Note: Because of the reddish clay shader, polygroups are not really visible. You can switch to a more neutral shader, or change the Render mode to Preview.

Creating a Rough Shape from the Stick Figure

Let us look more closely at the Adaptative skin sub palette. You will there find all the needed options to controls the model we'll generate.

  • Press A key to preview your Poly model, and make sure that the Minimal Skin to child button (MC) is on.

  • Set the Density to 4.
  • Hit Make Adaptive Skin. A New 3d model is created and placed in the Tool Palette.

  • Switch to this new model.

The model we created has multiple subdivision levels. You can move back and forth between these levels as you model, by using the Lower Res and Higher Res buttons, or using D and Shift + D keys.

It's time to rough out our model.

  • Select the Standard Edit Brush. Make sure the X symmetry is on
  • Just draw strokes on your model to Pull geometry. Pressing Alt key while you draw strokes will push the geometry, and the Shift key will smooth the model.
  • At this stage of the sculpting, you can also experiment the Inflate and Move brushes.

Don't push the sculpting too far. A quick rough is enough for now.

Creating New Topology

  • Select a new ZSphere tool.
  • Clone your model, and hide a part of the legs.
  • Make sure that the subdiv level of the model is at 2
  • Press CTRL and click on all the polygroups, one by one, to hide the whole body, except the fingers and toes. To spare time, we are going to keep this geometry and to use it as starting point for the final model.

In the Tool: Rigging subpalette, select the whole model, and activate the Projection Mode, so that the model which will be generated is projected on the Template.

In the Tool:Topology subpalette, select the cloned model only fingers of which are visible. Enter the Edit Topology Mode.

An orange wireframe model should appear over the fingers and the toes. This topology is composed of multiple Z Sphere chains, and was generated from the topology you selected. These chains of Z Spheres defines the contour of patches, from which a 3d mesh is going to be generated. Set the Max Strip Length to its max. This parameter indicates the maximum length of one of the side of a patch, so that it can be generated Like a standard Z Sphere model, you can Move, Scale, and delete part of the topology as you like, and also can preview the final model at any moment, by pressing A.

We are now going to create the rest of the topology, by beginning by connecting the thumb with fingers, and then, we are going to create rectangular patches which are going to define the remaining topology.

Press CTRL and click on a Z Sphere to define the starting point, and draw a four segments ZSphere chain. Create a second chain. both of them snaps automatically on top of the underlying model.

Pay attention that both chains have the same number of segments. If a chain has less segments than the other one, press CTRL and click on a segment to select it, then add an additional segment.

Press A to check the generated mesh, then A again to switch back to the ZSphere model.

Continue to add patches, until the model is ended. Open the Adaptative skin sub palette, and Hit Make Adaptive Skin.

The final model is generated and placed in the Tool Palette. The number of it's subdiv level is controlled both by the Density slider in the Adaptative Skin sub-palette, and by the Subdiv Parameter in the Topology Palette. Here is what the final geometry should look like.

Before Beginning to Sculpt

Now, the serious things are going to begin.

The model on which you go to work will be the definitive model, (or almost). The first thing which it is always necessary to do before sculpting a model is to crease the border edges. Here, the only ones are the openings of the eyes and the mouth. When you go to smooth the model later, these edges will remain hard. The second advantage to hardening the edges of the model, will be when you have to calculate the cage of the model, to generate a displacement map; the cage model will be cleaner.

  • Go to the Tool:Geometry subpalette, and apply a crease.

  • Subdivide the model five times, up to level 6, with the Divide tool, or using Ctrl + D. The model should be around two million polygons

Creating Polygroups

We are now going to create polygroups, and for it, we are going to use ZBrush 3's new topological masking tools.

Note: You can use these tools only if you're in Move, Rotate or Scale mode.

First, go into Preferences:Transpose, and set the Mask Blur Strength to 0. Make sure that the X Symmetry is on, go into move mode, press and hold CTRL then click on the wrist and drag towards the hand to create a topological mask that isolates the body. Release CTRL.

CTRL + Click on the canvas to invert the mask, go to the (Ctrl>Tool>Masking) subpalette, and hide the unmasked polygons, then go to the Polygroup subpalette and create a new polygroup.

Note: Always create your polygroups at the lower subdivision level.

In the same way, create another topological mask by drawing another line from the top to the bottom of the corner of the mouth, then, create a new polygroup, to separate the upper lip from the bottom lip.

The Advantages of Working with Layers

Layers allow you to work with much more flexibility, and to easily correct many kinds of errors. You will be able to work with a model at many different stages of development simultaneously. You can add details, then turn those details off and refine the major forms underlying them. The layer submenu is in the Tool palette. All models start with no layers defined.

To create new layers, use the Tool:Layer:New button. If you wish to bake the layer into your sculpt, simply press Tool:Layers:Delete. If you want to remove the layer and the sculpting from your mesh, turn off the visibility of the layer by pressing the eye icon and then pressing Tool:Layers:Delete.

When you create one 3D Layer on a model, the following layers have to be created at the same level of subdivision as the first one. They can on the other hand be edited at any level.

Erasing Layer Information

You can erase information in a Layer by using a morph target and the morph brush. To do this take the following steps:

  • Turn off visibility for the layer you want to remove information from.
  • Store a morph target by pressing Tool: Morph Target: Store MT.
  • Select the morph brush.
  • Turn the visibility back on for that layer.
  • Paint out the area you want to remove.

This model is fairly simple in terms of the abilities ZBrush offers; it does not present big technical difficulties. The challenge to make a beautiful result is essentially anatomical. You'll visit in the next chapters some techniques which are going to allow you to work more quickly and more effectively.

Detailing the Eyelid

Create a topological mask around the eye at subdiv level 3, and invert it. (You can create the mask only in one direction, from the outside inward of the eye, because you're working in symmetry). If the Mask is too blurred, use the Sharpen Mask tool, in the Masking Sub Palette. Create another topological mask just after the first one, so that there is no more than a simple strip of polygon which is not selected. With the Move brush, shape the eyelid, clear the mask. Select the Smooth Edit Brush and set the slider to -100. This prevents the concave polygons from being smoothed. Smooth and reshape the eye socket.

Shaping the Breasts

The Topological masking tool will help us a lot to shape and add volume to the breasts of the model.

Go into the Preferences - Transpose subpalette, and set the MaskBlurStrength to 7. Create a topological mask under the breasts. Select the Inflate Brush, to add some volume under the breast, and then, switch between the Move and Standard Brushes to polish the shape.

Detailing the Ear

The ear is certainly one of the most delicate part of the human body, and it will be one of hardest to sculpt. For it, you need a closer look at the sculpting brushes parameters. These are (almost) all grouped together in the Brush Palette.

The Edit Curve determines, and can modify, the brush profile. To get a brush profile that mimic the Edit curve, activate the Accucurve tool. The Accucurve tool is also a quick way to switch from a rounded brush to a sharper one. It's a clever idea to have this button on your interface. Selecting an Alpha in the Alpha palette will also have a great impact on the brush look.

The circumference of the ear, the Helix, with its part bent back on itself is certainly the most difficult to be sculpted.

For it, we are going to use the Gravity tool, in the Brush Palette.

Set the Gravity orientation gizmo to the right, and the strength to 100, and draw a first stroke to shape the recess.

Hold Alt and draw a second stroke to shape the fold. When you reverse the Stroke direction with Alt, the gravity is also inverted..

Put the model in a view of three quarter, and use the Snakehook brush to shape the auditory canal.

Use the Clay and the Flatten Brushes with a low intensity to build up the earlobe, then the Move brush to highlight it with regard to the head. The Flatten brush will also help you to create a sharp transition between the circumference of the ear and the head.

The Samples parameter, which you can find in the Brush Palette, has a great deal of importance. This can change the sensitivity of the Clay and Flatten brushes, by averaging the orientation and height of the underneath surface.

To be able to draw very precise and controlled brush strokes with ease is going to make you win a great deal of time.

To do it, the Lazymouse tool will help you a lot. Open the Stroke menu, activate the tool, and set the LazyStep to 0.03.

A digital red string is now attached between your cursor and the brush itself, and sculpting can continue.

Shaping the Hand

Work on the hand is a good time to have a first glance at the Transpose tool, which is a new feature in ZBrush that allows you to quickly position pose or deform your model. The hand, such as it is, is not very realistic. Fingers are too fine, are not spread enough. To use only standard sculpting brushes to correct it is not really going to give good results.

Ctrl + Click on the hand to hide all but the hand polygroup.
Go into Scale Mode.
Draw a topological mask to mask the all the hand, except a finger.

To create an action line, click on hand's surface and drag out the action line. The endpoints of the line will snap to whatever is under them. (To move an entire action line, drag the line itself to move it.)
Click and drag from the inside of the midpoint of the action towards an endpoint, to scale the finger.

  • Go into Rotate Mode.
  • Click on the Line's Endpoint, and rotate the Finger.
  • Do the same for all the fingers and toes.


In certain cases, the Topological mask works much better when the symmetry is not activated.

When you do not sculpt a mesh by using a symmetry, you can nevertheless symmetrize it afterward.

To do that, mask the zone of the model which you want to symmetrize. Select the Symmetry Axis In the Tool Deformation Palette, apply a Smart Resym. In case nothing is selected, the whole model is averaged.

Posing the Model

Posing the whole model with the Transpose tool is really simple.

  • Create a new 3d Layer, dedicated to the Posing, and go to the 2nd subdiv level. The deformations will be made more easily, when the model has few polygons.
  • You will have to, as for fingers, mask the part which you do not want to deform, adjust the Mask smoothness with the MaskBlur and MaskSharpen tools, and create one Action Line, and use that to deform the model.
  • To Blur the Mask, hold CTRL and Click on the model.
  • To Sharpen the Mask hold CTRL + Alt, and Click on the model.
  • During this phase you should not only pose the model, but also to re-sculpt it, to have anatomically correct muscular deformations, compressions, and skin folds.


With Transpose, you are not limited to rotating parts of a model, but also twist them.

  • To do that, create a Topo mask as usual; blur it until it goes from the elbow to the wrist.
  • You can switch to Flat Render mode to better check the masking.
  • Rotate your model to center the Action Line on the forearm. (The Action Line was drawn on the Surface of the model)
  • Click and drag on the line's midpoint to rotate the forearm.

Oops, I Missed the Hair!

When I created the model, I thought of modeling hair separately. I changed my mind afterward and decided to extrude the hair from the head. You're gonna do the same thing.

Go to the lowest subdivision level, and create a new polygroup on the back of the head. Hide all the model, except the new polygroup. Move the polygroup backwards using the Transpose tool, then, in the Tool:Geometry sub palette, create an Edgeloop. Repeat the operation a few times, that's all.

Begin by shaping and add volume to the hair using the Move and the Clay Edit Brushes, then, activate the Lazy Mouse Mode, switch to the Standard Edit brush to add details to the hair.

Shading and Rendering

Before texturing the model, you will need to create a nice shader that mimic skins, with a Subsurface Scattering look, in order to have a better feedback. For that purpose, you'll use a new type of ZBrush 3 material; a Matcap material. It can be created in two different ways: By using a Ball picture rendered in a 3d application; or from within ZBrush. Using a good material from this point will also give you a good idea of what the model will look like in a final render.

Setting up a Standard Shader

If you can't use an external app to create a Shaded ball, you can also arrive at the same result by using a standard material. In The Material Palette, select a DoubleShade Material, and set it as shown. Now, draw a sphere on the Document, to preview the material.

Open the Light Palette, and adjust the lights to get a nice result. Four sun lights should do the job.

Select the MRGBZ Grabber tool. In the Tool's modifier's palette, make sure that Auto Crop is on, and drag a selection on the document around the Ball. A copy of the Ball is stored in the Texture Palette. Change the specular settings of the material to have some variations of the material, and grab more pictures. Save all the pictures, the lights and your document if you want to make further modifications of the material.

MatCap, a new way to shade your models

The Sphere on the left is rendered in Mental Ray, using the MiSSS Skin shader. The subsurface settings were adjusted so that there are no dark zones, and so that the translucence is really visible.

Select a MatCap Material in the Material Palette, like the Red Wax, open the Modifiers Sub Palette, If the Material Palette is greyed, select a 3d Primitive tool. Some tools don't allow you to modify the Material settings. Click on the Material texture 1 Slot at the lower Left corner, and select the one of the Ball pictures grabbed previously, or a picture rendered in a 3d app.

In The Colour Palette, select a brown colour, and then click on the Base Colour Modifier. It will bring in the pink color of the material when you will paint it.

The Eye

We're going to model the eye, now. Select a Sphere 3d Primitive, and set the HDivide and VDivide to 24, in the Initialize SubPalette. Convert the Pritive to a Polymesh 3D.

  • Select the Move Edit Brush, click on a Pole vertex to shape the Iris, then, hold Shift to constraint the translation to the vertex normal.
  • Hide the Eyeball, except the Iris, and do a Crease, and create a new Polygroup from.
  • Unhide all, and subdivide the eyeball up to level 5.
  • That's all for the modelling, now.

Texturing the Eyeball

Now, switch back to the Eye model, open the Tool - Texture subpalette and activate the Colorize option. You don't need any UVs on your model, as the colour is actually stored on the model vertices.

Deactivate the Zadd option, and leave only the RGB activated.

To paint a model, you can simply use the same Standard Edit Brush as to sculpt. You only have to choose between different Alphas, different Strokes. And pick a colour in the Colour palette. To pick a colour from your model, of simply from the canvas, click on the Colour Palette, and drag the cursor to the area of the document you want to sample. As you created earlier several Polygroups, these will allow you to mask easily the white of the eye, and to bind the texture of the iris.

The Iris has a specific radial pattern. To reproduce it more easily, activate in the Transform Palette the Radial and Z Symmetry, and set the radial count around 25. When the basic texture is created, you can deactivate the symmetry, and continue to detail the eye.

Positioning the Eyeballs

One of the big novelties of ZBrush 3 is the possibility of grouping together several models, called Subtools. It is in this way that we are going to be able to add eyes to our model, as well as lashes, and a set later. At the moment, we have two separate models: a body, and an eye. Select the Body model, click on the Append button, and, then, select the Eye. You will certainly have to adjust the position, size and the orientation of the eye with the Transpose tool. After this has been, Clone the Eye, append the cloned eye as a new subtool (for the second eye in the figure), and adjust it's position.

Adding Eyelashes

Lashes are going to be created separately, from ZSpheres. Draw on the canvas a ZSphere tool. Ensure its dark half points upward. This first Z Sphere will be the pivot point of the lash, and its orientation is very important. Draw an additional Z Sphere from the light side, and a Z Sphere chain from the dark side of the first Z Sphere. Preview the model, and convert it to a 3d mesh using the Make Adaptative Skin tool

  • Select the new 3d mesh, and delete the lower subdiv levels.
  • In the Tool Deformation Subpalette, rotate the model on the Z axis of 90 degrees.

Lashes are not going to be put directly on the final model of the body, but on a template without any subdivision levels. Select the model of the body. Clone it. Go to the fifth subdiv level, and delete the higher and lower levels. Create a single Polygroup from the model. Hide the entire model except the head, and mask it all. Open the Brush Palette, select the MeshInsert Fit Tool, and then select the Lash as the mesh you will insert.

Add lashes

Lashes may not be directed in the right direction when you go to add them. If it is the case, change their orientation by using the Rotation slider, in the Deformation Sub Palette. You can also tweak them with the Move and the Transpose tools. When you are satisfied by the result, hide the Body Polygroup, and delete the hidden polygons. Finally, add the lashes as a new Subtool to the final model.

Painting the model

To paint the model does not present any particular difficulty. Start with flat tint of colour, to define areas like hair, lips, nails, then, using a low RGB opacity add colour variations on fingers, cheeks, knees. To finish, select a spray stroke and Alpha 23, to add some blemish to the skin.

Creating the Set

To create the Set, we are going to start from a simple cube primitive. In The Tool Palette, select the Primitive, draw it on the canvas, and then convert it to a Polymesh 3d. As most of the primitives in ZBrush, this mesh has poles, and that will not be convenient when you sculpt it. So we are going to change that.

Open the Tool: Unified Skin Sub Palette, set the resolution to 8, then click on the Unified Skin button A new tool is created in the Tool Palette. Switch to it.

  • Subdivide the model one or two times.
  • Open the Deformation Sub Palette. Spherize the mesh, then Flatten the bottom.

Draw a mask, to bound the shape of the new model, and Hide the Unmasked part.

In the Subtool Palette, click on the Extract button. A mesh with some thickness is created as a new subtool. That's the one that we will use a the final model of the set.

Before sculpting the set in HD, give it a sharp look with the Move Brush

HD Sculpting and Painting

Now that the model is in its final pose, we'll do some high-definition sculpting for details. HD Sculpting allows you to detail a single model up to one billion polygons. This works almost exactly as for normal subdivision, but keep the portion of the model that is being worked with at any time to a size that leaves your system responsive.

In Tool: Geometry HD, divide the girl model two times. This will be enough to add all the needed details.

Then, hover your mouse over the area you want to sculpt and press the key. A circular area around the mouse has been selected. The number of polygons of this area is determined by Preferences:Mem:MaxPolyPerMesh. You can then sculpt in that area. When done with HD sculpting, press the a key again to exit Sculpt HD mode. On this model, thanks to the HD, we are going to be able to add the skin grain, the relief tattoos, and all the details necessary to add exactly the realism we want.

You can detail the skin grain in two different ways. The first solution is to use a simple brush, a spray stroke, and the Alpha Brush 15, which will allow you to both sculpt and paint your model. Or, you can capture it from a photo

Creating an Alpha from a Photo

It's easy to create an alpha from a photo and to use it as a stencil or as a stamp with a 3d brush.

For this, you will need two additional pieces of software; Photoshop® or something similar, and a little help from Jpeg Enhancer to remove Jpeg artefacts from photos. Here's what to do:

1. Open the original photo in Photoshop, and do a High Pass filter to remove all the relief and shadows but the skin grain. Save the picture in .psd format and open it as an alpha in ZBrush.
2. Set Alpha:Alpha Depth Factor to a value between 2 and 12. It may vary according to the shading of the picture.

3. Adjust the Alpha curve to get a nicer depth effect, and fill the document with the Alpha, using the Alpha:CropAndFill button.
4. Select the GlowBrush Tool, and activate the ZAdd Button. Press and hold the Alt key (which is a shortcut to access the Smooth sculpting brush), and use the tool on your document to smooth it, except for the creases.
5. Grab the whole document, or a portion of it with the MRGBZ Grabber tool. The new alpha is stored in the alpha palette.
6. If you intend to use this Alpha as a stencil, set it to be the current stencil using the Alpha: Make St Button.

Creating an Alpha Manually and Using It with the Edit Brush

In some cases, you will have to create your own Alphas from scratch. We are going to need it to stylize the hair, and to make it look like a clay sculpting.

1. Create a New Document.
2. Change its size to 400 * 400, and Store Depth History. Storing depth history will allow us to add a constant depth layer.
3. Now, draw a 3d plane on and parallel to the canvas. You can easily snap a tool by rotations of 90 degrees, by pressing the Shift key while you rotate the tool.
4. Switch to the Layer brush, select Alpha 15 and a Spray stroke.

5. Draw a first stroke, by paying attention not to draw on the edges of the Canvas.
6. On the Layer Palette, Displace vertically the canvas, this will allow us to create tileable alphas.

7. Draw an additional stroke, and repeat the operation one or two times.

8. When you're fully satisfied with the result, press Alpha:GrabDoc.
Note: With this technique, you can create your own Alphas, textures, and stencils. Because it's possible to create an Alpha from any part of the document, you can also convert any visible object, and use the grabbed picture as a brush.
9. Now, switch back to the girl model, select the Clay brush and the new Alpha you just created.
10. Open the Stroke menu and activate the Roll option. You are now ready to give the hair a detailed look, which looks like clay.

The rest of the models presents no technical difficulty. The blue tattoos of the girl are sculpted and painted using the Lazy Mouse mode, which gives us perfect smoothed curves. The hair is sculpted in HD using the Clay brush with lazy mouse mode too.

Creating the Illustration

Actually, in ZBrush, you can't render multiple subtools at the same time. To do it, we are going to snapshot each HD subtool on a separate layer, and we will need the help of the Zapplink plugin.
1. Create a new document which will have the size of the final image, place your tool on the document, and switch off the visiblity of the girl, the eyes and lashes Subtool.
2. In ZAppLink, store the position of the tool on the Custom 1 view.

3. Select the Set subtool, which is the bigger one, open the Geometry HD subpalette, and press the Sculpt HD button. The whole model is displayed in HD.
4. Open the Transform Palette, and Snapshot the tool on the layer.

Open the Layer menu and create a new layer.

5. Draw your model on this new layer, and recall it's stored position using the Zapplink Palette.
6. Switch on the visibility of all the subtools.
7. Now, in the Render menu set the Flatten option off.
8. Select a BasicMaterial and set the Specular and Transparency values and the Transparency curve as shown.

9. Paint the Set subtool and the two red balls subtools with this transparent material. The HD model of the set should appear on the underlying layer.
10. Select the girl model, render it in HD.
11. Save your document, and turn Edit Object mode off.
12. Export the Document in Tif or Psd Format.
13. Turn off the Set subtool.
14. In the Alpha menu, grab the document, and save the related alpha.
15. Turn on Set; grab the document again, and save another picture. We will use them as masks later in Photoshop.

Rendering the Shadows

To have a better control over the final image, we are going to need to render the shadows on separate layers.

To do it, select a new BasicMaterial, and set the Ambient, Diffuse, Diffuse curve and Specular parameters as shown. The picture should look completely white, but don't worry. This kind of material doesn't have any shading, but will catch the shadows.

To use the Light menu, click on a light to select it, and click again to turn it on or off. The placement sphere in the upper left of the palette shows where the currently selected light is placed, and also shows the combined effect of all lights currently turned on. Drag the small yellow rectangle to change the placement of the current light; click it to toggle it from a front light to a backlight, or vice versa.

On this Document, two lights will be enough to get nice shadows; one front light and one backlight. Switch on the ZMode only for the key light.

When you're fully satisfied with the result, render each light separately, and export the document as .tif or .psd. Here are the five pictures you should have saved.

Compositing and Final Touches

In Photoshop group the shadow layers together, and set the Blending mode of this group to multiply. Use the Alpha picture of the girl model to create a mask so that the backlight shadow layer doesn't affect the Set. Then, give to the Key shadow layer a parma tint, and to the backlight layer a blue tint. The drops of water are simply painted in Photoshop. Set the Layer Style to add Drop shadow and Inner Bevel effects. Use the second alpha picture to mask the background, and to composite the sky.

Thats all!

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