ZBrush Notes

ZBrush Sculpting

This Page Is Old: Notes Only

Opening And Saving Files

There’s three different types of object/documents in ZBrush. Make sure you get your head around the differences. Note*** if you save your file as a “document or .zbr” you will loose your 3d model as it will save a screenshot of your model only.

1. Document = 2d canvas “.zbr” We rarely use “.zbr” in 3d.
2. Tool = 3d object or a collection of 3d objects (sub tool) .ztl
3. File = Project canvas and tool .zpr

Saving a “tool” is simply saving a 3d object.

Saving “projects” will save the 3d object/s and other data such as the canvas size and tool settings.

Quick Save hotkey = 9

Quick Saves are located

Windows = C:Users\Public Documents\ZBrushData\AutoSave
Mac OSX = Users/Public/ZBrushData/AutoSave

To load an .obj (generic 3d file format) as a tool, under the tool menu click import.


3d Mode And the 2d Canvas

3d Objects in ZBrush are called Tools. To view the Tools in 3d we have to be in edit mode (t).

To build a tool.
Select the tool and click and drag in the canvas to draw it out.

To load an .obj (generic 3d file format) as a tool, under the tool menu click import.

Hold Shift as you draw the tool to snap it to stand straight up.

To Enter Edit Mode (3d mode)
Click edit or press “t”

Now you will be able to navigate around your object.


Changing The Background Colour

We can switch the gradient background colour off by going

Document > Range (hard to see) take the slider to zero

To change the colours
1. click the right hand colour in gradient on the lower left side of the screen.
2. click Document > Back (colour button)
The colour will change to your foreground colour.


Clearing The Scene

To clear the scene make sure you are not in edit mode and hit

ctrl n = clear canvas


3d Navigation

rmb = orbit
alt rmb = pan
alt rmb (then release alt) = zoom

shift (hold) will snap the model to right angle views.

To spin perfectly around a model, double click the frame button or hit “f” twice. Then orbit by clicking in the canvas area, not on the model

It’s also handy to display the grid while starting to sculpt objects. Click the Floor icon. If you don’t want the floor to be green go to

draw > floor > fill mode = 0


Perspective Camera

Perpective/Orthographic toggle = p

Camera Lens
Change your FOV to something like 60 or 50 in the draw palette menu.

draw > persp > angle of view = 50 or 60 is good

That’ll set a camera with a long lens which has less fish eye distortion, great for modelling


Dividing The Mesh

Like most sculpting programs ZBrush uses subdivision surfaces and we can navigate up and down how much we want the objects divided. Objects with hundreds of thousands or millions of polygons will sculpt well.

To navigate up and down the levels we first need to subdivide the mesh. Press ctrl d. Each time we press ctrl d it will add another layer.

Subdivide – ctrl d

Once we have a few layers we can navigate up and down the subdivisions with

Navigate up subdivisions = d
Navigate down subdivisions – Shift D

Deleting/Managing Subdivision Levels
The settings for managing the subdivisions is under
Tool > Geometry Sub-Palette



Brush Menu = b
Brush Size = s
Brush Intensity = u
All Adjust Modes = spacebar
Invert Brush (eat in/add subtract) = hold alt
Smooth The Mesh = hold shift


Common Brushes In ZBrush

In ZBrush we have a set of standard Brushes that most people agree are the most common brushes used.
1. Standard
2. Smooth (hold shift)
2. Clay
3. Clay Buildup
4. Move
5. Dam Standard
6. Trim Dynamic
7. hPolish
In Addition the following brushes are worthy additions to know
8. Clip Curve – deletes planes with apple/shift (Mac) ctrl/Shift (PC)
8. Clay Tubes
9. Snake Hook
10. Pinch
10. Insert Sphere
11. Insert Cylinder
Extra Brushes
Smooth Directional – Wont suck in your mesh so much, smooths in the direction of the stroke
Snake Hook – (great for extruding out spikey hair)
Slash3 – (cuts into the mesh)
Curve Tubes – (draws tubes extruding out of the mesh)
Insert Sphere – (creates Sphere’s easily, for eyes etc)
Topology brush – (good for making hair strips) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bgOLGZWF40)
User Created Brushes
There are Loads of User Created Brushes that you can install for free
Crease Brush – a brush that needs to be downloaded, a good knife cut variation…

Crease Brush For Zbrush Video Link

Stroke Brushes

Organic Custom Brushes

Zbrush IMM Hair strip brush (missing link)


Installing Custom Brushes

1. Close Zbrush if it’s open.
2. Find your zbrush program folder on your hard drive, then navigate to the following folder within:
3. Pixologic > ZBrush (version#) > Zstartup > BrushPresets
4. Put *icon.psd, *alpha.psd and *newBrush.zbp directly in the BrushPresets folder. Don’t make a new folder within BrushPresets.
5. Re-open zbrush and you should find the new brushes in your brush palettes


Lazy Mouse

Lazy Mouse draws a trail line to keep your brush strokes really smooth. I put it in a better place in the interface so I can access it at any time

Stroke > Lazy Mouse

Lazy Mouse on off = l


Display Modes

Wireframe = Shift F

Make non selected object transparent.
transform > transparent
transform > ghost transparency

To blow apart your model and see all the subtools
Expose = shift X



Transform > Active Symmetry = x

When an object or subobject is not centered you can also switch on “local symmetry” icon to the left of the viewport



Subtools is the way of having multiple objects in a ZBrush scene

Go to the Tool > Subtool palette

Creating a new Subtool
Any object in ZBrush will appear in the first subtool slot. To add a new object into the second slot we can

1. Duplicate the current subtool to create a second. (duplicate button)
2. Append the object with a new subtool from existing default objects.
3. Extract from the existing mesh using a mask (go to the Extract dropdown)

Combining/Merging Subtools
Go to the Merge dropdown

Displaying Subtools
Click the eye Icon etc

Importing Obj Objects into Subtools
To import a new obj subtool in your scene

1. go to the subtool area
2. (to add new objects) append (choose same simple object)
3. Import into new subtool or choose a desired object

Note: import (will replace current objects)

To make a different object active = alt and click on your object, alt + shift + click to frame to that subtool.

Transform > Expose = Shift X to explode subtools (toggle)


Mirror an Object

1. duplicate the subtool making an exact clone
2. select the clone and delete lower subdivisions under Geometry > Del Lower
3. Deformation > Mirror (button)

Another much easier way is to use the ZPlugin > SubTool Master > Mirror

With default settings it’ll mirror an object nicely.


Mirror and Weld

Sometimes your model might become asymmetrical. To make it symmetrical again we can Mirror and Weld. To do this go…

Geometry > Mirror and Weld

It always mirrors character right to left so if you want to go the other way go to deformation and mirror it first

Deformation > Mirror



Masking is a big deal in Zbrush, lots of cool things can be achieved getting to know your way around this area. Combined with polygroups we can hide and work on different pieces, extract and combine with dynamesh etc.

Basic Masking
ctrl to mask
ctlr + alt to take away from mask
invert mask ctrl click on the canvas
clear ctrl drag on canvas

Blur Sharpen Masks
blur mask – ctrl click on object
harden masking – ctrl alt click on object

Active Masking Brushes
The Active Masking Brush is the brush that’s activated when we hold down the ctrl key. By default it’s the MaskPen brush.

But we can can this to others like,

MaskCircle, MaskLasso, Mask Rectangle, MaskCurve

Lasso Masking (MaskLasso Brush)
The lasso masking also has a feature for drawing out points by clicking or double pressing alt while drawing a maskLasso. See the video in the next section.

Mask Lasso Brush – Must watch video showing how it works.

Topological Masking
Topological Masking
1. Go to the Move Tool (w)
2. Hold ctrl and drag out the mask

Transpose Smart Mask
Masks based on curature using the center point ansd grows out
1. Click on the brush “transposeSmartMask
2. Hold ctrl and drag out

Transpose Alphas
1. Go to move tool and make sure we have transpose (regular) selected
2. Select an alpha
3. Hold ctrl and drag out the alpha
4. alt will invert
5. Spacebar will move

Masking Sub-Palette
Mask by Smoothness (masks the crevasses) Adjust the range/falloff sliders, invert to invert

Sharpen, Blur (buttons)
Grow Mask – Blurs inside

Digital Tutors New Masking in 4r2b


Extracting Subtools

Subtool Sub-Palette > Extract
Clicking Extract will preview. Accept will extract to a new subtool.



The Deformation Sub-Palette has loads of options for modifying your mesh, usually based on a mask. This is great for extruding out hair or clothes for example.



There’s 3 ways in ZBrush to move scale and rotate our objects.
1. Tool > Deformation
2. Tool > Geometry
3. Transpose: Move, Scale, Rotate

1. Geometry Transforms
Under Geometry we can translate and scale our object, these values remember their coords in world space
Tool > Geometry > Position
Tool > Geometry > Size

2. Deformation Transforms
Under Deformation we can translate, rotate and scale the current tool using these values resets to zero after each transformation

Tool > Deformation > Offset
Tool > Deformation > Rotate
Tool > Deformation > Size


3. Transpose Transforming

Transpose is the quickest and easiest way to move subtools and unmasked areas around. It’s a hugely useful tool but fairly counter intuitive at first.

The transpose (move scale rotate) is found in the main top palette next to Lightbox.


To use draw from the pivot point outwards, hold shift while using to constrain to an axis. It’s also important to place the camera correctly and we can use the shift to snap the camera to orthographic views too.

Move Mode = w
Left Click to place (click on the object)
Navigate the camera as the tool works from the camera view.
1. First Circle is to position the tool
2. Second (middle) circle is to move parallel to the camera view, (hold shift to constrain to axis)
3. Third (outer) circle actually scales the object on the one axis only parallel to the camera view

Scale Mode = e (I change this to r to match maya)
Left Click to place (click on the object)
Navigate the camera as the tool works from the camera view.
1. First Circle is to position the tool
2. Second (middle) circle is to scale on the other axis not in the tools direction. It’s scales 2 axis at once.
3. Third (outer) circle scales the object on all axis equally. To shrink more than 100% we have to use the tool multiple times.
*Please note that scale on one axis is found in the move transpose third out circle

Rotate Mode = r (I change this to e to match Maya)
Left Click to place (click on the object)
Navigate the camera as the tool works from the camera view (hold shift if needed)
1. First Circle is to position the tool
2. Second (middle) circle rolls around the tool direction
3. Third (outer) circle rotates using the first circle as a pivot



hides the unselected mesh – ctrl + shift drag
invert the display – ctrl + shift drag
display all – ctrl + shift + click
lasso select – ctrl + shift + n (then the display you want) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhoaWCjiu0U)



Creating Polygroups
There’s many different ways to create Polygroups

Go to the Polygroup Sub-Palette

1. Auto Groups
Meshes that aren’t connected
2. UV Groups
Slices into UV parts
3. Group Visible
Groups all visible objects into one polygroup.
4. Group Masked
Groups from masked areas
5. From Polypaint
Groups from different colours depending on our polypaint colours
6. From Masking
Groups from Masking
7. From Masking Sliced Edge Loops

To Slice Geometry
1. Mask area
2. Go to the Geometry Sub-palette
3. Delete the subdivisions on other levels (we must be on the base mesh to tweak topology)
4. Edgeloop Masked Border button (ctrl-shift-e)
This will slice and separate polygroups

8. Slice Curve Brush
Use the slice curve brush, hold ctrl and shift to slice, alt to make the curve and spacebar to move. Release will slice your mesh creating separate poly groups.

Ungrouping/Removing Polygroups
Using the hide and Display Polygroups hotkeys (below) show the polygroups we wish to merge. Then click.
Polygroups Sub Palette > Group Visible

Hiding/Displaying Polygroups
Press the polyframe button to view polygroups as colours.

Isolate a polygroup – ctrl shift click on the polygroup
Invert display – ctrl shift drag on canvas (or ctrl shift click on polygroup again)
To select 2 pieces, select and invert piece one. Ctrl click the second piece and invert again.


Reference Images

There’s two ways to setup image planes in ZBrush
1. In the 3d scene
2. As a image that moves with the camera

1. 3d Scene Image Planes
Draw > Front Back
Draw > Up Down
Draw > Left Right

2. Camera Image Plane (Spotlight)

Texture > Load Image Plane

Lightbox UI = z
Toggle Lightbox Image On/Off = shift z
Move Lightbox = right click

*Note to sculpt on the model you must have the Lightbox UI switched off (z) and the following setting switched off
brush > samples > spotlight projection (off)

There’s loads of options in the Lightbox UI, main one’s are

Move: = right click drag
Scale: How big
Opacity: Transparency
Tile Unified: for multiple images.

You can also manually set up a lightbox by going.
Lightbox to browse or Texture > Import

Texture > +- sign icon (add to spotlight) to asign to overlay mode



Dynamesh is a great way of modelling when the form on your mesh is changing a lot. For example building a human figure out of a sphere you may be adding lots of area and stretching polygons. Dynamesh automatically re-projects polygons instantly adding even detail throughout your model.

Dynamesh is a lossy way of modelling and with lower setting you can loose quite a bit of detail each time you re Dynamesh. Non the less it’s a great way of modelling extruding and adding extra appendages to a model.

Dynamesh is found under Geometry > Dynamesh

Resolution (how many polygons will be re projected onto the mesh each time you re dynamesh)

ctrl drag in the empty 3d space to re dynamesh



ZRemesher is ZBrush’s autoretopology tool. It’s rather brilliant for sculpting workflow and for background objects in Maya such as rocks trees etc. For animated characters it’s not quite good enough and I usually manually retopologise in Maya.

There’s a lot of useful workflows where ZRemesher can come in very handy. Often I’ll start with dynamesh and at some point retopologise with ZRemesher for a much better sculpting base mesh.

It’s also rather brilliant for creating objects that need to be smooth with clean lines such as appendages on clothes machined objects etc.

Sculpt Workflow
1. Tool > Geometry > ZRemesher
2. Adjust the “Target Polygons Count” The default 5 is a good start usually but sometimes I’ll make it much lower sometimes below 1.
3. Click ZRemesher (please note that higher polygon counts will slow ZRemesher down considerably)
4. Undo if not appropriate or add subdivisions and continue sculpting or send back to Maya.



1. Tool Palette (click on the simple brush and it will open the tool palette) > Click ZSpheres
2. Click and drag a zsphere
3. Go to Edit mode
4. Go to symmetry mode (hit x)
5. click on the zsphere and drag to creat a new Zsphere. Green in the middle will create on an axis
6. move mode to move it around
7. Move scale and rotate all work on the zspheres in scale hold alt and ctrl for different functionality.
8. A = adaptive skin will preview the skin poly mode
9. options are in the tool palette unde Adaptive Skin, change density if desire
10. to register the skin hit “make adaptive skin”
11. Finally we need to find the Skin_* tool and click on it to create it. The adaptive skin won’t be visible.



The simplest way of assigning shaders is simply to click on the “material pallete” and find a preset. Note that the default color will correspond to the color in your picker.

Also note that all Subtools will change to that material. To assign a material to a specific subtool you must…
1. Switch to MRGB mode
2. Select the material you wish to apply
3. In the color menu select the desired fill color
4. Fill the color with “fill object”

And repeat this for each Subtool



ZBrush uses a technique it calls Poly Painting this is neither UV or PTex texturing and must be exported if to be used in another program like maya. You can unwrap uv coords in ZBrush and export to maps later.

Each polygon becomes a pixel so it’s necessary to have an extremely high mesh because each polygon acts as a pixel.

Painting is very easy.

1. Have a high resolution mesh
2. Fill your object with a matte color
3. switch off Zadd or Zsub to turn off sculpting. (you may paint and sculpt at the same time)
4. switch on RGB for colors
5. choose a color
6. choose a brush type
7. start painting

A tutorial on Polypaint by Josh Robinson


SCULPT LAYERS – Layers/Blend Shapes/Morph

1. Open your object with subdivisions
2. Go to the layers palette (under Geometry)
3. Create a new layer (+) button and rename it
4. There’s record mode and an eye to



ctrl command (alt) click on a button, ZBrush will ask you to specify a hotkey, hit that key. Your hotkey will be assigned.

Save the hotkeys
Preferences > Hotkeys > Store

To save to a file
Preferences > Hotkeys > Save

To Load
Preferences > Hotkeys > Load



preferences > config > enable customize UI
command + alt drag to drag the icons around
To delete drag into the 3d window

Save the preferences by going
Preferences > Config > Store Config




Below are random notes yet to be ordered for this ZBrush guide…

Move around interface to side bar click on round circle

ctl mouse over an icon gives help

color fill object

layers is same as mudox need to create a layer as your base, have one and then create a second.

Recording In ZBrush
Movie Record
Take the fade and stamp off
set your canvas size in document. Set 1280×720 for youtube.
set fps

can use the move tool to extrude or sculpt or inflate with dynamesh
can also extract for a different workflow need to find out how that works.

To get dynamesh fast open up the project sphere dynamesh

Sub Tool > Extract (hit accept) creates a new subtool
Deformation > Inflate
Deformation > Smart Resym select one half in mask to ReSym

Some tools require polymesh 3d under tool

Must be a poly mesh
Geometry > Shadowbox

Dyna mesh sub tools
Transpose tools learn
Orthographic persp hotkey
lazy brush hotkey and move to top screen


Notes from Pumba Sculpt

Snakehook brush, has the flow of a curve like for hair


Keep mesh really light to begin with

Smart resym is when there’s equal geo on each side for mirroring
If no geo Mirror and Weld function in geometry Tab (goes left to right, mirror first)

Preferences save config

Turn off save history 41:40

Dynamesh he only goes up to 128

Brush Hard Polish 44:10 it flattens out according to brush normal

46 mins up to



ZBrush has some retopology tools built in. Usually its better to use Topogun to retopologise. However in 4r6 theyve introduced ZRemesher which looks very promising…


Projecting Detail Onto a Retopologised Mesh

Great workflow to get your detail back onto a retopologised mesh…


ZBrush Maya Workflow (GoZ)

Vimeo / David Lally - via Iframely

Inserting Eye Spheres In ZBrush


Andrew Silke

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