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How To Get Started With ZBrush

How To Get Started With ZBrush

Here's what you need to know before you jump into ZBrush 2021.

Pixologic’s sculpting software ZBrush has been a standard in the VFX industry for years, and with the recent release of ZBrush 2021, it's a great time to explore what's possible with the program.

Some of the most iconic CG movie and TV characters in the last decade were built with ZBrush, and you can take a look at the reel below to see how a ton of blockbusters’ visual effects have benefitted from the power of ZBrush (and of course, very talented artists).
While ZBrush is a fantastic tool for sculpting, it can take some time to learn. Not only are you learning the technical aspects of new software, but you’re also learning how to hone your sculpting skills with digital clay. 

If you’re interested in expanding your VFX skills to learning ZBrush, you’re in the right place! We’re going to walk through some basic ZBrush tutorials to help you feel confident before you even boot up the program for the first time.

First, let’s take a look at an exciting new tool that just released from the developers of ZBrush that’s tailored for brand new users who want to get experience with sculpting!

What is ZBrushCoreMini?

Pixologic recently announced ZBrushCoreMini, a totally free version of the software that’s geared towards a bare-bones user experience. ZBrushCoreMini is a stepping stone into the full-featured premier version of the program, that can really help you learn the basics and maximize your time sculpting.

You should also know there is currently a mid-tier version of ZBrush, called ZBrushCore, which is a more robust paid program (albeit still cheaper than ZBrush), that can be a great transitional app to move onto before going all-in with ZBrush.

You can find a breakdown on the differences between ZBrushCoreMini and ZBrushCore on the ZBrushCore website.
Because of what ZBrushCoreMini is intended to be, texturing is extremely limited to a few presets within the program, and you don’t have a lot of customization options.

The other caveat with ZBrushCoreMini is their EULA, which states it is for educational, non-commercial use only. Just something to keep in mind as you’re learning the software!

If you’re interested in learning more about ZBrushCoreMini, you can catch a deep-dive presentation on it here, or download it for yourself right here.

ZBrush for Beginners

Michael Wilde is an accomplished Hollywood VFX artist, and he provides an incredibly helpful series of tutorials on his YouTube channel that focus on educating VFX artists from an “industry insider” perspective.  

He features several videos on ZBrush, and this one provides a great foundational overview with everything you need to hit the ground running.
In addition to his ZBrush series, Michael even has tutorials that carry you through subsequent stages of modeling, like texturing creatures made in ZBrush with Substance Painter. Be sure to subscribe to his channel, as it’s updated pretty regularly!

What's New in ZBrush 2021

The latest version of ZBrush has some very important features that set it apart from previous iterations of the software.

While there are several updated features you can read about here, some of the most notable ones include:

  • New Dynamics system for realistic draping and collision effects
  • A major performance upgrade for drastically faster sculpting
  • Enhanced cloth dynamics (ClothPinchTrails pinches and folds cloth in real-time as you make adjustments)
  • iMage3D export allows users to share a special GIF or PNG file of their 3D model on a website, which can then be downloaded an opened in ZBrush as a 3D model with full editing control intact

You can see the rest of what’s new in the video below!
For the full dive on ZBrush 2021, you can also check out Pixologic’s two-hour streamed event.


ZBrush is already an incredibly powerful tool for sculpting 3D characters, but if you want to take your designs even further, ZWrap is a plugin that can help you do just that.  If ZBrush isn’t your preferred 3D modeling platform, not to worry - you can also use Wrap, which is a standalone version of ZWrap.

So what does ZWrap actually do, and how can it help you achieve better 3D characters?

According to their website,

“ZWrap is a plugin for ZBrush® that allows you to automatically fit a pre-existing topology to your models. With an easy-to-use interface, it greatly speeds up a process of converting your characters and 3D scans into a production-ready topology.”

A great demonstration of ZWrap can be found in the video below. Just import your actor’s scan data, position data points along the face, then initiate the wrap process to essentially transfer the original model’s topology.
Beyond that, you can quickly project textures to your wrap, which is another great time saver.

Where to Learn More About ZBrush

There’s certainly a lot to learn when it comes to ZBrush, but Pixologic has you covered with ZClassroom, a dedicated hub of training videos and other resources that will enable you to get the most out of ZBrush.

The tutorials all have a handy skill-level rating guide to help you find what works best for your level. At the bottom of the ZClassroom page, you’ll find a fundamentals course called “Getting Started,” as well as numerous ways ZBrush can be used for modeling, texturing, posing, animation, and more.

No matter what your starting point is, it’s nice to see a developer like Pixologic demonstrating their commitment to providing the tools and training necessary to help you reach the next level of your VFX career with their software.

First time here? ActionVFX creates the best pre-keyed stock footage for VFX and filmmaking. (We also have some great free stuff!)

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