Free ZBrush Tutorials to Help You Level Up

miniature head sculpting

Arko Sen/Getty Images

 

We all know that getting good at art is a lot like playing through a really grueling RPG — you grind and grind, and occasionally you gain enough experience points to level up.

Here are twenty free tutorials to help you get your ZBrush skills to that ​next level. Whether you're a beginner or advanced, hard-surface or organic, there should be something on this list that piques your interest.

We'll stay away from raw time-lapse videos without any narration or instruction — that kind of stuff can be really fun to watch, but if you're inexperienced it's also a really tough way to learn. Everything we include here will be an actual training video.

The ZClassroom

Pixologic's official training library should be your home base if you're just starting out in ZBrush. There is so much to learn here — it's honestly one of the best developer-produced training repositories out there.

ZBrush Stone Sculpting — Eat3D

This is a great little nugget from Eat3D that covers the creation of a highly detailed stone trim piece. You'll use morph targets and the mallet brush to rough up a piece of stone, and then learn how to use an alpha stamp to add an intricate knot pattern to the sculpt. This opened my eyes the first time I watched it a few years ago, and all the techniques still apply.

ZBrush Subsurface Scattering — Eat3D

Even though Pixologic has introduced the Wax Preview as an easier way of “faking” sub-surface scattering, it's good to know both methods so you can pick and choose depending on the project. If you're doing organic sculpts, this stuff is essential.

Custom Brush Creation — Orb's Crack Brush

Vincent “Orb” takes you through the methods he used to create his now famous “Orb Cracks” brush.

Creating a Mechanical Insert Brush — JVIikel

This is a good little blurb on creating mechanical bits and bobs for Zbrush's relatively new Insert Brush system. Fantastic info if you do a lot of hard-surface/mech stuff. There are a lot of insert brushes available to be downloaded, but there's a ton of freedom and power in knowing how to do it for yourself.

How to Sculpt a Head Using Zbrush 4R2 & Duylinh Nguyen

At just over an hour and a half, there's a lot of material here to wade through, but it's all in real-time and it's very beginner-friendly. There are certainly better portrait sculpting demonstrations out there, but most of them are from widely recognized artists, which means they cost money. The nice thing here is that you get to watch Duylinh work through the process of sculpting a head in real-time, mistakes and all.

Sculpting Pumba (Lion King) & Ravenslayer2000

This is another extensive real-time sculpting demonstration that goes through the process of recreating Pumba from Disney's Lion King. Now, it's four hours long, but before you run for the hills, consider this: Ravenslayer is very, very good at this kind of sculpting, and it's really quite interesting to listen to his commentary as he works through the process of translating a stylized 2D character into a 3D model.

If these are the types of characters you're interested in it's probably worth your time to watch him work.

Sculpting the Face & Anatomy & Form with Ryan Kingslien

This is an hour and twenty-minute anatomy lecture from Ryan Kingslien, who really knows his stuff. He's just a pleasure to listen to, not only because he knows anatomy very intimately, but also because his unique philosophy about art and the creative process always comes through in his videos.

Ryan Kingslien

Speaking of Ryan, although he mostly offers premium content over at ZbrushWorkshops and Visualarium, it's a really good idea to subscribe to his YouTube feed and his professional mailing lists. When Zbrush upgrades with new features, he's very frequently the first person to post a walk-through and tutorial explaining them — almost like a first responder.

Low-Poly Modeling in Zbrush 4R4 & Michael Hernandez

If you're used to a standard box modeling workflow, Zbrush can take some getting used to because it doesn't really have any traditional modeling tools. These techniques are very useful in a pinch if you need to model a (clean) secondary asset and don't feel like jumping back to Maya, Modo, Max, etc, just to work up a base mesh. Zbrush is still pretty clumsy for low-poly modeling, but sometimes you just don't feel like bouncing around from program to program.

Modeling in ZBrush with Scott Spencer — ImagineFX

This is an excellent training series developed by Scott Spencer and ImagineFX. Spread out over six videos, Scott goes through the character creation process and offers up over four hours of training.

The Making of Gathering — Alex Alvarez

Alex is really an amazing instructor, and over the course of his career, he's done some pretty incredible things for the CG community. This two and a half hour tutorial goes through the entire creative process behind one of Alex's recent illustrations — it doesn't focus solely on Zbrush, but there's quite a bit of material devoted to the sculpting process.