Indispensable ZBrush Resources

ZBrush is excellent out of the box, but I'd be lying if I said there weren't ways to make it better. The ZBrush community has put out a huge amount of content over the years that can drastically improve your sculpting workflow and efficiency.

From matcaps, to brushes, to custom user interface designs, here are fifteen indispensable ZBrush resources:

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Pixologic Download Center

ZBrush screen shot

First thing's first. If you're using Zbrush, it's almost impossible that you don't already know about ZbrushCentral, the ZClassroom, and the Zbrush downloads center, but consider this a reminder if you've overlooked it. The Zclassroom has improved substantially over the past six months to the point where they have some of the best Zbrush training available anywhere, free or premium. It's also well organized into bite sized chunks, so it's perfect for learning a specific tool or workflow. Don't miss it!

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Zbro Matcap Sets

I've used a lot of different Zbrush Matcap sets, but Zbro's have gradually become some of my favorite sculpting materials around. If you go over to Zbro's blog, you'll find a wide range of ZMT downloads available, including an excellent skin shader, a useful silhouette material, and an extensive clay set. These materials feel great to sculpt on—outside of the Ralph Stumpf Gnomonology sets (premium), they're some of the best out there.

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Orb Cracks Brush

I love this brush so much. For a long, long time, the Damian Standard was the go to seam/crack/crease brush, but Orb's is just so much cleaner. Instead of pinching the heck out of your geometry, Orb uses a perfectly formed alpha in conjunction with lazy-mouse to give a clean, well-defined line. You'll find uses for Orb Cracks in both environment and organic sculpting, but it really shines when doing stylized stuff, a la DOTA, Blizzard, Torchlight, Darksiders, etc. If you're interested in how the brush works, Orb put a tutorial up on Vimeo, or you can just download it here.

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sIBL HDR Archive

The sIBL isn't exclusively a Zbrush resource—an archive of well-shot HDR images can come in handy no matter what 3D package you're using! SIBL provides a wide range of quality HDRs that are perfect for image based lighting, enviroment maps, and lightcap creation in Zbrush. Jump on it, and take your BPR renders to the next level.

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If you spend any amount of time sculpting in Zbrush, chances are you'll eventually want to get your models, textures, and normal maps into another package at some point. Although Zbrush provides a set of tools built in tools that are perfectly capable of accomplishing this, Xnormals are better, and the software has become the de facto choice for highpoly → lowpoly normal map baking. Xnormal can also extract a wide variety of additional maps, including ambient occlusion, cavity, curvature, height, etc., etc., etc. If you're looking to become a game developer, you might as well download XNormal right away—you're going to need it eventually.

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50 Free Mech Alpha Stamps

Mech brushes like this are actually really easy to create for yourself (in fact, maybe I'll do a tutorial on that sometime soon!), but if you're working on a hard surface project and just need a quick solution, this set of 50 mech stamps will hold you over in a pinch. The pack includes all kinds of techy bits and bobs—nuts, bolts, intake valves, tube inserts, etc. This stuff is great for doing a final detail pass on a hard surface model.

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Damir G. Martin's Scale Alphas

If you've ever work on a reptilian piece, you know that sculpting individual scales one-by-one just isn't the best way to go about things. A couple years ago Damir Martin completed a sculpting marathon where he sculpted 55 dragon heads in 30 days—thankfully for us, he also posted his alpha set, full of reptilian skin and scales, up on ZbrushCentral. I've used these in a handful of projects, and they worked very well for me.

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Organic & Stone Alpha Packs

More alphas, this time for organic and environment sculpting. I'm not quite sure where these were originally posted, but they've certainly made the rounds. (edit: They're from Sophia Vale Cruz).

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Polycount Custom UI Showcase

The Zbrush interface is infinitely customizable, and the fine folks over at Polycount have done quite a lot of customizing over in this enormous forum thread/repository. I personally haven't messed around with my Zbrush UI too much, but it's something I want to explore sometime soon—a lot of people I've spoken to say that just a few interface tweaks improved their efficiency a great deal. There are dozens of custom UI downloads available in the linked thread, so feel free to try a few and see if you find anything you like!

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Selwy's Cloth Brushes

Brushes are a pretty personal thing—what works for me won't necessarily work for you or anyone else, but these are pretty good if you're sculpting a lot of wrinkles and folds. Selwy is amazing, so even if you don't download the brushes, it's worth taking trip to his site just to see his work.

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Michael Dunnam – Massive Set of Custom Brushsets


set of brushes by Michael Dunnam. I've found that some of these are more useful than others, but there are some real gems in there.

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ZBrushCentral - Insert Mesh Repository

ZBrush's Insert Multi Mesh function is incredibly powerful and efficient when it comes to detailing and embellishing your sculpt. In this thread at ZBrushCentral there are over 15 pages worth of insert brushes available for downloading.

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ZBrushCentral - Matcap Repository

Same as above, except matcaps instead of insert brushes!

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BadKing offers a handful of free tutorials, as well as a huge selection of alphas, brushes, and insert meshes.

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Follow Zbro Z, JMC3D, and Ravenslayer2000 on YouTube

Between the three of them, they've got tons of sculpting time-lapses available to watch when you're hurting for inspiration or just need to kill a few minutes. I've found that intermediate or even advanced artists tend to gain more from these sorts of videos because . If you're interested in more like this, not too long ago I published a list of fantastic YouTube channels for 3D/digital artists.

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