Why You Need to Learn ZBrush (Now!)

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Whether you've only just heard of the software's existence or have been thinking about jumping in for years, one thing is clear—now is the time to learn ZBrush.

The computer graphics industry evolves at an incredible rate, and the only way to achieve or maintain success is to adapt. Over the next few years (if not already), it's going to become increasingly difficult to land a job as a 3D artist without at least a cursory knowledge of ZBrush's sculpting and texturing tool-sets.

Here are five reasons you need to start learning ZBrush as soon as possible.

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Unprecedented Speed

Overhead view architect working at computer
Hero Images/ GettyImages

Time is money in the film and games industry, so anything that makes you a faster artist makes you a more valuable one.

There are things that take 10 minutes in ZBrush that would literally take hours in a traditional modeling package. ZBrush's Transpose Tools and Move Brush give artists the ability to drastically alter the proportion and silhouette of a base mesh with a level of control that lattices and mesh deformers can only dream of.

Thinking about posing your model? In Maya, posing a character requires you to build a rig, skin the mesh, and spend hours modifying vertex weights until things move properly. Want to pose a model in ZBrush? Transpose makes it a twenty-minute process.

How about generating a quick preview render? The other night I was working on a creature sculpt and got to a point where I wanted to see what the model would look like with some texture and detail. Within twenty minutes I was able to throw down a rudimentary coat of scales and skin details, slap on a coat of paint, and generate a few semi-polished images using multiple material variations. And did I mention all of this was on separate layers?

I didn't even end up saving the work—the point was simply to try out a few concepts and get a feel for whether or not the sculpt was heading in the right direction. That's the beauty of ZBrush—you can quickly prototype an idea without investing hours of your time.

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ZBrush Lets Modelers Be Designers

Five years ago, if you worked as a modeler in the computer graphics industry, it meant that you were modeling characters, game assets, and environments almost exclusively from someone else's concept. This is because a skilled 2D concept artist was capable of getting a finished character design in front of an art director faster than a modeler could generate a base-mesh.

Times have changed. ZBrush lets you be a concept artist and a modeler at the same time. You don't design in Maya and Max if you're doing character work. Traditional character modeling just takes too much time and precision to model on the fly and make changes. In ZBrush, the goal is to get the best-looking high-res mesh possible and retopologize for production later. Scott Patton was one of the first artists to pioneer the use of ZBrush for quickly generating concept art.

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DynaMesh - Unprecedented Freedom

DynaMesh saves you from focusing on topological constraints, allowing you to push and pull its shape, as well as add or remove pieces of geometry. DynaMesh gives you more freedom in your low and middle resolution sculpting phases when creating your base mesh. It maintains the uniform resolution and polygon distribution of your mesh, allowing you to add volume, for example, without the risk of stretched polys. This truly frees up your creativity.

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For now, ZBrush is the Future

Until someone else comes along and revolutionizes the way we think about making art, ZBrush is the future of computer graphics. Nobody in the industry is developing software with the fervor and creativity that Pixologic puts into every passing update.

Here's an example:

In September 2011, DynaMesh was introduced with Pixologic's ZBrush 4R2 update, which for all intents and purposes frees artists from the constraints of topology for the first time in history. Just three months later, the preview video for ZBrush 4R2b was released, revealing that in Pixologic had introduced an entire hair and fur system as part of an incremental software update that most people expected to be little more than a patch to fix a few bugs!

Convinced Yet?

Yes? Fantastic, here are some links to get you started: