Thanks go out to Jerad S. Marantz for this ZBrush and Photoshop tutorial. You can see more of his work at jeradsmarantz.blogspot.co.uk/
I start with a simple PolyShere and focus on designing the helmet. Designing the helmet as a separate ZTool enables me to get the maximum amount of geometry. You can easily get a SubTool up to 15 million polygons without it slowing down a decent computer!
Using the Move Topological brush with the PolySphere at its lowest subdivision, I push and pull the geometry into the shape of the helmet. Then I bring the ZTool to subdivision level six. I find that when working on a hard surface model it’s best to sculpt at high resolution. This way you have a lot of geometry to work with and the SubTool can accommodate clean edges.
To cleanly isolate certain planes I mask them out and then invert the selection so that I can go to the deformation palette and inflate the unmasked section to create a plate. You can also do this by going to Transform>Move. After my main forms are established I then use the MAHcut brushes, Dam Standard, Hard Polish, and Trim Dynamic to detail the model. The biggest mistake I see people making when trying to do hard service in ZBrush is using the brushes to polish and refine the shapes. You can get so many complex forms by simply masking them out.
When I get to a point on the helmet where I’m running out of geometry in areas I want to continue to detail, I re-mesh the SubTool and project the new mesh over my old helmet sculpt to create a copy of the helmet with cleaner geometry. Projecting can be pretty effective but you will lose depth in your sculpt. I simply use the Dam Standard brush to carve it back in.
When I get to a point on the helmet where I’m running out of geometry in areas I want to continue to detail, I re-mesh the SubTool and project the new mesh over my old helmet sculpt to create a copy of the helmet with cleaner geometry. Projecting can be pretty effective but you will lose depth in your sculpt. I simply use the Dam Standard brush to carve it back in. I paint using the masking brush and create some odd details like brackets and bolts. I invert the selection and inflate them so that they appear to be sitting on the plane above the major plates. To create the vents on the shoulders I mask off the section for the vents and, using an alpha I created in Photoshop, I drag it across the surface of the sculpt while pressing the Alt key. This pushes the alpha into the model. The alpha only affects the areas that are not masked off.
The hoses on the neck are appended ZSpheres that I create an Adaptive Skin from. Using the masking brush I inflate and deflate sections of the ZTool to create different sections in the tubes.
After saving out the SubTools as OBJs I import them into my rendering program. I make sure that my lighting is dramatic and I render out my model in different materials like metals, rubber, acrylic and so on. Rather than rendering multiple OBJs I’ll merge my model into one OBJ so that I can render the materials all at once. This way I have more options when I bring the material passes into Photoshop.
I bring all of my renders into Photoshop and drag them into one document. This is where the design can really come to life! I go through each material and erase out what I don’t need from each layer. After isolating each material I now have an illustration that is 90 percent complete. At this stage I clean up the design with an Airbrush by tightening certain areas and adding sharp highlights. I then add colour accents and a background
There are a few mistakes I always see beginner modellers make. Here are a few tips to overcome them:
• Always try to get the most out of your lower subdivisions. When working with less geometry you’re able to manipulate the forms more cleanly. Subdivision level two is a great place to begin building up your anatomy
• Try to limit the number of brushes that you use to create your model. As you refine your process you may discover that you only need two to four brushes to sculpt your model
• As you’re sculpting your model constantly move it around and make sure it looks good from all angles. This is many people’s first mistake!
• And most importantly, always challenge yourself, and always be patient. Mastering any discipline takes time!