3D Artist

9 Essential Brush Tips For ZBrush

Tips & Tutorials
Steve Holmes

Pros from ILM, The Mill and more reveal how to get the best out of ZBrush

9 Essential Brush Tips For ZBrush

Our experts

Katon Callaway – Art director
Krystal Sae Eua – Modelling and texturing lead, The Mill LA
Christian Fischer – Freelance character artist
Maxence Fleuret – Senior character artist, SCE Santa Monica Studio
Paul Liaw – Senior creature modeller, ILM
Richie Jon Mason – 3D character artist
Guzz Soares – 3D artist
Felix E Urquiza – VFX lead and modeller/texture supervisor

1. Work with basic brushes first
Don’t underestimate the art of learning to sculpt with only a few brushes, don’t get caught up in what ZBrush can offer. Learn to sculpt, don’t hide behind the tools and don’t be afraid to mess up. I use only Clay, ClayTubes and ClayBuildup, you can do almost your entire sculpt with these.
Katon Callaway

2. Delve into hidden brushes
There are many brushes and tools hidden inside ZBrush that aren’t set to default. Use the lightbox to choose from hundreds of tools.
Richie Jon Mason

3. Learn to use the smooth tools
Make use of all of the different smooth tools, such as Sculpt brushes. There are several and not many people use them, including Smooth Stronger, Smooth groups, SmoothValley/SmoothPeaks.
Paul Liaw

4. Use Shift to smooth
ZBrush has some great Smoothing brushes which might not be obvious at first. Almost every time I smooth something I use the alternate Smoothing brush, which gets activated by pressing Shift+left-click and then letting go of the Shift key before it starts to smooth. This smoothing algorithm keeps the volumes of the sculpt much better.
Christian Fischer

5. Wrinkles with ZAdd or ZSub
I have found that you can turn the Pen A and Pen Shadow brushes into actual sculpting tools by turning on Zadd or Zsub and turning off Rgb. This works wonders for making nice wrinkles and cuts that feel natural.
Maxence Fleuret

6. Practise brush strokes
Like traditional painting, it’s all about the stroke of the brush. Working on hand movement and pressure is one of the key things in getting surfaces looking right within the sculpt. Practicing that movement and pressure of that stroke will improve the way you sculpt on any type of asset.
Felix E Urquiza

7. Accesory detailing with IMM
I like to use the Insert Multi Mesh brush to help me to add accessories to the models.
Guzz Soares

8. Wrap straps quickly
The CurveStrapSnap brush is a life saver. It helps you make straps and belts that fit tightly around your sculpts quickly and easily. Just draw along your model and hold Shift to make the Curve brush wrap around your surface completely.
Krystal Sae Eua

9. Use blend modes with polypaint
Did you know there are blend modes for Polypaint? Go to Brush>Alpha and Texture>Polypaint Mode. It has Darken, Lighten, Multiply and Colorize modes, which can be great for some quick tweaks to the Polypaint!
Katon Callaway