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ZBrush Character Creation eBook series

- Free MatCap
- Free Movies
- Free Base Mesh
You can fnd all the relevant
resource fles in the resources
folder that accompanies this pdf.
chapter 01
Page 3 | Bird-Man
chapter 02
Page 14 | Mammal-Man
chapter 03
Page 22 | Aquatic-Man
chapter 04
Page 36 | Amphibian Man
chapter 05
Page 46 | Insect-Man
chapter 06
Page 58 | Reptilian-Man
chapter 1
page 5 Chapter 01
Manimal ZBrush Character Creation eBook Chapter 01: Bird-Man
Created In:
ZBrush, 3ds Max & Photoshop
Im going to kick this brand new Manimal
series off this chapter by sculpting and texturing
a bird-man. I will need to sculpt a creature
with some aspects of both a bird and a man,
and then texture it to complete the tutorial. Ill
walk you through my creative process and my
workfow, discuss those things that are most
important, and explain some tips and tricks that I
use when creating characters in ZBrush. So lets
get started!
One of the most common mistakes that I see
people make is starting to work without frst
thinking about what it is theyre doing they just
open ZBrush and start to sculpt. When I start
a new project, I like to do some research for
references, information, inspiration, or simply
look for something that will help me to fnd an
interesting idea based on my theme or brief.
This way, I can start my sculpting work with
more objectivity.
So with this I mind, I begin this project by
searching for some photographic references of
different types of birds some even in action
(fying, eating, etc.) just to work out bird
features and gestures to help me with my initial
ideas. I choose certain bird features, such as
a beak, thin skin, the gesture of an infant bird,
and the humpback feature found in some birds,
to mix with human anatomy. With some of this
information I can start the next step. If you want
to, it can be pretty interesting to sketch some
ideas down at this stage of the process, but as
I have an idea in mind about what Im looking
for Im going to go ahead without any reference
Blocking In
The frst thing that I do with the base mesh
provided for this project (Fig.01 the base
mesh is free for download with this tutorial)
is remove one of the fngers I think that a
chickens foot will best describe what I have in
After starting to block in the model, I get an idea
for the fnal pose, and so I decide to sculpt with
the arm bent to help with the pose later on. To
make these changes I simply use the Transpose
tool, with masks on areas that I dont want to
make changes to (using Rotate (hotkey R) and
Move (hotkey W)). I also use this simple base
mesh to block the beak onto, just to help me in
this initial stage (Fig.02).
I will now export my base mesh to 3ds Max to
add some edges and fx any possible errors/
make any necessary adjustments in order to
prevent potential problems further down the line
(Fig.03). For this character, adding edges
page 6 Chapter 01
Chapter 01: Bird-Man Manimal ZBrush Character Creation eBook
will not be very important, so I simply put some
edges in to increase the amount of polygons
in these areas when subdividing the model in
ZBrush, therefore avoiding any problems with
low resolution in areas that need more defnition.
Its very important to verify whether the model
will have perfect symmetry, whether the pivot
is in the centre of the object, and if the model
is in the centre of the absolute world (just
right-click, select and move to access Move
Transform Type-In, as seen in Fig-04). These
adjustments are very important in order to make
good symmetry in ZBrush, and to make safe use
of some of the features Ill be discussing later.
Now that I have made adjustments to the mesh,
I increase the level of subdivision (two more
levels), and with the Move, Standard and Clay
brushes I start to block in some of the main
muscles (with Clay and Standard), and adjust
some of the basic proportions (Move tool).
At this stage I dont worry about details; the
is simply
to fnd some good shapes with desirable
features (Fig.05). I sculpt in some fake
eyes too, just for a rapid guide its easier
to make adjustments to the entire sculpt
without many SubTools. Later on, I will use
some spheres as eyes.
I like to isolate some parts and work with
pieces of my model (such as the head) when
necessary. I sketch in some details to give the
head a better overall look, whilst still keeping
the details rough (Fig.06). This block-in step is
one of the most important; I spend a lot of time
experimenting and testing some things out at
this stage. I also often change the materials as
page 7 Chapter 01
Manimal ZBrush Character Creation eBook Chapter 01: Bird-Man
I work in order to see my model better at the
different stages.

Im happier with the overall proportions now,
and so I subdivide a few more times and start
to apply the medium level details, like muscle
defnition, cartilage, and skin creases and folds,
using the Standard brush with some alphas, like
Alpha 35, 36, 37, 38, and 39. This, combined
with a bit of the Infat tool, can make a feshier
and more believable model, but I still need to
check some of the proportions and make some
much needed changes before Im fully happy
For the hands, I always sculpt one isolated
hand and then project all details onto the other
hand. To do this, I create a mask over the newly
sculpted hand, go to Tools > Deformation, and
press Smart ReSym (Fig.08).
This tool will recreate a mix of projection on
both hands, but my intention is to preserve the
sculpted hand, so with the mask any details will
not be lost, and the other hand will be given the
same details (Fig.09).
I make use of a mask for the nails, too. I draw a mask in the desired
form for the nails and then invert it. I use the Move and Standard brush
to pull off all the nails, and with the Smooth brush I soften the shape
before inverting the mask again. With the Infat brush I can then work on
achieving some great volume (Fig.10).
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Chapter 01: Bird-Man Manimal ZBrush Character Creation eBook
Im using Smart ReSym again now, but this
time Im working with more details. I always
start using Smart ReSym at the lowest levels of
subdivision and will use it again for each level
of subdivision ahead, but its important to be
careful because its very common for crashes
and errors to happen. So always save your work
before you perform this kind of task on your
model (Fig.11).
For the fnal details, I use the Standard brush
with a thin alpha (like Alpha 39), sometimes with
Lazy Mouse turned on, for laying down some
wrinkles, as well as the Infat and Clay brushes
with alphas (Alpha 01, for example). To make
the fnal details I start to use more skin alphas
(human skin, reptile, pores, etc.) over the entire
sculpt but not as a sculpting tool; I use masks
over some parts (Fig.12) and I can then sculpt
over with different intensities and brushes
(Standard for all details, and then a little bit of
page 10 Chapter 01
Chapter 01: Bird-Man Manimal ZBrush Character Creation eBook
Infat in some areas to get a more natural look).
This workfow is a very nice way of controlling
skin details, and for fnding what Im looking for
I usually use MatCap White to begin my texture
work, starting my texturing job with Polypainting.
I make a rough base colour over the entire
sculpt (Menu > Colour > Fill Object) and defne
some warm tones (like the ears, and thin skin,
and so on) (Fig.14).
I then paint some tonal variation onto the model
using the Spray brush with Alpha 07 (always
using a low intensity), mixing the colours
For the nails, I paint a mask in order to texture
the nails only (Fig.16). For the fnal details I use
DragRect stroke with some alphas, like Alpha 22
for veins and Alpha 08 for small skin details.
On the beak I use a photo edited in Photoshop,
and apply it using DragRect. In this case I use
a single texture from the Total Textures DVD
collection ( (Fig.17).
Posing & Final
I decide to keep the post for this character very
simple; I use the Transpose Master for the main
deformations, and then use the Move brush for
some adjustments with Transpose, too. I try to
keep the pose simple because my intention is
only to break up the symmetry a little in order to
get something more dynamic (Fig.18).
page 12 Chapter 01
Chapter 01: Bird-Man Manimal ZBrush Character Creation eBook
Rendering &
I use GW_Skincore as the main fnal shader
(which can be downloaded at www.pixologic.
com, thanks to Grant Warwick), two Toy
Plastic shaders (with some adjustments made
in Material > Modifers to show only specular,
and in SpecularCurve), one for a more open
specular, and another for a thin specular, as
shown in the example (Fig.19a), a Refected
Mat Material for fake refections, and a custom
shader for SSS (Sub Surface Scattering)
For the lighting settings I make some shadow
adjustments to get a harder shadow (keep the
Aperture around 50-70 and Length about 250),
and I change the position of the light (go to
Light menu > Shadow) (Fig.20a). For the render
settings I simply adjust the Super Sample to
2 (Render menu), as shown in the example
With Photoshop I blend all layers using some
blending modes like Multiply, Overlay, Soft
Light, and Lighten. To be honest, this part is
very intuitive; I dont use the same blending
mode for every work as a general rule, as I
prefer to make many tests to get what I want for
each layer. I also use some masks to control the
intensity of each layer; for example, to control
the specular intensity in regions that dont need
too much specular (Fig.21).
And here is the fnal result after some correction
work done in Photoshop (Fig.22).
Well, I have tried to show my workfow,
especially in the ZBrush sculpting stage. It
has been lots of fun working on this bird-man
creature; I hope youve found the tutorial useful
and youre pleased with the fnal image after
seeing the work in progress. Please feel free
to contact me by email should you have any
questions. Thanks for reading!
Bruno Melo
For more from this artist please his website:
or contact him at:
Note from the Editor: Grant Warwick has
kindly provided us with the GW_Skincore
MatCap that Bruno Melo has used, which you
can fnd along with the base mesh in the Free
Resources folder.
chapter 2
page 15 Chapter 02
Manimal ZBrush Character Creation eBook Chapter 02: Mammal-Man
Created In: ZBrush
When I was asked to create something for this
Manimal series of tutorials, I snatched up the
Mammal-Man option and thought I had a really
nice opportunity to design and create something
really cool. But when I started thinking about
which kind of mammal to base it from, I was
really torn. I mean all I have to do is create
a human body and stick on some random
mammals head and call it a day, right? Wrong!
I have to think about the expression, the pose,
the character itself There has to be a reason
why I choose with a certain kind. So I decided
the best bet would be to create something that
isnt anything specifc at all, and so Im going
with the idea of doing a hybrid. Deer and cows
came to mind as my foundation because I know
that they get spooked, or get caught in the
headlights which may lend to a fun pose of
being spooked and recoiling!
Starting off, I do my usual setup of Polygroups.
To do this, press Shift + Ctrl, and click and drag
to isolate the polys you want included in a group
(i.e. the head and neck). To hide any polys
directly, you can Shift + Ctrl-click and drag,
and then let go of Shift. It sounds complicated
but once your fngers remember the pattern,
its really simple. Youre basically toggling that
Shift key after you click and drag. Once you
have the intended polys isolated, you can group
them by going down to the Tools > Polygroups
rollout and click on Group Visible. Auto Groups
will group your model by separate elements so
thats handy too. So after this I continue on by
blocking out major forms of muscle groups. I
need to establish the design of the head of the
character early on. I pull out the ears, enlarge
the eyes, and draw the snout out in order to
make it look a bit more like a deer type animal
I thought itd be fun to give him some hooves
on his hands, but only to replace a couple of his
fngers. I dont want to get too literal or realistic
with it, though. At this stage Im just using
Move, Clay, Clay Tubes, and occasionally Infat
brushes. The Move brush is good for literally
transforming polys around based on the brush
size and Focal Shift. I like to turn up my Focal
Shift to get a higher falloff. Its great for getting
your low-poly base mesh in the right forms
early on. The Clay brush is a good brush for
slowly building up forms, which is what I do in
the frst 2-3 levels of subdivision before moving
to fancier details or wrinkles/folds. Its nice
because it has a nice built in falloff thats real
soft on the edges, but fat in the centre. Clay
Tubes brush is similar to Clay, but its a bit more
rough and excellent for setting up muscle fow.
I like to change the alpha to a circular one with
a tight falloff and turn up the Focal Shift a bit so
its not so harsh. For both Clay and Clay Tubes
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Chapter 02: Mammal-Man Manimal ZBrush Character Creation eBook
brushes, I change the BrushMod. This basically
increases the effect of the brush so you can lay
in forms quicker. I usually only raise up to 30-40,
but Ive gone a little higher in the example so
you can see the difference (Fig.02). I dock the
main button to my interface so that I dont have
to dig for it its in the Brush menu next to Mesh
Insert. And to drag the button somewhere, just
go to the Preferences menu, click on Customize
UI, and then click Enable Customize. Then you
can Ctrl-click and drag buttons anywhere on the
interface from menus or wherever else. Also,
keep in mind that when you work in ZBrush,
its commonly known to work your way up the
subdivisions and nail your forms down frst.
Foundation is important (Fig.03).
Once I get to the point where Im happy with
the model, and before detailing it with textural
alphas and wrinkles, I go ahead and pose the
character. To do this click on Move, Rotate,
or Scale and mask off areas you dont want
effected on your model. If you click and drag
up on an area like an arm, the masking will
follow your stroke. You can also Ctrl-click on
a Polygroup and it will mask everything else.
Very handy! So for the actual posing, I start off
by rotating the lower arms by using Rotate and
click-and-dragging the gizmo from the elbow
joint to the wrist. This way youre simulating an
accurate rotation. I dont use Move too much
because it stretches the geometry if you click on
the end circles of the gizmo. If you click on the
middle circle, itll keep the polys intact but will
move from that position. So it is actually good
for tweaking the position of the arm after doing
the rotation. I then rotate the spine, head, and
upper arms in the same way. At this point Im
nailing down the general action line to try and
get a nice silhouette as well as strengthen the
expression on the characters face. Then its
about tweaking the arm rotation and span (by
span I mean how close they are to the sides
of the torso). Then its a matter of rotating the
wrists, but only to the point where they can
realistically rotate. I like to get the pose at about
90% and I leave myself the freedom to change it
later on if it isnt perfect (Fig.04).
I fddle with the expression on the face a bit
here. I do most of this work on the face with
the Move brush to keep the forms intact, and
go through a lot of different emotions in the
eyebrows until I fnd a nice spooked look.
On one side Im going for a wide eye showing
the whites with the iris being close to being
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Manimal ZBrush Character Creation eBook Chapter 02: Mammal-Man
completely exposed; the other eye squinting
and wincing in anticipation. The eyebrows are
pulled up with a worried feel; the mouth corners
turned down; the nostrils slightly fared out from
breathing in sharply. Later on, the detail I add
will be to support the pose of the face: wrinkles
above the eyebrow, bulging around the corner
of the mouth, folds for ear connections, and so
on (Fig.05).
After getting the basic look for the face sorted, I
go back to sculpting the rest of the body. Since
Ive posed out the character, I can no longer run
regular symmetry, so I have to turn on Poseable
Symmetry. Ill turn it off every now and then to
do some asymmetrical work in areas that need
independent attention because of the pose. So I
continue to defne out the forms and cut in areas
to express the nature of the muscles, bones,
tendons and skin, now that I have a set pose. I
also add some skin texture effects by using the
Standard brush, DragRect, ZIntensity 10-20,
and SW_Wrinkles_02.psd from the Pixologic
alpha library (
downloadcenter/alpha) (Fig.06).
To do the hair, I use the SnakeHook brush with
a pores alpha, a large brush size, and at full
RGB intensity I methodically lay the hair effects
in (Fig.07 08).
For texturing, I do it entirely by Polypainting,
with no texture maps. To set up for Polypainting,
your model needs to be at the highest
subdivision because it will be assigning an RGB
value for every poly the more polys, the better
the resolution of your painting. For this tutorial,
I could subdivide my model one more time,
but this would put me at 5 million polys and
my laptop gets a little shaky at this kind of poly
count. So for the sake of my sanity doing this
tutorial, Im working with the 1.25 million poly
model and painting that.
To start with, I go to the Tool menu and open
the Texture rollout. I turn on Colorize. Now I can
paint on my colours using any of the sculpting
brushes. When youre doing this, just be sure
to turn off ZAdd; its also usually a good idea
to work at a low RGB level, but thatll depend
on what youre doing. I like to tear off the Color
menu and dock it to the right so I can pick
colours easily as I go. You can either select
colour by dragging into the colour picker area,
clicking on the modifers tab and having a lot
of different kinds of swatches, or by clicking
on the main colour square and dragging
anywhere on the screen to pick a
colour. Also remember that you can
use the Shift key to
blend and blur your
The frst thing
I want to paint
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Chapter 02: Mammal-Man Manimal ZBrush Character Creation eBook
is the eyes. I know I want a big iris, but I need
to keep enough white area to get across the
expression of fear. So I paint the iris in a really
dark brown, almost black, and paint the white
areas a pale yellow, since they arent really
white in real life. I add some reddish tones in the
corners of the eyeballs and apply some veins
with a very small brush size. If I mess up an
area and want to erase it, I just click on the main
colour square and drag onto a nearby colour,
and then repaint the colour back over the error
in a few strokes to blend it away (Fig.10).
For the body, Im taking an approach that Ive
learned from the great Scott Spencer, more
specifcally from one of his mini-tutorials on
traditional airbrush painting. Ill admit that Ive
never airbrushed anything in real life, but the
principles seem to be easy to understand
once you get going. Basically, you frst start by
spraying colours to simulate whats going on
underneath the epidermis layer.
Application wise, I grab a nice red colour and
use Colorized Spray with the Color Mod turned
down to 0 (in the Stroke menu), an alpha mask
like Alpha 07, and RGB intensity set to 100
(Fig.11). I continue by just spraying across all
areas of where there are muscles or heavy
blood fow, like the ears, nose, etc. Im keeping it
really loose and liberally covering lots of area as
quickly as possible. It doesnt have to be perfect,
and you want to be sure not to completely
saturate any areas besides the real hot zones.
I like to take a yellow and spray across areas
where bone is really close to the surface, such
as collarbones, the sternum, forehead, cranium,
elbows, tendons, the bridge of the nose, etc. I
also think its handy for some fatty areas like the
belly to be a bit more orange in colour. I take
some purples and blues and hit the recessed
areas, such as around the eyes and the jaw line/
beard area. I also fnd it nice to blend some of
these colours a bit and make some variations on
the primary colours to make some purples and
The next step is to take a white, or a slightly
off-white, and start the noodling phase. This
brings a really nice effect to the subdermal work
were doing here. So either using DragRect
and Alpha 22, or by doing it freehand, noodle
in with a small brush size some white squiggles
everywhere. I like the effect of doing it freehand
but its a lot of area to cover so feel free to use
both methods. Also be sure to keep this really
loose, because its only going to be slightly
visible later on (Fig.12).
Once the noodling is done, I throw on a skin
shader I like to use MatCap_Skin01. Then,
using a Spray application with a very low
RGB level between 4 and 10, and a neutral
skin colour, I start to lay in colour over the
subdermal work. Dont completely cover it
up though. Just use the colour to blend
it altogether and youll start to see the
effect its meant to create (Fig.13).
Ill admit that this technique results in
a lot of work to do all this subdermal
painting only to go and cover it all up
afterwards. But once youre done, try
page 19 Chapter 02
Manimal ZBrush Character Creation eBook Chapter 02: Mammal-Man
as a comparison flling the whole character with
a neutral skin colour and youll clearly see the
difference! Plus, although the noodling effect is
pretty subtle, its also very powerful. Its okay
to go back over some areas and enhance the
intended colour by using a low RGB level again.
So thats what I do in the recessed areas and
around the eyes, etc. By keeping the colour
level low, youre able to keep the intended effect
but change the hue of certain areas. Of course,
if you keep going over areas many times, youll
eventually fatten it out with that colour, so watch
out for that.
Lastly, I colour in the fngernails, hooves,
nipples, veins, and dot in some freckles here
and there. And for the hairy areas, I use a
Standard brush, Colorized Spray, Color Mod at
0.7, and fow at 1.0 (Stroke menu) and Alpha
67. Then, with a medium brown and RGB at
100, I start to spray on the hair by stroking top to
bottom (Fig.14).
The hair follows the fow of the stripes in the
alpha. After applying the hair effect to all areas
(dont forget the fngers), I use a light tan grey
and spray some striped effects on the bridge of
the nose, the arms and down
the back, just to
break up all that
brown and black
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Chapter 02: Mammal-Man Manimal ZBrush Character Creation eBook
Ive also thrown together a ZBrush render
composite in Photoshop to show you the fnal
results after rendering in ZBrush (Fig.16a
16c). Its pretty fun but not quite as powerful as
a Max/Mental Ray render (Fig.17).
So there you have it: modelling and texturing
a Mammal-Man in a nutshell! I hope the
breakdown of this character creation has helped
you. If you have any questions about what Ive
done, feel free to contact me via email.
Note from the Editor: Jesse Sandifer has kindly
provided us with 8 movies to accompany
this tutorial, which you can fnd in the Free
Resources folder. Jesse is also currently
considering doing some private one-on-one
ZBrush tutoring to the beginner or amateur
artist, so if you are interested please feel free
to contact him via email for further details and
Jesse Sandifer
For more from this artist visit
or contact
chapter 3
page 23 Chapter 03
Manimal ZBrush Character Creation eBook Chapter 03: Aquatic-Man
Software Used: ZBrush
I was asked to create a character for this tutorial
article under the heading of Aquatic-Man,
to show how ZBrush can be utilized to sculpt
and texture such an extraordinary creature,
thought up from the depths of my imagination by
crossing human elements with those of aquatic
beings. Heres how well go about creating such
an amalgamation in this second part of the
Manimal tutorial series.
Base Mesh
I decide to work straight from the offset by
sculpting directly in ZBrush from the base mesh
provided (Fig.01 02 you can download the
same base mesh with this tutorial look out
for the Free Resources logo), without creating
a concept before starting. I fnd ZBrush is a
pretty cool tool that enables you to fgure out
good designs directly in 3D, without the need for
preliminary drawings on every occasion.
Sculpting in ZBrush
So to start, I choose a material for the base
mesh that I think most suitable and that will
help in this initial sculpting stage. You can try
different materials by clicking on the sphere
on the left-hand side of the screen. Using
Transpose I manipulate the character into a
pose closer to what I imagine the fnal character
will be in something like that of a creature
moving through the current of water (Fig.03
05). To use Transpose, youll see at the top of
the screen the Move, Scale and Rotate buttons in this case Im using
the Rotate function. To make a mask in order to move individual elements
of the model, you simply hold down Ctrl and drag your cursor over the
model. You then simply need to draw a line from the rotation point to the
point that you need in order to successfully move your model.
Im trying out this pose to illustrate a swimming creature. Unfortunately
the base mesh has not been provided with any legs so I cant use the
bottom part of his body to work into the concept, so instead Im using his
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Chapter 03: Aquatic-Man Manimal ZBrush Character Creation eBook
arms pulled backwards to give a sense of this
creature gliding through water. Im using fresh
water fsh as my references, rather than salt
water fsh, because I want to work with aquatic
references with fewer colors going on I think
sea creatures could be too colored for this
Before I start the sculpting work, I like to
subdivide my base mesh as much as possible,
but Ill reduce all those subdivisions again
before starting the modeling. I do this because
sometimes youll subdivide the mesh with some
hidden parts, and only unhidden parts will be
subdivided. When using Transpose I like to work
in the second or third level of subdivision. I do
this because the mask function doesnt work
very well on the frst level of subdivision, and
its much harder to get smooth results on higher
levels. So from experience I recommend using
levels two or three at this stage.
I dont have too much of an idea about how my
characters head will look at this stage, so Im
simply playing around with form and shape to
fnd a good design for his face and head (Fig.06
07). Im using the Standard brush and working
in the third level of subdivision here.
As I work I keep checking the silhouette as often as I can, as it helps in
fnding a good design. To create a silhouette of your model, simply fnd the
Flat Color material on the Material palette, again by clicking on the sphere
on the left-hand side of the screen. With the head design established frst,
it will be much easier to create the body afterwards.
I decide to add some skin plates and scales to the character to give him
a fshy look, also pulling the jaw out quite a lot as you can see in some
deep sea fsh creatures all the while checking the silhouette is working
and the design is strong (Fig.08 11). Im still working in the third level of
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Manimal ZBrush Character Creation eBook Chapter 03: Aquatic-Man
subdivision here, using the Standard and Move
brushes. Ill sometimes also load in Alpha 39
into my Alpha palette in order to achieve some
stronger lines.
Because Im still unsure about how the body
will be, in terms of its design, I decide to block
in some simply human anatomy frst to give
me a starting ground from which to build upon,
isolating parts individually and working on them
separately (Fig.12 16). Im now working in
the fourth level of subdivision, still using the
Standard Brush to fnd the shapes. To hide parts
of your model you simply need to press and
hold Ctrl and Shift on your keyboard, and draw
a green mask over the model. If you need a
different type of mask you can always hit Lasso
on the right-hand side of the screen, or you can
use the shortcut, Ctrl + Shift + M.
The beauty at this stage is that I can work on
just one side of the body, and then, using the
SmartResym tool, simply copy the work done to
the other side of the model (Fig.17). To do this,
you simply create a mask again by pressing
and holding Ctrl and clicking and dragging your
left mouse button where youve being working,
leaving the untouched part of the model outside
of the masked zone. Go to Tool > Deformation
> SmartResym, and you will see work copied
across to the unmasked area.
Moving on from the torso and arms now, I start
work on the hands, working with each fnger
separately (remember: to hide parts of your
model you simply need to press and hold Ctrl
and Shift on your keyboard, and draw a green
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Chapter 03: Aquatic-Man Manimal ZBrush Character Creation eBook
mask over the model). Its diffcult to work on
the inner parts of the hand when you have all
fngers in the viewport, which is why I prefer to
work with them individually, using the Clay brush
to give some volume to the skin at the joints
where the skin creases and folds, and using the
Standard brush to add lines and wrinkles to the
skin (Fig.18 24).
The entire block-in stage of the work has been
done in subdivision levels four to six. The fner
details are then added in the seventh level.
Finishing work on the hand, when happy with
the detailing gone into it, I can then make the
gesture of the hand much more interesting and
realistic looking using Transpose (Fig.25). As
before, Im using Transpose to manipulate the
model to get the desired pose, in the same way
as we did earlier.
Here I add a fn-like element to his arm in
order to give more detail to the silhouette, just
using the Move tool at this stage to achieve the
needed results (Fig.26). Using SmartResym
again, I add the deformation to the other arm,
too, balancing out the design to both sides of
the body, as before (Fig.27).
At this point, Im starting to add some more skin
plates, scales, and fns to the body by drawing
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Manimal ZBrush Character Creation eBook Chapter 03: Aquatic-Man
freely with the Standard brush, not worrying too
much about the small details, simply trying to
respect the natural fow of muscles in human
anatomy (Fig.28 31). I also fnd the Clay brush
useful to use here it gives a more organic
effect and its a great brush to work on the skins
surface with.
Remember to regularly check your designs
in silhouette by using the Flat Shader, as
explained earlier (Fig.32).
Continuing work now, I add even more skin
plates and detail to the spine (Fig.33 37), still
working with the Standard brush and Alpha 39.
Im not using any direct references to sculpt; Im
simply trying to follow the fow of the anatomy
and adding features that wed generally
recognize from fsh.
To carry on the detailing work I add similar
details as just given to the body, onto his arms,
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Chapter 03: Aquatic-Man Manimal ZBrush Character Creation eBook
in the same way as before but this time
sectioning off just the one arm to work on it
separately (Fig.38 41).
With the design nearly complete at this stage,
its a good time to check on the silhouette
again to see if the concept is still strong before
fnalizing it (Fig.42). For me, design is a very
complex thing. There are some techniques you
can follow, but to me it is more about a feeling.
You have to practice lots and youll learn to
know when to keep going and when you need to
stop its all about building up experience and
experimenting. I like to keep my silhouette very
detailed, but its also interesting to allow the eye
to rest in some areas, too, as too much detail
can be as big a problem as too little! I think the
best training you can do is to observe and copy
the work of great artists, as well as use real life
as a reference. Try to take notice of when the
greats exaggerate details, and when they dont.
A good understanding of anatomy is a must-
have, as well as drawing skills drawing is a
very powerful tool! I havent drawn anything in
this case, but it is a skill worth developing, even
in 3D.
I feel the design is missing something here to
be honest, so what Im going to do is to add
some more detail to the neck area to improve
the concept (Fig.43). Im creating the new detail
using the Standard and Clay brushes. This
detail might seem useless, but it helps the eye
to stop reading at this point. Its very important
that the eye takes some moments to pause
when reading artwork, and so I always aim to
add some accents throughout my models
designs in order to achieve this.
Because organic creatures are not perfectly
symmetrical, Im going to break up the symmetry
now at some points and add some fnal detail to
fnish up work on the head (Fig.44 48). You
can activate or deactivate Symmetry using the
X shortcut key. Again, Im using the Clay brush
to give the skins surface a nice organic feel,
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Manimal ZBrush Character Creation eBook Chapter 03: Aquatic-Man
at this stage working in the seventh level of
I do the same for the arms and the body,
breaking up the symmetry further still to make
the creature all in all more believable (Fig.49
To start giving some relief and impression to the
skin and get more realistic results, when working
on a creature such as this its often useful to use
the alpha from animal photographs. I can use it
by simply dragging and applying it, following the
objects surface and the fow of anatomy (Fig.52
55). To make an alpha youll need to do this in
Photoshop by opening up a photo that you like.
Convert it to grayscale and make a soft round
border turning to black. Save this as a PSD and
youre done. You can then import this new alpha
into your Alpha palette in ZBrush and to use it,
simply change the stroke to DragRect and youll
be able to drag the alpha over the surface of
your model.
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As for the pores, I use the Spray stroke and
Alpha 07 to give the skin its ability to breathe
and lose it plasticity, making it more believable
to the viewer (Fig.56 57).
Texturing in ZBrush
Right then, its time to start texturing in ZBrush
now. I always use a fast shader for textures
and avoid using colored shaders for this part of
the process. So simply change the color to one
that you prefer and fll the object (Fig.58 59).
Simply choose the material from the Material
palette (remember its the sphere on the left-
hand side of the screen), and then go to Color >
Fill Object.
Photographic references are extremely helpful
at this stage of texturing. For my own character
Im going to use a photo of a cold water fsh,
painting some areas with a lighter color as
you can see on some fsh and using an alpha
from an animal skin with my brush (Fig.60
63). Again, to create a new custom alpha you
can simply take your photo into Photoshop and
follow the afore-mentioned procedure. After
youve imported it into your Alpha palette you
can then paint using the Alpha as a brush.
I can also use the DragRect stroke to apply
some color, remembering to turn off ZAdd for
this part of the texturing process (Fig.64 66).
If you change the stroke to DragRect, youll be
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Manimal ZBrush Character Creation eBook Chapter 03: Aquatic-Man
able to drag the alpha over the surface. If you
leave ZAdd turned on, it will apply deformation
on the mesh, and at this point we just want the
colors, so make sure that RGB is turned on.
This technique is good to help you get a better
blend from one color to another. Remember to
check with the fat shader all the time, though,
and sometimes the shadows on the model can
start to confuse you when apply texture!
Here I am starting to introduce a third color to
the model by painting some of his body with a
bluish gray, using the FreeHand stroke and an
imported alpha from Photoshop of animal skin
(Fig.67 68).
Working with the Cavity Mask can be used as
a great trick to better and more realistic results.
Try to use fat color when youre doing this;
you can edit the curve and the value of the
cavity from 100 to -100 (Fig.69 72). Cavity
Mask allows us to paint only into or around the
depressions of our mesh. The values 100 and
-100 are the setting to paint just inside and
outside the cavity, but you can also edit the
curve to get different results. Try playing around
with the settings of this powerful tool to better
understand how it works.
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With the head and torso pretty much sorted
color wise now, I continue by painting the
interior of the mouth (Fig.73), and then move
across the body simulating shadows through a
new range of blue tones (Fig.74 75). These
shadows are sort of an occlusion. Try to
simulate some soft shadows on the contact
areas not actually a dark shadow from a point
of light, but something soft.
Moving onto the arms now, I want to give them
some more interesting colors particularly to
the forearm. I go in with a mix of hot and cold
colors (Fig.76).
The teeth need some attention now, and I paint
them using a yellow tone with a hint of brown to
give them a dirtier, aged look (Fig.77).
Nearly fnished now! Im just applying some
veins using DragRect and Alpha 22, trying out
a variation of green, blue and red veins on the
skin (Fig.78 79).
Finally, to fnish up the texturing of my model,
as Im pretty happy with what Ive achieved until
now, Im simply taking an overall look at the
character and then going into areas to add more
detail with the Cavity Mask, to really fnish things
off (Fig.80 81). At this stage you have to make
sure that there arent any details missing we
have to try not to let our earlier hard work not go
to waste in this last stage!
And here is the fnal model, complete with
textures (Final.01 04).
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Manimal ZBrush Character Creation eBook Chapter 03: Aquatic-Man
When youre happy with the coloring of your
ZBrush creation you can then go on and render
it. You can fnd lots of great MatCaps at the
ZBrush Download Center:
zbrush/downloadcenter. Theres plenty of good
stuff there, including some nice plugins and
videos which are always very helpful.
Pretty much any default material in ZBrush
is affected by light, as well as lots of other
MatCaps, too. But if you play around with
lighting and some different MatCaps, youll
soon realize that not all of them are affected by
the lighting scenario, so do be careful and pay
attention when using new MatCaps.
Before you render youll need to set up your
lights frst of all. So go to Menu > Light there
youll be able to play with your light settings; you
can change the direction of the lights by using
your cursor and rotating the sphere. You can
any increase the number of lights if you need
more by simply clicking on the small light icons.
Below the lights you can change the light color
and intensity of them. And if you open up the
Shadow option on the bottom of the Light menu,
you can change the shadow intensity by playing
with the Aperture and Length settings. Its very
important to make some quick tests, just playing
around with all the different light settings, in
order to better understand what each is used for
and what it can achieve.
With your lighting setup ready to go, you need
to render. So go to Menu > Render there youll
fnd the render options. You can turn on the Fog
and Depth Cue functions, and youll also fnd a
slider to change the intensity and range of the
depth of feld. If you open up the Fog menu (you
can fnd it right below in the Depth Cue menu)
you can change the color of the frst and forth
quads to a darker color (I usually use a very
dark gray and a dark bluish gray). Once again,
you can change the intensity and range of the
fog using the sliders. As usual, play around with
the settings to increase your understanding of
what they do. When ready, click on the Best
button to render.
To create a fnal image of my character I render
out the following render passes in ZBrush:
Lighting a fast shader with no textures
Mask using Flat Color will allow us to
separate the character from the background
Constant Diffuse using Flat Color with
textures you can get back some of the
texture detail lost after rendering, as well as
getting better contrast over the fnal image
Depth this is really helpful to get the
correct camera depth of feld. I create this
pass using Flat Color with no textures,
playing with the Fog settings (to fnd Fog go
to Render > Fog)
Occlusion using a MatCap called MatCap
White01, with no textures, I pull the color
towards blue
SSS I use a MatCap called RS_SkinBase
with textures
Specular 1 I use the MatCap called Bonus
02, which is a regular specular for skin
Specular 2 I use the ToyPlastic MatCap
with the black color to get a wet-look
appearance and to break up the specular,
bringing the look closer to something wed
recognize on real fsh
With all my render passes done, I take them
into Photoshop, relax, and then have some fun
playing around with the layer blending modes,
Brightness/Contrast values, Hue/Saturation
settings, and the Blur flter. Here is the fnal
result after some post-production in Photoshop
I found the workfow that I employed for
this piece quite successful, although I do
recommend that you come up with a more
exact idea of what you want to model before
you start a new character design, as Im sure I
could have come up with a much better design
for this creature, in hindsight, if I had done
some preliminary sketches at the beginning.
Another nice process that can improve character
creation is to retopologize your model, make a
UVW map and export the maps (displacement,
normal and diffuse) in order to then render your
image in other 3D software for better results.
This is particularly a good, quick workfow for
animation production.
I hope youve found this tutorial helpful, Id like
to thank the 3DTotal team for the opportunity to
create this tutorial for you all, it has been really
fun to work on thank you for reading!
Diego Maia
For more from this artist visit
or contact
chapter 4
page 37 Chapter 04
Manimal ZBrush Character Creation eBook Part 4 - Amphibian Man
Amphibian Man
Software Used: ZBrush & Photoshop
This chapter Im going to be sculpting and
texturing an amphibian-man, so I will need to
sculpt a mutant with aspects of both amphibians
and humans, and then proceed to texture it in
the fnal stages of this tutorial. Ill be taking you
through my creative process when creating
characters in ZBrush, guiding you through the
stages, enabling you to create your very own
amphibian-man. Youll hopefully pick up some
tips and tricks along the way as well, so lets
begin without further ado!
Whenever I start a new project I begin by
doing research on the brief that I have been
given, looking for references, information, and
inspiration anything that will help me to come
up with an interesting concept.
With this I mind, I begin my amphibian-man
project by searching for photographic references
of different types of amphibians mostly toads
and frogs to familiarize myself with some
classic characteristics of these amphibious
creatures, allowing me to work out in my mind
the kind of features my guy is going to adopt.
Ive chosen to combine the characteristics of a
toad with that of the human, but I want to keep
a lot of the male anatomy in my creature this
time and concentrate on adding the primary
amphibious design to his head, focusing on the
mouth, as well detailing the skin texture of the
whole design to give it that toad-like feel.
Im looking for a more stylized creature with this
design: strong in build, perhaps with a crazy
expression going on to defne a personality and
give him some character.
So with the concept forming in my mind, the
frst thing I want to do is to start the model
off by taking the base mesh (free with this
tutorial click on the Free Resources icon to
download), turning the symmetry on (Transform
> Activate Symmetry), and blocking in the main
shapes and forms (subdivision levels 1-2) whilst
remembering that I want to build a tough guy
with muscles and a strong body. I use the Clay
and Standard brushes for this work these
are great for building up the volumes, and then
the Move brush is particularly useful when it
comes to working out the correct proportions.
Im working in the frst level of subdivision here
With the overall form established, Ive decided
to go for an open-mouthed character, as this
gives him much better expression. To do this,
I subdivide again, to level 3 this time, and I
rework the mouth area using the Standard,
Move and Clay brushes (Standard is used for
the overall sculpting, the Move brush helps to
move the geometry, and the Clay brush can
achieve a better shape, for example on the lips).
In this case, its better to rework the mouth area,
because if I try to open up the mouth, using
something like Transpose or the Move brush,
Ill end up with a low mesh resolution inside
the mouth, which can of course be a problem
because with a low resolution mesh (to check
if you have a low number of polygons in areas,
turn on the Wireframe for a better view) I wont
have a good enough amount of polygons for
the detail work in the last level of subdivision
Satisfed with the basic form of my character
after the block-in, I continue work at subdivision
level 3 with the Standard, Clay and Infat
brushes. This time, I start by using the Infat
brush to get nice muscle defnition, and then
continue to defne the main muscles and
adjust the overall volumes (Fig.03). Im still not
worrying about the details yet, as we should
remember that our goal is to work out good
shapes and volumes before detailing the
detailing comes later!
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Chapter 04 - Amphibian Man Manimal ZBrush Character Creation eBook
To give the character some eyes, I frst of all
select Sphere3D from the Tool palette and make
a Polymesh copy (hit the Make Polymesh3D
button). I append the sphere to my model and
using the Transpose function (Move and Scale)
I simply adjust the size and position of the
sphere as appropriate. And then the SubTool
Master Plugin comes in handy (www.pixologic.
com/zbrush/downloadcenter/zplugins) I just
click on Mirror to copy the eye across to the
other side (Fig.04).
I subdivide the model a few more times now (to
level 4 or 5), and start applying more details,
working on the muscle defnition, cartilage, and
deformations, using the Standard (with alphas
like Alpha 01 and Alpha 35) and Infat brushes.
The Infat brush is awesome to use when
sculpting muscles because its brush properties
help to make the character more believable and
Happy with how things are looking I now want to
change and try out some different materials to
see how things are looking when other shaders
are applied (Fig.05).
When sculpting, I like to isolate some areas
and work with just sections of my model, such
as the head and the hands, when necessary.
This just makes it easier to work on the details
and gives me the chance to get a better look at
certain parts in this case the head (Fig.06).
Remember that were constantly searching for
good overall shape and volume in our models.
I also use the Standard brush (with Alpha
35 and 37) to start the skin detailing on the
eyebrows here later on Ill use the Spray
Stroke to get better skin detail, but only in the
fnal sculpting stage.
When working on hands in ZBrush, I always
sculpt just one isolated hand only, and then
simply project all the details onto the opposite
hand. To do this, I create a mask over the
hand to isolate it (Masking > HidePt) so that
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Manimal ZBrush Character Creation eBook Part 4 - Amphibian Man
I can sculpt with more control (Fig.07). Im
not worrying about adding fnal details to the
hands yet, I just want to defne them to get
better volume and some of the main details
With the one hand done, I reveal the rest of the
model that was hidden previously (Shift + Ctrl
and click off the model to show all), create a
mask over the sculpted hand, and go to Tools
> Deformation. I hit Smart ReSym which then
projects the details of the defned hand onto the
other (Fig.08).
Time for the teeth now, which are actually much
simpler than they look! I start off by creating a
mask over the lip area (just hold down Ctrl to
paint the mask), so I can sculpt without affecting
other parts of the model. I use the Standard
brush to sculpt, always with a low intensity,
the Move brush to help me to adjust the size
of them, and I also add the Pinch brush to my
tool belt this time to achieve a better connection
between each tooth and the fesh that it sits
in. Finally, I use the Infat brush with a very low
value between each tooth to give more volume
to the gums (Fig.09).
Ive decided to go a little off-topic here and
create some accessories for my guy to beef
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Chapter 04 - Amphibian Man Manimal ZBrush Character Creation eBook
up this character design. I thought this would
make an interesting addition when it comes
to compositing the character. Aiming for a
body-builder look to my fnal design, I build a
dumbbell which is actually very easy to make.
I use Cylinder3D, and with the Transpose
function I can manipulate the cylinder into all
the different cylinder shapes that build up a
classic dumbbell design. I can then append
each cylinder to form a single tool by going
to SubTool > Append (select each cylinder)
To get a good pose I of course use the
Transpose function, but frst of all I need to
create a new layer to work on (Tool > Layers
> New) for the pose, and Ill explain why I
do this later. Its also very important to step
back a number of subdivision levels to make
better deformation without too many wrong
deformations. With the Transpose Mask feature
(just hold down Ctrl and click-and-hold on the
model; the mask will be created following the
cursor direction. If you want to mask the entire
model minus one fnger, hold Ctrl and click-and-
hold on the hand, and then go to the fnger the
mask will follow the cursor). I can use Rotate for
the deformations and then use the Move brush
to make the fnal adjustments (Fig.11).
Moving back to the head now, I need to add
a tongue, so I want to append a ZSphere
(Fig.12a). I turn off the perspective view and
start to create the new mesh. To make a
ZSphere turn into a mesh, go to Adaptive Skin
> Make Adaptive Skin. I can now subdivide
and start the sculpting work on the tongue,
using the Standard brush to defne the model
and the Move brush for better adjustments and
placement in the mouth (Fig.12b).
For the fnal details I use the Standard brush
with a thin alpha, like Alpha 35-39, and the
Infat brush. I also start to incorporate more skin
alphas of human skin, pores, and so on using
different strokes: Spray Stroke with low values
to get nice pores and a slight noise effect over
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Manimal ZBrush Character Creation eBook Part 4 - Amphibian Man
the sculpt (especially on the tongue). A pore
alpha can help with this, or you can simple
use Alpha 07 instead. DragRect and DragDot
strokes with a more defned alpha, like alpha 22
or 59 for example, can give some nice details
with more control, without the randomized effect
of the Spray Stroke (Fig.13).
You can get many alpha packs on www., which will help you to build up
the characters credibility as a half human-half
And here is the fnal sculpt (Fig.14).
Moving onto the texturing work now, I make a
rough base color over the entire sculpt (Menu >
Color > Fill Object), and then defne some of the
warmer tones, such as on the chest. To illustrate
the thin skin, for example, just change your
desired color and give it a lower RGB Intensity.
Using the Standard brush with FreeHand stroke
I can complete this initial stage without any
problems (Fig.15a).
I turn off the layer that I created for the pose
at this point, which I do because this way
I can turn the symmetry back on and save
some time texturing. I hide the other SubTools
now (SubTool > click on the eye to hide it, for
example) to concentrate on the main model
only. I apply some tonal variation onto the model
using the Spray Stroke (with Scale and Color
Intensity values kept low) with Alpha 07 (always
using a low intensity), mixing the colors as I go
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Chapter 04 - Amphibian Man Manimal ZBrush Character Creation eBook
Getting onto the detailed texturing stage now, I
use Spray Stroke, DragRect and the Freehand
Stroke to apply the details (using some different
alphas like using Spray Stroke with Alpha 07 for
a nice noise effect, DragRect with Alpha 59,
and Alpha 22 to give detail with better size and
placement control (Fig.16).
A good quick trick to get more detail in ZBrush
is to use the cavity mask function (Mask > Mask
by Cavity) and paint with a darker color in a very
low intensity, or just go to Color > Fill Object
and use a dark color (such as a dark grey,
for example) with a very low RGB Intensity.
Observe that the pose layer is turned on again
here as we are now at the fnal detailing stage
and its very important to make give these
details without using symmetry, in order to bring
more life to the model (Fig.17).
And here is the fnal textured model (Fig.18).
Rendering &
I use this stage of the design process to make
my work pop, using passes, blending modes,
and masks. I shall try now to talk you through
my rendering and compositing workfow using
ZBrush and Photoshop.
The frst step is to confgure the light, which is
basically just a case of positioning it however
you require by clicking and moving the little
orange highlighted box (Fig.19a).
The second step is to confgure the main
shader which will be used as the base shader.
I use GW_Skincore by Grant Warwick as the
main fnal shader (which can be downloaded
by clicking on the Free Resources icon, or by
going to, but other shaders
can be used as well, such as MatCap Skin 04,
for example.
I want to make some adjustments now by going
to Materials > Modifers these adjustments
are different for each shader, and are made
according to the light (Fig.19b).
The third step is to confgure the shadows. For
this character design I just make some simple
shadows adjustments to achieve a harder
shadow (see Fig.19a).
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Manimal ZBrush Character Creation eBook Part 4 - Amphibian Man
dumbbells. Layer blend mode: Lighten/Color
Color pass Flat Color Material With this
pass I have more color control in Photoshop.
In the Render menu now, I change the
Antialiasing to 2 to get a better render quality
when rendering my passes. The other shaders
used as passes for the fnal render composite in
Photoshop are as follows:
Specular passes I use a simple shader
the Toy Plastic shader, for example and
modifer to show only the specular. The
other specular passes use the same shader
but I change the Light direction and the
Specular Curve. ZBrush produces too much
specular over the entire model, so I use
masks to remove some specular in some
areas, and a low opacity (around 10-20%).
Layer blend mode: Lighten (Fig.20a)
Refection pass This is just the
RefectedMap material used to fake a
refection pass. I use this pass with different
values for the body, the tongue and the
For this example I use Hue/Saturation to
make it more reddish, and use it to achieve
a nice skin tone on the chest. Layer blend
mode: Color/Lighten (Fig.20c)
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Chapter 04 - Amphibian Man Manimal ZBrush Character Creation eBook
Occlusion pass MatCap White pass
without any texture. Layer blend mode:
Multiply (around 40-60% Opacity) (Fig.20d)
Mask pass Flat Color Material again
but this time with a different color for each
SubTool (using Color > Fill Color) can be
used to pick masks in Photoshop (using
Select > Color Range in Photoshop). With
these masks I can control the passes
by element; for example, I duplicate the
Refection pass and use one for the body
with a low opacity, and one with higher
opacity for the gym accessories (Fig.20e)
Main pass (Fig.20f)
I use other Photoshop adjustments, too, such as
Color Balance, Sharpen, Levels, Contrast It
may look like it took a lot of time to achieve the
fnal composite, but the entire compositing step
was done in around 30-50 minutes only.
And here the fnal result (Fig.21).
Hopefully I have succeeded in walking you
through my workfow, and have explained the
process in enough detail for you to now create
your very own half man-half creature mutant.
I hope youve found the tutorial useful. Please
feel free to contact me by email should you have
any questions.
Note from the Editor: Grant Warwick has
provided us with the GW_Skincore MatCap
that Bruno Melo has used in this tutorial, which
you can fnd in the Free Resources folder.
Remember that you can also fnd the base
mesh that Bruno used with this tutorial in the
same folder, too!
Bruno Melo
For more from this artist visit
or contact
chapter 5
page 47 Chapter 05
Manimal ZBrush Character Creation eBook Chapter 05 - Insect Man
Software Used: ZBrush and 3ds Max
The idea of a hybrid mutation from human to
insect was really exciting to me right from the
beginning of this project. The possibilities,
design-wise, are immense, and because the
world of insects is so complex and varied it
forced me to do lots of research before starting,
since its not a subject I have had experience
with in the past.
I began with some research, and obviously the
frst real problem to solve was how to mutate
an endoskeletal being into an exoskeletal
one. This was something that really worried
me, and at frst I was stuck at this phase for
quite some time. I tried to get inspiration from
sculptures by great artists, and slowly started
to understand what I liked and didnt like, and
what was plausible and not so. There is a fne
line between what is plausible and what is
cool, and you have to be very careful where
this is concerned and aim to get a good balance
between the two; fnding the right balance is
completely up to you though, depending on your
own style and artistic intentions.
First of all, I had to see if something that blends
an exoskeleton with an endoskeleton could
actually really exist
Turtles have both endoskeleton and exoskeleton
characteristics, but I was looking for something
different: a mix of both, not coexistence. The
closest thing I have found is a hydrostatic
skeleton, which Wikipedia says is a structure
found in many cold-blooded organisms and soft-
bodied animals consisting of a fuid-flled cavity,
the coelom, surrounded by muscles.
Hmm, interesting!
Without being too rigid and technical, since I
dont have the knowledge to fully understand
something like this, but at the same time
wanting to take some inspiration from it,
what I imagined was an evolution where the
outer surface of the body is morphed into
a net of fuid-flled cavities that hardens the
outer structure. Not as rigid as a chitin based
exoskeleton, but something that somehow can
adapt to movement with an internal pressure
system. This concept was enough to give me an
idea of the look of this mutation.
So with the concept in mind, I needed to think
about which human features could best mutate
into insect characteristics. And so, keeping in
mind the balance I mentioned before, I chose
to work with human limbs, because I felt these
would work best.
The facial structure is a particularly fun part
to work with, because I dont want to change
too much of the skull structure; I want to retain
the idea that this creature was once actually a
human. Im going to focus most on the mouth,
since this area is crucial in my design concept,
and will be really eye-catching. The top gums
and top lip will be fused into the insects labrum;
the mandible will be cut at the front to become
the new mandible, and I will add an extra
structure, the maxilla, which is a newly formed
part from the mutation. The tongue and bottom
lip will also become the labium.
At this point I took advantage of the newly
released plugin from Pixologic, PaintStop (www., to
rough out a concept to help me visualize the
fgure (Fig.01). PaintStop is really handy and
easy to use, and has a lot of potential. You dont
need to be a painter to use it, just draw and have
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Concept Refinement
Id like to just mention now something that
happened during the sculpting process.
Sometimes viewing things in 3D really shows
whats working and whats not working in your
design. Right in the middle of the sculpting
session I realized that what I was creating
was too similar to a suit, rather than a hybrid
creature. This really bothered me, I didnt like
it and I felt I had to fnd a solution to fx it. This
was perhaps the hardest part of the creation
process for me, because for the frst time I
had to face the mutation phenomena in a very
different way: I started to think about what
mutation would mean for a human being; how
the character would feel about it. I had to think
about him, and not just about the design.
So whilst sculpting, I changed my initial concept
to something more repugnant, something which
would make you think about what is actually
going on in the image, rather than just looking
at it and moving on. I introduced the human side
of the creature to the concept, the portion of
him that reveals his humanity, his feelings, and
allows you to get a little closer to the design.
For this part of the concept I looked mainly for
references concerning the molting (obviously
I had to keep in mind that I was using a base
mesh, so I couldnt expect to be able to do
something like actually perform molting on
the model; it would need to be sculpted to
appear that way) and started to think about the
transition between the two stages
The given base mesh was unfortunately not the
easiest thing to adapt to my concept, but tricky
or not I had to go on and focus on doing it right.
Ill now take you through my ZBrush sculpting
At level 0 it is really hard to fnd the right shapes;
I push and pull vertices around to fnd the best
positions, mainly working on proportions using
the Move brush and the Transpose function
Stepping up a subdivision level, I work with
Transpose again to mask and adapt better the
silhouette to my concept, and use the Standard
and Infat brushes to sculpt the main volumes
(Fig.03 04).
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Its really important to focus on the main
forms right now, zooming out a lot to see if
everything fts together, and not being afraid
to make drastic changes if unsatisfed. At this
stage were working on the foundation of our
sculpture; everything we will do later will be
affected by the choices we make right now (i.e.
in the lower subdivision levels). Later sculpting
details will rely heavily on the previously
sculpted surface, so basically you have to
visualize in your mind the details that are not yet
there, and sculpt the average version of them
a bit like a blurred image. As an example, think
about painting a tree you see at 1km distance:
its nothing more than a green irregular spot.
The nearer you get to the tree, the more detailed
information you get to paint (describe) it.
What I also do, is use the whole range of the
brushes Draw Size, not just the big and medium
ones; try to use a very small brush in the
beginning as well, to emphasize some smaller
details but remember: only from the distance!
Sometimes you can focus on close-up details
in your sculpting, perhaps because you need to
better see just one part of the model in order to
adjust everything else accordingly.
Another thing I like to do is to quickly pose some
parts, like the hands or arms, in a gesture that
helps me to better understand the volumes and
Once I get to subdivision level 3 or 4, I started
using mostly the Clay Tubes and Clay brushes,
since I fnd myself being very comfortable
working with them; they help you to get rid of
the bulginess from the lower levels, averaging
out forms and consolidating the major volumes
(Fig.05 06).
Additional Objects
At this stage I use 3ds Max to create some very
simple geometry to use as base meshes for the
mandibles and maxillae. As you can see, they
are just standard cubes scaled and subdivided a
few times, and just for the mandibles Ive made
an extrusion to better conform the shape I have
in mind (Fig.07).
For the eyes I temporarily place some ZBrush
Sphere primitives to hold the shape (I will come
back to these later on).
Once Ive imported the newly created .obj, Ive
got everything I need and I can start working on
the object as a whole, trying to sculpt everything
at the same level without leaving parts too
roughly sculpted (Fig.08). This is important
because you want to have a good general
understanding of what is going on in the model
to be able to judge what is working the way you
want it, and what needs adjustments.
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Moving on, I isolate the shell, and with the Clay
brush I sculpt some variations into the surface
(Fig.09 10).
As mentioned earlier, try to use your Draw
Size range, as this will help you to to create
believable variations and patterns in your
sculpting work (Fig.11).
With the shells main volumes roughed out, I
work on the junctions in the limbs next, trying to
recreate a net of underlying fbers and nerves,
tendons and cartilaginous structures, and
everything else that could ft to mimic what once
was human and still there, but is now morphed
into this new form (Fig.12).
Something very clear on insects is that their
shells tend to have borders; in most cases they
are jagged and have little spikes. To sculpt
these details into my model, I use a cloud-like
alpha with a Standard brush, with the Stroke set
to DragDot this is because I can get realtime
feedback of both the position and the altitude of
the brush, so I can very precisely place those
little spikes where I want them (Fig.13).
Adjusting the Sculpt for the New Concept
As I mentioned earlier, during the sculpting
process I changed my mind, deciding to break
up the insect mutation to reveal human portions
to the character. Here is how:
I step back to the lowest subdivision level and
smooth and reconstruct from there the human
features I want to see (Fig.14).
Im not afraid at all about erasing all of what Ive
previously done, because I am very confdent
about the new concept. At frst the work seems
massive, and its easy to get a bit stressed
because your progress is very slow, but its very
important to always remember the meaning of
what youre doing: you have very good reasons
to go through this process and the result will be
much better than what you had previously. So,
put your favorite music on the playlist and relax!
I focus on the anatomy being in the process
of mutation, which is refected in the sculpt on
the other side of the face/body, so everything
we know from human anatomy will be more
recognizable on this side of the character, giving
the appearance that the process is already
taking place (Fig.15).
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Inner organs and structures would be stressed
by this mutation, so I start sculpting some hybrid
anatomy where parts are more human like;
others are blended, whilst some are a complete
mess all this is to show that something weird
is going on right now, making it diffcult to fully
understand what this creature once was.
The sculpting process here is the same as
done for the earlier concept, using the Clay and
Clay Tubes brushes, sometimes also taking
advantage of the Standard brush to apply some
sharp details (veins, depressions) (Fig.16 17).
For the fne tendons you can see in the
examples, I used the Clay Tubes brush to rough
out the inner part of the elbow, or the human
side of the torso, crossing strokes until I got a
pattern that mimicked what I needed. Taking
the Standard brush, with a really low ZIntensity
and a small Draw Size, I started to slowly sculpt
patterns, crossing them together and fnding
merging points. Looking at sculptures from
Masters such as Jordu Schell, or Steve Wang,
you can really understand how these patterns
work and be inspired by them!
Final Sculpting Details
When most of the work is done you need to
spend time working on the smaller details.
Dont be in a hurry, all the steps need time and
hard work, and its really important to continue
working until you feel satisfed. Every step
needs the same level of attention.
In my case, I cant really get close to the shells
appearance just with the sculpting alone, but
with some fne details I can describe the surface
much more and add an extra level of realism.
One way to do this is to use the projection
of alphas of random organic noise patterns,
created freehand in Photoshop or using a
section of a texture (I use the 3DTotal Texture
DVDs, they have a huge amount of different
surfaces to sample from), with a Standard brush
and the Stroke set to DragRect. Try to vary
the scale and rotation of your projection to get
a more organic and believable distribution of
details. You can also use customized and more
focused alphas, and place them where you
need them. I used this method to simulate little
cracks of plastered effects; you might want to
use this method also for veins or pores (Fig.18
19). The other way is to sculpt what you need
with custom alphas and use the Color Spray or
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Spray Stroke. You can use a very small jagged
circle to simulate little spikes, for example.
The insect eye was tricky to get it how I wanted
it. As I mentioned previously, I used ZBrushs
Sphere Primitive in the frst instance as a
placeholder, but I realized that the poles of the
sphere tend to get jagged once subdivided and
sculpted, so I needed clean geometry to work
Using 3ds Max I create a simple primitive
sphere with spherical UV mapping; I export
the mesh as an .obj, import it into ZBrush, and
position it using Transpose (Fig.20).
I then use Photoshop to create a beehive-like
pattern that can mimic the insects divided eye
basically a black and white image with white
hexagonal cells separated by black (Fig.21).
Once I have the height map for the cells done,
I import it into ZBrush as a texture, apply it to
the imported sphere, and use it to mask the
geometry of the eye based on the textures
intensity (Fig.22).
With the sphere masked, I the use the Infat
Deformation to pull out the cells and get the fnal
divided eye (Fig.23).
I had a few problems with antennae. I frst
used ZSpheres to create a rough base mesh
for them, appended them as a SubTool, and
sculpted. I wasnt satisfed with this version
though; the antennae were too distracting for
me and I didnt like the shape too much (Fig.24).
So to fx the antennae problem, I create a
cylinder in Max with evenly spaced subdivisions,
and then, using an FFD box modifer, I
proportionally scale down the top. To create the
repeated bulging effect I just use the scale tool
with an edge every once in a while to get the
recesses I need (Fig.25).
In order to make the antennae curved the way I
want them to, I create a Spline with the desired
curvature and then deform the cylinder using a
Path Deform (WSM) modifer, with the spline as
the path (Fig.26).
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Once the sculpting is fnished I want to pose the
character using Transpose Master. Something
to be aware of here is that sometimes this
amazing tool doesnt work properly; I dont
understand if its something Im doing wrong
or something related to this particular model,
but what happens is that when I use the tool to
pose the character how I want him, and once I
transfer the pose back to the subdivided mesh,
I lose all my subdivision levels. My solution
for this problem is to disable the UV for all my
SubTools. This works just fne, and fnally I
have my happy ending with the results I want
Polypainting and
I collect all the references I can about insects
for this part of the process, as this is perhaps
the most important part of texturing its not just
about colors, but also being able to understand
and recreate how nature works as closely as
you can.
Ive found some really very interesting color
schemes in the insect world, but I also realized
that its very diffcult to adapt bright colors to
my concept, even though they are the most
interesting ones. I think the main problem with
this is that they look too fake when painted.
The frst thing I do to begin the Polypainting
process is to fll the object (remember to turn on
Colorize from the Texture sub palette in the Tool
menu, and have the RGB value set to 100) with
a bright green color this will be my base color
for the insect half of the character (Fig.28).
To keep things looking interesting, I use mostly
the Color Spray stroke to get some variations
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in luminosity, with different values for the Draw
Size and lots of different tones of green, red
and yellow. I then use the same process for the
human side of the model, just using skin tones
instead (Fig.29 30).
With the main variations painted, I decide to
create a texture just for the body (leaving other
SubTools, such as the antennae and eyes, for
the Polypainting technique) for two reasons: frst
of all, I dont have enough polys to describe the
textures; and second, I need some other tools
that you can only access using the Projection
So frst I create an 8K white texture (this might
be a bit large, but if you can handle these
large fles its better to resize them down later
rather of realizing in the middle of the texturing
process you dont have high enough resolution).
Then, with the body SubTool selected, I turn
off Colorize from the texture sub palette, go
down to level zero in my geometry subdivisions,
set 100 for the RGB value, apply an AUV tiles
mapping, and fnally hit the Col > Txr button to
transfer all my polypainted data onto the texture
So far so good!
Now I have a lot more possibilities painting wise;
not only using the Standard brush, but also
the ability to use all the Pixol tools, such as the
Sharpen, Blur, Intensity and Contrast brushes,
and so on.
The frst step is to enforce the depth of my
texture by dimming the cavity areas and
lightening the elevated ones. To do this I mostly
use the Standard brush with falloff alphas like
Alpha 01 or Alpha 37, to get a nice gradient
between the two tonal values, also with the help
of the Intensity brush (Fig.32).
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Sometimes when you use the Intensity brush
too much, you can get noisy results, but dont
worry because its easy to fx with the Blur brush
in no time at all!
Its OK to use custom alphas to break down the
color, using either the Spray or the DragRect
stroke. And its important not to cover your
sculpted data with a generic texture, but make
sure you always enforce or highlight what you
had previously described in your sculpt. For
example, if you have tiny spots all around the
sculpted surface, make sure to paint over them
with a different color to accentuate them, or if
you have a crack in the surface, just enforce it
by dimming the recess.
On the feshy side I use the Standard brush with
a very small Draw Size to paint in some veins,
trying to change the Draw Size to get some
variations in the scale, using different colors,
from green to purple (Fig.33 34).
I use some cropped textures from the 3DTotal
Textures DVDs ( as
alphas to DragRect onto the surface to get some
sharper variations; you could use dirt, concrete,
organic-looking textures, or just patterns that ft
with your model and concept (Fig.35 36).
Also experiment with the already mentioned
Pixol brushes (Intensity, Contrast etc.) with
custom alphas. You can get some very nice
effects with the right settings; just remember
that, while in Projection Master, youre basically
painting as with a traditional 2D package, so
take full advantage of it!
Something to be aware of is that the RGB value
tends to color a lot from the very lower settings:
working with a value like 2 or 4 was enough for
me for most of the painting session; the higher
I got it was something like 18 on a range from 0
to 100.
You can project paint some photo references
if you need them, too. There is a great video
tutorial by Krishnamurti Costa (www.antropus.
com/tutorials.htm) that explains this process
very well. Basically, once in Projection Master,
you select a ZBrush Plane as a tool with the
photo reference image you need as the texture,
and a basic circle with falloff as the alpha to
smooth out the corners. Make sure you have
ZAdd set to 0, and simply draw your plane on
the canvas. You can then use the standard
sculpting tools to deform it to make it better ft
your model. This is a handy way to use photos
to texture your model thanks to Krishnamurti
Costa for sharing his technique with the
Rendering and
Were now at the fnal stage of production of this
I frst of all create a pass of the texture alone,
with a fat material (Fig.37). I then fll all the
SubTools with a white color and use MatCaps
to render out different passes, with and without
shadows (I can then choose what I will or wont
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use). I use some human skin and insect photos
to create some custom MatCaps this process
is well explained in the ZBrush Documentation
you can already fnd online.
For the shadows and Ambient Occlusion, I use
a custom-made MatCap that mimics the effect.
Im also sure to render out a ZDepth pass that
will be handy for a depth of feld effect later on in
Photoshop. To do this, go to the Alpha palette,
press (at the very bottom) the GrabDoc button,
and export it.
Other custom materials are used for the
specular: I fll all the SubTools with black
and use the Basic Material or the Toy Plastic
Material, and I adjust the specular curve as I
need to in order to get wet-looking highlights, or
glossy specular (Fig.38a b).
In Photoshop youre free to experiment,
adjusting the Brightness/Contrast and/or the
Color Balance, using masks to differentiate the
shading or even doing some paintover work
if you need to. For example, I have added a
bit of smoke to the bottom to better blend the
character with the background (Fig.39).
This was an extraordinary project, not only
because I was free to develop my own
interpretation of the subject but also because I
have learned so much about the insect world,
as well as about sculpting and texturing. Every
project needs you to fnd solutions to achieve
the desired results, and every time its a great
challenge. What I can suggest is for you to work
hard to get to where you want to be, and if you
cant get there, well youll have to work harder,
defeat the problems and fnd solutions; think in a
different way and enjoy what youre doing. This
is the fundamental point to all this!
I hope you have found this tutorial interesting
and the techniques offered will be useful to
you with your own projects. Good luck to you
all, please feel free to contact me with any
Federico Scarbini
For more from this artist visit
or contact
chapter 6
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Software Used: ZBrush and Photoshop
In this tutorial Ill try to teach you my workfow
while creating a reptilian-man from simple
base mesh in ZBrush. Ill aim to show
you through the whole process from the
basic development of proportions, through
retopologizing in ZBrush, to rendering, and
fnally post-production in Photoshop.
I wont start out with any concept drawings
before starting this model in ZBrush when you
download the free movies with this tutorial youll
see that my reptilian concept is created during
the sculpting stage. This way of working is not
always a good idea its always better to know
what you want to do before you start, and if you
cant draw then you can at least look for some
good reference images on the internet to give
you an idea.
I start this new character in the same way as all
the other artists of this series have done before
me, with a simple human base mesh (which is
available for download with this tutorial).
Before I start sculpting, for easier selection I go
ahead and divide the mesh, whilst at the lowest
subdivision level, into Polygroups. I hide any
unnecessary parts of the model (press Ctrl +
Shift, and then release Shift) and use Group
Visible in the Tool > Polygroups menu.
With the Polygroups created, I can then start
to transform the base mesh by masking, using
the Move brush, and the Move/Rotate/Scale
Transform tools (W/E/R) to change the overall
shapes and proportions to something less
human-like in shape (Fig.01).
To create a mask, you simply press and hold
the Ctrl key when painting on the surface of your
model. You can also erase unnecessary parts of
mask by pressing and holding the Alt key, whilst
the Ctrl key is still being held. To completely
erase a mask drag on the empty canvas holding
Ctrl; Ctrl-clicking on the canvas will invert the
mask. You can also blur a mask (Ctrl-click on
the masked part of your model) and sharpen it
(Ctrl + Alt-click). I like to hide my mask during
work to make the changes I create more visible
(Ctrl + H). There is also a very useful feature
called Topological Masking which works with
the Move, Rotate or Scale Transform active
simply press and hold the Ctrl key whilst in one
of these modes and click-and-drag over your
model. You can then create a mask following
your mesh topology.
Whilst still at the lowest level of subdivision (or
in the second level at most), I begin to block
in the basic body shapes, generally using the
Standard and Clay Tubes brushes. Its a good
idea also to lower the Smooth brushs ZIntensity
here; standard settings make the smoothing
too destructive when working in low levels of
subdivision (Fig.02).
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When working on the overall shapes of a
character design, I try to not concentrate on just
one part of model. I jump from head to hands,
using masking and the Move tool to change
proportions. From time to time I also like to
change the material to a fat black color to check
how the silhouette is working (Fig.03). You
can create your own black silhouette viewing
material and save it in material menu out of
any of basic ZBrush basic materials (Fig.04).
When I have something looking more or less
satisfactory, I subdivide once or twice more
and then start working on the smaller forms of
the body, such as the eye sockets, fngers and
muscles. Using mostly the Clay Tubes brush
with a strong ZIntensity, I try to create natural
looking shapes for the muscles. Its important
to always keep in mind at this stage of work the
bone structure, too. Muscles dont exist without
an underlying bone structure, so it can be really
helpful at this point to mark some of the bones
and joints in.
From time to time I fnd it useful to look at
anatomy reference images not completely
trying to copy human muscles, just using them
as a guide for my modeling work. I then use the
Infat brush to add some volume to the larger
muscles of the body.
To create the eye sockets I choose to append
an eyeball SubTool. This helps me to make
the eyelids correctly and helps me to avoid
problems later on when matching them to the
eyeballs (Fig.05).
To create an eyeball I use the Sphere3D tool
from the Tool menu. Draw it on the canvas and
use the Make PolyMesh3D button in the Tool
palette to enable sculpting. Next, switch to your
main tool, use the Append button in the SubTool
palette and choose your Polymesh sphere.
Switch to your eyeball SubTool in the SubTool
palette and use Move (W), Scale (E) and Rotate
(R) to place the eye in the right position. With
the eye SubTool selected, use the Clone button
in the Tool menu to create a copy of the eyeball.
Append the copied eyeball in SubTool palette.
Next, skip to the Deformations palette and use
the Mirror button to mirror your cloned eyeball
tool to right side of the model.
Whilst working on my reptilian head Im using
some iguana reference photos that Ive found
on Google Images. Im not trying to make a
perfect copy of a reptilian head, I just like to
use photos to follow and use them as a guide
for the overall shapes. Ive chosen to make the
back of his head much bigger than what youd
expect of a reptile, as he should in theory have
a bigger brain. Ive also decided to make his
mouth shorter.
With the overall forms defned, Im now going
to start to add the smaller details. Using the
Standard brush with Gravity set to around 30 in
the brush options, I sculpt in some skin folds,
and then use the Standard brush with Brush
Mod at 15-20 and a small alpha to sharpen
some of the edges, like the eyelids, nostrils and
smaller skin creases (Fig.06).
After playing with details and sharpening up
edges, Ive decided to retopologize my model.
It isnt absolutely necessary, but Ive noticed
some geometry stretching in the lower parts of
the body which could lead to problems in later
stages of sculpting especially as Ill be working
with scales.
To start the retopologizing process, I create
a ZSphere on my canvas. I go to the Tool >
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Rigging menu and use the Select Mesh button
to choose my model (Fig.07). With the mesh
selected I then go to Tool > Topology and
choose Edit Topology.
Before I start to create new topology, I like to
turn off the viewport shadows in the Render
> Preview Shadows menu this just makes
the visibility of the model better, especially in
areas like the bottom of the chin or armpits. I
then click on the canvas outside of the model to
avoid attaching the frst topology point to a point
already existing inside the model.
Creating new topology in ZBrush is rather easy,
much like building a cage of quads on a models
surface. In this part of the work I switch from
graphics tablet to mouse to have better control
and avoid any random clicks. Keeping the brush
size small, I start creating new topology simply
by clicking on the model. When you create a
new topology point, its selected (a red circle
around the point), and the next click on the
models surface will create the point connected
to it. If you want to create a new point without
connecting it to the last one, click on the canvas
to deselect your last point. To select a new point
without creating a new edge, press Ctrl and click
on it. You can also delete unnecessary points
(Alt-click) or move them (W and Q back to
paint mode). You can also use Ctrl-Shift to hide
parts of model if necessary, just like when in
sculpting mode.
When creating new topology in ZBrush I try
to use the same rules as when sculpting or
painting. First I create big shapes (edge loops
around the muscles, eyes or mouth), and take
care of the details later (flling big edge loops
with smaller quads). I prefer to turn off the
symmetry when creating geometric points in
the center of the model, just to avoid errors with
doubled centered points. Its important to keep
all topology in quads if possible (ZBrush doesnt
like triangles!). Create denser topology in places
which need more detail, like the mouth, eyes or
ears. Use fewer, larger quads in less important
places (Fig.08).
When the new topology is ready, I use the
Preview button in the Adaptive Skin menu to
make it visible. I set the Density slider to 1,
turn on Polyframe view (Shift + F) and carefully
check for errors in the mesh (look out for
any unnecessary holes or doubled edges).
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If everything looks fne I then use the Make
Adaptive Skin button to create my 3D tool from
the topology (Fig.09).
Reprojecting Details onto New Topology
First I select my original model from the Tool
menu. I draw it onto the canvas and hit T to get
into Edit mode. Next I use the Append button in
the SubTool menu to append my new topology
object as a new SubTool. I set my old model to
the third or fourth subdivision level and switch to
the new topology SubTool.
For safety, I create a new Morph Target
(StoreMT in the Morph Target menu). With the
Morph Target stored I can use the Morph brush
to remove any projection errors, like exploding
vertices. I then hit the Project All button in
the SubTool menu. If everything looks good I
can switch to the frst SubTool, go to a higher
subdivision level, then go back to the new
topology tool, subdivide it and use Project All
again (Fig.10).
Do the same for every subdivision level. In
the case of problems use the Morph brush to
erase projection errors. Of course, you can
use projection immediately on the highest
subdivision level rather than skipping between
tools and using this step-by-step technique, but I
prefer this method it takes more time but helps
to avoid errors.
With the details projected onto my new model I
use a mask and rotate (R) to open my reptilian-
mans mouth (Fig.11).
I can now go back to Edit Topology, this time
using the lowest subdivision level. Using the
same method as before I go into Edit Topology
mode and, holding Shift, I simply paint the
existing topology onto my model. All I have to do
is to patch the hole inside his mouth with new
geometry (Fig.12 13).
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Manimal ZBrush Character Creation eBook Chapter 06 - Reptilian-Man
I repeat the same steps as before to project the
details onto the model with the patched mouth.
Finishing Details and Adding SubTools
With my new retopologized mesh I can now
work some more details over it, sharpening
some edges with the Pinch brush, and using the
Standard brush with Gravity and the Infat brush
to give a more natural look to the skin folds and
muscles. For some of the smaller wrinkles I
use the Standard brush with a blurred Alpha 59
To make teeth for my model, give him spikes
on his back and tongue, as well as some
claws, I append a ZSphere SubTool. I model
some simple ZSphere teeth (Fig.15) and use
Adaptive Skin > Make Adaptive Skin to turn it
into geometry. I then use Tool > Clone, along
with Mirror in the Deformation menu, to make
the upper teeth.
I model just one ZSphere spike and use copies
of it for all the other spikes, and with a few small
changes I can use it for the claws as well (use
Clone just once and then append as many
copies as needed in the SubTool menu). I use
Transpose, Move, Scale and Rotate to place the
spikes and claws into the right positions. And
fnally, I use the SubTool Master plugin (http://
zplugins/) to merge all claws and spikes into one
SubTool this makes the navigation between
SubTools much easier (Fig.16).
With all the spikes and claws in place Ive
decided Im going to make some scales now,
rather than just have a fat skin I want to
make my reptilian-man look less human and
more interesting! For small scales Im using the
Standard brush with low ZIntensity, DragRect
stroke, and a couple of reptile skin alphas
which Ive found on the internet. You can fnd
lots of free alphas at the Pixologic Download
Center (
downloadcenter/alpha/). You can also create
your own alphas in Photoshop from photos
simply convert a photo to 8- or 16-bit grayscale.
I actually prefer to paint my alphas by hand
though, as it gives me more control than using a
photo (Fig.17).
To avoid ugly intersections between individual
brushstrokes I make use of Radial Fade in the
Alpha menu, which makes the outer edges of
the alpha more transparent. I always try to follow
the natural fow of muscles and skin, placing my
brushstrokes carefully and trying to rotate the
alpha in the right direction (move your graphics
tablet or mouse holding the left button to rotate
or scale the alpha with the DragRect stroke)
page 64 Chapter 06
Chapter 06 - Reptilian-Man Manimal ZBrush Character Creation eBook
The large scales on his head and fngers I have
made by hand. I start by painting the shape of
the scales using a mask (holding Ctrl). I then
invert the mask (Ctrl + I) and hide it for better
visibility (Ctrl + H). When sculpting scales, I use
the same technique as before, mostly using the
Clay Tubes brush along with the Standard and
Pinch brushes, and fnally the Infat brush comes
in handy to give volume. A couple of strokes
of a low intensity Flatten brush helps make the
scales look more angular (Fig.19).
To pose my character I use the Transpose
Master plugin (
downloadcenter/zplugins/) (Fig.20). Its simple
to use: just click the TPoseMesh button in the
plugin menu and it creates a low version of the
model with all SubTools merged together.
I use the usual masking and rotate technique
to make some pose changes here, and when
ready I press the TPose > SubTool button in the
Transpose Master menu to transfer changes
to the original model, including all SubTools.
Finally, I use a couple of strokes of the Infat and
Standard brushes to make the posed muscles
look much more natural (Fig.21).
Before I start painting, I change the material to
MatCap White. I also use a modifed FastShader
(Fig.22) and Flat Color materials to check the
look of my texture from time to time.
I dont like ZBrushs color selection too much,
so I prepare a couple of color palettes from
reptile photos in my paint program and load
them onto a ZBrush canvas using the Image
Plane plugin (
downloadcenter/zplugins/) (Fig.23). I can now
select colors from my palette just by clicking
on the ZBrush color selector and dragging it to
the right color in my palette on the canvas. You
could do the same thing with a photo rather than
a palette, to sample real colors from it.
Im now going to turn off ZAdd on my Standard
brush, turn RGB on, and fll the model with a
base color (Color > Fill Object). I add some color
page 65 Chapter 06
Manimal ZBrush Character Creation eBook Chapter 06 - Reptilian-Man
variation with the Color Spray stroke with a low
RGB intensity, with a couple of different alphas.
I continue painting with a very low RGB intensity
(around 3-6) with different color variations, trying
to make recessed parts of the model darker, and
adding small details with skin alphas and the
DragRect stroke. Finally, I use cavity masking to
select cracks between the scales and I fll them
with a dark, almost black color (still using a low
RGB intensity), just to make them more visible
(Fig.24 25).
For the fnal render I use Grant Warwicks
GW_SkinCore material as the base shader (free
to download with this tutorial simply click on
the Free Resources icon). Three versions of
basic materials are setup to show only specular
highlights with different specular curve settings
(Fig.26); white MatCap is used as an ambient
occlusion pass for compositing; and I make a
Flat Color render just to be safe (in case I need
to make some color corrections later).
I also use Alpha > Grab Doc to create a ZDepth
pass, plus a fat color render with the various
SubTools flled with different colors to use as a
mask in Photoshop (Fig.27).
I make some changes now to the standard light
settings (Fig.28) where I set Super Sample to 2
in the Render > Antialiasing menu. I then make
the fnal renders in double the resolution of the
fnal image, simply for better antialiasing.
And now its time for a little post-production
in Photoshop. The fnal refnement in your 2D
application of choice is one of most important
parts of creating a good image. My basic render
from ZBrush doesnt look too encouraging (Fig.
29), but then even the best Mental Ray renders
sometimes need some help from Photoshop!
So frst of all I create a new Photoshop
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Chapter 06 - Reptilian-Man Manimal ZBrush Character Creation eBook
document with all my ZBrush render passes
in it (Fig.30). I use my Flat Color render as a
clipping mask for all the other layers, so I apply
it over the background and use the Create
Clipping Mask function (Alt + Ctrl + G) for all
layers over it.
Now, with the clipping mask active for higher
layers, I can work on my background. I use a
low opacity brush to make a smoky looking
effect, a couple of low intensity color gradients,
along with a little use of the Blur and Smudge
tools, and its ready!
I can now take care of the reptilian fgure. I use
some different layer compositing options and
opacity values for my render passes: Color Burn
for my fat color pass, Overlay for my ambient
occlusion one, and Screen and Lighten for
different specular passes. I also use a Layer
Mask for some of the passes and make some
hand corrections to them. This part of the work
is mostly about experimentation with different
blending modes and opacity levels. I fnd that
using a couple of adjustment layers like Levels,
Hue/Saturation and Brightness/Contrast are also
particularly effective to help you get your desired
results (Fig.31).
To fnish the post-production work, Ive decided
to add a little drool effect to his mouth. I was a
bit too lazy to paint all the tiny highlights in his
saliva by hand, so I simply use a new layer with
couple of blending options like Drop Shadow,
Outer/Inner Glow, and Bevel and Emboss
(Fig.32). With these blending effects set I can
page 67 Chapter 06
Manimal ZBrush Character Creation eBook Chapter 06 - Reptilian-Man
paint drops of saliva with a simple black color, and the layer effects do the
rest of work for me (Fig.33)! I use the Screen blending mode for this layer,
and after fattening the image I use the Dodge Tool to emphasize the
highlights in the drool.
And here is the fnal composition (Fig.34).
Im pretty happy with how my fnal image has turned out. It may not be
photo realistic, but I like the results and what Ive achieved. This was my
frst work completely rendered in ZBrush (I normally use Mental Ray to
render) so I think it has come out pretty well for
a debut! I also had lots of fun working on it, so
I hope youve enjoyed this tutorial and that it
helps you to come up with something in ZBrush
that youre also proud of. Thanks for reading!
Tomasz Kwiecinski
For more from this artist contact them at:
In this series we will be working our way through the basic process of creating a creature bust, then taking
it to completion by the last chapter. We will be starting with a basic Zsphere base mesh that we will create
ourselves and well use this as our starting point for sculpturing and fnally adding texture to. The tutorial series
is split into 7 chapters so that we can take it at a beginners pace and cover as much ground as possible for
people totally new to Zbrush. (Plus youll end up with a fnished digital sculpt that will give you the confdence to
approach you own projects in a similar manner.)
Original Author: Ltd | Platform: ZBrush | Format: DOWNLOAD ONLY PDF | Pages: 52
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The original character of the Swordmaster
was created by Seong-wha Jeong and we
had 3DTotals in-house 3d artist Richard
Tilbury, re-create the character in 3dsmax
as well as create the textures in Photoshop,
in our new precise, step-by-step tutorial for
highly polished, low polygon game character
with detailed texturing for real-time render-
ing. We have also converted the tutorials into
Cinema 4D, Maya, Lightwave and Softimage
platforms. Even if you are not a user of one of
them, the principles should be easily followed
in nearly all other 3D applications.
The Swordmaster tutorials is spread over 8
Chapters which outline, in detail, the process
for creating the Swordmaster below are the
for more products in our range visit
Chapter 1: Modelling the Head
Chapter 2: Modelling the Torso
Chapter 3: Modelling the Arms & Legs
Chapter 4: Modelling the Clothing & Hair
Chapter 5: Modelling the Armour
Chapter 6: Mapping & Unwrapping
Chapter 7: Texturing the Skin & Body
Chapter 8: Texturing the Armour & Clothing
image by Seong-wha Jeong
Downloadable Tutorial EBook
The original character of the Swordmaster
was created by Seong-wha Jeong and we
had 3DTotals in-house 3d artist Richard
Tilbury, re-create the character in 3dsmax
as well as create the textures in Photoshop,
in our new precise, step-by-step tutorial for
highly polished, low polygon game character
with detailed texturing for real-time render-
ing. We have also converted the tutorials into
Cinema 4D, Maya, Lightwave and Softimage
platforms. Even if you are not a user of one of
them, the principles should be easily followed
in nearly all other 3D applications.
The Swordmaster tutorials is spread over 8
Chapters which outline, in detail, the process
for creating the Swordmaster below are the
for more products in our range visit
Chapter 1: Modelling the Head
Chapter 2: Modelling the Torso
Chapter 3: Modelling the Arms & Legs
Chapter 4: Modelling the Clothing & Hair
Chapter 5: Modelling the Armour
Chapter 6: Mapping & Unwrapping
Chapter 7: Texturing the Skin & Body
Chapter 8: Texturing the Armour & Clothing
image by Seong-wha Jeong
Downloadable Tutorial EBook
The series is split into 6 chapters and will endeavour to give you an insight into how a fully realised 3D scene
may be arrived at from beginning to end. The tutorials will attempt to address the key issues and techniques
appropriate in achieving this, from concept sketches through to building the 3D scene, mapping and
unwrapping, texturing and eventually to lighting and rendering, culminating in a fnal render. The emphasis over
the course of the series will be on the texturing and principally the aging and wear of materials.
Original Author: Ltd | Platform: 3ds max, Cinema 4d, LightWave, Maya and Softimage XSI
Format: DOWNLOAD ONLY PDF | Pages: 38+
Visit to see our full range of training products
Zbrush Character Creation is a comprehensive look at the techniques and tools used to sculpt a variety of
physical characteristics specifc to several character types. The lessons on offer show how to transform a
general base mesh into a defnitive character class and explains the tools used to not only create the details
and unique facial features, but also how to manipulate the overall proportions and head shapes. There are
nine chapters in all, fve of which cover the human condition and four of which cover creatures with human
characteristics including zombie, werewolf and Frankensteins monster.
Original Author: Ltd | Platform: ZBrush | Format: DOWNLOAD ONLY PDF | Pages: 091
Visit to see our full range of training products
Michel Rogers famous Joan of Arc
tutorial re-written for Maya by Taylor
Kingston, Cinema 4D by Giuseppe
Guglielmucci & Nikki Bartucci,
Lightwave by Vojislav Milanovich and
Softimage by Luciano Iurino and
If there has been one single tutorial
that has educated and inspired more
budding 3d artists than anything else,
this complete step by step project by
Michels must be it. The community
is in debt to him.
for more products in our range visit
These 120 plus page, Downloadable PDFs are
designed for ease of use to help beginners and
intermediate level of artist alike in the creation
of a female character. The tutorial takes you
through the process of modelling, texturing and
mapping to fnally adding bones.
Chapter 1: Modeling of the Body
- Body
Chapter 2: Modeling of the Head
- Head, Ear & Assembly
Chapter 3: Modeling of the Accessories
- The Sword & Armour Legs
Chapter 4: Modeling of the Accessories
- Armour Bust, Hair & Glove
Chapter 5: Modeling of the Accessories
- Accessories & UVW Mapping
Chapter 6: UVW Mapping
- Sword, Clothing, Armour & Body
Chapter 7: Texturing & Hair
- Eyes, Skin & Hair
Chapter 8: Bones & Skinning
- Bases, Hierarchy & Skinning



This e-book provides a detailed account of building, texturing and lighting the interior of a Gothic Church based
upon a concept painting. The ebook is available in fve different platforms. Chapter two however is dedicated to
creating a gargoyle in Zbrush the focal point in our scene. Here the author will start by creating a rough body
form using ZSpheres and move through the numerous sculpting phases and modeling the details for each part
of the character, highlighting the various brushes and tools used throughout.
Original Author: Ltd | Platforms: 3ds max, Cinema 4d, LightWave, Maya and Modo.
Format: DOWNLOAD ONLY PDF | Pages: 47+
Visit to see our full range of training products
The tutorial eBook will begin by creating and applying materials for the various parts of the car, such as glass,
chrome and tyres, as well as texturing some simple geometry that will make up a scene. It will then move onto
lighting where the focus will be on setting up a lighting rig and the various parameters connected to this. Finally
the series will culminate with a section on rendering, where the aim will be to fnish with a polished image.
Original Author: Ltd | Platform: 3ds max, Cinema 4d, LightWave, Maya and Softimage XSI
Format: DOWNLOAD ONLY PDF | Pages: 44+
Visit to see our full range of training products
This series of ZBrush tutorials orientates around speed and effciency and how to achieve detailed sculpts
within a few hours. Each of the ten chapters focuses on a different character topic ranging from mythical
creatures such as the Minotaur and Cyclops to Pirates and monsters. With over seven hours of video
footage and covering ninety seven pages this e-book provides an insight into the working methods of eleven
professional artists. Each individual showcases their particular approach to the subject and treats us to an
exhibition of both their artistic and technical skills that form the backbone of their creative process.
Original Author: Ltd | Platforms: ZBrush | Format: DOWNLOAD ONLY PDF | Pages: 97
Visit to see our full range of training products