Category Archives: 3-D Modeling

Learning ZBrush 4 – Morphs

UPDATE Feb. 2013: Victoria 4 and Michael 4 are no longer FREE  but DazStudio 4.5 is FREE.

This article will focus on morph creation in ZBrush from an existing model. For my examples I will be using

  1. The free models Victoria 4 and Michael 4 available for download from Daz3D,
  2. DazStudio 3 from,
  3. MorphLoader Pro from
  4. Silo available from Nevercenter and
  5. ZBrush 4 from Pixologic

ZBrush’s sculpting tools are confusingly called “3D brushes”. If no model is present the currently active 3D brush is grayed out. When a model is on the canvas, 3D brushes can be accessed in Edit mode either by pressing the currently active brush button or by typing the letter ‘B’. None of the brushes will add or remove topology. They will only expand or contract parts of the mesh thus making them perfect for morph creation.

Each of the models pictured above were made from Victoria 4 using a combination of the Standard brush, the Move brush, the Clay brush, the Planar Flatten Brush, the Smooth brush, the Transpose Brush and their variants.

Let us now focus on aging the Daz models using ZBrush. I have gotten my best results by exporting an OBJ file from DazStudio. Unlike Poser, DazStudio allows it’s users to export models at different sizes for the different 3D modeling programs. I always select the Silo setting (1 unit = 10 cm) and turn on bone welds so that I get a large model for detailing. The UV settings don’t matter for export to ZBrush since you will need to recreate those later if you plan on texturing your model. The rest of the settings can be left at their defaults.

As I mentioned in part 1 of this series, always set the Z-intensity to a low level and gradually increase it to develop subtle changes in your digital sculpture. Starting with the Standard brush, follow the main muscle groups of the face. Wrinkles tend to follow muscle groupings as pictured in the écorché (flayed) face to the left. The orbicular muscles of the mouth and eyes tend to have rounded wrinkles that follow those contours. Wrinkles on the sides tend to straighten out and follow the Zygomatic process (cheek bone). Make the chin and ears sag using the Move brush. The new Move Topolgical brush is excellent for collapsing the lips. To create crevices hold down the ALT button in combination with your selected brush to push into the model. This is useful for pushing in the cheeks for sunken-in look.  You can also switch from ZAdd to ZSub to get the same pushing-in effect.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with the different brushes to see what effect they will have. Try the Slash brush to make lines and the Clay brush to build up form. To make your brush strokes straighter, press L once to turn on lazy mouse. Pressing L again will turn lazy mouse off. Hold down the SHIFT key to go over and smooth your work. As you work, you may find it hard to add more detail into the existing DAZ model. This is good time to subdivide your model by pressing CTRL-D. This can also be changed in the Geometry palette by clicking on the DIVIDE button. Be careful about clicking the DEL Lower button. This will delete your lower subdivision level and make it impossible to import your morph. Once you have subdivided your model you can go down in subdivision levels by typing SHIFT-D and up in level by typing D. Remember you can always undo your strokes by hitting CTRL-Z.

For the final touches, combine Standard brush with one of the Alphas (preferably Alpha 58) to create random crevices in the mesh.

If you are satisfied with your morph, lower it to the lowest subdivision level with SHIFT-D or by moving the SDiv slider to 1 in the Geometry palette, then export it as an OBJ from the Tool palette. You can then use the MorphLoader Pro add-on for Daz Studio to apply your morph to your DAZ figure.

Remember to check “yes” for DazStudio Exported, “yes” for Used Bone Welds and “yes” for Reverse Deformations. Viola you have created your first morph using ZBrush.

Learning ZBrush 4 – Clearing the confusion

When I first used ZBrush, I found many things confusing. ZBrush doesn’t quite operate the same way as other 3D applications. Its a cross between a painting program and a 3D modeling program hence the name ZBrush; “Z” for depth and brush for painting. This series begins with things that might confuse the new user in the hope of clearing the confusion. I’ll try to avoid more advanced terminology until later in the series. Some of these tips will make more sense in my next article when we actually begin sculpting. I still think its important to keep these tips in mind before you begin.

1. Scale vs Zoom

Prior to ZBrush 4r8, ZBrush confused me initially because the button labeled zoom only increased the size of the draw window slightly. I discovered that to do real zooming, I should use the scale feature instead. Scaling is also essential for getting high resolution detail onto a model. Additionally, scaling an imported object file inside ZBrush will not affect the size of the exported object. No other 3D program I’ve used behaves this way. With ZBrush 4r8, Scale has been re-labelled as Zoom 3D.

2. New sculpts are ZTools (*.ZTL).

Once sculpting begins in ZBrush, the object being sculpted becomes a ZTool. Pressing ‘T’ on your keyboard or clicking the Edit button at the top will toggle a ZTool in and out of 3D and 2.5D mode. Switching a tool to 2.5D mode is called “Dropping to canvas”. Switching to 3D mode is referred to as “Picking up from Canvas”.

When a ZTool is in 3D mode it can be painted, rotated in 3 dimensions and sculpted. When it is in 2.5D mode the only change is that rotation is restricted to 2 dimensions. 2.5D mode allows photographic detail to be projected onto a model. ZBrush will retain this detail when the tool goes back to 3D mode. Another advantage is that high polygon models can easily be turned into background images thus lowering the overhead for a 3D render.

ZBrush 4 adds a new file format similar to ZTool called ZProject (*.ZPR) which stores render and material information along with the object.

3. Preserving UVs

If you plan to create textures in ZBrush, make certain that none of the object parts have overlapping UVs. Overlapping UVs result in streaked texture maps with paint from one part of the object ending up on a different part. Various tools can be used to separate the UVs into sections that fit on a single square. Silo would be good choice for this purpose. A free alternative is the UV Master plugin available on Pixologic’s plugin page. A free alternative is the UV Master Plugin now bundled with ZBrush.

4. Always lower brush intensity.

Always turn brush intensity to the lowest level and gradually increase it when sculpting or painting. This provides maximum control over the model being sculpted or painted and allows an artist to create more subtle details. RGB Intensity affects the strength or opacity of color brush strokes and Z Intensity controls the depth of sculptured brush strokes.

5. Paint and sculpt at hi-res; export the model at low-res

Always set the highest possible resolution when painting and sculpting. This will capture the most detail for your model in combination with scaling. Increasing resolution is also called subdivision. If you plan to use your model with programs other than ZBrush, you will have to export it is a low-res OBJ file. Most programs cannot handle the million plus polygons in ZBrush. To preserve your sculptured detail, you can export the detail as a normal map or a displacement map. This has been made easier in ZBrush 4 with the Multi-Map Exporter plugin.

6. Always turn on perspective.

This seems like a no-brainer but new users may miss the perspective button in ZBrush’s dense interface (its on the right-hand side underneath “AAHalf” and above “Floor”) . This tip is especially important when sculpting portraits for use in other 3D programs. Faces will look more rounded and stretched when viewed in perspective.

7. Use a drawing tablet.

ZBrush is designed for tablet use. A Mouse gives far less control over the brushes than a tablet. Wacom has a wide selection of drawing tablets.

8. Focal Shift controls the softness or hardness of a brush.

The cursor on ZBrush looks like two circles. The inner circle represents “focal shift” and the outer circle represents brush size. If the focal shift circle is close to the same size as the brush size circle, sharp edges will define the marks of the brush (hard brush). If the focal shift is small compared to the brush size, the brush will will be smoother and edges will be smudged (soft brush).

9. Use Clipping and Masking for hard surfaces and straight lines.

Masking allows an artist to freeze parts of a ZTool so that it is not affected by the sculpting and painting brushes. Clipping will “squish” the virtual clay of a ZTool to fit a particular shape, much like using a mold or cast with real clay. Masking has been part of ZBrush for some time but clipping is a new feature of ZBrush 4. For best results go to the highest resolution level in ZBrush when making hard surfaces and straight edges. Clipping and Masking can be used to create extremely complex shapes in conjunction with ZBrush’s new Shadow Box feature.

For more information on using the new ZBrush 4, look at Pixologic’s Tutorials and cannedmushrooms’s Tutorials both on YouTube.

Fixing Morphs with UVMapper Pro

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Category : 3-D Modeling

In a previous post I mentioned that vertex order was critical for creating successful morphs in Poser. Many 3d programs do not preserve vertex order leading to the garbled mess pictured above. There is a method for correcting errors like this using a program called UVMapper Professional.

In order for this to work you must keep a copy of both the original 3d object and the morphed version of the object. Additionally you cannot add any new vertexes or edges to the morph; it must have exactly the same number of vertexes as the original object.

  1. In UV Mapper Pro load your morphed object.
  2. Select Tools->Vertices->Reorder. In the file manager select the original object. Your morphed object will turn into a garbled mess if you are successful. If you are not successful you will need to create your morph from scratch. Problems are usually caused by having deleted or created vertices in your morph. Even adding back vertices after deleting them may result in a bad outcome. Be very careful when creating your morph.

  3. Save the new morph.
  4. Load the new morph into Poser. Voilà! You have changed your garbled morph into a proper morph.

From Poser to DazStudio: Displacement Maps

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Category : 3-D Modeling

Displacement Maps and Bump Maps add additional detail to a 3d digital object that is too difficult or time-consuming to sculpt. I have constructed a brief tutorial explaining how to get Poser style displacement maps to work with DazStudio 3. The product used in this example is my popular Wondrous Winter collection available under freebies. This tutorial assumes that you know how to load Poser content into DazStudio. If you don’t know how to do that, read this tutorial first.

Step 1: Load the Poser content containing the displacement maps or bump maps then switch to DazStudio’s render pane:

Step 2: On the “Surfaces” tab to the right, select one of the materials from the drop down menu:

Step 3: If you see a name under “Strength” instead of “None”, change the “Negative” value from 0.010 to -1.0:

Step 4: Change the “Positive” value from 0.010 to 1.0:

Step 5: Repeat steps 1 to 4 many times until ALL the materials have been converted.

Plains of Africa

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Category : 3-D Modeling

An image I made recently using Vue 7 Infinite. This image is a bit of stereotype complete with elephants and acacia tree but I was trying to create a calming wildlife poster. Click on the image to see a larger version. The final image is actually 72 in x 14.4 in. Prints available at deviantArt

5 More Tips for Making Poser Clothes

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Category : 3-D Modeling


…Or 5 More Things I wish I knew before wasting many hours doing the wrong things modeling Poser Clothes!

  1. Don’t use triangles in your mesh.
  2. Keep your meshes as straight as possible.
  3. Group your meshes as you model them.
  4. Use Multiple Threads in Poser for your renders.
  5. Be careful of exploding Morphs!

Continuing in the tradition of 10 tips for making poser clothes, here are 5 more helpful tips. There is some math involved but don’t worry, you won’t have to do any calculations!

1. Don’t use triangles in your mesh.

If you plan to use the clothes you have modeled in Poser’s Cloth Room, triangles will kill the simulation process. If you try sub-dividing a  triangle mesh using Nevercenter’s Silo (type ‘C’), the result will be a mesh with huge gaps; some polygons will be smooth while others fly hundreds of units away from your figure. There is  probably a mathematical reason for this; all manipulations in 3D Applications are based upon linear algebra. I suspect division by zero may be the culprit. At any rate, its best to avoid triangle meshes. Better to use meshes composed of quadrilaterals (4-sided shapes. e.g. squares, rectangles, trapezoids, and parallelograms).

2.Keep your meshes as straight as possible.
This tip makes a big difference in UV mapping. the closer to 90 degree (right) angles the mesh is, the easier it is to create a smooth UV Map over-top the mesh. The ideal mesh would consist entirely of rectangles. To create realistic looking folds it sometimes becomes necessary to violate this tip but try as much as possible to follow it.

3.Group your meshes as you model them.
What newbies often do is create clothing as a single object and then create groups for the abdomen, chest, etc. afterward. To save time and to ensure your clothes bend as naturally as possible, it is best to define the groups as you model them. Depending upon your modeler, you may be able to copy the exact locations of the body parts of your target figure (Victoria 4, Apollo Maximus, etc.).

4. Use Multiple Threads in Poser for your renders.
Splitting your render into separate threads will speed up rendering time. I also found it prevented a problem with crashing in Poser 7. The maximum number of threads you can use is 4 in Poser 7. I tried rendering a separate process but I found that actually slows things down. You can find these controls on a Mac under Poser 7 > Preferences > Render. On a PC, Edit > Preferences > Render.

5. Be careful of exploding Morphs!
This tip applies to all figures, not just clothes. When creating morphs, be careful which programs you use to create them. Edge order matters for morphs and some modelers will change the order of your edges resulting in the exploding mess shown at the start of this article. If you create morphs within Poser itself this is usually not an issue but Poser has limited morph creation tools. I use Nevercenter’s Silo for morph creation. This tool is extremely powerful for creating morphs, improving models made in other programs and making models from scratch.

10 Tips for Making Poser Clothes

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Category : 3-D Modeling

…Or 10 Things I wish I knew before wasting many hours doing the wrong things modeling Poser Clothes!

UPDATE February 2013: 
Download My Wondrous Winter Collection for Victoria 4 FOR FREE!


Follow these tips and you will save yourself a great deal of time. Below is a more detailed breakdown of what each of these things mean.

1. Backup Everything you create

Many-a-time I have been saved from destroying weeks-worth of work by retrieving a backup I made earlier. As a Unix Geek using a MAC, I have set up rsync and crontab for this purpose. The new Mac OS v10.5 eliminates the need for this hack. At any rate whatever your operating system, ALWAYS BACKUP!

2.There is an Easy Way to make MAT poses
Material or MAT Poses are convenient method for adding different color materials to clothes. The easiset way to make these files is by creating a material collection (in Poser 6 or 7 extention mc6) or a single material file (in Poser 5, 6 or 7 extention mt5) in Poser’s Material Room. Change one line in these files using a text editor (on my Mac I use XCode). For mt5 “actor $CURRENT” should be changed to “figure”. For mc6 “mtlCollection” should also be “figure”. Close the file and save it with the extension pz2. You’re done.

3. Remove IK (Inverse Kinematics) Chains from your clothes.
This tip will save you hassels when you apply MAT poses. I ran into a situation where every-time I applied a MAT pose it moved the clothing that I had applied it to. I couldn’t understand what was going on. I now know that IK Chains were to blame. IK is only really needed for giving realistic bends to figures. For conforming Clothes this isn’t necessary; the clothes bend with the figure. Read tip #5 to find out how to remove IK Chains.

4. Use Morph Manager.
Try as I might, there is no better tool for adding and removing morphs from poser figures than Morph Manager. On a Mac you can run Morph Manager using VMWare Fusion and a LEGAL copy of Windows.

5. The Hierarchy Editor is your friend.
I found the Hierarchy editor very useful for removing Full Body Morphs (this isn’t done so well by Morph Manager) and renaming parts of figures. At present you are stuck working one part at a time, which makes it less useful if you have to change say 50 morphs but it does work. To use the Hierarchy Editor, first switch to the Set-Up room. Then select Window -> Hierarchy Editor. Here you can delete IK Chains (Tip #3) or bones.

6. Don’t Fear the Set-Up Room.
The Set-Up Room allows you to adjust Joint parameters and re-assign parts of figures to new groups. You can even turn imported wavefront objects (*.OBJ) into figures using the Set-Up room. For anyone making Poser Clothes, this is the MOST useful feature of Poser. Learn to use it well.

7. Joint Parameters are important.
With some 3-D models, the joints are such that modeling clothes for them can be quite tricky. Victoria 4 has an issue regarding bending her legs near the hip (the unfortunately named “crotch issue”). Mastering Joint Parameters will prevent some of these issues.

8. Make your model at actual size.
You will thank yourself when it comes time to import your clothing into Poser. I use Shade 8 Which has a PoserFusion feature for Importing Poser Figures. I model my clothes around a figure in the correct size and location it should appear when it becomes finished Poser Clothing. I can then import it into Poser with all import options turned OFF.

9. UV maps will save you time.
Modeling clothes can be time consuming. Transparency Maps, Bump Maps and Displacement Maps can save time. For example, instead of creating the ribs in an a sweater, a bump map painted in Photoshop can give the impression of ribs in a sweater. UV Maps are basically fltatened out version of a model; like a map of the Globe flattened onto a sheet. UV Mapper is one inexpensive program that can be used to create UV Maps but there are many others (BodyPaint, Blender, ZBrush., etc.).

10. Learn to Use Python.
Without Python, I literally would not have time to sleep when creating 3-D Models. Python allows me to automate the creation of Full Body Morphs and Renders. I can sleep while the computer works. It’s a nice arrangement. Poser comes with a manual on Poser specific Python commands. You can also look at the following sites for ideas on how to use Python with Poser:

Mighty Morphin’ Mac

Category : 3-D Modeling

DazStudio from Daz Productions

When I first started creating my own 3-D Models, I found the most popular online resources — Morph Manager, UV Mapper Pro, and Cr2Editor — are all PC-Only. With patience and perseverance I discovered some alternatives to these programs that work on the Mac!

Shade is an excellent tool for building 3-D Models from scratch that is produced by E-Frontier and is available for both the Mac and the PC. 3-D objects are designed in Shade using splines, curves that can be re-shaped by moving a small set of control points; this is the same method used to create shapes in Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. In building my own models, I learned that Shade has UV Mapping capabilities equivalent to UV Mapper Pro. Although Shade has a steep learning curve, it is well worth the time and monetary investment.

DAZStudio created by DAZ Productions is quickly becoming a powerful alternative to Poser. The cost of entry is much less than Poser (DAZStudio is free) although it lacks some of the capabilities of Poser. There are many plug-ins available, some free and some for sale, that increase its functionality to the level of Poser. One very useful free plug-in to get for DAZStudio is Inj / Rem Export, a tool for creating Morph Injection files.

Xcode, Apple’s Development Program, is available on the OS X installer disc. This is the closest thing to a CR2 Editor available for the Mac. XCode won’t add extra-formating to a file unlike TextEdit. It is a powerful tool but it seems like a waste to use it for something as trivial as editing a text file.