Doing a ZBrush software review and it is a very different CAD program from anything else we have reviewed on WTFFF?! before. It’s a very different kind of a CAD program in general. This is really going to be really interesting for those of you that have been listening to our different reviews in our series of CAD software reviews.
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ZBrush Software Review
We have really been talking about the different software that is available of CAD programs where you are building geometry with primitives or by creating 2D shapes and extruding them or using parametric programs where you are entering in specific values. You can change the geometry by changing the values without having to move them. We are talking about programs, obviously we have talked about Rhinoceros, TinkerCAD, and all those different free software that are available. We talked about Onshape which was the big parametric one we have done so far.
They all I guess, I would be calling them, all the programs we reviewed thus far are a little more traditional CAD programs in that they are based in solid real geometry of some kind. And you are actually building things with tools and primitive geometry that already exists and combining them, subtracting them or whatever it is you are doing, or you are creating your own organic forms. But still it is with creating paths and extruding things, lofting things, you are dealing with things in terms of physics and geometry that is real, I guess. It is grounded in building blocks and I guess more engineering and engineering based at its foundation.
ZBrush is very different. ZBrush software is a program that is definitely what they call a sculpting solution, a digital sculpting solution. It is designed for the pursuit of art. As a designer, I really like that. I think there is a huge need for this kind of program out there. They are very successful already, have been around for a while, so clearly there is a need and a big user base for it. I think it is important to cover software like this because it really approaches creating CAD geometry very differently. It creates just as valid geometry and the same kind of geometry that can be used for 3D printing or for any purpose that you would use a 3D model for. It just goes by creating it an entirely different ways than any other program.
ZBrush software is a very complex program, much like a lot of these programs can be, and I think I would compare it to the level of complexity like a Photoshop type of program. They have just thousands of tools and features within that program. You can pretty much do anything with the pixel that you want to do. But most users only know a very small percentage of that. I use Photoshop all the time and I use maybe 5% of it, I would be surprised if it’s more than that. I am bringing in images, I am doing certain kinds of manipulation with them that I need to do. I am not a super incredible Photoshop artist. I am not creating amazing illustrations with it or altering photos tremendously, but I have things I need to use it for; it has some good tools within it. I use it for my purpose and that is great.
ZBrush is a very similar program in its level of complexity. There are just, there may be tens of thousands of tools within ZBrush software to be able to create different kinds of geometry to visualize it, to manipulate it, and we are going to go into what those are here. It is sculpting based. So if you are used to parametric modelers like Solid Works or ZBrush or Auto Desk Inventor or things like that, or if you are like me, I use Rhinoceros primarily.
ZBrush software is just an entirely different experience in process. Fortunately, they have a lot of ZBrush tutorials. They have a ZBrush tutorial for pretty much every different feature they have in their program. They call it something different, they call it the ZClassroom. They have a getting started video which is great, and it’s really a getting started course. These are free. Definitely, it doesn’t cost you anything to check them out.
ZBrush is from a company called Pixologic. Their logo is interesting, it is like they built the Amazon smile into their logo but the OLO is animated and it is like a character that has two eyes and a nose with a smile below. It reminds me of the Amazon smile. You’ve got a lot of different classes you can take for free to start to get in the program or even check it out and see if it is something you want to get into and to just to give you an idea of what ZBrush software can do. They have a getting started class, a digital sculpting and modelling class, texturing, posing and animation, this is another great feature of this program, rendering and plug ins – plug ins I like. This is why I like Rhinoceros a lot because the power of the program can be expanded by third party companies with plug ins to do things that a program doesn’t do natively. That to me speaks well for the company and the power of the platform.
ZBrush Software for Beginner Users
If I were new and starting out today looking and considering different CAD programs, ZBrush software is one that I would spend a lot of time and consider seriously. Here is why, I want you to think of ZBrush as a completely different kind of program in a sculpting sense. If you think about an artist that sculpts things in clay, what do they do? They start with a block of clay.
They start manipulating it, pushing and pulling it, spinning it maybe, adding to it, cutting away from it and creating whatever shape and form that they want, building more pieces onto it, creating surface textures that they need to create. ZBrush software in a very simple sense, is kind of that way. They have a tremendous amount of different tools to push and pull and add and create textures, it is seeing is really believing it.
Watch some of their getting started or featured videos even if before you watch their online classes. There are so many tools. What you are doing is sculpting a digital amount of material or blob of material, if you will, and manipulating that creating the shape you want. What has always disconcerted me a little bit as someone who has had CAD education that is rooted in actual geometry that you can actually measure and know what size you are creating something, even though those of you who have listened to WTFFF?! for a long time now that I am a designer. We are more on the art side of things than the engineering side of things. I definitely prefer creating things that are unique but also, my CAD education and experience has been based in the reality of dimensions and geometry. I want to be able to build at the end of the day what I do in the software. ZBrush software enables you to make something that doesn’t have a straight line on it anywhere. It is completely organic.
ZBrush is originally meant for creating much more organic forms. It is for creature creation or Hollywood or any kind of what they call in Hollywood CG, anything that is not actually real that you are filming and creating a character for animation and things. Cartoon characters these days are all creating this way and any kind of unreal creature object, alien, or whatever it may be in the movie industry or in the game industry in creating for video games and things, would be created more in this way where the actual dimensions are less important.
ZBrush software is really latched onto the artist community. It just gives you so many tools. I remember being at a trade show, I think it was in Burbank, California in 2015. ZBrush had a big booth and a demo where they had a bunch of experienced people not working for their company, but just people who use their software that were in different stations in this big trade show booth. There was a competition for creating different models and characters to 3D print samples of and seeing how quickly they could create complete creatures.
The people who are experienced in this can do it in 20 or 30 minutes to create incredibly detailed characters and have something ready to 3D print. You can get good at it and understand how it works. It doesn’t have to take a tremendous amount of time to create objects. It is a very different way of doing it.
ZBrush Software Program Updates and Purchase Price
ZBrush, like I said has been around for a while. They currently are on their release of the ZBrush version 4, release 7. It is called Z 4R7. They have announced that this is the last iteration of ZBrush 4 series before they move to ZBrush 5. One of the interesting things to ZBrush is the ZBrush price in terms of a CAD software. Probably a lot of you are iterated in that. We dealt with a lot of software that is free and some that are obviously paid.
ZBrush software is a paid program but it is not the worst, t is not the most expensive program out there. The single user license for Mac or Windows is $795. For $800 you get an incredibly powerful program. I know that when I talked to the people at the trade show last, they said that they don’t charge for upgrades. They have never charged for an upgrade yet.
Now, they also were careful to say that it doesn’t mean we never will in the future, but they didn’t have any plans to. I don’t know if that is going to change with R5 when they start getting to that. But at least the company has a great history of you buy it once if you bought it, ZBrush version 1 or 2, you have gotten free upgrades to the latest version all along the way. You don’t have to purchase anything. I really like that about it.
Like most programs, if you are a student and you are interested in the ZBrush software and you want a ZBrush student pricing, they also have that. They have an academic and educational license and they are kind of KG about it on the Pixologic website. They said that it exists and you can buy it at a discounted price if you are a student either as an individual single user license or as if you are an educational institution you want five or more sits and you want an academic licence volume of licences, you can get that. It is available.
They don’t really advertise the price on their website. You have to locate a retailer that resells their program and then they handle that. I don’t have the information for it today and what that cost is. In any case, it is available. If you want a trial of ZBrush, there is a ZBrush trial to be able to test drive the software, the full software with no restrictions of ZBrush are 4R7 for 45 days. You can download a free trial. They have within that free trial, they also have links to first time user tutorials, there is 12 videos that they have there. You definitely can get into this program and start playing and experimenting with it without forking over the $800 license fee. Check it all out. I highly recommend you to do that.
Features of ZBrush Software
Back to the program itself, there is really a tremendous amount of different features this has. One of the reasons I started first looking at ZBrush software for myself was because of how it deals with textures. I looked into it and I can actually import a model that I created in Rhinoceros or any other program. I can import a model I have created anywhere else and then bring it in and put a texture to it. This is something that I really wanted to do especially when it comes to 3D printing.
Those of us that print with FFF 3D printing, you have layer lines that are inherently a part of your models. I have noticed in certain other people’s designs very early on looking into this technology that you could really hide the layer lines easily if you had a really nice texture on the very surface. I think there are many of you engineers out there familiar with knurled surfaces.
If you ever got a sample from a MakerBot store or emailed them and have them send you a sample part, it would have sent you their nut and bolt that are actually a nut and bolt that are screwed together. The outside edge of the knot and bolt is a knurled surface. A knurled surface is a sort of a classic surface that has put on a lot of machine tool parts, knobs that you would turn with your fingers instead of like a wrench.
It is like a surface you can grip easily with your fingers. It is made of a diamond shape pointed surfaces. It is neat how they are manufactured in metal. You can model that in obviously in a CAD program and print it. When you print a textured surface, a highly textured surface like that, the layers just disappear in a 3D print. You hardly notice them.
Texturing is always been an interest to me. You can bring a model in to ZBrush software and then choose the right tool. There are many tools with applied textures and features. Some are more organic forms, others are more pattern forms. But you basically just paint it on the areas you want or onto the surfaces that you want it. It creates the three dimensional texture there which will print your model.
Texturing is something is in a way that I want to do and enhance a lot of my models that I am seriously into. Digital sculpting and modelling gives you a lot of other options too within ZBrush. One of this is with posing an animation. You ever created geometry and try to create a character in another program, and any other CAD program that is just creating geometry. You are creating static geometry. Meaning when you create the shape of the character and you are to like want to rotate part of its arm or leg or even people who have been modelling and doing a lot of these prosthetic where you are creating something that is articulated joints. Just like the joints in the fingers of your hand. If you model a hand in most CAD programs and then try to bend a finger, you have to create geometry in order to do that. Or you have to bend pieces and you got to have open areas in your geometry. You have to close up. It is a complicated thing to create organic forms that move.
This is one of the things that ZBrush software handles really well. It is very impressive. Even as you are creating a model, one of the ways they recommend it is creating kind of a scalable structure, a base structure. They have ways that you can just use a sphere shape and start pulling different directions what would be the bones in your fingers or different parts of your legs, your upper leg, and your lower leg, whatever.
You sort of create a wire frame or scalable structure for them to continue to add material to and keep modelling on top of that with the material that gets formed into a body of a person or a creature that becomes the different parts of the body that have the right shape and proportion and even service texture and everything.
What ZBrush software allows you to do, this program is so smart that when you build a model, you can isolate certain areas of it. You can highlight areas; you can hide portions of a model, portions of surfaces to work on others, if you are getting in tight areas. You can also move and manipulate what become the joints and different parts of arms, legs, hands, and fingers, whatever. You can move them and it doesn’t change the geometry.
If you are going to take a traditional program and you want to bend the last segment of your finger, and you bend it at the joint and then your geometry in a lot of cases would open it up. You have to break the geometry in order to move it, then you’ve got an open geometry that you have to close again. ZBrush doesn’t do that. ZBrush actually can bend it and the rest of the skin of the model if you will moves with it in a logical way that makes sense.
It is fascinating. You can watch this on some of their tutorial videos or tutorial classes or actually in their demo feature videos. You can see how it is just, the program is built in a smart way that is natural. You can take a model that you are creating of a creature, or an animal or whatever, and bend these joints. The skin around it will bend in a way that just makes sense. It stretches, it pulls, it gets thinner as you stretch some areas thicker than others. It really is in a more natural way. It is very impressive.
ZBrush Software and Textures
As I looked at ZBrush myself a couple years ago for the first time and again last year, I was thinking that this would be great for more organic forms. It would be great for doing textures that are realistic or any kind of patterns you would want to do on a surface of a model. But then I have issues with the fact that it is more pixel based than it is physically geometry based and how am I going to make accurate models that are going to be made to tolerance and parts that have to fit each other. I was having issues with that.
Thinking that when I am creating more rigid geometric parts that are for products that I am going to have to manufacture. I really should use a different kind of program, but to do some of the more artistic texturing in visual parts, I could use ZBrush. I think that is still true today.
But ZBrush has now created what they call ZModeler. They have recognized that they have the need to create more of the polygon modelling system for certain things that people create especially in long times in combination with more organic shapes they are creating. They have done this and are really taking a big leap forward beyond the organics that is really built upon.
It allows you to create hard surface models, architectural structures, and very detailed environments. It is trying to really bring both worlds together – the older hard surface modelling CAD programs of the past and where it all started with also the highly sculptural features of things. They got example of ZModeler modelling a drone and all the other hard parts and propellers and articulated arms and outer shell structures of a drone or even a truck and all sorts of different things, architectural details, all kinds of things.
They also have the benefit of being able to make all the organics. The creature creation and the things that people are doing with this in terms of sculpting, I don’t think you could do with any other CAD program that I have dealt with that starts from the hard geometry world, could ever create such detailed models of texture, surface, and things so easily. Now, ZBrush with the ZModeler, they have examples of a jet engine being modeled, and created all kinds of serious hard parts.
I haven’t experienced creating those myself because this is a complex program. I think this is the type of thing that will take you years to become proficient at it, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t create good models in the short term, in useful things I think you can as with any other CAD program. When you get started, you are going to be limited in what you do and it takes you a lot more time than someone who got hundreds and thousands of hours into it. This is a program you can spend thousands of hours on and still have not used and experienced all the different tools and capabilities that are available. Like a lot of other programs, there is probably about a dozen different ways to approach creating a model depending on your experience with the program or what exactly you need to do.
Final Thoughts on ZBrush Software
It is a complex program but there is a lot under the hood here. I think especially for a student, I would consider getting started in a program like ZBrush and experiencing it, go into ZBrush, download the trial for 45 days. I would do that and start experimenting. It is going to open up the world. Even if you are going to use another kind of a parametric modeller or a free form surface modeller.
I think this needs to be a tool in your tool box that you might use or a program like this. It is just so different. It has different capabilities. It is fantastic. Anyway, that ZBrush 4R7 has many different modules. They talk about within the program a rain mesh and a mesh ZModeler with Queue Mesh. These are all different subsets of features and functions within the whole process of creating a model. ZBrush calls it a work flow.
You can just start with some of it and learn and experience the others over time. It is a powerful tool and I don’t personally use it, like I said other than I considered it a few times for the textures. For $800, this is professional, even just being able to bringing your models in and create textures on them, that may be very well worth it to do. It is a powerful program. People that use it love it. It is more on the artistic side, but very cool and exciting. I like it because it is a different type of program to anything else that we talked about, and to our most people start to use for 3D printing. I think you are going to see more and more of it especially as we get into more character creation and things like that, that’s supposed to come out later this year, like that Mattel ThingMaker 3D printer.
I know they have their own software with primitives and things, but as kids get into stuff like that, they create their own models. This is quite an incredible powerful tool at the price. It is worth considering.
It is not a commercial for it, but nothing else like it. I have not experienced ZBrush software much as I’d like, I know this very high end system probably that other systems like Hollywood uses and have used for years because nothing else existed for them. They could do all these. But now at this level, this kind of powerful program is attainable and reachable to the entire desktop 3D printing community. To me, that is cheaper than a lot of 3D printers even though it is not free. It is very cool, powerful and worth considering. Check it out.
- ZBrush Software by Pixologic
- 3D Start Point Software Reviews
- ZBrush 4R7
- ZBrush Single User License
- ZBrush Free Trial
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