ZBrush Updated for 2D/3D Modeling, Texturing and Illustration

ZBrush is unusual in that it has been designed around a principle of circularity, with menus working together in a non-linear and mode-free manner. The objective is to allow users to easily have their work move between 3D models, 2D images and 2.5D Pixols. Users can thus sketch out a 2D or 3D concept and then take that idea all the way to completion. Realistic renders can be generated directly in ZBrush with lighting and atmospheric effects, or models can be prepared for 3D printing or used within other digital applications. Providing the ability to sculpt up to a billion polygons, ZBrush makes it possible to create very large and complex objects and images.

As an example of how ZBrush simplifies the process of modifying and controlling basic topology, its Polish sliders improve surfaces and make them cleaner, especially handy for hard surface models and product design objects. DynaMesh functionality does its best to retain as much as possible of a shape, while using a lower polygon count. Panel Loops are based on PolyGroups and can transform the selected model into individual panels with thickness. This can also extrude those panels from the surface with clean borders and bevels, for hard-edge sculpting. Dynamic Brush Size makes it possible for the brush size to dynamically change as the model moves closer or further away from the camera. This is said to be useful when sculpting items such as bolts, alpha patterns and scales. See-Through Mode makes the entire interface transparent, so that users can see open windows behind ZBrush. As an example, it's possible to use a browser to find a reference image and sculpt against it without needing to import it into ZBrush.

Then there's ZRemesher, which Pixologic describes as the "next evolution" in its automatic retropology solution. This sounds techy but is simply the process of reducing the polygon count of a high-resolution mesh without losing needed detail. This functionality is said to be able to help users save significant time in model creation, while allowing them to also add more polygons locally where needed. Since the list of this kind of thing with ZBrush is quite extensive, we won't go through it all here.

ZBrush 4R7 is a point release and is to be the final one within the 4 series before moving to ZBrush 5.0. Pixologic claims it's one of the most extensive releases of the 4 series, with the new ArrayMesh feature being a standout. It makes it easy to copy instances of an initial mesh by operating in real time as the content of the original mesh is edited. TransPose action lines can also be used to adjust placement and deform the mesh (along with its copies). 3D models inserted into the new NanoMesh system can be populated based on a specific ZModelerTarget, with the result then modified in real time by adding variations to instance scale, offset, angle and multiple alignment options. Another major new feature is the new ZModeler brush, which provides a set of polygonal modeling functions that make it possible to convert any shape it into everything from an environment to parts for an Insert Multi Mesh brush. Also new is 64-bit support; ZBridge, for connecting ZBrush with KeyShot5; an improved ZRemesher; and enhanced FBX import and export.

ZBrush 4R7 for Mac and Windows can be purchased for $795 on the Pixologic site.