Fullscreen screenshot of ZBrush 4.0
|Stable release||4R5 / December, 2012|
|Operating system||Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X|
|Type||3D computer graphics|
ZBrush is a digital sculpting tool that combines 3D/2.5D modeling, texturing and painting. It uses a proprietary "pixol" technology (see below) which stores lighting, color, material, and depth information for all objects on the screen. The main difference between ZBrush and more traditional modeling packages is that it is more akin to sculpting.
ZBrush is used as a digital sculpting tool to create high-resolution models (up to ten million polygons) for use in movies, games, and animations. It is used by companies ranging from ILM to Electronic Arts. ZBrush uses dynamic levels of resolution to allow sculptors to make global or local changes to their models. ZBrush is most known for being able to sculpt medium to high frequency details that were traditionally painted in bump maps. The resulting mesh details can then be exported as normal maps to be used on a low poly version of that same model. They can also be exported as a displacement map, although in that case the lower poly version generally requires more resolution. Or, once completed, the 3D model can be projected to the background, becoming a 2.5D image (upon which further effects can be applied). Work can then begin on another 3D model which can be used in the same scene. This feature lets users work with extremely complicated scenes without heavy processor overhead.
ZBrush was created by the company Pixologic Inc, founded by Ofer Alon (also known by the alias "Pixolator") and Jack Rimokh. The software was presented in 1999 at SIGGRAPH. The demo version 1.55 was released in 2002, and the version 3.1 was released in 2007. ZBrush 4 for Windows and Mac systems was announced on April 21, 2009 for an August release, but was later postponed. Version 3.5 was made available in September the same year, and includes some of the newer features initially intended for ZBrush 4.
Like a pixel, each pixol contains information on X and Y position and color values. Additionally, it contains information on depth (or Z position), orientation and material. ZBrush related files store pixol information, but when these maps are exported (e.g., to JPEG or PNG formats) they are flattened and the pixol data is lost. This technique is similar in concept to a voxel, another kind of 3D pixel.
The initial ZBrush download comes with 30 3D sculpting brushes with more available for download. The brushes come with many attributes pertaining to them, including hardness, different stroke types, and alphas, which apply a shape to the stroke.
Polypainting allows ZBrush users to paint on an object's surface without the need to first assign a texture map.
Since ZBrush also gives the ability to sculpt in 2.5D, the ZBrush package comes with more than a few brushes for sculpting in 2.5D. A pixol put down when sculpting or illustrating in 2.5D contain information on its own color, depth, material, position, and lighting information.
ZBrush also has a feature that is similar to skeletal animation in other 3D programs. The transpose feature allows a user to isolate a part of the model and pose it without the need of skeletal rigging.
Probably one of the more unique features of ZBrush, ZSpheres allow a ZBrush user to create a base mesh with clean topology and then convert it into a sculpt-able model. A ZSphere starts out with a simple sphere that you can extract from until you have the basic shape of the model you want to sculpt on.
Introduced in ZBrush 3.2 OSX, GoZ automates setting up shading networks for normal, displacement, and texture maps of the 3D models in GoZ-enabled applications. Upon sending the mesh back to ZBrush, GoZ will automatically remap the existing high-resolution details to the incoming mesh. GoZ will take care of operations such as correcting points & polygons order. The updated mesh is immediately ready for further detailing, map extractions, and transferring to any other GoZ-enabled application.
Best Preview Render
Also included is a full render suite known as Best Preview Render (or BPR). BPR allows use of full 360° environment maps to light your scene using HDRI images. BPR includes a new and unique light manipulation system called LightCaps. With LightCaps, one can not only adjust how the lights in the scene are placed around the model, but also generate environments based on it for HDRI render later on, it also allows for material adjustments in a realtime visual context. Materials such as SSS are supported as are environmental and scan-line reflections.
BPR also includes a set of built in filters that can be used in realtime to create dramatic effects and corrections without even touch another photo-manipulation program.
New in Release 2, DynaMesh is a topological-free sculpting process. When sculpting with traditional techniques, polygons become stretched and difficult to work with. Now with a quick gesture, ZBrush will instantly generate a new sculpting-friendly model with uniform polygon distribution. This makes it possible for users to focus only on the visual aspects of their model, without worrying about its underlying geometry.
With the release of 4r2b, Zbrush pushed its toolbox even further by introducing fibermesh, a utility that allows users to grow polygon fibers out of their models. Fibermesh also allows users a new way to create various botanical items as well as a new way to edit and manipulate large amounts of polygons at once with the new Groom brushes.
See also 
- Skaven252. "ZBrushCentral - About the Nature of Pixols". Retrieved 2008-10-20.
- Pixolator. "ZBrushCentral - Announcing ZBrush". Retrieved 2009-04-21.
- Yetter, Matthew; Bushnell, Dave (2004). ZBrush 2 Practical Guide (electronic book).
- Lanier, Lee (2007). "Chapter 6. Texturing. Industry Tips: Rendering ZBrush Displacement Maps in Maya". Maya Professional Tips and Techniques (printed bookISBN 978-0-470-10740-9.). pp. 126–129.