One of the most powerful features in ZBrush is the ability to use Subtools. The tips and tricks in this quick guide are very simple but make a world of difference once you start dealing with multiple objects in a project.
A few years ago when I picked up ZBrush and decided to seriously dedicate some time to learn it but I was a bit confused. (you can see more about my experience learning ZBrush here). I thought Subtools where the equivalent to layers in other software, I was even more confused when I realised there were other menus with layers.
Now, I feel more comfortable working with ZBrush and I recognise the power of subtools! I have also found (sometimes by mistake) a few little tricks to deal with them that I thought you might find useful.
First I’m just going to mention a couple of well-known shortcuts and chances are, that you are already using them. Like hitting “N” on your keyboard to bring up the pop-up subtool list.
This will only work if you have a minimum of 3 subtools
Turn polypaint ON/OFF for all subtools:
Clicking the little brush icon from a single subtool will turn ON or OFF polypaint. Hold Shift and click on the brush icon to turn on/off polypaint for all your subtools at once.
Use the UP and DOWN Arrows:
With the UP and DOWN arrows in your keyboard, you can quickly move through your subtool list. Hold Ctrl and press the up and down arrows to rearrange the order of the subtools.
Working with Dynamic Solo:
If you enable the “dynamic” mode at the top of the “Solo” switch (click on the little text at the top within the switch), ZBrush will hide all subtools except the current one, while you rotate, pan or zoom.
Frame Model by subtool:
This is probably one of my favourites. Although is not strictly related to subtools, I just included it here because I mostly use it when I have multiple subtools: if you press “f” on your keyboard, ZBrush will frame the model to fit in your canvas, and if you press “f” again it will frame the active subtool. Pressing “f” again will frame the whole model again, so you can cycle between framing the full model or just the active subtool. This is especially handy when Dynamic solo is enabledbecause you can quickly review you subtool on its own
Inactive Subtool Dimming:
Go to the preference palette and under the Edit sub-palette, there is a slider called Inactive Subtool Dimming, this slider controls how dark or bright the inactive subtools will be.
NOTE: You need to click somewhere in the canvas after changing the slider to make the changes effective.
This is probably not a deal breaker, but if you like to keep your subtools organized and sensibly named. You can use “_” instead of a space, but “Shift+” won’t create an underscore in ZBrush. To “fix” this, all you need to do is hold Shift+Alt and the hyphen/underscore key!
*Since ZBrush 4R8 this process has been simplified and you can just type “_” or ‘-” as you normally would in a text editor.