In this guide I’ll be covering some of the new additions to ZBrush 2019 that boost productivity.
In terms of productivity, ZBrush 2019 comes packed with awesome new additions. If you use ZBrush regularly, I’m sure you’ll notice the Universal Camera, the Subtools folders and the ZRemesher 3.
As part of the BETA testing team, I had the pleasure to play around with the new tools and updated features in ZBrush 2019. So, as I’ve done in the past couple of years, I put together this guide to introduce you to the exciting features of this year’s release as well as share some of my workflows and experience with the new ZBrush so that you can make the most out it!
There are so many things to talk about that this guide could get out of hand rather quickly, so I’ve divided it into two main categories (and two separate posts): Productivity Boost and Creative Boost.
Let’s start with the Universal Camera. This is a game changer for me and I’m sure it will be for any other concept artist. From the Draw Palette, you now have the universal camera turned on by default and it allows you to fine tune the focal length to match a camera in the real world.
The Horizontal and Vertical switches determines how is the focal length/field of view processed inside ZBrush. Horizontal will use the horizontal size of the sensor and the Vertical switch uses the vertical size of the sensor.
Obviously, changing the focal length will change the angle of view/field automatically.
Full disclaimer: I’m not a photographer. However I do like photography and I tend to play around with different cameras, so I’ll attempt to explain the focal length and crop factor in the way I understand it.
I’m going to use my Olympus OM-D E-M10 II to illustrate the different concepts.
The crop factor is essentially the concept you’ll find all digital cameras referring to the difference between the size of the ‘camera’s sensor’ and the traditional 35mm film. So if you have a DSLR camera that has a FULL FRAME, it means the sensor size is equivalent to the 35mm film (leaving the crop factor at 1 in ZBrush is the same as full frame).
So, looking at the manual of my camera I know that I have sensor of Four Thirds: 17.3mm x 13mm which is smaller than the 35mm full frame (the 35mm frame size is 35mm x 24mm).
I also have a ‘fast’ lens with a f1.8 (this is the aperture) and the a focal length of 25mm
In most cases you can google your camera and get the ratio for the crop factor, but if you can only find the size of your sensor, you can figure out the crop factor dividing the diagonal of the full frame (35mm) which is 43.27mm by the diagonal of your sensor (in my case 21.64mm).
To figure out the diagonal of the sensor we can use Pythagoras: c2 = a2 + b2. So in my case it will be: Diagonal2 = 17.3mm2 + 13mm2 which is the same as Diagonal = √(17.3mm2 + 13mm2 ).
But, if you can’t be bothered with the math, you can use this handy tool that will give you all the details you need: MM Calculator
And you might be asking yourself… ‘what do I need to know any of these’? – the answer is simple: You don’t have to. In most cases, you can play around with the values and from the Universal Camera settings and see what works for you. However, you might want to tweak the focal length and crop factor if, for example. you want to match the perspective of your 3D model with a background image taken with a specific camera.
So, having a rough idea of what the crop factor and the focal length are, we can match the ZBrush camera with the ‘real one’. In my case I, I found out that the crop factor of my camera is 2 and I took the background picture with a lens that has a focal length of 25mm:
Also, if we want to work with a full frame in ZBrush, then we can set the the Crop Factor to a value of ‘1’ and compensate with the focal length. In my case 50mm (25mm x 2 crop factor = 50mm).
Locking the camera view and the undos are a lifesaver!
Enabling this switch simply locks the view so you don’t change the angle of the camera accidentally when doing something that requires precision.
I found it very useful when play around with the filters and polypaint. Locking the camera allows me to paint certain elements of the composition based on what the camera is going to see.
We now have undo for the camera as well. Currently, there only 14 steps that you can go back, but really handy if you accidentally move the camera during a series of render passes.
Of course, we now have the ability to save different cameras and store them with the project. At the bottom of the Draw palette, you can use the Select camera button to choose any of the saved cameras. To Store a new one, all you have to do is rotate around the model to find the new angle, and click the ‘Store Cam’. Give it a name and it will no be part of the cameras of the project.
You can use the arrows to cycle through the different cameras you have saved, rename cameras and delete them as well.
Exporting the camera from ZBrush (as well as importing them) is the real deal I think. The Universal Camera introduction in this new version of ZBrush, allows you to export the camera to other applications.
If you use the ZBrush to Keyshot bridge, is as simple as enabling the keyshot to render and click BPR. In keyshot, you’ll now have the meshes you sent from ZBrush as well as a ZBrush camera.
This is absolutely fantastic because now you can create compositions using renders from BPR and keyshot, and the different passes will match perfectly.
Something to keep in mind is that Keyshot will keep the image size you determine or the default one. This means that if you send something from ZBrush to Keyshot, the camera angle will match perfectly but the size of the two rendered images (BPR and KEYSHOT) might not.
A simple workaround is to avoid having Keyshot as a maximized window, this should update the image the size in keyshot to match the document size from ZBrush
Another easy way to export or import cameras from ZBrush to another application is using the FBX Export-Import plugin. From this plugin (which should come with ZBrush by default), you can click on the Options button, and tell ZBrush if you want to export/import the cameras with the FBX file or JUST the cameras by turning the ‘Only’ switch on and off:
The next item in the productivity boost category would have to be Folders. This is something that a lot of people have been waiting for and I think it will drastically improve the way we organize and handle scenes in ZBrush.
There are the obvious benefits that you’ll get from organizing things in folders, and there are the hidden gems that you can do with the folders.
The obvious things are that you can click on create a new folder, and you can drag and drop subtools into them to organize the scene. You can also rename folders and you can arrange them as well and moving them up and down.
Some other obvious things are part of the menu of each folder. So if you click the cog icon, you’ll have access to various actions you can perform on each folder. As I mentioned the obvious ones, will be to Duplicate the entire folder for example.
You can also show or hide polypaint for all subtools within a folder, delete an entire folder or rename it… these are all pretty straightforward actions.
Then we have more interesting ones like Merge folder, which is exactly the same thing as the Merge button in the subtool palette, but it will only merge the subtools within the folder. This action is great because ZBrush will merge all the subtools and create a brand new subtool within eh current working tool and it will also keep all the originals in the folder.
This is exactly the same principle as the Boolean Folder operation. This, in my opinion, is the most powerful action, as it lets you run the boolean mesh operation within the current tool and only on the specified folder.
After clicking the boolean folder you’ll end up with the boolean mesh (with all the subtraction, intersection and additions) as a new subtool and keep all the ‘originals’ within the folder. This is a game changer in the workflow!
Other actions that are very useful are the Transpose Set, which will use the Gizmo 3D to move only the subtools in the selected folder.
You can select other folders with other subtools and use the Transpose Add and Transpose Sub to add or subtract subtools from the selection before moving parts on your model.
There are a couple of additional things that were added to ZBrush 2019 and are great to work with folders. The Visible count and the Repeat to folder button.
The visible count is just a slider at the top of the subtool list that lets you increase or decrease the size of the subtool list. I found myself tweaking this more often than what I expected… very handy.
The Repeat to folder, is just a button added at the bottom of the Deformation palette that you can use to repeat whatever action you apply to a folder. I’ve used this a few times and it is really useful but I think it can become a powerful tool for people creating custom Macros and automating certain processes.
And finally, if for some reason, you don’t like to have folders you can toggle this feature on and off from the Preference palette under the Interface > UI > Show SubTools Folder.
ZBrush 2019 comes with a brand new version of the ZRemesher. The almighty retopology tool!
This is, of course, a massive boost for productivity and it works like some kind of dark magic. The new ZRemesher 3.0 has an improved algorithm that remeshes your models with more accuracy and it lets you control things a bit better.
The most obvious improvement to the ZRemesher, is the way it handles retopology of hard-surface models. You now have control over how the edges and polygroup boundaries are processed to generate a very clean new topology that retains the volume and the hard edges.
Here is an example of the workflow so you can see the potential:
The model is just a quick test I created using booleans and Snapshot 3D, but all things considered, it is a pretty complex mesh with holes, sharpe edges, rounded angles, etc. Nevertheless, the ZRemesher 3 does an amazing job with just one click.
The legacy switch next to the ZRemesher button, allows you to run the process with the previous version of the ZRemesher. You might have a workflow that you have fine-tuned to work really well with that version of ZRemesher, so in that case, you could use the ‘legacy’ version.
I found that in some instances, the ‘Legacy’ version gives you better results (less n-gons for instance) for organic models.
Here is a list of the ZRemesher switches, what they do and how you can use them:
Freeze Border: this one basically retopologize the entire visible mesh while keeping the borders of the polygroups with the exact same number of points. Just keep in mind that with this switch on ZBrush tries to connect the ‘frozen number of points’ along the borders with the newly retopologize areas.
The best use I found for the FreezeBorder switch is to run the ZRemesher process when I have an isolated polygroup. If there is a polygroup that is giving you weird results, you can isolated and re-mesh it on its own:
Freeze Groups: with this switch enabled, Zremesher will retopologize each polygroup independently. That means that the resulting topology will have the same polygroups but the topology might be different within each of the polygroups. This might be handy if you want to prioritise the polygrouping of your current mesh.
Smooth Groups: This slider lets you control the smoothing of the polygroups border at the time or the remeshing. Smoothing the group’s borders is ideal to create a cleaner and sharper edge. This feature is directly related to the Keep Groups switch and for the most part, if you are creating hard surface objects with booleans or Snapshot 3D, you are probably going to get better results with smooth groups at ‘0’:
Similarly, if you have an object that doesn’t have well-defined polygroups (like a dynamesh sketch or sculptris pro doodle), then smoothing groups at a value of 1 is definitely your best option.
Keep Groups: This switch is not new, but the way it works with the new ZRemesher algorithm, is probably the most powerful setting. It allows you to keep each individual polygroup and their border. So you should be able to have an entire new (and clean) topology with the exact same grouping and borders as your original one… This is the one you should play around if you are interested in retopologizing hard-surface models automatically.
Keep Creases: This feature is something that you probably would only use if you have creased edges in your mesh. With this feature enabled, ZRemesher is going to keep those creased edges with the resulting mesh.
Detect edges: This one is another great addition that when enabled, tells the ZRemesher process to look for hard changes in the normals of the mesh, or in other words, the edges and try to preserve those in the resulting mesh. This is another setting that works really well with the Keep Groups switch when doing automatic retopology for hard surface models.
Keep in mind that this tool is an automatic process. Is very powerfull and in most cases it will give you what you expect. However, there are cases where things might look very weird regardless of which combination of settings you use. So here are some things that I found:
The most important thing is to get the polygrouping right. This means:
1. Checking for odd and loose polygroups and make them part of a larger group
2. Ensure there is no overlapping geometry especially around the borders of the resulting Boolean operation.
3. Define new polygroups if necessary based on normal direction
Also if you have a Dynamesh model with polygroups but the border is not very clean, you can use the Polish by Groups slider from the Deformation palette to refine and smooth the borders before you run the ZRemesher: