Painting textures with 2D tools using ZAppLink in ZBrush

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 12.28.24ZAppLink is a ZBrush feature that allows you to use 2D painting tools to paint the texture on a 3D object, as it’s seen in the workspace. Rather than exporting, editing and re-importing textures, drawing on awkwardly layed out UVs, or solely relying on 3D painting tools, you can simply frame your object and draw on it – with anything that supports the PSD file format.

This is different to using GoZ which relies on 3D features of a painting app (such as Photoshop Extended – which I don’t have). ZAppLink allows you to use other 2D tools in your pipeline such as SketchBook Pro, Manga Studio, Corel Painter and many others.

Here’s a quick guide on how to use ZAppLink in ZBrush 4R6.

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How to close a Vertex Object in Carrara

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To close a Vertex Object, first select the edges around the opening. In this example it’s a sphere with its top sliced off.

Now head over to Model – Fill Polygon. It’s equivalent to the Close function in Hexagon.

Empty Polygon on the other hand will remove the polygon, much like pressing the Delete key does (or Selection – Delete). The difference is that Empty Polygon leaves your selection intact, delete does not.

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How to navigate DAZ Studio on your Surface Pro

DAZ Studio Pro 4.6 runs perfectly fine on the Microsoft Surface Pro, however by default the stylus navigation isn’t working well: the pen is so sensitive that it has your scene spinning into al kinds of directions at the slightest touch on the navigation cube at the top right.

Other 3D applications are working fine with the default driver that is provided by Windows 8.1, only DAZ Studio appears to suffer from this problem.

To fix this, all we need to do is install the dedicated Wacom Feel IT driver. It will add an options menu to the Surface Pro, much like the one that comes as part of the driver for the Wacom Intuos tablets. The driver (and included utility) will allow you to map your stylus button, display a radial menu and – more importantly – improve pen accuracy across all your apps.

wacom

Once installed, restart your Surface Pro and navigate DAZ Studio beautifully.

Note that this driver is designed for tablets with Wacom Feel IT technology which includes Surface Pro 1 and 2. It will not work with the Surface Pro 3 due to its different (non-Wacom) digitizer.

You can download the driver here:

Creating UV Maps with UV Master in ZBrush

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UV Unwrapping with conventional tools takes all the fun out of 3D modelling – at least for me. Until I met the UV Master plugin for ZBrush. It can do in less than a second what would take me days in Hexagon or Carrara.

Here’s a quick guide on how to use UV Master in ZBrush 4R6.

Continue reading Creating UV Maps with UV Master in ZBrush

Creating Texture Maps in ZBrush

Import the OBJ file you’d like to create a texture for under Tool – Import. Drag it into the workspace while holding shift, then hit Edit to enter 3D mode.

Head over to Tool – Geometry and turn the subdivision level to 1. Texture maps should be created at the lowest subdivision level, even though your ZBrush objects will have a much larger polygon count. Don’t be alarmed when you see your object seemingly lose all its surface detail.

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Under Tool – UV Map, select a size for your texture map. Those are always square, so 1024 will create an image map of 1024×1024 pixels. The larger the map, the higher your surface resolution will be.

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Under Create you have several options with cryptic abbreviations. Hover over them to see less cryptic titles for those options, or press CTRL/CMD while hovering to see a more detailed explanation of what these options do.

You must choose one of these unwrapping options to create your texture map. Doing do will enable the Morph UV button which will show you an animation that transforms your object into the UV Map – one of the best features in ZBrush in my opinion. It shows you exactly how your object is unwrapped.

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This is just a preview, press Morph UV again to display your 3D object. You can choose other options here and see how those are unwrapped. Packed UV Tiles makes the most efficient use of space on your texture map.

Our object still shows no surface detail, so lets go back to Geometry and increase the subdivision level again to the highest point, just like it was when you started painting. This will show your textured 3D object again.

When you’re ready, head over to Tool – Texture Map. Pick what you’d like to create your map from. For texture maps select New From Polypaint. Note that these options will be greyed out if you haven’t chosen an unwrapping model in the previous step.

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You’ll see a small thumbnail of your map in the above palette. This is good news. Now head back over to Geometry and decrease the subdivision to 1 again – leaving your object textured.

You can even go ahead and delete the higher subdivisions, leaving you object slim and light – just what we want. Export your object (or tool as ZBrush calls it), and with the new OBJ file you’ll also find a new BMP file which is your texture map.

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Alternatively, if you don’t want to export your 3D object or you’re not a big fan of the BMP format, select Texture Map – Clone Texture to copy the map into the texture painting channel on the left hand side. From here you can export the texture as PSD or PNG file.

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How to use GoZ in ZBrush

GoZ (pronounced Go-Zeeh) is a bridge between ZBrush and other applications. This allows for easy mesh and texture sharing between ZBrush and Sculptris, Photoshop, Poser, Carrara, DAZ Studio and many others.

But how do we use it? Where is that magic button? And how do we select the target app? All will be revealed in this article.

Under Tool you’ll find the GoZ button in the first section at the top (it’s easy to miss):

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Just next to it you’ll find three options: All, Visible and R. Select either All or Visible to choose which objects will be sent via GoZ. This works with the current tool or a sub tool or a combination thereof. Nothing happens when you do, but ZBrush will remember it.

Click the GoZ button and a dialogue window appears. When you launch it for the first time ZBrush will search your hard drive for apps it knows, but it may get it wrong and say something like “Photoshop is not installed”. In which case, you can specify the paths to your apps under Preferences – GoZ.

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GoZ is a one-click operation to make it deliberately quick and easy to exchange data between two apps. Therefore, ZBrush will remember whatever app you’ve chosen last time and launch it automatically the next time you press that GoZ button.

This may not be what you want. To change your target app, simply press the R button in the palette – NOT the R Button on your keyboard, as the documentation makes you believe. I mean the little R next to the All and Visible buttons in the Tool menu.

Pick your target app, then hit GoZ and send your creation to another app instead.

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Your target app should launch automatically and may present you with a dialogue box to acknowledge the import (shown below is Poser Pro 2014).

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Note that to use GoZ with DAZ Studio and Carrara you need to install the relevant files from DAZ as they are not provided bundled with ZBrush:

How to fix “insufficient disk space” error for GoZ in ZBrush

I’ve encountered a problem last year that every time I tried to send something from ZBrush to another application via the GoZ plugin, my Mac gave an error message telling me I had “insufficient disk space”. With over 100GB left on my main drive this is a plain lie.

Turns out that there’s a permissions problem on the Mac platform which prevents ZBrush from using a shared folder with which it communicates data to the target app. Here’s how to fix this:

  • open Finder and navigate to Users/Shared/Pixologic
  • right-click and select Get Info, and a window will appear
  • at the bottom you’ll find the section about Sharing & Permissions:

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  • even though everything looks OK here, sub folders may have different ideas
  • click the paddock icon and enter your admin password
  • under everyone, change permissions to Read Only 
  • click the little gear icon and select Apply to enclosed items…
  • now change the same permissions back to Read and Write
  • and click the gear icon again and select Apply to enclosed items again

What we’re doing here is fording all permissions to be something else, then changing them back. It sounds weird and bizarre (like everything in ZBrush), but it will solve this nasty problem

Kudos to aurick who kindly told me this on ZBrush Central.

Changing the colours of the Popup Help in ZBrush

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ZBrush doesn’t have a User Manual in PDF form you can download and curl up with. Instead, it has an online version over here.

ZBrush also encourages us to use the integrated help which explains every feature of the app. All we have to do is press CTRL / CMD while hovering over an item in its extensive menu.

Trouble is, when I do this on my Mac, I can barely read anything – if at all. You’d expect that an $800 piece of software would at least WORK out of the box without extensive digging into how to make the friggin help show up. But of course that’s not how it works with ZBrush.

Lucky for us the entire UI is customisable (albeit a tad difficult to understand how), and thanks to MentalFrog’s suggestion I could tweak my ZBrush popup help from “totally irrelevant” to “actually usable”. Let me show you how.

Continue reading Changing the colours of the Popup Help in ZBrush

Navigating 3D Space in ZBrush

Much like a drawing programme, it is more or less required to use a Wacom tablet with ZBrush. Without one it doesn’t really make much sense. Like the rest of this weird piece of software, navigating around an object in 3D is completely different than in any other application.

My Wacom Intuos 4 is setup by default with the lower pen button as “right click” which is used in combination with a modifier key to navigate space. While right-clicking (and not touching the tablet)

  • move the pen to dolly around your object
  • hold CTRL/CMD to zoom
  • hold ALT/OPT to pan

There’s a LOCAL button on the right hand side. When active this will dolly around the entire object. When not active it will dolly around the polygon section you were last working on.

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Orthographic and Perspective Views

Just above the LOCAL button you’ll find a PERSP button. When inactive it will display your object orthographically (i.e. without foreshortening, meaning each side of a cube has the same length, and each side is parallel to the opposite):

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Activate PERSP to see the object with perspective foreshortening applied (i.e. things further away from the camera are smaller than the closer ones):

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You can choose how much of a distortion is applied by heading over to Draw – Angle of View. It’s akin to the combination of focal length and distance to he object. The default is 50, mine is currently set to 90:

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Other orthographic views are “straight on” views, such as left, right, top, bottom, etc. You can display those by holding down the SHIFT key, then moving to either edge of the monitor.

Note that for such views the object needs to be rotated accordingly already: you can’t look at the top of an object and shift straight to the bottom view. Rotate the object so that the bottom view is showing, then hit SHIFT and drag (while right clicking).

It sounds more complicated than it is in reality.

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Creating Motion Paths in Carrara

A Motion Path is a line in 3D space which an object can follow over time. Each path is specific to an object. This is useful for creating animations and is an alternative to keyframing motion.

In the above animation I’ve applied a Motion Path to the camera and made it fly through Greeble City. Where the camera points was done with standard keyframes – so you can use both in tandem.

Here’s how to setup a Motion Path.

With an object selected, head over to the Motion Tab and switch the top drop-down to Motion Path (the default is Keyframe).

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A notification will warn you that Carrara will do its best to convert existing keyframe animation data over to the Motion Path but it can’t make any promises. You can choose to skip that dialogue in the future (since there’s nothing you can do about it).

Notice a few new controls popping up. Those are path control tools much like in other parts of Carrara.

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Click with the Pen Tool to create new points and draw your path. Click and drag the Pen Tool to create Bezier Points on the fly to turn sharp edges into smooth round curves. I find it much easier to create a rough path first and then use the convert point tool (little white square) to turn standard points into Bezier points. Tip: dragging against the path when converting points shapes the curve in the right direction along the path.

The plus and minus signs add and remove points on the path respectively, and the little arrow at the bottom selects the entire path so you can move it. Use the standard selection tool to tweak individual points (big fat arrow).

 

Animating along a Motion Path

With your path created use your animation scrubber and position it at the end of your animation. Now head back to the Motion Path tab and drag the “Distance Along Path” slider all the way to the right. This will line up the end of your path with the end of your animation. Drag the scrubber and see your object move along the Motion Path. It’s magic!

You can of course position the scrubber at any point in your animation and line up that position with another position on the Motion Path. For example, half way through the animation your object may have only travelled 20% of the distance.

If you do, keyframes are created in the Sequencer. Those can be moved and tweaked, and they do obey tweeners too, making animation behaviour along a path extremely easy.