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.

unwrap

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

zbrush-popup

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).

motionpaths

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.

path-tools

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.

Navigating 3D Space on Microsoft Surface Pro

Photo Oct 04, 3 01 15 PM

Since I bought the Microsoft Touch Keyboard for my 1st Generation Surface Pro, 3D usage has become even better than before (I went for the purple one). Many functions have keyboard shortcuts that make life quicker and easier when it comes to navigating a scene in 3D Space.

Before I forget how this works, I thought I’d take some notes.

 

Hexagon

  • Hold down ALT while dragging the stylus onscreen to dolly the camera around the selected object.
  • Hold down ALT, press the stylus button and drag onscreen to pan left/right/top/bottom
  • Pinch with two fingers to zoom in and out

 

Carrara

All the above Hexagon controls will also work in Carrara, but we have a few extras at our disposal:

  • Hold down SPACE while dragging to pan
  • Hold down ALT + CTRL, then drag the stylus up and down to zoom in and out (just in case you don’t like touching the screen while you’re holding a pen).

 

Poser Pro

  • Hold down ALT while dragging the stylus onscreen to dolly the camera around the selected object (same as in Hexagon and Carrara).
  • Hold down ALT + CTRL to bank the camera
  • Hold down the SPACE bar while dragging to pan left/right/up/down
  • Hold down SPACE + CTRL to zoom in and out

For best results with Surface Pro and Wacom Tablets, make sure to enable Tablet Mode under Mouse Input in Preferences.

poser

Using the Physics Engine in Carrara

Carrara has a built-in physics engine which is very capable of calculating dynamic animations. Here’s how to setup a basic scene with physics.

Physics are already setup in every new scene with a default gravity. Feel free to change the Simulation Accuracy and Geometric Fidelity different results before messing with each single object. You can find these properties under Scene – Physics:

physics

All we have to do next is to make our objects participate in the engine and have Carrara calculate the physics. Select an object, then head over to Motion and change the drop down menu to Physics (it’s set to Keyframe by default).

Here you can change the starting behaviour of your object, but the defaults work well for a quick test. Repeat this setup for every object you’d like to participate.

physics2

To change the properties of an object (such as weight, bounciness, etc) head over to the Effects tab and look for a section called Phisical Properties. There are some materials to choose from (such as Clay, Ice, Metal, etc) or you can create your own based on Density, Bounce and Friction.

physics4

Animate this thing

Once setup, decide how long you’d like the simulation to be and adjust your animation duration accordingly. The default is 4 seconds, but you may be interested in events that happen beyond that. Simply drag the little yellow triangle in the timeline to change the duration.

Now we need to ask Carrara to Simulate Physics by pressing that “bone dipped in sauce” icon on the far left side in the top bar, next to the greyed out hand icon. You need to do this every time you make a change to the scene or the objects that participate in the physics engine.

physics3

Either move your timeline scrubber to a desired frame, or render the animation out.

Using IBL and HDRI in Carrara

Coronet

To use IBL (Image Based Lighting) in Carrara we need an HDRI map (High Dynamic Rage Image). Using this technique your scene is not illuminated by light sources but rather by a weird looking image. This concept is known as Global Illumination and the results can be stunning (see above).

Several HDRI maps ship with Carrara, albeit buried deep inside the installation. I’ll show you how to hunt them down and how to use them in your scene.

 

Setting up the scene for use with HDRI

For those HDRI maps to work we need to prepare a few things in our scene. First we need to select the Scene (under Instances) and head over to atmosphere. IBL will only work with either a Sky or a Realistic Sky. Let’s select either of those options and configure them to your liking.

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Under Background we need to add our HDRI map and configure its intensity (Background is just below Atmosphere in the same section):

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Hunting down those HDRI maps

On Mac OS X the files we’re looking for are inside the App Bundle. Searching for them with Finder will not reveal them. Instead, open Finder and navigate to the actual Carrara app – mine is in Applications/DAZ 3D/Carrara 8.5 64-bit/Carrara.app

Once selected, right-click and choose “Show Package Contents”. A new Finder window opens, revealing yet more folders. Navigate to Contents/MacOS/Scenes/Global Illumination and you’ll find the following (among other things):

  • DoschHDRI.hdr
  • hdri-20_color.hdr
  • hdri-25_color W.hdr
  • snowfield2_color_small.hdr

Copy them somewhere that makes them easier accessible next time you want to use them.

On Windows it’s less complicated: the Scenes folder is inside the Carrara folder. On my system that’s  C:/Program Files/DAZ 3D/Carrara8.5/Scenes/Global Illumination

 

Render Settings

Over in the Render Room we’ll need to tell Carrara that we want to use Global Illumination. In the Rendering tab, find the Global Illumination section and select Sky Light, and optionally Indirect Light.

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You also have a choice between Full Indirect Light and Ambient Occlusion, the latter will make for speedier renders with slightly softer shadows, the former will present very accurate results but takes a little longer to render.

Now go and globally illuminate something!

How to remove empty folders from your Poser Library

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In Poser we have the ability to add and remove entire runtimes, save new items to those, delete them if and when we like, and we can also create folders inside our runtimes. We can remove items, but it seems we can’t remove folders – not even if they’re empty. This can get messy.

According to this thread, SmithMicro made the decision not to include this option via the GUI because it would mean a potential plethora of “are you sure” dialogues when non-essential files need to be deleted. Instead they’ve left this to the OS tools like Finder and Windows Explorer.

How then can we delete folders manually? How do we even know where that folder is buried deep inside the runtime structure? The answer is: the Extended Details Panel. It can show us the exact path which we can hunt for, or even copy and paste into command line tools.

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To bring it up, take a look underneath the library panel. Just under the “Folder Plus” icon there’s something like a handle to drag the size of the panel, the one that looks like some decoration. Turns out it can bring up a menu when you click it! Who would have thought? Worst UI design ever.

Click it and navigate to Display, then check the tick box labelled Extended Details Panel. When enabled this will show the full path to the selected item (the one in blue), giving you a clue where a folder is buried.

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Armed with this knowledge we can now hunt to the location, remove desired items and then click the little refresh icon to make those changes show up in Poser.

To take it one step further, we can highlight and copy this path, then open Terminal (or the Command Prompt), and issue a shell command that will delete said folder. On Mac we can use rm (as in remove):

rm -rf 'pasted/path/here'

and on Windows we can use del or erase:

del 'pasted/path/here' /Q

Note the ‘single quotes’ enclosing that path, this will alleviate problems if folders contain spaces.

Keep those runtimes tidy!