Category Archives: 3D

My notes on 3D apps I use: ZBrush, Hexagon, DAZ Studio, Poser, Carrara and many others.

How to setup a Height Shader in Blender

While we were discussing how to generate a terrain in my previous post, the next question is of course how to we give our terrain different colour values depending on its height.

For example, at the very top of our terrain we may have snow covered mountains. Slightly further down we have yellowish rocks on the steep walls, followed by green grassy planes, and more earthy brown tones further down.

Blender does not have a specific heigh shader like Carrara does, but we can use a Texture Coordinate node, extracting the Z axis value from it and feeding that into a colour ramp node. The result is something like the render above.

Here’s what the Cycles shader looks like:

There are other approaches, and this does not cover how to give each height a distinct image texture, but perhaps we’ll cover how to do that in another article (when I figure out how it works).

How to scale two axis at the same time in Carrara

Sometimes we need to scale an object in two axis at the same time. Think of making a cylinder thinner rather than shorter at the same time, which would happen if we’d scale the whole cylinder. However, scaling the X and then the Y axis is cumbersome during modelling.

Carrara has such an option: hold down S to scale, then notice the off-centre white squares that appear on every axis. Click and drag one of them, and two axis will be scaled at the same time.

The principle is just like using the middle square to scale all three axis of the object.

Notice that this trick only works in the Vertex Modelling room, not the Assembly room.

Thousand thanks to Diomede who told me about this gem in the Carrara Forum.

How to generate terrains from heigh maps in Blender

Did you know that Blender can create fabulous terrains from nothing but a greyscale height map? Of course it can!

In this article I’ll show you how to do it step by step. Grab your height map, fire up Blender and let’s get started.

Continue reading How to generate terrains from heigh maps in Blender

How to apply textures in ZBrush

I was trying to import a texture into ZBrush from an object I had created and UV mapped in Blender. The above shows an example of such an object, looking all nice and dandy in Blender.

However, when I imported it into ZBrush (after figuring out how to do that), I was shocked to see how ZBrush displayed my texture. Take a look:

That’s neither funny nor necessary. I’ve tested the same principle in DAZ Studio, Carrara and Poser and they all played ball, displaying the texture without a hitch. Only Hexagon wanted the texture flipped vertically, but – just like Carrara – offered handy tick boxes as to which direction an imported texture needed to be mirrored.

Zbrush also has such an option, but it’s not next to where you select the texture.

In this article I’ll show you how to import and apply a texture in ZBrush, to an object that has been created and UV mapped in another application. Let’s do this step by step:

Continue reading How to apply textures in ZBrush

How to map a keyboard shortcut for Local View in Blender

I’ve just learned that Blender has a wonderfully helpful function called Local View. This will isolate a selection, zoom in on it, and hide all other items in the scene. Using Local View again will bring back all items as they were seen before.

Thanks to Darrin Lile for this tip!

We can execute Local View with the default keyboard shortcut “Numpad /” (the division operator on your numpad) – but of course that only works if you have a numpad. On my Windows system I have one, but sadly on my Mac and my laptop I do not.

In this article I’ll show you how to map this shortcut to another key. Let’s get started!

Continue reading How to map a keyboard shortcut for Local View in Blender

How to delete all keyframes of your animation in Poser and DAZ Studio

Sometimes you experiment with keyframe animations, but frequently things can go wrong and you want to start afresh. Like clearing the sheet of paper you were sketching on. How do we do that to a timeline?

Easy: even though there’s no magic button for it, it can be done using the same technique in both Poser and DAZ Studio. Let’s take a look how.


At the bottom of the interface, you’ll find your timeline controls. Notice the frame counter in the middle there.

This means we’re on frame 1 of a 30 frame animation. To clear all keyframes of all objects, set the second number to 1. This will shorten the animation and thereby remove all keyframes from the timeline.

When you’re finished, set the animation duration to the correct length again and keep working.

DAZ Studio

In DAZ Studio we can do the same thing as in Poser: shorten the animation to become only one frame long. This is done in the timeline pane, in the field that reads Total (at the bottom left usually):

Set the total field to 1, then save your scene and close DAZ Studio. When you re-open it and load your scene again, all keyframes will be gone.

I know it’s a hack, and there’s probably a script out there somewhere. If I find it I’ll post a link to it here.

How to select every other vertex in Blender

Hexagon had a really nice nth-selection tool (1 over n it was called). With it you could select every other vertex or edge or face, creating things like the star shaped pattern above. You’ll be pleased to hear that Blender can do this too!

Rather than select every other point though, Blender likes to deselect instead. Here’s how to do it:

  • enter Edit Mode
  • select a whole edge loop
  • head over to Select – Checker Deselect

Blender will deselect your vertices according to the options in the tool shelf (on the left):

Works with vertices, edges and faces. Go crazy!

How to run DAZ Studio on a remote machine via RDP

I’ve been playing with Windows Azure the other day, specifically to hire rendering machines. My idea was very simple: if I have a long animation to render, why not pay a nominal amount of cash, but have the result back within hours rather than days?

So I created a Windows VM, logged in from my Mac via RDP (Remote Desktop Connection), installed DAZ Studio and some content… but sadly I couldn’t start DAZ Studio. I remember having had this problem before on my home network, where I have a similar setup.

This happens because DAZ Studio needs OpenGL 1.3 or higher, and with an RDP connection, only OpenGL 1.1 is supported. Quite rightly so, DAZ Studio throws an error message and quits. However, the app works just fine via RDP, so how can we circumvent it closing prematurely? Continue reading How to run DAZ Studio on a remote machine via RDP

What is the /data/auto_adapted folder in DAZ Studio

I was setting up an animation on one system, then transferred the scene over to a more powerful rendering machine. Usually DAZ Studio 4.9 does a good job at installing required content automatically (thanks to DAZ Connect), but this time my scene showed up with several scary grey blocks instead of content.

In addition, I received a long list of missing files, all of which should have been in a folder called /data/auto_adapted.

What’s stored in that folder I was wondering? Of course this phenomenon – like most features of DAZ Studio – are completely undocumented and you have to hunt around like a detective on forums where other puzzled minds speculate.

Turns out that the auto_adapted folder is something in which DAZ Studio stores converted items, like anything that’s not installed as a native .dsf file. Specifically content made for Poser will be converted and stored here. This includes content sold before 2014, including prestigious Stonemason scenes like Urban Sprawl 2.

Should you come across a problem similar to mine, simply copy/merge the contents of the auto-adapted folder and paste it into that of your rendering machine. Should your second system not have such a folder, simply create one inside the data directory (within your DAZ Studio Library).

When you’re done, open the same scene again and everything should look spiffingly fantastic again.

Sadly I have not found a way to ask DAZ Studio to simply recreate the contents of this folder. This appears to happen only when old content is opened for the first time. Should I ever find a way to do this, I will update this article.

Getting started with ShadowBox in ZBrush

ShadowBox is an interesting feature with which we can create 3D geometry from three intersecting masks. Let’s see how to get started with it step by step in ZBrush 4R7.

Select any tool to begin, perhaps something that can serve as a starting point. I’ll use the Dog tool. To do this, hit the COMMA key to open the toolbar, select Tools, and then select Dog.ztl. Drag one dog out on your canvas, then enter Edit mode.

Now head over to the Geometry tab and open the ShadowBox option, then click on the box ShadowBox button. It should light up orange. This will replace your Dog tool with the ShadowBox tool.

Notice how the shape of the dog changes to something much less detailed. That’s because the dog is projected onto the walls of the ShadowBox, and as such, some details are lost. We can combat this to a certain extent by increasing the resolution slider next to the big ShadowBox button. I’ll leave mine at the default of 128 for now.

You can turn the ShadowBox off at any time, and as a result you’ll be left with a new 3D tool (the less-detailed dog in my case).

To modify the 3D geometry in the centre of the ShadowBox, use the mask tool to draw on any of the three sides (the mask tool is activated by holding down CTRL). This part probuablytakes a lot of practice and patience: I haven’t been able to come up with something sensible using ShadowBox. I hope you’re having better luck than me.

To clear the entire ShadowBox, simply drag outside of the box with the mask tool.