There should be an open-sourced version of ZBrush

I’m well aware that with the release of 2.8 and various sculpting tools, Blender can function as a decent sculpting program but I would not say it’s an open sourced equivalent of ZBrush because it is not actually intended as a sculpting program; it is a general 3D program that has sculpting capabilities, thus causing certain limitations. Given how many people who use Blender also use ZBrush for the modelling, unless modelling something fairly basic, this is obvious.

That’s one of the reasons I’m posting here; I want to get the idea out there and to try to get different programmers interested in such a prospect to connect with each other; I’ve looked on various forums and there doesn’t seem to be much discussion about the idea of one.

Edit: I did some thinking about the difficulty of creating a new program vs. the limitations of Blender’s core code and I think I’ve come up with a compromise. Make a derivative of Blender that functions like ZBrush. Blender’s code can’t just be tweaked for sculpting, if it would cause problems for other things, but if you just cut all the stuff unnecessary to sculpting out, you could develop the derivative as a sculpting program. You can fiddle with the core code to suit handling massive amounts of polys without worry of causing dependency issues for something like compositing or animation.

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There have been some open source sculpting programs over the years, but none are even close to the power of Zbrush. There is SculptGL that runs in the browser, for example.

You have to give Pixologic some credit. Even other commercial applications have difficulty staying competitive with Zbrush, Open Source would have an even more difficult time.


Sculptris had the potential to be one of the best open source projects like Blender, unfortunatly the guy who made it Tomas Pettersson sold it to Pixologic and they offered him a job, of course.

The thing with open source, it needs a smart person or a group of people who are willing to do the first steps and struggle at the beginning and get the project rolling then try to find funding and community support, it won’t be easy especially blender has sculpting too and it’s getting improved by Full-time Developers.

For another sculpting project to happen which shouldn’t try to expand to other discplines, it needs to be done outside of Blender Community in a way or maybe gets the blessing from Blender Foundation same as it happened with Godot, Armory when BGE was dropped.

Zbrush is very unique and was done by really smart people except for the UI and the interaction, if a smart developer starts making something like this and market it in a great way, I am sure not only open source community will support him but also those who use Zbrush too.


This means nothing. Remember, ZBrush began as a 2.5D paint program, then only later it evolved into a 3D sculpting tool. So we never know what will happen next. For now, blender seems to be the most promising in the open source world.

It also runs on PC by the way… With more active development, this can become a decent alternative… :slight_smile:


The Devs are talking about making a new data structure specific for Sculpting, so when you go to Sculpt mode your meshes get converted to something that are optimized for Sculpting than back to regular mesh when you exit Sculpt mode.
That , plus the fact you have a dedicated UI for Sculpt using workspaces.
I don’t think there will be allot of benefits to a dedicated application over that…

I don’t use Zbrush, would you mind explaining some things you find particularly profound about its usage so that I can understand? I’ve watched videos of professionals using it, and it doesn’t seem to have anything that blender doesn’t have.

I know the brush management is better, I would say the brush management in blender is ‘bad’, even by a low standard. Mostly because you have to “open menu” “open menu” “use dropdown” etc etc way too much for things as basic as switching between two or three brushes. I don’t even care what the excuse is, I already wrote a script to bind my brush changes because it’s so awful.

UX aside, is there anything really that great about it? I don’t see the appeal. However, since you love it so much I bet you could point out some things which you adore/can’t live without.

I agree, and this is what I hope to do: find other people who share this sentiment and who want to assist in getting the project rolling.

There are some really brilliant programmers who freely contribute to the Blender community; a collaboration is a good place to start this. As for marketing, I’d say use, 3D digital art forums, open source forums, etc. to start promoting it. At worst, it wouldn’t get enough attention to develop properly and even then, the Blender community could probably recycle bits of the incomplete code to use. At best, we could be looking at a good alternative for a program that holds a monopoly on digital sculpting.

I’ll explain some of the generally agreed upon benefits as best I can.

First, there’s the poly count. So far as I am aware, ZBrush can reach up to about a billion polygons on sculpt. Granted, it’s not guaranteed to be stable at that count and Pixologic encourages working at a low poly count, it still can get up to there. This is incredibly important in sculpting: you can use this to create extremely detailed normal maps and other brushes for ZBrush (for example, a skin texture). Blender doesn’t have this kind of capacity.

Secondly comes the tools. Since I don’t want to be prattling off about the specs and features of ZBrush all night, I’ll leave it up to you do do the research; look at quick tutorials on Youtube or the like. Look into ‘Lazy Mouse’, ‘Dynamesh’ (note, it’s quite different from dynotopo, and in my opinion, is a lot better for organic sculpting), ‘ZRemesher’, ‘ZSpheres’. I’ve heard some people argue that there are ways to sort of achieve similar effects as some of these, but the problem is that those methods take a lot of time and effort as opposed to a tool that can do it quick and easy. Even with these tools, sculpting can take a long time depending on the complexity. It’s impractical not to use these kinds of tools, especially if you have a lot of work, a deadline, or are busy in general.

I also want to point out that saying “UX aside” overlooks a critical point. The user experience is a vital part of this kind of software. When you are sculpting, you are trying to focus on your work; that’s the purpose of the program. If the UX is poor, any stalls, inconveniences, etc. are going to work against that purpose.

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The thing with Zbrush is that a lot of users only ever ‘scratch the surface’ of what it has to offer. They might bring a mesh in from a trad DCC program, sculpt some details, export it…

It’s only when you delve deeper into the program that you realise the incredible power that it has. It is an ever-evolving ecosystem of tools that all work seamlessly together in harmony for a completely non-linear and non-destructive workflow.

Yes, it has its quirks and seems weird to new users. Yes, it started as a strange 2.5D pixol painting program, and yes it does take some getting used to. I’ve been using it since version 1.52b :smiley: and has watched it evolve and grow over those years. It might not seem it today, but back then it absolutely blew peoples’ minds! Sub-D was still relatively new in the sense that it had become common - before that smooth representations of 3D models had to be stitched together from NURBS patches…

Zbrush ran multi-million meshes on shit 32-bit PCs with 2 slow cores and 2-4 gigs of RAM. Hard to explain to unless you’ve experienced it. :wink:

That was then, though. Times have changed. Tech moves on, but still ZB stands unrivaled. It’s hard to explain, really. You have to experience it, I suppose. If you haven’t used ZB then there’s no way to give you a comparison. One of the most amazing things about it is the seemingly endless flow of innovative new workflows(that ecosystem of tools working together in crazy new ways) that we see coming from many different artists. There are as many workflows as ZB power users.

There is simply no other program on the market that comes close to its capabilities. It is FAR more than just a sculpting tool.


Definitely blender doesn’t support this. My intuition as a programmer, after hearing that, is that you sculpt curves and then when you have to bring it down into a mesh it will define a step-size. That’s definitely something we could have in Blender and I would even make a volunteer effort to realize that goal (true curves)

lazy mouse is called “smooth stroke” in blender and we do it and it’s fine.
We also have Pablo’s new voxel remesher in 2.81, which is what I think dynamesh is (not exactly).

UX is a serious issue and basically the attitude of the developers is to argue and play word-games until the people stop commenting. Such as in the pivot-point vs origin debate; just pretend the other person is stupid to get out of having to change anything.

That leaves me with two choices, I can either live without it, or write the code myself. My usual fear is that even if I did write core code for Blender, the on-staff developers would argue with me or reject it, so I’m incredibly disinclined. For example, I would love to be able to transform by absolute distance, and not relative scale; and I don’t want to hear about how scale evenly means in proportion to the scale. I’d like to be able to roll edges toward a center point, like if you have faces on the tips of a crown and you want them all to point toward the center, right now you have to rotate them on Y by typing degrees, which is “OK”. I want to make transforms have an “Invert across axis” option, so you could rotate “Z” around the axis, where one side goes CCW and the other goes CW and they both move toward the apex equally. A bunch of random stuff like that, where I could see some jerk like (not naming names) sitting there and arguing about consistency and other bull1234 and playing word games instead of addressing the point.

Can you go into more detail? Other than the curves vs vertex points thing (which is huge but I think we’ve both understood it)

That’s what I’m hoping to change. I want to see other software with those kinds of capabilities.

Will a open-sourced ZBrush-like program ever rival ZBrush? Not likely, though, given how fast the butterfly effect can work, it’s difficult to predict where Pixologic will be a decade from now. Can an open-sourced program reach ZBrush’s current capabilities given enough time? Probably.

Talk about wet dreams. Does anyone even need to go that high?

Yes. Combined with UDIM displacement map baking this allows for ultimate detailing. See Kris Costa’s work.
However, texturingxyz workflow is very common now so it’s not AS important.

Zbrush is what it is because of the excellent performance, everything else is just a bonus. :wink:

As I said, it’s very hard to explain, but I’ll do my best. Apart from the actual features, it’s the way they all work so well together in a very non-linear/non-destructive way.

I won’t go into all the individual features as there are way too many to list so I’ll come at it from a workflow perspective:

High-end realistic characters/creatures - Dynamesh/SculptrisPro/Zremesher/multi-level sub-divs work together as a system for ultimate organic sculpting flexibility. Combined with sculpting layers, Zwrap plugin, and HDgeo/UDIM dispalcement baking there is no other environment to compete with this.

Concepting hard-surface/organics/bio-mechanics - ZB hard-surface tools have come a long way in the past few years and it is another case of how well all the tools work together.

There are so many workflows that I won’t even begin to explain. I know this all seems a bit vague, but you really should go and watch some of Michael Pavlovich’s YT streams to get an idea of what I mean, or some of the many Zsummit presentations.

Look to artists like Furio Tadeschi or Pablo Munoz or Keos Mason or any number of others. Go to Zbrushcentral and look through the breakdown threads.

I will even shamelessly plug one of my own Zbrushcentral top row breakdown threads from a few years back. :smile:

look at the date… this was done over 16 years ago - blender struggles to do it in 2019…

also done around ~2003 this video was the reason i bought zbrush back then! now imagine they have refined/fine tuned that over all those years - good look beating that ^^

and another video for the people who dont know what “hd geometry” is (the thing that allows you to reach up to a billion polygons)

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I’ve tried the voxel remesher, I think it needs a bit of tweaking for some stuff but I think it’s a huge step in the right direction. Also, it’s funny that you should mention Pablo, I actually messaged him on ArtStation inquiring about whether he would be interested in helping out in getting an open-sourced sculpting program started after his work on Blender. I haven’t heard back from him yet; from the looks of it, he rarely goes on his ArtStation account, since his last update was from about 3 months ago.

On that note:

Have you thought about working on an original program? If you are one of the programmers to start making this thing, you would have a say in what goes into it or not. As I’ve said before, I’m trying to promote the idea of a collaborative, open-sourced “ZBrush” (with a UI that won’t make you want to rip your hair out; it’d one-up Pixologic on that).

one google search later
ooooh, that is some sweet black magic. Half the sculpts I can’t even tell it’s cg.

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Yeah, this is the kind of stuff I think we should be able to do, but in an open-sourced program.

Funnily enough, the sculpting tools in Blender started off as a standalone software called sharpConstruct added through GSOC 2006: Announcement :slight_smile:

I couldn´t even find an English language wiki entry for it anymore, but here´s a Swedish edition with screenshots:

/your friendly internet archivist