Thinking About Saving for zBrush, Want Clarification on a few Features Before Buy

Hey all, so I’m a dirt poor college student right now, and until recently I’ve been perfectly content solely using Blender for my sculpting needs. However as of now, I’ve been starting to feel somewhat limited by what Blender can do for the high-res end of the workflow. I just want some clarification on a couple zBrush features before I finally buy.
Worth noting I burnt up my trial period years ago.

Displacement Baking - Is it good? By that I mean, does it produce artifacts/seams? I’m bordering on insanity from trying to get a good bake out of xNormal/blender. Previous research I’ve done on the topic has mixed results. Some say it’s flawless, others say it’s unusable.

Layers - I hear you can use this to open a character’s mouth. So let’s say in Blender I create a couple shape keys of a character’s mouth open and closed. I export these as objs, import into zBrush and make them into layers. If I sculpt on one layer, will the other layer be updated? Or do both have to be separately sculpted on, and sculpting one layer has 0 effect on the other?

Thanks in advance!

As far as I remember Zbrush normal baking is pretty much click and forget, fast and unproblematic. But I also think you can do that in Blender without any artifacts. As for layers I don’t think that you can have that smooth transition between shape keys and Zbrush layer system. I am afraid that they won’t update, so you can’t sculpt posed character, which is a bummer. My information about Zbrush may be a little outdated, so you better wait for some more answers. Another option for you would be Zbrush Core, It is cheaper, but it lacks some pretty usefull tools…

Moved from “General Forums > Blender and CG Discussions” to “Support > Other Software”

In terms of any Blender and Xnormal problems and my limited experiances so far doing this workflow for Blender.

I’ve found Blender far better for bakeing out displacement from Zbrush meshes over Xnormal. But Xnormal very good for normal and colour maps.
You have to be careful in Blender of an objects scale while displacement map baking. This confused me at the start. If the map comes out very faint or just grey you need to scale the object up. At least just for the baking stage.

If you are looking to budget then Zbrush Core is a pretty good option. Especially used alongside Blender and Xnormal. You could try starting with that perhaps. See how it goes and upgrade to Zbrush full version in your own time.

If your goal is to work at a studio as a character artist, then knowing zbrush is an absolute must. In that case its worth the investment into something like Zbrush Core (either as a stand alone product, or the one bundled with the wacom 3D tablet…which is a better deal imo). Investing into the full version is not bad but it also might not be the best timing either. Zbrush 5 is on the horizon and we really do not know if they will be charging for that update this time around. It also isnt as cheap as it used to be.

Alternatively you have options such as Mud Box (which only $10/month), possibly free (non commercial) for students… as well as 3D Coat. The latter is good but won’t have all the features you are looking for.

You could also invest in some of the Blender plugins that improve the sculpting workflow a bit.

If getting a job and building a portfolio is your goal though, I’d definitely rank Zbrush as a “must learn” app at some point or fall back to Mudbox for an affordable alternative with the options you need while building up your portfolio.

Since the addition of bake cage blender can bake pretty well. You need to get use to its non user friendliness. Last time I checked displacement maps baked from Zbrush worked very well in Blender. I don’t know where you plan to use it but in blender they work out of the box.

About layers, Zbrush works like this > a project consists of subtools (zbr) > each subtool has its own sculpt history and layers > you can only work on 1 subtool at a time > to work on multiple parts at once they must be merged to a single subtool > each subtool technically can have around 25 M points (usually Zbrush explodes after 16 M points (vertices)).

So to do what you ask in your example you can export 2 obj’s from blender, one with open mouth and the other closed. Then open the original model (closed mouth) and import the altered model as a subtool (open mouth). Then selecting the original go to “Layer” panel and create a layer, when layer is RECORDING (it means it registers the strokes and changes on the model) you need to go to sub tool panel and project the altered model to the original.

Now what will happen is that when you move the strength slider in layers panel your model will morph to the open mouth version but since there is no record of the altered vertices relative to the original vertices your model will look broken.Any maps you bake while that layer is in effect will also be wrongly baked and broken.

To successfully do an open mouth closed mouth, zbrush needs to keep an index of vertices which have been changed, this can only be done by creating a new layer and making the changes by hand. So don’t expect to import different meshes and apply the changes, zbrush expects you do most sculpting and editing inside the program, it is tolerant for importing base meshes.

About using blenders shapekeys as layers, this can’t be done. Dynatopo will not support it because of technical impossibility; multi-res won’t support it because a system for this is not implemented. For demo purposes you can create a shapekey and fiddle with shapes in sculpt mode (non-multi-res / non-dynatopo — > mesh sculpting only)

My problem isn’t baking normal maps. Those work fine.

The problem is baking displacement maps. I capture details fine but get really nasty seams on the UV edges. I just want to know if zBrush generates seamless, high-quality displacement maps that capture every detail with 0 visible seams.

And for clarification: If I want to sculpt a mouth open and mouth closed I have to make the layers inside zBrush? Does sculpting one layer effect the other? <— preferably yes so I wouldn’t have to do twice the amount of work.

Also on zCore, I feel better about saving for the full version.

If you have layers you sculpt on one layer at a time.
Just use layers for the difference in sculpting required for an open and closed mouth. You don’t need to repeat the sculpt for each case.

You can use a layer to change the mesh at a low level which would affect any sculpting at a higher level (low level to open mouth for example)
For layer info see
Just try the trial version yourself and see if it does what you want it to do

Thank goodness! I’ve been looking for a solution to sculpting open and closed mouths. I like the idea of being able to make a sculpt look perfect in both positions!

I would love to try the trial… except I used it up years ago. D:
I do have access to zBrush on my school computers though so maybe one of these days I’ll go into the lab and conduct some R&D.

Thanks for the help!

ZBrush can create displacement maps but as with everything ZBrush you don’t get as many diverse settings as in other programs.

I was able to export displacements from ZBrush to a working condition into Maya and Modo. But if I hat to work with more meshes I’d probably still be looking for an easier solution and one with more settings and options. But I can’t tell you the details any more. It’s been a few months already and I forgot half of it again. Sorry.

The thing that creates your seams is probably not a baking problem, though. It’s the difference in smoothing UVs along the subdiv or not. You can usually set the way a 3D app treats UV when subSurfing a mesh. If your displacement isn’t smoothed then your material shouldn’t smooth your UVs, either.

Here’s a good tutorial:

There was another one really, REALLY in depth. But I can’t seem to find it any more.
Either way - if you go for displacement maps, also use at least 16Bit images. Better yet 32Bit. 8Bit cannot hold enough information and you might get really ugly artifacts for higher displacements.

Huh. Interesting about the smoothing UVs. Do you have a link that applies to Blender specifically?

As mentioned earlier, if you’re serious about working in CG, character design specifically, you’ll definitely want to have at least some intermediate ZB chops. I realize the price point isn’t quite as attractive as good ol’ Papa Blender, but if you can swing it, you won’t regret the investment. Again as someone else already mentioned, Core would be a good alternative until you can get the full blown app. Core will get more than halfway thru the ZB workflow.

Good luck. =]