What would you like to see in an open-source sculpting application

I’ve revisited the idea of an open-sourced version of zBrush (i.e. an application with the primary focus resting on sculpting), despite my failings at finding other people who are interested in starting it (I get it, you want to be circumspect about investment of any labour), and I think I’ve figured out a way of starting this. I’m working on saving up to hire some devs to get this project started. I figure, if I keep on paying for the development of an open-sourced application, at some point, people would feel a bit better investing into it (both financially to fund the development, and in volunteer work). This is a ways off, I still have to set up a savings account for it, so for know, while it is in a conceptual stage, I would like to hear suggestions.

What would you like to see in a sculpting application? How would you like the interface to feel? Are there any specific features you would be interested in? What do you like about zBrush, Blender, etc. and would like to see in this? What don’t you like about zBrush, Blender, etc. that you wouldn’t want to see in this? If you could influence the zBrush’s or Blender’s development in some way, how would you?

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Since you’re posting this on a Blender forum, I think it’s fair to also ask: what do YOU (@anon69729465) feel is lacking in Blender’s sculpting that prompts you to start a new app from scratch?


Okay, you got me on that one; that’s fair question :smile:

Like I say, I’d like an open-sourced program that focuses on sculpting in particular. I have a bunch of personal issues with how Blender sculpts (I don’t like dynotopo with it’s tris and fans, I’d rather a program uses quads; Blender doesn’t like handling a high vertex count which can be problematic for details and textures; etc.). Having said that, I already know what I would have changed. What I’m interested in is what other people want, the stuff that I don’t know.

How exactly is someone going to tell you what you don’t know if you don’t share the issues you do have?


I’m not entirely sure I understand what you’re asking me. You’re saying “how exactly is some going to tell me what I don’t know if I don’t share the issues I do have” kind of makes it sound like they are unable to give their give their opinion without me giving mine.

I’m trying to ask what people (them, not me) would like to see in a sculpting application (i.e. get other people’s point of view). I don’t understand why someone else is unable to tell me what they want without me saying what I want.

For clarity, when I said “the stuff I don’t know”, I was referring to other people’s opinions/wants/etc. I don’t know it, because I’m not them: I only know my own perspective.

How much money are you willing to spend to get the devs. you need? Good quality devs (who can create a high-performance experience with intuitive tools) are neither abundant nor cheap.

It’s one thing to made an app. that can push and pull geometry, but that is the easy part. The hard part is making an app. that can sculpt 20-100 million polygons in realtime with the help of a multires system. It’s even harder if the guy who wants to make it is not planning to plunk code down himself to get it started and make a proof of concept.

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@anon69729465, :wave: here are my two cents:

I use Blender and Zbrush for both, my private projects and professionally.

I recently find myself using Blender (with release of 2.8+) for sculpting quite frequently. So naturally I began asking myself similar questions. I came up with some things that I personally value in a 3D sculpting package.

  1. Lighting and real-time preview.

First thing that really became apparent is the superior feature of the new Blender - Eevee. Real-time preview of the object you are sculpting on. It makes the process of finding right shapes and details easier and faster. I am sure anybody, who ever sculpted a character and rendered it afterwards, had an experience of redoing some shapes and adjusting details, after putting the sculpt into the render scene. The process of sculpting enters a new phase of refinement according to a more realistic lighting.

  1. Modeling and retopo

The ability to edit mesh just by switching to the Edit Mode in Blender, makes sculpting process faster. There is no need of importing and exporting to a different 3d package (GoB is a beautiful thing, but it takes quite a second to setup).
manual retopo is not always a necessity, specially when there is not enough time. I find myself always switching back to Zremesher (+ Zremesherguides) as soon as I need to get a decent topology as fast as possible. Blender’s QuadriFlow is a solid step into the right direction.

  1. UI, Outliner

3D program basics, such as: proper outliner is some sort of metaphysics for Zbrush. It’s definitely no dis on Zbrush and this program is truly the best (in terms of having best sculpting tools) but we know about the “convenience” of Zbrush UI. Blender until recently was a struggle on it’s own in this regard. But now we have really powerful outliner. Nested folders, and the ability to quickly hide and unhide collections/groups, makes for a better and faster sculpting experience.

To summarize for me it’s almost more important having a good 3D package around the good sculpting tool set, than having that extra 97th brush for “nostrils”, (which you gonna use once, and that one time it is going to be by accident). Thanks! :slight_smile:


I’m just an amateur programmer; I’ve created some moderately simple decryption programs but I have no experience in setting up the skeleton of an application. It’d be a long while before I have the experience to develop something like this (I’m not majoring in CS or software development at the moment). I think I might still chip away at it as far as I can, but I still think it would be better to just hire someone more qualified.

Also, I’m willing to spend what money I need when I can. If I have to save up $10k to pay for a short period of development, I’m willing to stop after that, save up another $10k and pay for another short period of development.

It might be cheaper to just pay someone to work with Pablo on fixing Blender’s multires feature, as that is the largest of the remaining sore points in sculpting. 10K is actually not very much if you want a good quality developer who will stick around and maintain his code.


I don’t mean to demoralize you, @anon69729465, but I would kindly advise against this plan, because I’m afraid you’re facing a money pit that won’t end up being what you hope for.

It took Pixologic 20 years to get ZBrush where it is now. After about 10 years I think there was only Dynamesh, no ZRemesher, no ZModeler, and a bunch of 2.5D leftovers. Maybe ZSpheres had just been introduced.

About the same goes for Blender and any other major application. Real significance requires years and years of perseverance, reinventions, and lots of user and developer support.

Of course there’s Sculptris, but that’s also taken a number of years to reach the necessary level of completeness.

I second what @Ace_Dragon wrote: if you’ve got budget to spare, why not invest in Blender. Try to find a capable coder who can realize your sculpting desires, and pay him / her. The new features will be surrounded by all of Blender’s useful tools, and you will be much appreciated for your support by thousands of Blender users around the world.

I’m not worried about it being a flop. In all likeliness, it probably will be, but for the chance that it will work, I’m willing to go for it. Besides, it’s not exactly like I wouldn’t get anything from it. It would be going into the open-source community, so someone could probably adapt it for something, even if it wasn’t for what I intended.

The general consensus on why Blender will always be limited is that it is a general-purpose application. There IS NO open-source sculpting application (as in an application with sculpting as its primary purpose). I really doubt the devs are allowed to mess around with how Blender handles meshes just to optimize sculpting, even if it causes massive issues for animation and physics. I’d personally love it if Blender drastically increased the poly count, even if the physics stuff has to be scrapped and rewritten, but I don’t think everyone would agree. The project I hope to get running would be WAY behind Blender and zBrush but because of the specificity, it can at least progress in a more effective way.


Okay, I hope you’ll succeed.

Here’s some inspiration:


There is… Works on Windows, and ofc it’s open source… :wink:


I seem to get no end of negative criticism for the idea of an open-source sculpting program, which to me seems odd; I get that they are looking out for me and don’t want me to fail financially, but at some point it becomes kind of tiring to say “I’m still annoyed that there isn’t an open-source program for quickly sculpting in very high resolution” and “it’s not other people’s right to tell me how I should or shouldn’t invest my money and labour” repeatedly.

It’s REALLY means a lot to me that while you disagree with the idea, you still support me. Thank you so much :slight_smile:


This is extremely useful thank you :slight_smile:
I’d much rather it be desktop application that works across operating systems, but the algorithms themselves are all here. This could be a great point for starting it.

If you want to have a project, I would back away from calling it an alternative to Zbrush.

That is just too misleading and unrealistic. I think you should be asking what people would like for a very very basic, simple application that starts out as a sculpting app. That does not have a lot of tools just yet, but can do some basic simple sculpting.

Here is what I would want to see:

  1. Performance. Just any simple sculpt tool, one brush, and a blob of clay with a zillion polygons. That can also show some form of dynamic sculpting.
  2. A bedrock of a plan in place for a scalable development process. Have a look at the work of David Ikeda.

Read up on his approach to starting an application from scratch with good fundamental plans in place that allow the app to scale well as it develops.

If you could find a talented developer to do those two things above, you could then possibly apply for an Unreal Grant.

But you’d have to show something that really had the potential to grow and be something amazing.

I would not set your sights higher than that for now. And stop mentioning Zbrush if you want people to take you seriously.

Rather, you are simply looking to create a good solid scalable platform on which a high-end application could be built.

All of the other features needed in the future would have to be taken into account for this basic scalable plan.

My 2c.


Where’you looking for graphics programmers? Where have you looked till now? Donno whether these can help:



and maybe even www.pouet.net ? (demoscene website, read: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demoscene )

The OP decided to leave Blender Artists and asked for his account to be anonymizes.

Hahaha… of course. OP asks a question, doesn’t bother to put forth the effort to understand why he “always” gets negative feedback, and then cancels his account.

But to the person who made the suggestion. If this person is so set on a multi-platform open-source sculpting program and apparently supports or is willing to pay for it…

… considering Blender is already extremely multi-platform, extremely well-distributed, and honestly, especially these days, extremely advanced… it would be INCREDIBLE for the community if someone had such a burning desire for such a sculpting program that they were willing to pay to have someone develop what they want. Why start from scratch when you could pay for someone to get done for Blender Sculpting what could and should get done?

That would be such a boon to everybody is some good samaritan paid for that kind of directed development of feature addition in Blender sculpting. As far as I know, there is absolutely no fundamental reason that, on principle, Blender sculpting couldn’t one day possess all of the features of ZBrush IN the environment of a high-functioning general 3D package.

I just will never understand all of these people that come through places like these with some “pet idea” that they are really obsessively into, but then when they bring it up, they are completely unwilling and unable to digest the criticisms leveled at whatever the idea is, and then take into consideration the new ideas and new info and evolve the idea. They always end up being super offended and never recognize their naivete, despite the fact that people are usually just trying to be helpful in their criticism.

Anyway, that was a rant. The point is, if that guy really had 10-20k to finance a developer on a sculpting package, he absolutely would be helping himself and everybody else to pick the handful of features he is really looking for and paying somebody specifically to introduce it to Blender and work on getting it introduced into Main.

Because, frankly, you’d have to start Blender from scratch to have the potential that is needed with an alternative sculpting app. Blender in its current state could never evolve to that. Not without a complete rework of data handling. But Blender is not alone. No other app can do it either which is why it hasn’t been done and the only viable options are Zbrush, Mudbox and 3D Coat. No other 3D app has come close to these functions or ever will - likely.

So, while I think it would be fantastic if Blender was the first to break this mold, I don’t even agree money should be spent there. I really don’t. Nor do I think we should pump up the painting capability.

I think Blender should focus on 1) Performance and 2) Animation tools and 3) Dynamics.

Probably in that order.

Sculpting and painting is better first left to the apps that specialize in this. Then later when 1-3 are in much better shape, we start talking about other improvements.

I am glad that sculpting is getting attention for those who wan to sculpt in Blender. But I think for those who rely on other apps for this, we have higher standards. To meet those standards it would probably be a 5 year concentrated effort only on sculpting starting with a complete reboot of Blender from the ground up.