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Image Credit: Jose Laurent Dury

ZBrush 3D Modeling and Painting Software Thrives Under Pressure

Image Credit: Alexey Kashpersky

Image Credit: Alexey Kashpersky

The pressure is on for 3D modeling tool Pixologic™ ZBrush® 4R6. ZBrush users are driving innovation in medicine, industrial design and the gaming industry. Creating a 3D image of a virus allows scientists to study its mutations. Designers use ZBrush to bring the next generation of sports car to life. Game designers continue to push their games to the edge of realism with ZBrush. Movies like Wreck-It-Ralph entertain millions thanks to ZBrush. All of these visionaries have something in common: they put away the mouse and digitally sculpted their visions using pressure sensitive pen tablets and pen displays. In fact, pressure sensitivity is integrated throughout ZBrush. When using ZBrush with a pressure-sensitive tablet, artists will experience a much faster workflow than using a mouse and changing settings with each stroke.

ZBrush enables users to create 3D imagery in a non-linear fashion using its advanced toolset of brushes, meshes, and other sculpting, texturing and rendering tools, facilitating the interaction of 3D models, 2D images and 2.5D Pixols. Using pressure sensitivity, users paint and sculpt by creating meshes with up to a billion polygons. More polygons means more detail and refinement. This realism is key to creating the next generation of things that make our lives more fun (think motorcycles that were previously only available in superhero movies) and that make our lives better such as renderings of the human heart for academic study.

Image Credit: Jose Laurent DuryJust like working with clay, a digital sculpture takes shape with the subtle nuances of pressure and natural painting techniques, applied with the Wacom stylus against the surface of the tablet. Wacom pen tablets such as the Intuos Pro and the Cintiq displays offer 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity and tilt recognition for advanced digital sculpting and painting.

ZBrush works with the pressure sensitivity of your Wacom tablet in several ways:


If you’re a sculptor or modeler, use pressure to “dig in” to a feature as you would dig into clay. Press into the tablet to push into the surface as if you were doing it with your thumbs; lighten up to remove less.

Z Intensity

Use your tablet to achieve natural-looking creature features using variations in Z intensity. Increase the pressure to create more pronounced features or use a light touch to add subtle lines, such as wrinkles.

Color Gradient and Intensity

Use variations in pressure to change the intensity of color (RGB intensity). Or find those perfect gradations of gray by adjusting the color settings to indicate light pressure means one color, and firm pressure means another color; use your pressure-sensitive tablet to find everything in between.

Brush Stroke

Change the size, mod, or imbed of your brush stroke by simply reducing or increasing the pressure.

Customize, Customize, Customize

ZBrush provides endless options for customizing the way your Wacom tablet responds to pressure, depending on your expertise. Change your settings in the Preferences menu under the Tablet section. There you can use the sliders to adjust the size, Z, and color sensitivity, as well as the imbed, color gradient, and lazy pressure.

In ZBrush, click the Brush Palette menu and change your settings using the endlessly customizable curve graph in the Tablet Pressure controls. Adjust the effect of tablet pressure on brush size, Z intensity, RGB intensity, brush mode, and brush imbed. Just remember to de-select “Use Global Settings” first.

Using the Wacom Tablet Properties, customize the buttons on your Wacom pen and tablet to do anything a mouse can do. The control, shift, and alt keys are indispensable in ZBrush. Map the buttons on your grip pen to these common functions and speed up your workflow.

Put the pressure on your creativity with 3D modeling and painting with ZBrush and a Wacom pen tablet. It could lead to an improvement for the masses, perhaps for our health, or for the sheer pleasure of bringing your design dreams to life.