What is ZBrush

ZBrush is a digital sculpting tool that combines 3D / 2.5D modelingtexturing and painting.

It uses a proprietary “pixol” technology which stores lighting, color, material, and depth information for all objects on the screen. The main difference between ZBrush and more traditional modeling packages is that it is more akin to sculpting.

Digital sculpting

ZBrush is used as a digital sculpting tool to create high-resolution models (up to ten million polygons) for use in movies, games, and animations. It is used by companies ranging from ILM to Electronic Arts. ZBrush uses dynamic levels of resolution to allow sculptors to make global or local changes to their models. ZBrush is most known for being able to sculpt medium to high frequency details that were traditionally painted in bump maps. The resulting mesh details can then be exported as normal maps to be used on a low poly version of that same model. They can also be exported as a displacement map, although in that case the lower poly version generally requires more resolution. Or, once completed, the 3D model can be projected to the background, becoming a 2.5D image (upon which further effects can be applied). Work can then begin on another 3D model which can be used in the same scene. This feature lets users work with extremely complicated scenes without heavy processor overhead.


ZBrush was created by the company Pixologic Inc, founded by Ofer Alon (also known by the alias “Pixolator”) and Jack Rimokh. The software was presented in 1999 at SIGGRAPH. The demo version 1.55 was released in 2002, and the version 3.1 was released in 2007. ZBrush 4 for Windows and Mac systems was announced on April 21, 2009 for an August release, but was later postponed. Version 3.5 was made available in September the same year, and includes some of the newer features initially intended for ZBrush 4. ZBrush latest version is 4R6P2.


Through GoZ (“Go ZBrush”), available in Version 4, ZBrush offers integration with Autodesk MayaAutodesk 3ds MaxCinema4D NewTek’s LightWave3D Smith Micros Poser pro, Daz 3d’s Daz Studio EIAS3D’s Electric Image Animation System and Modo.




3D Brushes

The initial ZBrush download comes with 30 3D sculpting brushes with more available for download. The brushes come with many attributes pertaining to them, including hardness, different stroke types, and alphas, which apply a shape to the stroke.


Polypainting allows ZBrush users to paint on an object’s surface without the need to first assign a texture map by adding color directly to the polygons.


Since ZBrush also gives the ability to sculpt in 2.5D, the ZBrush package comes with several brushes for sculpting in 2.5D. A pixol put down when sculpting or illustrating in 2.5D contain information on its own color, depth, material, position, and lighting information.


ZBrush also has a feature that is similar to skeletal animation in other 3D programs. The transpose feature allows a user to isolate a part of the model and pose it without the need of skeletal rigging.


Introduced in ZBrush 3.2 OSX, GoZ automates setting up shading networks for normal, displacement, and texture maps of the 3D models in GoZ-enabled applications. Upon sending the mesh back to ZBrush, GoZ will automatically remap the existing high-resolution details to the incoming mesh. GoZ will take care of operations such as correcting points & polygons order. The updated mesh is immediately ready for further detailing, map extractions, and transferring to any other GoZ-enabled application.

Best Preview Render

Also included is a full render suite known as Best Preview Render (or BPR). BPR allows use of full 360° environment maps to light your scene using HDRI images. BPR includes a new light manipulation system called LightCaps. With LightCaps, one can not only adjust how the lights in the scene are placed around the model, but also generate environments based on it for HDRI render later on, it also allows for material adjustments in a realtime visual context. Materials such as SSS are supported as are environmental and scan-line reflections.

BPR also includes a set of built in filters that can be used in realtime to create dramatic effects and corrections without even touch another photo-manipulation program.


Allows ZBrush to quickly generate a new model with uniform polygon distribution. Dynamesh is used to improve the topology of models and eliminate polygon stretching.


Fibermesh is a feature that allows users to grow polygon fibers out of their models. Fibermesh also allows users a new way to create various botanical items as well as a way to edit and manipulate large amounts of polygons at once with Groom brushes.


An automatic retopology system previously called QRemesher that creates new topology based on the original mesh. The new topology is generally more clean and uniform. This process can also be guided by the user to make the new topology follow curves in the model and retain more detail to specified areas.


ZSpheres allow a ZBrush user to create a base mesh with uniform topology and then convert it into a sculptable model. A ZSphere starts out with a simple sphere that the user can extract more Zspheres from until the basic shape of the desired model is created.