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Crafting environments in ZBrush

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Date Added: 6th January 2015
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Tom Nemeth explains the processes involved in vegetation creation using ZBrush, 3ds Max and SpeedTree



As with any personal project I undertake, I was looking to do a piece that takes me out of my comfort zone and allows me to learn new software and techniques. I chose a jungle environment because it allowed me to learn more about creating vegetation, and to integrate ZBrush more in my environments. The render is based off a concept design for Uncharted by Eytan Zana, a terrific concept artist at Naughty Dog, who I am a big fan of.

The 2D concept


The first step was gathering as much reference as possible, and I kept supplementing that as I moved forward.

The next step was blocking everything out. I set up scale using a reference human figure, modeled basic shapes of the structural components and set up a camera to frame the environment. Having a camera straightaway ensured I didn't waste time modeling elements that wouldn't be seen.

Composing the scene

Once I was happy with my composition, I started sculpting out all the model blocks using ZBrush, beginning
with this piece.

Modeling individual pieces

It doesn't look like much yet, but I'll show how I sculpted this piece out to be the bottom right wall structure in my render. This is the same procedure I used on all my structural elements, and I made sure to sculpt out all sides of any element that would be repeated, so I could Instance it around, and Rotate and Mirror it to make it look unique.

To start I needed to make a brick pattern to project onto my walls. ZBrush comes with a handy InsertMultiMesh brush called ?Bricks', which I used to place various bricks onto a box shape.

Placing bricks onto the box

Once placed to my liking, I used the MRGBZGrabber tool to make a depth map, which ZBrush places under the
alphas menu.

Making a depth map

Then I reloaded my wall tool, subdivided it about 10 times with Smooth turned off for the first 5, and used Projection Master to place and drop the brick alpha onto each side. I added a layer to my tool before projecting so I could adjust the height of my bricks after I picked up the projection.

Projecting the brick alpha onto the wall

Now it was time to sculpt. I used the TrimCurve and ClipCurve brushes to cut away big chunks of wall, then I went in with the MalletFast and MalletFast2 brushes and started chipping away at it, much like taking a chisel to a cement block. This process left polygons pushed around every which way, so I made sure to run DynaMesh from time to time to retain an evenly distributed surface.

Demolishing the wall

continued on next page >

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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
Max on Tue, 07 July 2015 2:28am
Super awesome tut!! Thnx bro! It would be cool if you make another tut focused on just sculpting environment elements
Tom Nemeth on Wed, 28 January 2015 4:33am
Thank you JJ. Not sure exactly, but about 3 months of my spare time.
JJ Chalupnik on Fri, 16 January 2015 5:40pm
That is awesome! Thanks for posting your workflow. If you don't mind my asking, how long did this take you to produce?
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