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Design and create aliens in Zbrush

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Date Added: 17th March 2015
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Working on your next alien concept? Learn how to design and create alien creatures in ZBrush with this free eBook chapter...

Hello everybody, my name is Tudor Fat and within these pages I will describe the process I went through in order to make an alien character. I hope that you will enjoy it!


The idea for this tutorial was to make an alien character that is technologically advanced and has amazing abilities to make high number calculations. His race is not very strong from a physical point of view, so they have to manage in other ways.

I don't necessarily make a sketch before I make the model, although that's technically the "right" way to do it, because it is the best way to avoid getting stuck or heading in the wrong direction with your model. Instead I jump straight into ZBrush and play with the amazing tools.

I really enjoy the liberty that ZBrush provides. You can work freely and without hesitation or concerns about the mesh that you work on, so for this character I went directly to ZBrush to have fun with it. I really enjoy the exploration process and I find it to be very rewarding, at least in my case.


I started with a simple primitive PolySphere. Using this sphere I had the freedom to construct anything and just play with the form as I wished. I chose a basic material, made the base color black, and then turned down the Specular to 0 and the Diffuse to 0 so that I could see the silhouette better.

I searched for a form that I liked for the head for my character, and started pushing and pulling with the Move brush. After I'd made a few iterations just with a black color, I returned to white so I could see the shape that I had created. At this point the mesh did not concern me, only the shape and the volume. (Fig.01)


I looked for something that would inspire me; something that had visual potential. I had a vague idea in my head that needed to connect with something. After looking through the iterations I decided that I needed to explore a bit more, so I took all the meshes a step further.

The first thing I did was to apply DynaMesh (with Resolution set to 48 and Project turned on) to all the meshes. After that I used the Standard, Move, Spiral, Nudge and Fold brushes so that I could get some more interesting forms, and find what I am looking for (Fig.02).


After I had chosen the version that I liked best (first model Fig.02), I started to play with the volume and the shape of the head. I was still not satisfied with the model so I modified it a little bit more by making the horns more prominent and adding some more elements to the face.

When I was satisfied, I continued with the re-topology of the head. This was done very simply with the help of a ZSphere. I selected a ZSphere, added the head mesh to the Rigging menu and pressed Select Mesh. After that I pressed Edit Topology and started adding faces (Fig.03 ? 04).




Continuing with the body, I started thinking about the functions and how it would look, as well as the mobility and the proportions.

After deciding that my character was going to be an engineer, I wanted him to be supported by a gadget that would help him move from one point to another easily. But how would he control it ? with his mind or with his hands? That is when I decided to make him have four arms. He was going to have two big arms to hold things and do the heavy lifting, and two smaller arms that actually controlled some keyboards and the gadgets that he used.

So I grabbed a ZSphere and started to sketch out the body for my character, adding more ZSpheres and trying out different positions for the body and the hands. I tried not to add too many ZSpheres so the mesh would be cleaner and easier to work with. I find that the less ZSpheres there are, the better the mesh holds, and also the geometry doesn't need too much tweaking (Fig.05).


After the base mesh was done, I divided it and started to do some modeling, just so I could see the base form and where I needed to change the mesh or add more geometry. When I was satisfied with the body I brought it into 3D Studio Max so I could correct the topology of the hands and add some loops where it was needed.

Back in ZBrush, the first thing I did was to define my PolyGroups, so I could work more easily with the mesh. First, I used Group Visible on the whole model so there were no mistakes afterwards. By clicking and dragging the mouse and holding the Ctrl + Shift, I only left the parts that I wanted to group. I did this for the whole body (Fig.06).


For every part that I do, I really like to think about the functionality and try to incorporate it into the character. For me, every part and every piece on a character has to serve a role and have a purpose. Sure, it can be visually appealing, but can it move properly? Can they bend their hand or neck without looking weird?

When I was finished with the retouching of the body model, I started to add some definition to it, placing the main muscles, correcting some proportions and defining the volume so it would match the head. For this part I mainly used the Standard brush to add volume and definition to the surface and also the Clay brush, which is the best for building up the mesh and adding volume quickly and with precision (Fig.07).


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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
Jean-Luc on Tue, 17 March 2015 7:14pm
Thank you very much for this wonderful tutorial and insight into your workflow and creativity! :)
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