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Know the Basics: ZBrush – part six: ZBrush lighting and materials

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Date Added: 22nd February 2017
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3D art director Gregory Stoffel continues the Know the Basics: ZBrush series by looking at the lighting and materials options native to ZBrush...


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Previous tutorials

Know the Basics: ZBrush - part one: Modeling
Know the Basics: ZBrush - part two: Texturing
Know the Basics: ZBrush - part three: Posing
Know the Basics: ZBrush - part four: FiberMesh and UVs
Know the Basics: ZBrush - part five: KeyShot lighting and materials

Even though I have rendered the final image of Mer-Man using KeyShot, we are going to use this model, which has been created entirely in ZBrush, for this tutorial. The tutorial will cover the basics of applying and modifying materials to your model, and create a lighting setup with simple lights, and finally an overview of the LightCaps.

Step 1: Material Palettes

The Material menu found on the top is where you will find your materials library and all the settings to modify them.

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Open the Material menu

Step 2: Enabled the Material Channel button

To apply a material to your model, you have to make sure to enable the Material Channel button. Make sure also to disable the Zadd or Zsub buttons so you won't sculpt your model while painting the material.

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Enable the M channel and disable the Zadd and Zsub

Step 3: Choose and paint your material

Click on the first box of the Material palette and choose the material you want to paint from the library. You can see 2 different kind of materials : the MatCaps and the Standard Materials. The MatCaps have lighting information plugged in while the Standard ones don't. This factor will be important in the lighting and rendering stage as the MatCaps material cannot have their lighting change unless you modify the MatCap. The Standard Materials don't have lighting information plugged in and can be modify by the scene lighting. After selecting the material, you can now paint it on your model (make sure only the M channel button is enabled).

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Choose your material and apply it to your model

Step 4: Ways to apply your material

As for the polypainting, you can use any brushes with different Strokes and Alphas to apply your selected material. You can also mask part of your model or apply the material by Polygroup as you would do to paint the texture. If you want to apply the material on the entire SubTool at once, with the M channel button enabled, press the Fill Object button in the Color palette.

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Different ways to apply your material

Step 5: Material parameters

Open the sub-menu Modifiers to be able to access the parameters of your selected material. All materials don't have the same parameters available. Some materials might also have multiple channel indicated by the S1, S2, S3, and S4 buttons. You will find parameters in each of these channels for you to modify. You can also turn them on or off by clicking the little circle on the top left corner of the channel button. In the Mixer menu below, you will find some more parameters (Ex: SSS slider) for some materials.

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Materials modifiers and Mixer menu

Step 6: Lighting basic

Let's see how to set up a simple lighting in your scene by opening the Light palette. Here, you can see that one light is currently in the scene, and its basic parameters can be found under it (Color, Intensity, Ambient and Distance).

To add another light, you simply click on grayed light bulb. You can, then, modify the parameters of each light by selecting them. Click again on the selected light bulb to turn it off. Move the position of the light my sliding the red dot on the sphere in the preview window. To position the light behind the model, double-click on the red spot on the preview sphere of the Light menu.

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Adding lights and their basic parameters

Step 7: Light properties, Type and Shadow

In the properties palette, you will find the buttons to enable the shadow casting of the selected light, as well as enabling the sub surface scattering effect (you need to activate it also in the Render Properties).

By clicking on the Intensity curve button, you will have access to the intensity curve and its parameters to modify the light the way you want. The Type and Shadow palettes are pretty self explanatory, the thing to remember is that these parameters apply only to the selected lights.

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Light properties,type and shadow

Step 8: LightCaps basic parameters

Now, let's have a look at another way to create a lighting setup, especially when using MatCaps. First, turn off all the standard lights, then go to the LightCaps palette and create a new light by clicking the New Light button.

Change the position of the light by moving the red dot in the preview window. Modify its setting found below and create other lights by simply pressing the New Light button again. Switch between the lights you have created with the Light Index slider. You can switch to the Specular level to manipulate the lights that affect the specular of your material.

The diffuse channel is linked to the Channel A of your material and the Specular to the Channel B. If your material has only one channel, Diffuse and Specular will be both baked in the Channel A. If you want to use the Diffuse and Specular channel independently, make sure to choose a Material with both channels like the MatCap Red Wax. You can see in the Modifier menu of the material the two spheres representing the channel A and B of the material.

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Create new lights and change their basic parameters

Step 9: Creating LightCaps from an Image

Another way to create a LightCaps is to load an image in the Background palette, change its settings if needed, and press the LightCaps button. Now, go down to the LightCaps palette and you will see all the lights created following the image you had loaded.

From there, you can still select and fine tune each light to have the result you are looking for. The LightCap Adjustment palette lets you modify some parameters of all the lights at once. In the next chapter, we will see how to render this character.

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Import an image in the background and create a LightCap from this image

Related links

Check out Gregory's portfolio
Head over to the Voodoo Workshop for more blogs, videos and news
The Moebius Tribute tutorial
The Burai Fighter Tribute tutorial
The Rhino tutorial
Know the Basics: ZBrush - part one: Modeling
Know the Basics: ZBrush - part two: Texturing
Know the Basics: ZBrush - part three: Posing
Know the Basics: ZBrush - part four: FiberMesh and UVs
Know the Basics: ZBrush - part five: KeyShot lighting and materials

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