MODO and ZBrush are two incredibly powerful tools which enhances any artist’s arsenal significantly.

In The Complete MODO To ZBrush Workflow, we will take an in-depth look at not only how we can make the two programs play well together - we will take your through an industry proven and professional workflow for creating beautiful and memorable art.
Making characters - It’s one of the hardest and most satisfying endeavors to undertake while working in 3D. Almost every 3D artist has tried it at some point, and yet there are hardly any 3D tutorials explaining how you go about doing just that. It’s high time to demystify this subject.

Simply put, this is the most elaborate 3D tutorial out on the subject of character creation - using MODO and ZBrush. We cover everything from optimizing modo for modeling, to concept sculpting, efficient retopology, production ready UV mapping, UDIM workflow, doing fine details in ZBrush, setting up a displacement map in MODO, and much, much more. The entire series is packing a whopping 11.5 hours of quality training. This gives you a solid understanding of how go from MODO to ZBrush.

Character creation can be incredibly frustrating - both from an artistic point of view and most definitely from a technical point of view. Throughout this 3D tutorial, we cover the entire production - explaining WHY the specific steps are taken. By the time you finish, you will have a solid understanding of how to work reliably with characters - time and time again.  Not only is the information useful, but it’s also based around a professional character workflow, used by us daily as professionals the VFX industry.


The two of us have nearly 20 years of experience working with ZBrush combined. Currently we are working as character modellers and texture artists in visual effects in London, on films such as Batman V Superman, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, and many more. We used the knowledge from our professional jobs at MPC and Framestore to bring you the best and most relevant information available.

Quick History

MODOto ZBrush has been in in development for literally years. Back in 2011, the project was begun by Henning. Nearly everything was recorded, but judging from the quality, it wasn’t even close to being presentable. Ever since, we’ve been trying to work as efficiently as we can with ZBrush as the main tool. This was greatly helped by starting working in the industry; the way we do it in this series is the way we work professionally.

Main Focus

If you have to take only one thing from this MODO to ZBrush 3D tutorial, it would be the following:

You will get a thorough understanding of how to bring a character from the very start of the production to the very end. Not only will you know the steps involved, you’ll understand the process. It’s extremely important to us that you’re not left with a checklist of steps to complete, but rather an understanding of why you do the various stages at what time. Do you UV map before or after you’ve sculpted? This isn’t something you memorize, as the answer depends heavily on what the sculpt is like; each project has it’s own requirements and by understanding the process, you can use this for all your future projects.

The focus of this series isn’t for you to create only one character which looks like ours - It’s for your to create your next 100 characters.

 

FAQ

Who is 'The Complete MODO To ZBrush Workflow' for?

We genuinely believe everyone will find this 3D tutorial useful, regardless of your level.

Beginner:

This 3D tutorial will be useful for you in the way that you’ll get a good understanding of the various stages in a production (of a character, environment, etc). Why are UV maps important? What the hell is the deal with UDIMs? Displacement maps? What’s retopology and why is it important? In short, we cover how to make an entire character from start to finish. That said, this is not an A to B tutorial where we cover every click. In order to get the most out of the series, you will need an intermediate understanding of the softwares involved. We do believe that beginners will find it to be very useful regardless; you’ll understand the structure of a project and you’ll be introduced to great working habits from the very beginning.

Intermediate

As an intermediate to advanced 3D artist, we believe you will get the most out of this 3D tutorial - The Complete MODO To ZBrush Workflow. At this point you already have an idea of how the tools work - you’re not confused by moving polys around, you probably have sculpted a bit in ZBrush. Maybe you felt stuck? Confused about the entire process? Specific questions you might have could include: How do you extract a displacement map and how do you set it up in MODO? My displacement takes ages to render - do you have any ninja tricks? (hint - we do!). Do you UV map before or after you’ve sculpted? My work looks boring from MODO - how do I make my work sexy in Photoshop? MODO is slow for modeling! How do I speed it up?

Advanced

As an advanced 3D artist, you will definitely get a lot from 'The Complete MODO To ZBrush Workflow'. At this point, you know your way pretty well around both ZBrush and MODO, but you probably have some very specific questions, such as: My mesh has been rigged and now I’m sculpting it. How much trouble am I in? Any ZBrush ninja tricks? (Hint: we do!). How exactly do you work with UDIMs? What are tiled exr files and why should I care? How do I use MODO (or another application) together with ZBrush in a professional pipeline? How can you use NUKE to enhance your maps? Why is naming your maps so important for a proper workflow?

 

How much topology do you cover?

We have over 2.5 hours of real time videos showing you every single click in MODO when it comes to the retopology process. Retopology is an incredibly important part of the series, as we get a clean and animation ready topology to work with in ZBrush. Good topology is really the basis of any solid model; pretty much every proceeding part of the production depend on excellent topology. We cover how make retopo easy by showing you some simple, yet powerful techniques. The principles we cover for retopo are applicable in every other 3D software; If you know the retopo tools in Maya, 3D Coat etc, you should be able to follow along.

The bane of my existence is displacement maps and all the misery which comes with them. Can you help me?!

Oh boy, we’re glad you asked. Displacement maps has contributed to hair loss of a whole generation of 3D artists. In short: YES! We cover displacement maps in detail over several chapters:

  • What is a displacement map? We cover exactly what a displacement map is and why it’s useful.
  • How do I extract a displacement map? There are approximately 189,228 settings to chose from (we counted). We cover all the important ones and also provide you with a screenshot of the correct settings.
  • My model has been rigged and I can’t edit the mesh any more. How can I make sure my maps match my extracted displacement? We have a dedicated video on how to deal with the morph target switch. 'The Complete MODO To ZBrush Workflow' is here to help!

Before and After Displacement Map

How much texturing is covered?

This is not a texturing tutorial - that would require an additional 11.5 hours! In the 3d tutorial we cover how to use polypainting in ZBrush. While it’s a cool tool to play around with, it’s not a professional grade texturing tool. The focus of the series is definitely the modeling part of the production.

That said - we cover in depth how to UV map your character and props for production. UV mapping is an essential part of the texturing process and it will make your life a lot easier if the layout and unfolding is solid. We mention this at several points during the 3d tutorial series how this is beneficial if you’re using Mari. Mari is the industry standard tool for texturing and we use it in our day-to-day workflow at work.

We also briefly cover how you can use NUKE to enhance your various texture maps. NUKE is a fantastic tool for texturing: It’s non destructive, works really well with 32 bit floating point data (Displacement maps)

How much sculpting is covered?

We show all the sculpting involved in this 3D tutorial! With that said, most of it is time-lapsed; this 3D tutorial would be about 938* hours long real-time, which is a lot. Everything which is time-lapsed is narrated by the two of us, though. It’s important to note that the focus of this 3D tutorial is NOT sculpting; It’s the workflow. You’ll definitely pick up a lot of neat sculpting tricks, but we aren’t showing you where to place every brush stroke. The sculpting bit of the tutorial is aimed at an intermediate level. If you’re interested in more sculpting related videos, please check out our Creature Concepting in ZBrush tutorial, which covers the design and sculpting phase to a much more detailed level.

*may or may not be 100% accurate

Creature Concepting in ZBrush

Is this useful only for characters?

No, Sir! This 3D tutorial is useful for any kind of asset creation, from environments, props and characters. In the 3D tutorial, the most important bit you can take from it is how to work efficiently as an asset artist with ZBrush. The principles are the same regardless of what you’re working on. Once you’ve completed the 3D tutorial, you’d be ready to jump into making awesome environments or whatever you want to create.

I know MODO, but I’m new to ZBrush. Help!

Fear not, young one. We have a free tutorial on the subject:

ZBrush for Concept Artists

'ZBrush for Concept Artists' takes you through the very basics of ZBrush and you should be up and running in no time!

Is this 3D tutorial relevant if I’m using Autodesk Maya, 3ds Max, etc, instead of MODO?

YES! The main steps are literally exactly the same. What we want to get across here is the overall method of working, we just happen to use MODO. The principles and techniques are the same. You can definitely follow along for most parts if you’re a Maya user or come from a different software. The are of course differences; the way you retopo in Maya is different from using MODO as the tools aren’t the same. That said, the principles of retopo in Maya and MODO are the same (starting out big, clean loops, etc).

One of the big things with this series is showing you the process and the order of the various steps; how it’s done in a professional pipeline. When we work with this professionally, we use Maya and it was simple to translate those steps in MODO.

DISCLAIMER: You need to have an intermediate understanding of your software of choice; if you need step by step instructions on how to use your software, this series isn’t for you yet.

Before and after post-work in Photoshop

I have a question or maybe I just want to say ‘hello!’ - how do I contact you beautiful men?

Feel free to send us an email if you want to get in touch! We’d love to hear from you and to see you work! Here’s the link for the form you can use.

Contact Us!

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Thank You! Yes, you!

We would like to extend a huge thanks for your support in this project! The kind words we got as we developed it genuinely means a lot to the both of us.

Our Sincere Thanks,
Henning & Morten

Henning Sanden

Author Henning Sanden

Henning is a London based 3D artist currently working at Double Negative as a character modeller and texture artist. He has worked on film such as Batman V Superman, Ghostbusters and Pirates of the Caribbean.

More posts by Henning Sanden