All You Need To Know

The Complete MODO to ZBrush Workflow


The Complete MODO to ZBrush Workflow


The Complete MODO to ZBrush Workflow

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

 A sneak peek of what you get

 Practical Info

The Complete MODO to ZBrush Workflow

MODO and ZBrush are two incredibly powerful tools which enhances any artist’s arsenal significantly. In this elaborate 3D tutorial series, 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.

Take a look at our free introduction on our Vimeo page chapter to get an overview of the tutorial and what you can expect to learn

Free Introduction Chapter

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.

This is where we come in - Presenting:
The Complete MODO to ZBrush Workflow

Simply put, this is the most elaborate tutorial out on the subject of character creation - using MODO and ZBrush. We cover everything from optimizing modo for modelling, 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.

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.
We thank you for all your support - We genuinely hope this series helps you to create interesting and solid characters for years to come.

Henning & Morten

- Flippednormals

Author Gallery

Add to Cart - $69
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Henning Sanden

Modeling/Texturing at MPC

Henning is a London based 3D artist working at MPC as a character modeler and texture artist. He has worked on films like Batman V Superman, Ghostbusters and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Morten Jaeger

Modeler at Framestore

Morten is a modeler working at Framestore's London based Studio as a 3D character artist. Having previously worked on Pacific Rim.

01 - Introduction
02 - Faster Modelling in MODO
03 - Prepare Base Mesh in MODO
04 - Customizing ZBrush
05 - Setting Up the ZBrush Project
06 - Sculpting Stage 1
07 - Auto Retopo in ZBrush
08 - Retopo Prep in ZBrush
09 - Retopo Prep in MODO
10 - Retopo in MODO
11 - Reprojecting Details in ZBrush
12 - Sculpting Stage 2
13 - UVs in MODO
14 - Working With Layers in ZBrush

15 - High Frequency Sculpting
16 - Polypainting in ZBrush
17 - Specular Roughness
18 - What is Displacement
19 - Extracting Displacement
20 - Morph Target Switch
21 - Extracting Polypaint & AO
22 - Enhancing Maps With NUKE
23 - Facial Expression
24 - Exporting Meshes & Maps From ZBrush
25 - UDIM Tiled EXRs
26 - Setting Up MODO for Rendering
27 - Lighting in MODO
28 - Post in Photoshop

Size: 8.5GB - ZIP Compressed
Software: MODO 902, ZBrush 4R7 P3, Photoshop CS6, NUKE 9

 Scene files included
 Custom ZBrush interface, MODO Hotkeys & Pie Menu
 Over 11 hours of content

Sample Gallery

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

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


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.


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?


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!

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 loteasier 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

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.

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!

Twitter - FlippedNormals

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01 - Introduction

We are going through the overall structure of this ZBrush to MOOD 3D tutorial. You’ll get a solid introduction to the entire course.

02 - Faster Modeling in MODO

Before we get into any modelling, we cover how to optimize MODO for faster modelling. MODO is a fantastic tool for the task and here we show you how you can take it even further. How to setup hotkeys in a reliable fashion, why we’ve assigned the hotkeys we have and we also cover our custom Uber-Pie-Menu.

03 - Prepare Base Mesh in MODO

We use MODO to create a very rough base mesh which we can then use as a base in ZBrush. This is purely to get the scale, position and orientation right from the first moment.

04 - Customizing ZBrush

The UI in ZBrush can be cumbersome to get around with useful features scattered all over the place. Here’s we are loading up our custom UI and Hotkeys, explaining why they make for a smoother and improved ZBrush experience.

05 - Setting Up The ZBrush Project

There are a lot of pitfalls when using Zbrush in a production. If you don’t set your project up correctly, you will definitely have headaches down the road. We are showing the advantage of saving as a Ztool as opposed to a Zproject, as well as how to set it up for a reliable and professional workflow.

06 - Sculpting Stage 1

We are finally getting into the delicious sculpting! Fun times. Here we cover the techniques you need to know at this stage: The importance of keeping it simple, bony landmarks, big shapes and proportions.

07 - Auto Retopo in ZBrush

In these future-like days, everything is so quick and efficient, including topology. We discuss the strengths and weaknesses of automated topology.

08 - Retopo Prep in ZBrush

Next stop: Retopo land! However - we need to prep our meshes in ZBrush before bringing them into MODO for retopo. This includes using Decimation Master in ZBrush to reduce the polycount drastically.

09 - Retopo Prep in MODO

Before getting our hands dirty with MODO’s awesome retopo tools, we need to set the scene up in MODO to give us a clean and solid foundation.

10 - Retopo in MODO

We retopo the entire character by hand using MODO’s brilliant retopo tools. Through this chapter, we will cover essential retopo techniques and tools used professionally in our day to day.

11 - Reprojecting Detail in ZBrush

After our retopo is done, we need to transfer all the juicy sculpting from our high-res meshes onto our clean and newly retopoed models. This process can be incredibly frustrating and messy if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. We show you a simple, yet professional and efficient method for quickly transferring all sorts of sculpting onto completely new topology.

12 - Sculpting Stage 2

The model has topology and high-res sculpting - Now it’s time to really make it shine. We’re doing a lot of cool sculpting in this chapter to drastically improve the entire 3D model.

13 - UVs in MODO

At this point, the shape of the character is pretty much locked down and it’s safe to start the UV mapping. We go in-depth regarding how to unfold a character for VFX production to minimize stretching and also how to work efficiently with UDIMs. An efficient UV layout can make a tremendous difference when it comes to quick and solid texturing.

14 - Working With Layers in ZBrush

Layers in ZBrush can be intimidating and confusing to work with. In this chapter, we are demystifying how they work and we show you how they can not only help your workflow, but how they are essential in a lot of cases. If you want to use ZBrush well, knowing how layers work is extremely important.

15 - High Frequency Sculpting

The moment you’ve all been waiting for: Fine details, such as tiny wrinkles, crazy pores, scars and everything else which helps the character come to life! This is a fun chapter where the character is really pushed to the next level.

16 - Polypainting in ZBrush

Polypainting in ZBrush can be a very powerful tool for trying out different directions for your textures, or for when you need to get something out quickly. We cover the strengths and weaknesses of Polypainting in ZBrush. Knowing where ZBrush falls short when it comes to texturing is very helpful to know, as there are a lot of pitfalls.

17 - Specular Roughness

Back in the old days, you’d create really fancy specular maps for the final rendering. Those days are over; Today specular roughness maps is all the craze. We cover why they are useful and how to create them using ZBrush. Specular roughness (SpecR) maps are the norm today for lookdev and shading in professional environments and knowing how they work will drastically improve your work.

18 - What is Displacement?

One of the key aspects to cover when dealing with ZBrush in a production is how to use use displacement maps. In this chapter, we cover what a displacement map actually is and the various terminology surrounding it. Do you fully understand what a mid value is and how it affects your project?

19 - Extracting Displacement

Extracting displacement maps from ZBrush is an essential part of the character workflow - one you need to fully understand. We cover all the settings you need to know about, how to use it in a UDIM based workflow (which all productions are using today) and how to extract the maps in the most efficient ways possible. We also provide you with a cheat sheet for you to consult every time you need to extract a displacement map from ZBrush. By the end of the video, you’ll know everything you ever wanted to know about extracting displacement maps!

20 - Morph Target Switch

If you’re in a production, we cannot stress how important it is to know about the morph-target-switch-technique when extracting displacement maps from ZBrush. It’s so important that we dedicated a whole chapter to explaining it. If you’re going to be using ZBrush in a production where the character or asset is being rigged, this is essential to know.

21 - Extracting Polypaint & Ambient Occlusion

Once your textures has been painted, it’s time to convert the polypainting to an exported texture. We show you how to do this in an easy and efficient manner, supporting the UDIM convention. We are also extracting an ambient occlusion map along with it, which you can use to enhance your color map later on in something like NUKE or Photoshop.

22 - Enhancing Maps With NUKE

Did you know that you can use Nuke to texture? Well, you can! Nuke is used a lot in any professional texture painting environment. In this chapter, we briefly cover the benefits of using Nuke over Photoshop for enhancing your textures.

23 - Facial Expression

No character is complete without a proper pose and facial expression! We cover the importance of doing an interesting and well thought out facial expression for your character. The difference between a posed and un-posed character is night and day. We will cover how to use Transpose Master in ZBrush for quick and easy posing - and also some of the pitfalls of using Transpose Master.

24 - Exporting Meshes & Maps From ZBrush

This is the last chapter in ZBrush before we venture into MODO for rendering! Here we show exactly what you bring into MODO and how to do it.

25 - UDIM Tiled EXRs

Any professional workflow today relies heavily on the UDIM system - which we also created our character based on. In this chapter, we cover how to set up our textures with ease in MOOD to follow the UDIM convention.

26 - Setting Up MODO For Rendering

Rendering in MODO is extremely powerful and relatively easy to get into. As all of our assets have been created, it’s now time to finally bring it all together in MODO. Before we start on the lighting, we need to set up our scene in a clean and methodical manner - both when it comes to item management and for materials.

27 - Lighting in MODO

Good lighting is one of the most important aspects which separates a good piece of art from a bad one; it’s where you’re setting the mood and feeling for your entire scene. Good lighting can really take your character to the next level. In this chapter, we cover some industry proven lighting techniques which will greatly help you in your day to day life as a 3D artist.

28 - Post in Photoshop

One of the most common issues when making 3D art is that people overlook the importance of doing post-work on their work. Good post-work can be the difference between a moderately successful piece and an absolute killer one. We are covering some very efficient and helpful techniques on how to massively improve your 3D renders in a very short amount of time using Photoshop.


Bevel (B)
Loop Slice (ALT + C)
Automatic Action Center (ALT + S)
Local Action Center (ALT + X)
Display Pie Menu (CTRL + 1)
Change components (SPACEBAR)
Viewport Display Properties (0 - the letter, not the number)
Full-Screen (0 - zero)



Resize brush (S)
Brush Palette (B)
Standard Brush (BST)
Clay brush (BCL)
Clay Tubes (BCT)
Clay Buildup (BCB)
Switch to subtool (Alt - Click on Subtool in viewport)
Smooth Brush (Shift)
Dynamesh it (Ctrl Drag Outside of Model)
Masking (CTRL + Paint)
Invert Mask (CTRL + Click Outside Model)
Ctrl Drag Outside of Model (if you have a mask active) - Clear Mask
Rotate (RMB + drag)
Scale/Zoom (ALT + RMB Release Drag)
Pan (ALT + RMB)
Brush size (S)
Brush Intensity (U)
Frame mesh (F)
Perspective (P)
Select Subtool (ALT + Click on subtool in viewport)
Subdivide (CTRL +D)
Step up in subD Level (D)
Step down in subD Level (Shift + D)



Copy Layer (CTRL + J)
Move Tool  (V)
Liquify (CTRL + SHIFT + X)
Solo Layer (ALT + LMB on Eye)
Copy Image Into New Layer (CTRL + SHIFT + ALT + E)
Lasso Tools (L)
Color Wheel (SHIFT + ALT + RMB)
Merge Layers (CTRL  + E)
Toggle UI (TAB)
Fullscreen (CTRL + F)
Lens Correction (CTRL + SHIFT + R)


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