Z Brush Tutorial


If an artist wants to develop a career in visual effect industry, he must deliver dailies, fast and beautiful and the tools makes that possible. Sculpting plays major role in 3D/2.5 Modelling and there are countless tools for this in the market, but the one that shines amongst them is Z Brush. Yup! It is the tool whose usage is so complex that even the most advanced artists get their socks knocked off by its overwhelming interface. However, our team at VFX Specialists has decided to take on this daunting task and create a 101 Z brush Tutorial. This z brush tutorial will pick from the scratch and will be expanded later on the advanced stuff. We have planned to post this in a form of series. Each tutorial will target a precise and terse topic. This series of tutorial is broken down in 5 phases. We will be uploading each phase one by one with a gap of 5 days. We also happen to have free stuff  on Adobe After effects title template and fire explosion stock footage, which is completely free for our readers. We are also planning to put up a video version of these Z brush tutorials, just stay tuned with us for that.

Things to keep in mind before reading the Z Brush tutorial

1)      Emphasize specially on remembering the Keyboard Shortcuts.

2)      Don’t directly jump into exploration of the capabilities that Z brush offers, there is no end to it and you will exhaust/confuse yourself right at the beginning.

3)       Read the tutorial with ease, patience and free mind. Each step is crystal clear and use the comments box below to ask your queries, our team would reply back within 6 hours.

4)      This tutorial is applicable to the  z brush 4 and above.

5)      We have planned this tutorial to be broken down into 5 phases/Days – Just follow them from day 1 to day 5 and even the beginners should be able to sculpt, texture, light and render our first zbrush model by the end of this z brush tutorial.


 Day 1 – Z Brush Tutorial

     A Walk around the Interface

Interface: UI of z brush is pretty easy to comprehend. One can operate the interface with left hand on keyboard and right hand on mouse or you can use graphic tablet.

Interface has Right tray, Left tray, Right shelf, left shelf, top shelf and bottom shelf.

Right tray consists of tools.

Left tray consists more of texturing, painting and brush tools.

Top shelf has all the z brush modes.

z brush tutorial
z brush tutorial


Edit, Draw, Move, Scale and Rotate. All the modes are arranged on “qwerty” key strokes.

Edit mode:  In order to sculpt in a 3d environment you need to be in edit mode. Hot key for Edit mode is “T”.

Draw mode: To start sculpting on a tool or model hit “Q” on keyboard to get in Draw mode.

Move mode: Hit “W” to get into Move mode.

In Move mode you can Move, duplicate mesh, Stretch mesh, bend mesh, inflate and flatten it. Just click and drag for Moving mesh, Stretching and flattening mesh. Hit ctrl+ left click drag to duplicate a mesh. Press Alt+ left click drag for bending it.

Scale mode: Hit E key and scale just by clicking and dragging.

Rotate mode: Press R to activate it and click drag to rotate.

Right tray consists of Tool Palette. We will discuss more about palettes as we go along the tutorial series. Z brush comes with a huge library of resources like tools (primitives), brushes and alpha resources. In order to browse these resources light box is used. Hit coma key (,) to bring up light box window. Browsing folders on your computer or z brush library light box allows easy browsing. Click on sphere tool from various tools offered in tools folder to import. It will appear on Tool pallet in right tray. This way you can import tools and other resources.

                    Z brush tutorial  –  How to explore z brush view port

                                               View port navigation

For orbiting around your mesh click and drag out side of model on background.

To Move your model press Alt+ left click  to drag out side model on background.

To zoom in and out hit Alt +click and then leave Alt key and drag without leaving the mouse button.

                                         Exercise One – Z Brush Tutorial

                                                       Step 1

Open zbrush. Hit comma key (,) to open Light box. Select polysphere from tool folder. This should show up sphere tool in tool palate on the right tray.

z brush tutorial
z brush tutorial


Quick tip : Click on sphere primitive in tool palate to select it. Click and drag on canvas to draw the tool. On the tool palate click on “Make poly mesh3D” to convert sphere primitive to polymesh. A 3D model made up of several polygons is Polymesh. Z brush can only sculpt on polymeshs.

z brush tutorial

                                                                 Step 2

Hit “T” to go to edit mode so that you can sculpt in 3d space. This step will be necessary if sculpting is needed to be done in 3d space. In case you are not in Edit mode zbrush canvas will be restricted to 2.5D workspace which is good for 2D illustration purposes.


                                                                Step 3

Click on Poly frame button which is near bottom of right shelf. Wire frame should be visible now.



                                                                Step 4

Navigate the view port with above mentioned hot keys. Get accustomed to move in 3D sculpting space. While rotating around a model by clicking and dragging hit shift, to snap to an orthogonal view. Mouse button must be released before releasing shift key.

                                                                 Step 5

Hit “Q” to jump to “Draw mode”.


Click on Brush icon on top of the left shelf to open various brush presets in a pop window. Alternatively hotkey “B” can also be used to open brush preset palate. Select brush named “Move”(move brush). We will explore this section in  depth in our later parts of z brush tutorial



                                                                 Step 6

Before starting to sculpt lets customize the view port further. Click on “documents” in the Menu bar select “Range” and adjust the background color behind the model. You can adjust it so that changes on mesh can be clearly seen. Tweak the background color gradient to your own taste. This step is not necessary but as you grow into more of an advanced user after going through the further parts of this z brush tutorial, you will require it more often.


                                                                  Step 7

Turn Symmetry on by hitting “X” key. Alternatively you can go to “Transform” button on menu bar and select activate symmetry. Symmetry allows artist to work on one side of the model and software calculates same strokes and deformations on other side. There are more symmetry options available on z brush which we will be covering as we advance into the z brush tutorial series.


                                                                  Step 8

Click and drag on the model to start sculpting. Press ctrl + N to clear alternatively you can also undo. On top shelf right side there are three options, Focal Shift, Draw size and Z intensity.


 “Draw size” means Brush size.

“Focal shift” is equivalent to Brush feathering.

“Z intensity” is how much displacement a tool or brush will cause on the model in z depth.

Hold Alt In order to toggle between “Zadd” & “Zsubstract”. Z add is used while sculpting, to add on the model based on brush selected, at the same time Z sub is utilized to subtract from the model.


                                                                   Step 9

Start sculpting basic shape of a human head. While modeling press Ctrl+d to subdivide, it increases poly counts . Shift+D decreases the subdivision lowers the poly count. Poly count is like resolution of the model. High polygon count models suggest higher resolution, whereas low poly count proposes lower resolution model. Go around and exercise the features learned above. Do the sculpting for fun, mess around a bit. When done Save the project by pressing the universal hotkey Ctrl+S.

In the next Z Brush tutorial we will look into Brushes in z brush and using reference images for modeling in z brush. We strongly hope that this z brush tutorial was informational for our readers.