Tutorial
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Nov 23, 2023

How to create curve brushes in ZBrush

Explore the versatility of ZBrush with curve brushes. Learn how to configure and apply different geometries to your models in this article

The mission

Learn how to create different ZBrush curve brushes from scratch.

Resources

  • Zbrush (2022.0.5)

Introduction

In this documentation we will learn how to create curve brushes, set them and save them correctly for future reuse. Curve brushes are very useful for working in ZBrush. helping in achieving cleaner results and savingsignificant time. They open up possibilities for both hard surface and organic modeling.

The first brush we’ll create is a sausage curve brush, allowing us to generate sausages with a single mesh as painted in Image 1.

The second brush will do be a stylized hair brush, distinctive by its three parts: the beginning, the loop and the end. We’ll explore that more in depth later. The goal is to develop a brush that emulates Vi's hair from Arcane, as illustrated in Image 2.

Image 01
Sausage string
Image 02
Vi from the Netflix show Arcane

Sausage brush

We will begin this brush by opening ZBrush and forming a sausage that we will serve as the basis for our brush.

Several key considerations should be kept in mind for this type of brush:

  • Maintain a single polygroup.
  • Avoid an excessive number of polygons.
  • Keep the model as a single subtool.
  • Unwrap UV's for the model to streamline future work.
  • Ensure the sausages are joined at the end of each one, maintaining a straight aligment.
  • Properly rename the subtool.

Sausage base mesh

Now that we have the perfect sausage we can proceed to create the brush. It is important to place the mesh intented for the curve correctly in relation to the camera.

The first step is to go to the Brush menu —> Create —>  Create insert mesh —> New

New insert mesh brush

Now, a new brush has been successfully created. If you drag it onto any surface, it will work as a normal insert mesh. To convert it into a curve brush, follow this steps:

Stroke menu —> Curve —> Activate curve mode

Sausage curve brush

Now the sausage brush is ready for use. You only need to shape it according to the reference and it will be good to go.

Ex. sausage curve brush

Stylized hair brush

We will create the stylized hair brush in a way very similar to the sausages. However, before diving into the creation process, let’s explore how these brushes work.

Polygroup order

These types of brushes are divided into three parts or polygroups: the beginning, the loop and the end of the curve. Whencreating the brush, careful attention must be paid to its placement relative to the camera to clearly define the beginning and end.

ZBrush interprets the polygroup at the top, relative to the camera, as the start of the curve, themiddle as the loop and the lowest polygroup as the end.

In this case, the green polygroup represents the beginning of the curve, the blue is the loop and the red is the end.

An important thing to note is that the middle part, identified as the loop (in this case, the blue polygroup), must be straight for the loop correctly, as indicated by the red lines.

Having a mesh featuring three polygroups as shown in the image, we can create an example curve following these steps:

  • Brush menu —> Create —>  Create insert mesh —> New
  • Stroke menu —> Curve —> Activate curve mode
  • Brush menu —> Modifiers —> Activate Weld Points

Polygroup order example

Here, we can see a clearer representation of what was explained earlier. Green indicates the beginning of the curve, blue means the loop, and red indicates the end.

Now that we catch the basis of this type of curves, we just need to craft a shape that complements the stylized hair we’re aiming for.

Base hair mesh

I've designed this basic mesh to form a straightforward stylized hair loop. I’ve strategically creased the edges for smoother following smoothing.

Now, let’s follow the same steps we used to create a new curved brush, but with this mesh.

  • Brush menu —> Create —>  Create insert mesh —> New
  • Stroke menu —> Curve —> Activate curve mode
  • Brush menu —> Modifiers —> Activate Weld Points

Now, we can try applying this hair to some of our characters, using the Demo anime head for testing.

As seen, the hair works in fact, and adjustments can be made to better suit our character.

For this hair, we will implement a couple more changes. Initially, we’ll bring the hair closer to the mesh. To achieve this:

  • Brush menu —> Depth  —> Change Imbed from 41 to 0

Adjustments without depth
Adjustments with depth

Hair without depth
Hair with depth

With “Imbed”, we can fine-tune the depth of the hair according to our preference.

The second adjustement involves making the beginning thicker and the end thinner. Follow these steps:

  • Stroke menu —> Curve Modifiers —> Curve Falloff —> Activate Size and Intensity —> Ajust curve
Note: The size of the hair changes according to the size of the brush that we use.

Hair with Curve Falloff active
Curve modifiers

We now have our brush! To create additional bases for different hair types with different shapes, follow these steps:

When we have another mesh that we want to add to the existing brush, ensure the brush is active:

  • Brush menu —> Create —>  Create insert mesh —> Append —> Ok

With everything in place, the final step is to add hair to our model! The most efective approach is to add and separate the hair from the head, allowing us to work with each strand individually.

Stylized hair final result

Here is an example of what can be achieved with a simple brush by experimenting with different shapes.

Conclusion

Now you know how to create curve brushes and the possibilities are endless. Below, I’ll showcase more examples of what can be accomplished with curve brushes.

Ex. Bandolier curve brush
Ex. Shootgun bandolier curve brush

Ex. Chain curve brush
Ex. Rope curve brush
Zbrush
Avatars
Laura Usón
Creative Art Director

Passionate about videogames, movies and creatures. Artist by day and superhero at night.

Nestor Llop
3D ARTIST

I am a 3D artist passionate about sculpting creatures and characters

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