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1Tutorials ZBrush  Bird of Prey Empty Tutorials ZBrush Bird of Prey em Sex Jan 28, 2011 6:28 am


by Joe Lee



  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Basic Form
  • 3 Retopologization
  • 4 Feathers

    • 4.1 Creating the Feathers
    • 4.2 Sorting the Feathers
    • 4.3 Fluffing the Feathers

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Before getting started on this project, I tried to surround myself with as much reference and inspiration as I could before
taking the plunge on the Zbrush canvas. I have great admiration for master bird carvers such as Floyd Scholz and I
have always wondered if such wood carving techniques could be transfered over to the digital sculpting world. Some of
the new features in the Zbrush 3.0 have convinced me that this is as good a time as any to try.
Basic Form

So the first thing I wanted to do was to go to the Tool palette and select a zsphere and begin blocking out the form.
Tutorials ZBrush  Bird of Prey Bop_Zsphere_start

Once you establish the direction of the head, I usually check it in the Preview window to make sure the front of the
head is facing out the z axis and right side up. If it isn’t, reposition and press, Store.
Next I want to place the eyes, which will help establish a constant reference when I later sculpt around the eyes.
Checking reference for eye spacing and size is encouraged. On this occassion, I loaded up a polysphere which is now
part of the selection choices in the library of tools. Reselect the zsphere head tool, then go to Tool:Subtool and Append the polysphere. Select the polysphere subtool and scale and position to the proper size and location using the Transpose
Tutorials ZBrush  Bird of Prey 200px-Bop_base_mesh_eye1
Tutorials ZBrush  Bird of Prey 200px-Bop_base_mesh_eye

Once the polysphere eye is in place and selected, we can press Tool:Clone. Select the zsphere head subtool
and Append the clone of the polysphere. Select the polysphere copy subtool and press Tool:Geometry:Del Lower to
clear away lower subdivisions of the polysphere. This is essential to be able to mirror the polysphere copy on the x axis,
which can be pressed under Tool:Deformation:Mirror x.
You should now have a pair of eyes. This would be a good time to label
your subtools if you like. I will refer to the main tool as ‘birdhead’,
and the subtool eyes will be distinguished as simply ‘left eye’ and
‘right eye’. The next part is just shaping the bird’s form and just kind of sketching out the qualities of a raptor. It wasn’t long while I
was blocking out the form, that I noticed the nape of the neck was showing more rectangular spacing in the geometry than
square. Also the spacing toward the bottom of the bird’s bust was by far wider than that of the head area. This will have
an effect on my ability to try get consistent fine detail with the feathers even once the subdivisions are as high as I can go.
The more equidistant the spacing through the body, the more consistent the detail sculpting will be across the bird.

I am definitely going to need to create new topology.
Tutorials ZBrush  Bird of Prey 800px-Bop_eagleLine Tutorials ZBrush  Bird of Prey Magnify-clip

To prepare for the retopologization, I simply select the bird tool
and ensure that only the birdhead subtool is active (and not the eyes).

  1. Select Tool:Zsphere and draw on canvas.
  2. Ensure Transform:Edit mode is on, and then press Tool:Rigging:Select and select the bird tool.
  3. Press Tool:Topology:Edit Topology and you are ready to begin creating new topology.

Because the topology in the beak area is significantly denser than the rest of the body and the physiology of the actual
bird beak is different from the feathered part, it seemed like an ideal place to break the two apart by creating separate
Tutorials ZBrush  Bird of Prey Bop_beak_topo

Note: Before building new topology, be sure x axis symmetry is on for both meshes (press ‘x’ to toggle). This definitely helps
speed things up.

As you may have noticed, I overlapped some beak geometry onto the head. This was to make sure I had plenty of
leftover geometry to secure into the head mesh when it’s built. When you’re finished, press Tool:Adaptive Skin:Make Adaptive Skin.
Select the bird tool with the subtool eyes and Append the new skin you just made and rename accordingly.
Tutorials ZBrush  Bird of Prey 200px-Bop_Head_topo

Next we’ll create new topology for the head of the bird. When it came to the opening in the mesh up by
the bird beak, I needed to delete the rigging selection to gain access for closing the gap.
To do this:

  1. Unpress Tool:Topology:Edit Topology.
  2. Press Tool:Rigging:Delete.
  3. Press Tool:Topology:Edit Topology and you can now reach geometry that was previously occluded by the rigging mesh.

Closing this off gives me extra geometry to work with for making modifications between the beak and forehead if
needed. By no means is the new topology the best solution for the form, but it is certainly better than before.
Make an adaptive skin and Append it to bird tool.

I then deleted the zsphere bird head tool from the subtool list and focused on trying to bring together the remaining
subtools together to become more raptor-like.
Tutorials ZBrush  Bird of Prey Bop_base_composite


After spending much time trying to fine tune the qualities that make a bird, an eagle, I then start to make note of the
feathering of these types of birds. The next section will go into time spent preparing the alphas and figuring out the layering
Creating the Feathers

When I started looking into the feather options, I didn’t know if I
would go with a stencil technique or use the sculpting brushes. This
time I decided to go with the sculpting brushes for nothing else but
the fact that the DragRect stroke
enables me to put down feathers quickly at any angle and size like the directional brush.
Tutorials ZBrush  Bird of Prey Bop_Alpha_setup

The first alpha I tried, I noticed that there was an auto fade that caused a loss of definition at the tips of the feathers.
I didn’t mind the top of the feather fading but I needed the bottom tip to be as crisp as I could get it. I decided to increase
the size of the alpha, made sure the feather was aligned to the top and the essential details were kept in the center.
After trying the first test alpha feather, I then made a few more feather alphas for added variety so as not to have
any major discernible repetition. Pressing Alpha:Flip H on any given alpha can also buy you one more alpha variant to
break things up even more.
Tutorials ZBrush  Bird of Prey 800px-Bop_Feather_alphas Tutorials ZBrush  Bird of Prey Magnify-clip

Tutorials ZBrush  Bird of Prey Bop_2nd_Subtool_list

Return to the bird tool in Zbrush, and subdivide to level 6 or 7. In this case, 7 was the highest used. Now clone the
Birdhead subtool and Append it twice to the subtool list. I renamed one clone FeatherSet.01 and the other FeatherSet.02.
We’ll save the BirdHead subtool as a backup and move it down the list
using the arrow keys which are located at the bottom of the subtool
list. As a little safety precaution for the FeatherSet subtools, we’ll click Tool:Layer:New for both subtools. Now if anything should go astray, we can always slide the layer slider
back to 0 and start over. A morph target is also a good alternative if it’s not already being used.
Now set:

  • Alpha = the feather alpha.
  • Brush:Std.
  • Stroke:DragRect.
  • Z Intensity = 25, with Zadd.

Tutorials ZBrush  Bird of Prey 200px-Bop_Featherset_01

Click and drag feathers in the direction they would flow on the
actual bird. Space them so that there is minimal overlap or at least
little to no noticeable overlap of the feather details. Cycle through your feather alpha collection finding the best alpha with a curve in the
feather that compliments the form of the bird.
Don’t forget to horizontally flip your alphas if
the bow of the feather needs to run the other way. You may find you can get away with applying these feathers with Transform:>x< on to activate x axis symmetry. However, when
feathering the front, top, and back views, it will
become apparent when to turn off the symmetry
and go freestyle.

When you have given the FeatherSet.01 subtool a good first pass, select and turn on the visibilty of FeatherSet.02
while FeatherSet.01 remains visible. Adjust the Z intensity of the standard brush to 28 now and draw a new set of feathers
through the FeatherSet.01 subtool until they appear to overlap (or underlap) the feathers of FeatherSet.01.
Tutorials ZBrush  Bird of Prey Bop_Featherset_02

Due to the nature of the auto fade of the sculpting brush alphas, the displacement intensity of the outer edge is less
than the center. This makes it possible to slide the top of the feathers under existing feathers.
Once the bottom feathers around the neck are placed in a fairly filled out fashion, we can begin painting a mask on the
undisplaced geometry. Begin with either feather subtool while the unselected subtool is hidden. Work your way around
until the bottom straight edge is masked. When masking is complete, press Tool:Masking:Inverse followed by pressing
Tutorials ZBrush  Bird of Prey 800px-Bop_masking_feathers Tutorials ZBrush  Bird of Prey Magnify-clip
Left to right:Masking, Invert Mask, and HidePt.

Repeat for the remaining FeatherSet and adjust masking if necessary. You can toggle the visibilty of the two subtools to
check if the masking was thorough enough.
Tutorials ZBrush  Bird of Prey 200px-Bop_both_subtools

Once both featherset subtools are completed, you can turn on the visibility of the beak and both eyes to inspect the
piece as a whole. I would frequently have either the beak or one of the eyes selected in order to view the feathers in the
same value.

Sorting the Feathers

Tutorials ZBrush  Bird of Prey 200px-Bop_feather_crashing

Next we need to tidy up the feather overlapping by either pushing or pulling the feathers that are not properly ‘settled’
such as the example shown here.

Notice the crashing of the middle feather into the left most feather? To fix this we can first set
a morph target in the selected subtool by pressing, Tool:Morph Target:StoreMT.
To lift the middle feather out of the other, we’ll set:

  • Brush:Elastic.
  • Alpha = Alpha00.
  • Stroke:Dots.
  • Z Intensity = 15 with Zadd on.
Tutorials ZBrush  Bird of Prey 200px-Bop_feather_adjusted

As we build up strokes over the feather, you can see it gradually lift out from the bunch, leaving the feather’s
detail. If you look closely, I accidentally pulled too much of the underlying surface through the inactive subtool.

Tutorials ZBrush  Bird of Prey 200px-Bop_feather_repaired

Switch to the Morph brush, adjust brush size and intensity to suit, and push back any over extended surface.

Give the model a once over and look for any more areas that need this kind of attention. We are almost to the end.
Fluffing the Feathers

Remember that extra subtool that was our backup, named BirdHead? Select it and make sure it is at the highest subdivision.
Turn the visibilty of the clones off. Create a New 3D Layer if you haven’t already done so and begin drawing on
feathers like before except this time, they are not to touch each other. You don’t need to cover the whole bird but check
your reference. In this case, the back of the neck is a good area along with the side of the neck. Basically you
just want to break up the silhouette and give a feel of some depth to the feathered area.
Tutorials ZBrush  Bird of Prey Bop_Pre_Make_3D

Now under Tool:Layer move the layer slider back to 0, go to E Smth and S Smth and slide both down to 1. Lastly,
move the Thick slider down to 0. Press Make 3D.
Tutorials ZBrush  Bird of Prey Bop_Make_3D_feathers

You should now have a new subtool created based on the strokes just made from the BirdHead subtool resting on the
very surface of the subtool from which they were made.

  • Return to the BirdHead subtool and make it visible.
  • Move the 3D Layer slider back to 1 so the feathers are visible once again.
  • Reselect the LayerSkin subtool with the feathers and press Tool:Geometry:Divide once.
  • Select Brush:Zproject.
  • Select Alpha:Brush00.
  • Set Stroke:Dots.

With Zadd on, we’ll now brush over the layerskin feathers until they take on the detail of inactive subtool above it. You
may find you get better results projecting, by rotating the model to where the area you wish to project is parallel to the
screen. Also make sure X symmetry is off for this part. If you wish, you can sculpt in more detail to make these feathers
Tutorials ZBrush  Bird of Prey Bop_Z_project

After you are satisfied with the indiviual feathers, we’ll paint a
mask over one of the feathers. Invert the mask, and invoke Transpose
mode by pressing ‘w’. Create an action line on the
feather by clicking near its top, and dragging to near its bottom. You
can now use the Transpose rotate feature and lever the feather away
from the body. Tutorials ZBrush  Bird of Prey Bop_transpose_feather

Don’t forget the middle circle of the Transpose action line can be
used to twist the feather on the axis of the action line. Clear the
mask when done and select a new feather to begin the adjusting process.
Feel free to turn the visibility of the Birdhead subtool on to get an
idea of how much to rotate the feather from the rest of the body. When you have all the feathers positioned, turn on all essential subtools for evaluation. If there are still sorting issues
with the feathers, use the Elastic brush like mentioned above or even try the Move brush to correct aggressive clipping.
Tutorials ZBrush  Bird of Prey Bop_final_bird Tutorials ZBrush  Bird of Prey Magnify-clip

And finally...
Looking back in hindsight, I would have liked to have tried consolidating the the subtools into fewer, by Zprojecting
details from one entirely onto another. This may require retopology again but may be worth a try in the future.
I hope this tutorial was helpful and assists you in your getting desired results in your future projects.
A big Thank You to the Pixologic Team!]

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