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Workflows

Zbrush for Game Development

Ideally, as a character artist I would like to be able to do as much work as possible in Zbrush before going to other applications. It feels that its slowly going in that direction but its not quite there yet.

Right now this is the current workflow with the least amount of programs:
1.Zbrush
High res sculpt in Zbrush
Polypaint textures - for previz only, unless the lower subdivision of the tool matches the highest I cannot use it
Decimate mesh for export

2.3Ds Max
Graphite tools for retopologizing and creating the new low-res mesh
Unwrap Mesh
Project high res details and Bake Normals and Ambient Occlusion

3.Photoshop
Paint textures

This for me would be the ideal workflow:
1.Zbrush
High res sculpt.
Polypaint textures - or actually paint PSD textures with automatic UVs so I don't have to subdivide just to have enough resolution
Retopologize and create the new low res mesh -  remove the need for Decimating tons of Subtools, exporting them and preparing them in another app
Unwrap low-res - Exporting the low-res and Unwrapping in another program is not that much of an issue
Project High res details on the low res mesh (that is independent from the High res model, similar to the old Zmapper) - I guess kind of a Xnormals replacement? I would also need a the ability to preview the newly created normal maps so I could do any tweaks.

2.3Ds Max/Photoshop
I know I would still need to go max or PSD to finalize the model textures and maybe tweak UVs or other details but if I could always do my baking in Zbrush max would just be the closing steps in the pipeline.

Subtools Management
  • I would look at the way Photoshop does folders and layers and try to do it the same way. Another option is Maya Outliner and the way you can create groups.
  • Having the first Subtool of a tool name be the name for the document feels strange. Also appending based on the last selected subtool is sometimes confusing when I have a lot of files loaded.

Texture Painting/UVs
  • A bit like the newly released Mari. I've found that sometimes I have to subdivide like crazy just to work on polypaint without actually adding new details to the mesh itself. If I could paint into a texture I would be "free" from these issues and use Zbrush more to even fix texture seams.
  • Being able to see a Specular , diffuse and normal map in the viewport in realtime. I love the idea of painting directly in the model all the maps I need including specularity but since I cannot see it in realtime I end up going to other applications.
  • Being able to do small UVW map tweaks without going to another application.

Matcap/Materials/Textures Management
  • Being able to better organize load and save matcaps. Right now it feels a bit clumbsy. The same applies with textures. The way that we have to load them and use them and then uload them again and having to copy them to startup folders, it just doesnt feel as smooth as other 3D apps.
  • Having to reload a PSD everytime I want to see updates on a mesh feels really awkward. All the other 3D applications update automatically or just have a refresh, why cant Zbrush do that too?
  • This kinda feels awkward too for loading and using Tools, if I have 5 or 6 subtools loaded I find it hard to know which one is what by looking at the thumbnails/filenamme (since the name of the first subtool defines the name of the file)
Lightbox/File Handling
  • Lightbox is a great concept but I never actually use it. Its hard to navigate and overly complicated. I usually use Total Commander for file navigation and Xnview for image navigation, if Lightspot cannot compete with those then there wont be a reason to use it. Also a drag and drop files inside Zbrush from exterior programs would be great.
  •  Would it be possible to get thumbnails for Zbrush files?
Documentation!
This is one of the biggest ones for me. The messy documentation makes me miss a lot of good features or just not being able to use them in a tight deadline. The wiki always feels incomplete and using the search never really gives the results I'm looking for.
Also there seems to be a lot of old documentation on the Wiki. Personally I'm a big fan of 3Ds max help file, its quick and always has all the info I need (i find it better than Photoshop or even Maya)
Some of the best features I started using recently that saved me a LOT of time like "Mask by Polygroups" or "Mask with the Move gizmo dynamically" or the "Minimum connected points to smooth" where all by going through the forums and reading topics...