In 2010, Pixologic celebrated the 10th anniversary of the debut of ZBrush.
ZBrush was introduced to the world as an experimental art application with a unique
technology that allowed users to create illustrations in two and a half dimensions. I
remember seeing the Pixologic booth at a Macworld in New York in the summer of 2000.
The booth was small but the presentation was remarkable. I grabbed a demo copy, installed
it on my Mac laptop, and played with it on the train ride home from New York. At the
time I was primarily interested in 3D modeling and animation, so after Macworld, my
focus returned to LightWave and Maya and the demo copy of ZBrush collected dust on
I remember reading an article in 2003 in Cinefex magazine on the making of The
Return of The King. The author mentioned that the ghostly character of the King of the
Dead, who confronts Aragorn, was created in ZBrush. Within seconds of reading that I
was downloading the newer version of ZBrush and working my way through the tutorials.
I could not believe that the little 2.5 dimensional painting program I had played with
only a few years earlier could have created such an amazingly detailed and realistic
character. From that point on I became a ZBrush user. Because much of my work at the
time involved creating organic surfaces for animations in the fields of cell biology and
medicine, ZBrush seemed to be the perfect solution. For many years before ZBrush, a
number of 3D applications promised “digital sculpting”—an interface in which the
modeling tools used to create virtual surfaces were so intuitive that it felt like working
with clay. ZBrush was the first application to actually deliver this technology.
I was not alone in my realization of the potential of ZBrush. Over the years many
other CG artists have discovered that ZBrush is the key to realizing their fantastic visions.
Each update to ZBrush has included not only tools but technological innovations that are
designed to make computer graphics less technical and more accessible to artists. In version
2 we had ZSpheres, which allowed us to create virtual armatures that could be converted
into polygons and sculpted into organic shapes. Version 3 introduced SubTools,
which made the task of creating sculptures with multiple, independent parts easy, and
the sculpting brushes, which can be used to intuitively sculpt details into the surface.
Version 3.5 introduced ZSketching, a process where strips of virtual clay are painted onto
an armature and smoothed and sculpted into organic forms.