rendering...way cool!

One of the things I have just kind of accepted while working with ZBrush is that the rendering engine leaves a lot to be desired. If you want to invest a LOT of extra money into another piece of software—fantastic software—you can purchase Keyshot, which will allow you to apply photorealistic textures to your models.

Enter Blender.

And I thought ZBrush was complicated…oh…my…God. Blender made my head spin. But I’m pleased to say that after a recommendation from my new Facebook friend (and “Cyr” wheel instructor), Nick Carter, he turned me onto a really great Blender tutorial on YouTube. And before you know it, I’m modeling a donut and a cup of coffee, and I’m well on my way to rendering some jewelry.

Ring rendered in ZBrush

Ring rendered in ZBrush

So you may wonder, “Kat, what the heck are you talking about?” If you’re new to CAD and 3D modeling, then you model some stuff and you’re thrilled at what you’ve made. Then you watch a little HGTV and notice that their 3D CAD models look really realistic. THAT’S photorealistic rendering. Or sometimes you’ll see jewelry on websites and have no idea that the jewelry doesn’t actually exist…textures have been applied and lighting added, and VOILA!

Blender is another piece of software that is used for creating 3D models, scenes, and animations, and the amazing thing is that it’s absolutely FREE. And it has the ability to add those photorealistic textures. Will it replace ZBrush for me? No. I much prefer the freeform modeling of ZBrush and how much it feels like you’re interacting with real materials like clay. But for the moment, playing in Blender is giving me some really interesting results. Here’s the same ring from above with a silver texture applied and a translucent stone.

Rendering from Blender of a ZBrush model

Rendering from Blender of a ZBrush model

I’m still working through some kinks…for example, underneath the ring there are some artifacts in the shadows that I understand have something to do with lighting. And I’d really like to be able to apply a patina. Overall I’m pleased with the effects!

another huichol test video

So I just ran a test last night on creating a Huichol beading tutorial using my iPad Pro with Apple Pencil, Adobe’s Illustrator Draw program to create the bead grid, Recolor, a coloring app, to color the beads, and AutoCAD Sketchbook to animate the thread path. It shows promise!

I don’t thing the text with the bead colors is necessary, but I’m looking for a way to incorporate the colors into the video. Perhaps having a “sliver” of the pattern at the bottom while showing the thread path at the top.

I’ve always wanted to know how to do the leaves that are commonly used in Huichol bracelets and those amazing necklaces…now to show that to others! Stay tuned…

ZBrush illustrations and beading tutorials...

Today a thought passed through my mind…since the majority of visitors to my site are looking for Huichol beading tutorials, is there an easier way to create them?

Last night I was playing around with a new feature in ZBrush 2019, the software I use for jewelry design (mostly cast pieces), and realized that I could apply the new “NPR (non-photorealistic) Filters” to the 3D renderings that make them look hand-drawn! What if I created my beading tutorials in ZBrush, then rendered the images, or even put little movies on my site that allowed people to see beading diagrams more clearly?

Voila! I did a quick model this morning, and sure enough, it works.


The cool thing is it can also produce a black and white drawing that could be printed so folks could color their own designs, either in a tap-to-color coloring book program on the iPad such as Recolor, or with traditional markers or colored pencils.

Anyway, this should make documentation a LOT easier. Stay tuned!

nelson treehouse charm experiment in zbrush

Oh, these are the kinds of things that I do when I’ve been watching too much HGTV and Animal Planet!

I’ve long been a fan of the show Treehouse Masters and a really fascinating guy named Pete Nelson who—with a crew of extremely talented carpenters—build the most amazing treehouses. Not treehouses like the kind you had as a kid, but true works of art that just happen to be up in the air.

So tonight while watching I started thinking about my dream job building treehouses with Pete Nelson. Since they’re in Washington State, I’m guessing that dream will probably never happen.

But I could still make a treehouse charm! Inspired by Pete’s wonderful Fall City treehouse, I created a little charm in ZBrush. I haven’t really paid attention to the castability…this was more of an exercise.

It involved a lot of subtools, and a custom chain. The main treehouse was created out of a Cube3D primitive, trimmed using the Clipping function. The deck was extracted from another cube, drawn freehand with a lasso mask.

I’ve kept all of these subtools separate…for example, I may resize the trees to make the volume of the two trees on the left more closely match the tree on the right so it would sit correctly.

Still not sure how I would sprue this puppy for casting, but it may make its way to my printer in the next few weeks.

And who knows? Tonight’s episode featured Pete and the guys here in Texas building a treehouse near the Frio River. I’d even volunteer for free if he ever needed help here in the Lone Star State. I have tools and a tent and a ukulele!

Pete, call me!

A proof-of-concept charm based on  Pete Nelson’s Fall City treehouse

A proof-of-concept charm based on Pete Nelson’s Fall City treehouse

a whale of a tale...and merry christmas!

Whale shark charm in ZBrush

Whale shark charm in ZBrush

Well, here we are again, and I took a couple days’ break to unwind from the remodel of my parents’ house. Mind you, I’m having a lot of fun working with an awesome group of guys to rebuild the SEVEN decks at this house, but we’ve got the main deck done and we’re working on the railings. A bit more work on the inside, and we’ll be ready to put it on the market. It’s been a long journey—over two years to clear out the house and do a major remodel.

Anyway, tonight I took a moment to record more ZBrush videos, and then my mind started to wander as I looked for more objects to model into jewelry. I absolutely love scuba diving, and swimming with a whale shark is definitely on my bucket list. I’d found my next model.

I started out with a sphere primitive and used the “Snake Hook” brush in ZBrush (shortcut “BSH”) to sculpt the form. I then used “Dam Standard” to create the ridges down the back, and the “IMM Primitive” brush with a sphere to add the spots. I will apply a patina, then the raised spheres should polish out and give the effect of light round dots. Or they might look like tiny polka-dots…sometimes when designing a small charm, you lose sight of what the larger model on the screen may translate into once it’s printed.

So it’s 1:14 a.m. the morning after Christmas, and I just wrapped up. I’m heading to bed. But I just wanted to share this awesome little guy I sculpted this evening. When I finally get back to my studio and start 3D printing and casting again, he’ll definitely be in the next batch.

And then I’ll have to go find a real one to go swimming with.

whale-shark-charm-pendant-necklace-kat-adair.jpg