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



zbrushcore...zbrush fun at a lower price!

Awhile back I started writing about 3D printing, and my exploration into a piece of software called ZBrush. It was the single most confusing piece of software I've ever tried to learn, but once you "get it," it's simply amazing. There are a lot of resources out there for learning, and the company's ZClassroom is pretty comprehensive. If you still have questions, you can go to Twitter and use the hashtag #AskZBrush, and they will answer with instructional videos on YouTube.

I've researched the different types of software available, and most "bench" jewelers that make mostly engagement-style jewelry are using something called RhinoGold, but the price tag is pretty hefty. If you want to add on the functionality of modeling with a virtual clay, it will set you back over $8,000.

But ZBrush wasn't made for jewelry. It's been around since the late 1990s, and primarily used for creating movie monsters and CGI effects. If you've watched any of the Marvel movies, or even Game of Thrones, you've seen things made with ZBrush.

So I've been working with the most recent version (as of Fall 2016), which is ZBrush 4R7, costing about $800. I understand 4R8 is coming, but a little surprise happened along the way...a new version called ZBrushCore. This new version is targeted at folks who want to get started with 3D modeling in ZBrush, who might not need all the bells and whistles, and who want a lower price. Voila! ZBrushCore is $199.

Click to enlarge

Feeling pretty advanced with ZBrush, at least where jewelry is concerned, I volunteered to give a demo to a fellow glass artist who is interested in using 3D printing to create specialized tools. At first I gave her a demo of ZBrush 4R7, well before the introduction of ZBrushCore. Then she came over for a quick intro lesson on the new software, and I was thrown off a little by some of the tools that are missing, but we still had a successful tutorial session, making some press molds for clay. But as you can see, the Palettes are significantly simplified.

After getting a chance to work more with ZBC, I found there are workarounds for someone working with jewelry designs. And Pixologic has also included some starting projects in the "Lightbox" for a signet ring, a plain band, and an engagement ring. There are also wonderful videos for getting started...the ring below is a variation of one of their tutorials. I added the bezel and stone, and hollowed out the back of the ring so that it would be lighter to cast. The new version also includes simplified exports for 3D printing, but I haven't tried those yet.

New Gizmo 3D tool

ZBrushCore is also limited to 30 different brushes, but the majority of them are the brushes I use most. I did try loading some of my favorite brushes from ZBrush 4R7, but I got a message that says that ZBrushCore only allows brushes created in that program. I'll have to look into that...can I make brushes? But it did let me load in my favorite materials (Shiny, Shiny Dirty, and Dirty Blue).

It was also missing some of the Clipping Brushes...most notably the ClipRect brush that I use frequently. I tried adding it, but it wasn't accessible. I also couldn't find the Close Holes function, but found that when a Dynamesh operation is performed, the holes automatically close. I really like the new Gizmo 3D tool that allows the user to more easily rotate, stretch, and resize the model, and look forward to that be added into the full version of ZBrush.

One other thing that might throw off an experienced ZBrush user is the masking brushes. At first you think that some of the mask brushes are missing, but check the Stroke options below the masking brushes, and you'll find your old friends. the Curve and Lasso options. Under the mask brushes, you'll also see the new additions of PerfectCircle and PerfectSquare.  These were formerly checkboxes in the Stroke options, but adding them in as an easily accessible tool makes things really nice.

If you've got the extra money for the full version of ZBrush 4R7, I would recommend the full version, but if you're on a budget and just getting started, ZBrushCore is a great program that simplifies the learning process, and still produces models that can be easily printed in 3D.

I'll write more about this over the weekend, and create a tutorial on how to make a ring for YouTube. But if you're interested in digital sculpting, ZBrushCore is a great place to start!

Variation of silver ring from ZBrushCore's tutorials