3 ways to improve your anatomy in ZBrush

Create more dynamic models with this mini masterclass for refining a torso and creating a muscle map.

Matthew Trevelyan Johns is a senior artist at Cloud Imperium Games. Here, he shares three pro tips for improving your anatomy in ZBrush.

Attempting to sculpt a figure that is in a dynamic pose is incredibly challenging, so choosing the right anatomy reference is essential. The most important thing to look for in anatomy reference images is lighting.

I try to search for images where the subject is lit from a single, dominant light source. This type of lighting will produce the clearest patterns of light and shadow and will allow me to understand the undulating surfaces of the subject's body much more easily.

In 3D World issue 202, an anatomy special, I reveal 10 ways to sculpt perfect anatomy in ZBrush (with additional pro tips) over a 15-page feature, from gathering the best reference images and creating the base mesh to posing the figure, sculpting the hair and more.

Here are three expert tips from the torso section…

01. Establish major forms

Attempting to visualise these changes and re-sculpting them after the model is posed is a good way to further your understanding of anatomy

Using anatomical reference images, first create the larger masses that exist on the figure. Instead of thinking of each muscle on the sculpt as a simple blob of virtual clay.

Try to visualise it as a working anatomical vessel, understanding that when the knees bend, the quadriceps will stretch and flatten, muscle definition will become smoother and the hamstring muscles on the back of the leg will become tight and gain more mass.

02. Skeletal landmarks

While from person to person flesh and muscle varies, the skeleton can offer a much more consistent set of reference points.

It's a good idea to identify certain skeletal landmarks at this point - areas of the skeleton that are pressed up against the skin and not obscured by muscle.

By learning to identify some of these points, an artist can use them in order to provide reference markers when placing the surrounding muscles, and maintaining the proportions of the figure.

03. Check the silhouette

The skeleton used in this image was originally created by Ryan Kingslien and is an excellent skeletal reference

As you refine the shape of certain areas of the model, frequently take breaks in order to apply a flat shaded material to check the silhouette. This allows you to concentrate on the large masses and the areas of negative space around the model, without being distracted by unfinished portions or smaller details on the figure.

You can see here the positions of a few of the skeletal landmarks that I've sculpted onto my model at this early stage. Being aware of their positioning will help me to maintain their relationship with other limbs and muscle groups during the posing phase.

During the posing phase many of these details will deform badly and will require further sculpting. However, I personally find establishing them roughly at this stage encourages an understanding of the changes in appearance the muscles and bones go through during movement, and I find this extremely valuable.

Words: Matthew Trevelyan Johns

The full version of this 15-page feature first appeared inside 3D World issue 202, a Zbrush anatomy special – on sale now.

Liked this? Try these...