ZBrush Workspace Setup

File Locations


C:\Program Files\Pixologic\ZBrush 2018\ZStartup

Startup Projects

C:\Program Files\Pixologic\ZBrush 2018\ZProjects


Disable Splash Menu

C:\Program Files\Pixologic\ZBrush 2018\ZScripts\DefaultZScript.txt

Comment out line regarding Home Page.

Editor Preferences

Disable Light Box

Navigate to Preferences > Lightbox > Open at Launch, and disable this option.

🔒 To store these updates, reference Save Editor Preferences.

User Preferences

Material: SkinShade4

Geo Visibility: Polyframe (SHIFT + F)

Fill option disabled. This is for polygroup visibility.

Disable Right-click Popup Menu

Navigate to Preferences > Enable RightClick Navigation, and disable this button. This to limit inadvertently displaying the popup menu when navigating.

🔒 To store these updates, reference Save Editor Preferences.

Save Editor Preferences

Navigate to Preferences > Config > Store Config, and click on this button to save preferences.

This prompts with a dialog box notifying that the updates to the editor preferences have been saved to the master configuration file. These preferences are now loaded into the editor with each subsequent ZBrush launch.

Document Configuration

Define Default Document Size

Navigate to Document > Width & Height.

Disable Pro, which is used to constrain proportions.

Set Width and Height to match screen size: 3000 x 1256.

Another option is to enable Document > WSize to Auto Fit Window Size.

🔒 To store these updates, reference Save Document Configuration.

Disable Background Gradient

Navigate to Document > Range, and set slider to 0.

🔒 To store these updates, reference Save Document Configuration.

Change Background Colors

Navigate to Color specify color in Current Color panel.

Navigate to Document > Back and click on this button to attribute the specified Current Color to the Document Background Color.

Adjacent options for Border and Border2 colors can be configured using the same steps as above with either the same Current Color as the background or other user-defined colors.

🔒 To store these updates, reference Save Document Configuration.

Custom Unit Grid

Navigate to Draw > Up-Down > Map1. Import unit grid image file to be used. This will align the imported image grid to the default ZBrush grid.

Navigate to Draw > Grid Size and Tiles to coordinate the size of the ZBrush grid to align with the imported image grid. Note that the Tile should be a multiple of the Grid Size to either match or be a tiled grid within each major grid line.

Navigate to Draw > Fill Mode and use slider to adjust visibility of imported image grid.

0: Transparent

1: Light

2: Medium (Good default setting)

3: Dark (Grid appears through geo)

🔒 To store these updates, reference Save Document Configuration.

Save Document Configuration

Navigate to Document > Save As Startup Doc, and click on this button.

This prompts with a dialog box notifying that the updates to the document configuration have been saved to the following file and location. This is confirmation that the document configuration updates will be loaded with each subsequent ZBrush launch.

C:\Program Files\Pixologic\ZBrush 2018\ZStartup\StartupDocument.zbr



Plugin Locations

C:\Program Files\Pixologic\ZBrush 2018\ZStartup\ZPlugs
C:\Program Files\Pixologic\ZBrush 2018\ZStartup\ZPlugs64

XMD ToolBox 2.0

This tool is a phenomenal support system for ZBrush and I highly recommend it to organize brushes, alphas, and models. When I first started using ZBrush, I quickly began collecting a large number of brushes and alphas, but it became tedious manually updating them and coordinating them through the default ZBrush Lightbox methodology. But through the XMD ToolBox, I'm able to access any of the brushes, alphas, and models in my collection with a click and they become active in the ZBrush session. It also has the option to categorize content with tags, folders, and naming conventions. Another part of this tool that I appreciate is that there can be multiple paths set up to different file and folder locations where the brushes, alphas, or models are being stored, so they don't all necessarily need to be located in a single, predefined location. Ultimately, it has really made my use of ZBrush so much more enjoyable by having it take on the management of these ZBrush elements and its user interface make them quick to apply to any active ZBrush project.


ZScene Manager


This is an effective tool and subtool management dashboard that can be used within ZBrush. The plugin has a clear UI and easy-to-use functionality, supplementing ZBrush very well. The plugin has a free and paid version available. Although ZBrush has this functionality the traditional ZBrush UI can be a bit cumbersome at times and particularly when accustomed to other layer-based tools. This plugin takes the same information of subtools in the project and outlines them with relevant information, such as visibility, polycount, Boolean state, UV mapping, texture, symmetry, and many others. Right-clicking within the plugin window expands to a lot of other functions, such as renaming, grouping, selecting, and several others. While first learning ZBrush, the traditional UI made it somewhat challenging to adjust, but I learned the underlying structure of how the tools and subtools worked within ZBrush. However, as soon as I integrated Z Scene Manager into my workflow, the subtool management was exponentially expedited and has allowed me to really focus more on the other functions within ZBrush and the modelling tasks. Below is a quick visual documentation and overview of the ZScene Manager plugin for ZBrush.


Cintiq Tablet

When using the tablet and stylus, verify that the brush settings either account for the pen pressure sensitivity to drive the brush size and/or z-intensity, or that it does not account for it.


Cintiq Tablet & Pen Offset

Pen offsets to dual monitor config only for ZBrush. This arises from unresolved and unknown issue. The resolution is to shut down and start the computer again fresh; not just restart.


Startup Script

File Location

C:\Program Files\Pixologic\ZBrush 2018\ZScripts\DefaultZScript.txt

Auto Load Plugin

Initialize ZScene Manager automatically when ZBrush loads.

		[IPress,"Zplugin:ZScene Manager:Launch Zscene Mgr"]
		//[IPress,"Zplugin:XMD:XMD ToolBox"]


Navigation & Visibility Strategies

Navigation Controls

Local Transformations

By default, the Local Transformations is enabled and rotates the object around a pivot point defined by the mouse cursor's current position on the geometry. Disabling this option rotates the geometry around its center pivot point.


Rotation Axis

The rotation axis options define the axis or axes to rotate around. By default, this is set to all 3 axes, but selecting one of the individual axes is available, though it can be a bit of an odd form of navigation, such as shown below when using the z-axis.


Visibility Options


As applicable, utilize the sub-options available within the Polyframe (SHIFT + F) tool, including polygroup fill and line visibility.


Double-sided Polygons

To set single-sided polygons to double-sided visibility, navigate to Tool > Display Properties, and enable Double.



Topology Modifications

Trim Curve Clean Topology



  1. Set to orthographic view and align parallel to symmetry axis (x).
  2. Draw out curve with Trim Curve.
  3. Align view perpendicular to symmetry axis (x).
  4. Enable Move (W).
  5. Isolate mask trimmed surface (CTRL + LMB click on surface). It should be its own polygroup separate from the original mesh.
  6. Unlock move gizmo and Reset Orientation, followed by relocking move gizmo.
  7. Press CTRL & drag gizmo to the right. This creates an overlapping edge between the 2 polygroup surfaces.
  8. Enable Draw mode (Q).
  9. Isolate select trimmed surface. This should hide the original mesh that this trimmed surface was cut from.
  10. Grow visibility (CTRL + SHIFT + X), which is also accessible via Tool > Visibility > Group.
  11. Unmask all, then consolidate visible meshes into single polygroup (CTRL + W).
  12. Unhide hidden mesh, and verify all meshes are unmasked.
    • Extra Step
    • NOTE: [This step may or may not be necessary depending on the conditions. First attempt the next step to see if it works to clip the trimmed area with clean topology. If that does not work, then undo that step and complete this step followed by the next step.]

      Mirror using Tool > Deformation > Mirror (Verify this is on axis of symmetry [x]).

  13. Enable Tool > Geometry > Modify Topology > Mirror And Weld (Verify this is on axis of symmetry [x]).

Source: https://youtu.be/DzkAU8l0Bp0?t=1826

Subdivide Polygons

Subdivide polygons without smoothing by using Tools > Geometry > Grid Divide. The adjacent GD Segments defines grid separation.


Close Holes & Reset Tris To Quads

Close holes in topology by accessing Tools > Geometry > Close Holes. This closes holes with tris, but the option to merge tris into quads is available under Tools > Geometry > Merge Tris.


Mesh Operations

Duplicate Subtool Geo With Repeat Last

  1. Using the move tool, hold down CTRL to duplicate a single instance of the geo within a subtool.
  2. Use Stroke > Replay Last (Shortcut 1) to propagate a sequence of the duplicates in the same direction and in equal distances.

ZSpheres Workflows

Generate Geometry

Add ZSpheres

In Draw mode (Shortcut Q), click and drag to create new ZSpheres with mouse drag extent used to define radius of new ZSphere.


Move Zspheres

In Move mode (Shortcut W), select and drag ZSphere to move to new position.


Delete ZSpheres

In Draw mode (Shortcut Q), hold ALT and click on ZSphere to delete.



Preview Mesh & Refine Settings

Tool > Adaptive Skin >

  • Preview (Shortcut A):
  • Density:
  • Defines number of quads to capture shape.

    Higher density leads to smoother overall topology.

  • DynaMesh Resolution:
  • 0: Off

    Higher resolution leads to smoother overall topology.


Convert ZSpheres To PolyMesh

Tool > Make PolyMesh3D


Retopology Workflow

ZSphere Retopology Workflow

  1. Insert ZSphere and set subtool to active.
  2. Resize ZSphere to min size or hide inside geo to be retopo'ed.
  3. Enable Topology > Edit Topology.
  4. Draw topology by snapping points over geo.
  5. Click on canvas outside of geo to restart new sequence of topology points.
  6. ALT click to remove topology points.
  7. Preview using Adaptive Skin > Preview (Shortcut A key).
  8. Set Density to 1.
  9. Set DynaMesh Res to 0.
  10. This will generate a low res mesh using topology as base frame.
  11. Set thickness with Topology > Skin Thickness, then Preview again.
  12. Once satisfied with topology and thickness, Adaptive Skin > Make Adaptive Skin.
  13. Insert newly created skin made from ZSphere.
  14. Divide as necessary.
  15. Creases are automatically created at polygroup edges.
  16. New creases can be added to specific edges as necessary.

Follow-up Tip

  • Divide a few times, then view lowest res.
  • Geometry > UnCrease to remove creases, then move back to highest res.
  • Divide a few more times to soften edges that previously had creases.



Close Hole

Edges > Close > Convex Hole > Splines > Converge to Point > Polygroup Flat

LMB click & drag on edge to cap hole and define projection or flat close.

Tool Management


Use Insert over Append.

Polygroup Management

Acquire Polygroup & Apply To Polygons

Using the ZModeler, apply Polygroups to polygons.

ALT + LMB click on polygon with polygroup color intended to propagate. At the same time, tap the SHIFT key, then release ALT & SHIFT keys but not the mouse. (Note that this will temporarily change polygroup for this polygon to another color; disregard that conversion.)

Drag mouse cursor to adjacent polygons to apply the intended polygroup.


Brush Falloff

Drop this to full negative to have a hard edge with alphas and stencils.


Double-click alphas from Lightbox to bring them to the Texture node.

Then in the Texture node/panel, use the option to convert it to an alpha.

It will then be available as an alpha for that particular project.

Boolean Workflows

Live Boolean (Custom Shortcut ALT + R)

Material Development

Texture Maps

Polygroup/Polypaint to Color ID Map


  1. Specify different polygroups on the high-poly geometry within ZBrush, which are intended to be separate colors in an eventual ID map in Substance Painter.
  2. Enable Polypaint from Polygroups under the Tools: Polypaint panel. This will assign colors to the specified polygroups.
  3. Export the high-poly geometry using the FBX Export/Import plugin.
    • Enable Visible to include all visible subtools.
    • Enable Export Polygroups as Mats under the Options for the plugin.

Substance Painter

  1. In Substance Painter, bake the ID map/s using the Material Color as the Color Source.
  2. To confirm, set the viewer to display the ID map/s.
  3. One functionality of the color ID map is using color selections for masks with the Add mask with color selection option in the Layers panel. This allows for user to Pick Color and select IDs from map in geometry.





Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard Shortcuts

Toggle Lightbox


Wireframe & Polygroup Mode


Frame Content




Draw Mode


Move Mode


Preview ZSphere as PolyMesh


Clear Viewport


Edit Mode


Rotate Viewport

RMB drag

Pan Viewport

ALT + RMB drag

Zoom Viewport

ALT + RMB drag + release RMB

Perspective Toggle


Dynamic Subdivide


Repeat Last Action


Mask & Mask Tools Access

CTRL + LMB drag

Invert Mask

CTRL + LMB click outside selection

Demask Active Mask

CTRL + LMB drag outside selection

Create Polygroup


Applies new polygroup to active selection.

Move Active Mask/Curve/Selection

Create mask/curve/selection + CTRL > SPACE BAR - (release) CTRL + LMB drag (to move shape) > release SPACE BAR (to resize shape) > release LMB (to complete action)

This entire operation is performed in a single action to create the shape, move and resize it by toggling the space bar, and finalizing position by releasing LMB.

Brushes Menu


Quick Selection & Selection Tools Access


Invert Selection

CTRL + SHIFT + LMB drag outside selection

Deselect Active Selection

CTRL + SHIFT + LMB click outside selection

Quick Brush Menu

Space Bar

Toggle Floor Grid


Select Polygroup

CTRL + SHIFT + LMB click on polygroup

Repeat action to add other polygroups to selection.

Hover over button > CTRL + ALT > Click on button > Enter new hotkey combo

Verify that new hotkey/s are stored via Preferences > Hotkeys > Store

Rotate On All Axis


Hotkey originally defaults to fill canvas layer, but reassigned to mitigate inadvertent fill canvas operation.

Quick Select Subtool

Hover over subtool > ALT + LMB

Keep Tool Window Open

SHIFT + LMB over window to open

Live Boolean


Custom Setting

Toggle TransPose & Gizmo 3D