ZBrush 2019 - NPR Rendering

Mar 14, 2019 at 10:00 am by Warlord720


PLEASE NOTE: This is the first in a series of reviews and articles on ZBrush 2019 that will be published between follow-up articles on the NVIDIA Titan RTX as it comes out of 3D production testing.

In its current incarnation, with so many of us using it for sculpting, it is easy to forget that ZBrush has its roots in Drawing/Sketching. On the other hand, how could we ever forget that strange concept called 2.5D, the Pixologic created otherworld between 2D and 3D?

In fact, a lot of us have had our collective heads buried in the 3D sculpting aspects of ZBrush for so long that we are shocked to see the release of Non-Photorealistic Rendering (NPR) in the 2019 version.

I also have to say that with all the other tools out there I’m a bit perplexed as to why Pixologic would spend time and resources for NPR when it can be achieved through so many other means.  I wouldn’t be surprised if many fellow digital artists out there rely on other tools to get their NPR type productions.

It is nice though, to be able to render in the application that created the mesh, but 3D space isn’t the most intuitive for 2D renders at times.  Those with enough 3D experience can work around just about anything but newcomers can struggle mightily with a wide-open workspace.

NPR Rendering PresetsNPR Rendering Presets

ZBrush has always been an important part of production pipelines but not so much for the 2D visualizations. It usually works the other way around. Create in ZBrush then send to Photoshop or other applications for integration into the 2D environment.

Now with Non-Photorealistic Renders in the 3D environment, we can cut out some of those steps, particularly in the early stages of character or prop development by using the quick and easy NPR render tool newly released in ZBRUSH 2019.

Imagine your best photo ever

With just a few clicks here and there we can quickly render highly stylized or sketch type renderings without having to export and setup in another application.

It’s doubtful that cinematic style masterpieces will be rendered in this method due to it being it a bit clumsy and cumbersome for multiple props, but it does create one-off renders to see differing views of your creations.

It’s amazing how helpful the instant feedback is in seeing your characters in various render forms and types. Being able to do so without leaving the app is even better.

ZBrush 2019Top Left Corner Shows ZBrush Model with Differing NPR Render Presets

Setting up these renders is as simple as grabbing a preset from the Lightbox and hitting the BPR button to trigger the render. On my machine, the test renders were almost instantaneously produced.

Combine this feature with the Send to Photoshop feature introduced in ZBrush 2018 to quickly, seamlessly and painlessly get the rendered image from ZBRUSH to Photoshop for prepping, printing or whatever.

A marketing teaser over at Pixologic suggests… “see your 3D artwork in a whole new way with the new NPR system. Give that final 3D sculpt a hand drawn 2D style and even take your sculpted creations into the pages of a comic book”

That last part about the comic book might be a bit problematic as I stated earlier with complex scenes not being a ZBrush strength. Now if your comic book is “coffee table book” style collection of characters then you are in business.

I might also suggest that you dock the Render Menu to the left (or preferred) side of the screen so you can use the various BRP Render controls to tweak the render.

NPR rendering is just one of the new tools in the 2019 version of ZBrush which also includes version 3 of the Remesher, a new Spotlight tool called Snapshot and finally… after begging, pleading and the offering of other people’s first born they have given us FOLDERS! Blessed Folders… manna from digital heaven. We can now organize our sub tools like they always should have been. Five folders instead of 50 sub tools sounds much more manageable.

Personally, I have little use for NPR in ZBrush but I can see where it can be a great addition for character and prop creators that want to review or showcase their creations in a timely manner.


M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years.  Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD on his website




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