A frequently requested topic for a lot of new ZBrush users is how to create armor and there are a lot of methods to achieve this. Some are advanced and require some time to accomplish but others are simple methods to create custom armor, clothing, or accessories in ZBrush.
This is not exactly beginners’ level as I will not delve into the ability of brushes or other features except to name what was used. It’s up to you to experiment and figure out what you can do with these methods. There will a rudimentary explanation of technique for demonstration, but this is not that complicated yet produces good results.
The first method involves cutting out the armor from a duplicate of the original character mesh then inflating the armor until it fits on the surface of the character. Nothing is from scratch; it all comes from existing meshes. This one being a Reallusion Character Creator 3 neutral male mesh.
- Duplicate the character mesh and turn off the visibility of the original mesh (tool).
- ZRemesh the duplicated character at Double poly pressing ALT-REMESH to continue.
Native Character Creator 3 Mesh and after Remeshing.
- Using the SLICE CURVE tool turn the character sideways… exactly 90 degrees to accommodate the cut as slicing does not offer symmetry. Turning the character sideways also makes it easier to slice the mesh across the screen and get symmetrical results. With Polyframe turned on you will notice the mesh turn different colors as you cut. Each color is a separate piece. Just draw the slice tools across the screen on the mesh where you desire the cut to be. Single press A to create a gentle curve or Double press A to create a sharp angle.
After using the Slice tool to draw the curved lines across sideways mesh for even sculpting.
- After cutting the armor pieces you can now paint each piece separately to continue on to using Loops (coming up) to create a bit more detail in the armor edges and form.
- For the leather straps that hold the chest armor, we will use another method that involves simply painting them on with the mask brush then going into Polygroups and pressing the Group Masked Clear Mask button. This creates a separate group for the straps like slicing did only we could use symmetry to draw consistent straps. Don’t panic over the ragged edges. Go into the Lightbox->Brushes->Smooth and get the SmoothGroups brush. This little jewel will shape those jaggies into a nice line.
A.)Drawing out straps with Mask brush. B). Polygroup by Mask -Clear Mask. C.) Smoothing out jaggies with Smooth Groups brush.
- Hide all the non-armor pieces of the character that we did not use. This leaves only the armor cut-outs visible. Go to Geometry->Modify Topology->Del Hidden to delete the hidden mesh as we only need the armor now.
- In the Geometry menu under GroupsLoops turn off Triangle and press the GroupLoops button. You can experiment with the setting (Loops and GPolish) to see the differing results. You now have multi-sided geometry that can be manipulated with the Move and Move Maskings tools.
- Grab the Move tool and go into the Brush menu to Auto Masking turn up Mask by Polygroup to 100 percent. This allows us to grab each poly group individually with the Move brush instead of affecting the entire mesh.
A.) Chest piece after Slice and Masking tool. B.) Chest piece after pulling out polygroups with Move Brush. C.) Final Result before texturing.
- We can paint the armor piece now. I used simple colors to show the UV mapping as I usually go into Substance Painter for final texturing. After painting each poly-grouped piece of armor we can now turn on the visibility of our original character while keeping the armor selected. From here go to the Deformation menu and use the Inflate slider several times until you are satisfied it sits outside the original mesh boundaries. If you forget this step, the armor will be the same size as the character and will poke through in places. Deformation inflates the armor to whatever you need.
A.) Armor after simple painting to create UV Map. B.) After Inflating via Deformation menu to fit the character. C.) Armor on iClone character.
That’s it! Slicing or masking are simple methods of cutting out armor from a duplicate of the existing mesh which also retains the original shape of the body such as the muscles or you can smooth those out with the Smooth brush. We didn’t get into dressing up the armor or properly texturing it so just imagine what you can do when you paint it properly in ZBrush or your application of choice.
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.