Kitbashing Creatures in ZBrush

Mar 06, 2022 at 06:15 am by Warlord720

Way back in 2020… you know… the year everyone’s life changed… I wrote an article about Kitbashing in the Digital Age which covered what kitbashing is, including machines and creatures. Many think it’s easier to piece together parts of machines, houses, and other static objects than it is to make a creature or other character that are seamless while retaining individual parts like the torso and head for UV mapping, sculpting and a number of other edits.

I can’t say for all applications but in ZBrush, there are simple steps to follow in throwing together a creature. I’m bashing together a creature because they are easier to make than human characters. It’s easy to spot problems in the mesh or sculpt with human characters where creatures are wide open to interpretation. The arms and legs don’t have to fit perfectly to the torso as they will all be smoothed together in the end result.

There is a free set of monster kitbashing parts over at BadKing ( which I use parts from in this example.

My first step for my kitbash creature is to start with the torso as that is the center point of the entire sculpt and everything else will be added to this base mesh. For my workflow, I like to keep major body parts in different poly groups. I sometimes work with the poly frame on and line off so I can see the groups.

After the torso, I add the legs and scale them to the appropriate size to touch the floor or lower the torso if you want a creature with shorter legs. A lot of creatures are “out of proportion” in humanoid terms so this is another area you experiment and learn with while not looking like a newb with the final result.

From here I add the arms while deciding if they will be long or short, forward or back of the centerline of the torso. Since I will be sending the final mesh to Mixamo to rig it doesn’t have to be in a TPose or another mandatory pose. Next is the head which includes a separate jaw, but Mixamo doesn’t take that into account when it auto-rigs the character.

Kitbashing Stages with PolygroupsDifferent stages of kitbashing a creature.

At this step we can still alter the various polygroups or sculpt changes into any of the kitbash parts I have added.  At this point you may want to customize your thrown together creature with other parts and accessories because the next step involves melding all those different layers and groups into one mesh for final smoothing and sculpting.

Good old Dynamesh is the glue that pulls it all together, but Dynameshing is a destructive method that creates one mesh instead of all the separate parts. It also makes it easier to smooth out the areas where different kitbash elements attach. These hard seams can be smoothed, brushed out or re-sculpted to meet your needs after Dynameshing does its magic.

I usually make a duplicate of the mesh (tool in ZBrush) I’m working on to Dynamesh so I can have an original tool saved should I need to go back to make edits or alterations.

Dynameshed, smoothed and paintedAfter Dynameshing/smoothing the intersections of the various parts and finally, after Substance Painter.

After this I export the mesh from ZBrush then send it up to Mixamo for auto rigging. While the mesh is rigging, I open Substance Painter using the same exported mesh to start painting on a texture. Since it’s a creature/monster it only needs a skin, so this simplifies the process.

After Mixamo has finished auto rigging I download the model then jump over to 3DXchange and convert it to a character using the Maya preset. From here I send it directly into iClone for further tweaking and testing. I also add the texture maps created in Substance Painter while in iClone.

So there you have it, a basic run through of kitbashing an organic character that will work in iClone with most of the bells and whistles including motions.

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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