The Best 15 ZBrush Plugins

by CGAfrica in Articles, Africa, Animation,

on March 17th, 2020

Pixologic’s industry-standard sculpting software has a pretty substantial toolset right out of the box. However plugins are addons to improve workflow and productivity in Zbrush

Here we’ve rounded up what we consider to be the most useful plugins including some of the ZPlugins provided by Pixologic as part of the installation that new users may not be familiar with.

1.  ZScripts – Eric Blondin

Cost: Free

Zscript by creature artist Eric Blondin. There are 36 functions available from the one menu panel, covering a variety of useful shortcuts and helpers. 

It includes things like framing selected SubTools, automatically going to a mesh’s lowest or highest subdivision level, toggling dynamic subdivision, automatic flipping of .obj UVs, automatic creation of colour ID maps and bump maps, and a ton of other little things that bug the day-to-day ZBrush user. And while you’re on Eric’s site you may as well pick up his favourite brushes and MatCaps while you’re there!

2. ZSceneManager – Exoside

 

Cost: Free/$29

A SubTool organizer plugin for ZBrush!

If you’re sculpting huge models with loads of separate elements, it doesn’t take long for ZBrush’s meagre SubTools menu to be become overloaded, which makes keeping track of everything a real chore. Cue ZSceneManager – available in a feature-limited free version and a ‘Pro’ version for $29. In short, it provides a dedicated window in which you can see all your SubTools, hide/show selected elements, enable/disable Polypaint, access subdivision levels, and loads more. 

There’s a bunch of options accessible via a right-click menu, although export/GoZ selected SubTools and user-definable commands are limited to the Pro version. It also employs a traditional shift-multiple-select system, unlike the willfully eccentric SubTools menu. ZSceneManager runs as a separate app so the window has to hover over the top of ZBrush, but there’s a ton of useful functionality here for power users.

3. NanoTile Textures

Cost: Free

Created by Pixologic’s Creative Development Manager and digital sculptor Joseph Drust, NanoTile Textures enables you to create seamlessly tiling textures up to 8K resolution. You start by using ZBrush’s Insert Mesh Object and NanoMesh Brush to sculpt a repeating pattern and then Nanotile Textures will render out a variety of tileable passes – Normal, AO, Color, Height, Bump etc – which you can then use to texture and displace a model within ZBrush or in your main 3D app.

Check out NanoTile Textures on the ZBrush Central forums for installation instructions and further information.

4. NicksTools ZBrush plugin

Cost: Free

Artist Nick Miller has put together this collection of tools and scripts to automate some of ZBrush’s workflow and add a few new features. The collection contains ten tools, plus nine miscellaneous scripts, all accessed from one menu panel. 

The main highlights include tools to help you load and save specific projects and ZTools to and from a user-defined ZStartup directory; a SubTool batch-renaming scheme; options for setting SubTool visibility; and a clever system for adding subdivision levels to a high-res model that doesn’t have any. With other tools for handling brush settings, masking, global subdivision and more, this pack is well worth installing.

This plugin is a collection of tools I have made to automate, expand and add some much needed features to Zbrush.

Download!


To install:

Place "NicksTools.zsc" file and "NicksToolsdata" folder in your *\ZStartup\ZPlugs and ZPlugs64 directory.

Discussion and Support on Polycount and ZBrushCentral threads.

5. Terrain Tools

Cost: $2.50

This brand new plugin – also by from Ignacio Cabrera Peña (currently only available for Windows ) – offers a set of tools for creating realistic terrain. It operates within ZBrush’s 2.5D workspace, with brushes to add hills and valleys, terraces and rivers, plus filters to carve different types of erosion into the landscape. 

Once the 2.5D terrain image is completed to your liking, the ‘Make 3D’ button grabs the height map and generates a displaced plane, which you can then sculpt as normal or export into another app for texturing and rendering.

6. ZTree

Cost: Free

As you’d expect from the title, this neat plugin by Ignacio Cabrera Peña helps you build tree structures and then flesh them out with branches and leaves. You can start with either a simple ZSphere chain or use one of the deciduous or coniferous tree presets provided. ZTree will then automatically extend specified branches with ZSpheres and add secondary branches according to the rules laid out in the menu panel. 

It provides a shortcut for trimming branches and also will automatically add PolyGroups for texturing and editing later on. With an adaptive skin applied you can then sculpt areas of detail before adding the preset FiberMesh branches and leaves. ZTree includes an L-System, enabling you to apply rules to your branch generation and to build smaller bushes or more geometric, abstract forms.

Installation:

Plugins in ZBrush don't need to be permanently installed in order to use them. Simply unzip  the zip file to your preferred folder and run the plugin from that location.

Most likely ZBrush will be the app associated with the ZSC file extension so loading the plugin should be as simple as clicking on the ZSC file. If ZBrush isn't open yet this action will launch ZBrush with the plugin loaded in the Plugin subpalette and ready to use for the session. You can also load scripts directly from the ZScript Sub Palette.

To install the plugin so it's loaded every time ZBrush launches just move the ZTree.zsc file and the ZTreeData folder to "Your Installation Folder" \ ZBrush 2019 \ ZStartup \ ZPlugs64 \ .

ZTree2019 needs Microsoft VC++ redistributables. Chances are they are already installed in your PC but, if they are not, just unzip the included file VC++Redistributables.zip and run vc_redist.x64 to install the packages.

7. ZBrush to KeyShot Bridge

Models that look good when sculpted and textured in ZBrush look fantastic when rendered in KeyShot – and with this dedicated realtime renderer, the images take no time at all…

Models that look good when sculpted and textured in ZBrush look fantastic when rendered in KeyShot – and with this dedicated realtime renderer, the images take no time at all…

Cost: $149

Visualize your models using the easiest, most accurate rendering software created. KeyShot for ZBrush (through the ZBrush to KeyShot Bridge) allows you to paint, light and view your models in real-time with the ability to send all model changes back to KeyShot for an unmatched workflow in creating concepts and product visuals. Try KeyShot for ZBrush today.

A key release in 2015 was ZBrush 4 R7 plus KeyShot bridge, a live link between ZBrush and the CPU-based realtime renderer KeyShot. It works with any standalone version of KeyShot, but is also available with cut-down versions called KeyShot for ZBrush, which will only import models from Pixologic’s app. Hit the BPR render button and your mesh, including all SubTools, Polypaint information and MatCaps are sent to KeyShot where you can then add preset materials, lighting setups and HDRIs to produce high resolution imagery. 

The Pro version of KeyShot for ZBrush adds high-end functions such as render passes, additional presets, animation, an HDRI editor and more. The bridge alone costs $149, while the HD and Pro versions of KeyShot for ZBrush cost $200 and $400 respectively. 

Download and Try:

8. GoZ

We’ve used GoZ to send this detailed mech, which was modeled in ZBrush, to Cinema 4D where we’ve added materials and a lighting setup for rendering

We’ve used GoZ to send this detailed mech, which was modeled in ZBrush, to Cinema 4D where we’ve added materials and a lighting setup for rendering

Cost: Free, installed with ZBrush

GoZ was introduced several years ago and fundamentally changed the way ZBrush interoperates with other apps. When you initialise GoZ it automatically detects other DCC apps you have and installs the relevant plugin. GoZ then acts as conduit between the two, enabling you to send a mesh back and forth between ZBrush and the app you’re using, which includes Maya, Modo, 3ds max, Cinema 4D and Photoshop. 

GoZ (for GoZBrush) is a dynamic bridge between ZBrush and other 3D packages built around a specific file format, the GoZ file. In a single click, send from ZBrush to one of the supported application your 3D mesh, but also your maps to do a render or edit geometry or add an element to your model and if needed, send everything back to ZBrush, still in one click!

So, for example, you can build a polygonal mesh as normal, send it to ZBrush – to add some fine detailing, create UVs, normal and displacement maps etc. – then send it back to your host app. And, of course you can always start sculpting in ZBrush and GoZ your model for texturing and rendering, which leads us to…

9. Decimation Master

Here we’ve gradually reduced the poly count of the original subdivided model, down to just a few thousand polys

Here we’ve gradually reduced the poly count of the original subdivided model, down to just a few thousand polys

Cost: Free, installed with ZBrush

Another useful built-in tool is this ZPlugin for reducing the poly count of your high-resolution models. You simply preprocess a mesh or collection of SubTools, define the required point/poly-count or percentage reduction, and hit the Decimate button. 

The form and detail of your model is retained, but the number of polygons is drastically reduced, which is handy for getting your ultra-high-res ZBrush sculpts ready for rendering, import into game engines, 3D printing and so on. You can mask areas to retain definition and keep your UVs, but the only slight downside is that the mesh becomes triangulated – if you need quads you’ll have to retopologise by hand or use the ZRemesher tool.

Decimation Master is a free Plugin for ZBrush that allows you to greatly reduce the poly count of a model while preserving the high resolution detail. Decimation Master's ease of use is matched only by its speed.



You can interactively choose up to what percentage you optimize different areas of your mesh giving you a high level of control over how you preserve details while lowering your poly count.

If your model contains many different parts (Subtools) then you can choose to batch decimate all of the parts together, or each one separately.

Never before have artists been able to lower poly counts to such a highly optimized level while seeing almost no loss in detail.

*Available for both Mac and PC

10. UV Master 

It’s better at unwrapping organic models, but UV Master will make a decent stab at hard surface models too

It’s better at unwrapping organic models, but UV Master will make a decent stab at hard surface models too

Cost: Free, installed with ZBrush

To start with lets look at some of the key ZPlugins bundled with the app. There are several worthy of note, but one of the most useful has to be UV Master. Creating UV maps can be a chore, even if you’re familiar with the workflow, and a total mystery if you’re new to CG. 

Fortunately, UVMaster takes the drudgework out of it by providing a pretty solid one-click solution, but also allowing you to mark where you’d like your UV seams to sit. Even if you never sculpt with ZBrush, UVMaster is a great tool for rapidly making UV maps for importing into apps for texturing, such as Substance Painter. 

When creating or using a texture map, a 3D model needs UVs. These are 2D coordinates that tell all 3D applications how to apply a texture to your model. Until now, the process of creating those UVs has been a time consuming challenge that requires a high level of technical expertise and has little room for creativity.



UV Master is a free plugin which will create very efficient UVs for your models with a single click. Any artist can now quickly and easily create excellent UV maps. This free ZBrush plugin clearly represents the ZBrush ideal of maximum artistic freedom with minimal technical hurdles!

With UV Master's cutting-edge technology you can leave all the technical work to the computer. Because the UV maps generated by the plugin can be in one UV island you will be able to understand your model's UVs in any 2D image editor and paint or edit them like you would do with manually unwrapped UVs. Amazingly, what needs mere minutes with UV Master could take hours in other dedicated solutions! Just load your model, click Unwrap and you're done!

Download

11. ZBrush to Photoshop

This plugin has shipped with ZBrush since version 4R8 and is incredible. When you render in ZBrush you get up to 7 basic default render passes. It can be quite time-consuming saving them all out individually and compositing them in an app such as Photoshop. Not only does the ZBrush to Photoshop plugin give options for 24 different passes (24!), it will also render them all out automatically and arrange them appropriately in Photoshop, so you can jump straight into compositing! Some of the passes are really clever too, such as different light angles so the lighting can be completely changed after rendering.

The ZBrush to Photoshop CC plugin, located in the ZPlugin palette allows you to send BPR render passes from ZBrush to Photoshop CC through Extend Script functionality. Simply determine your camera angle, select the passes you want, and click ‘Send to Photoshop!’

Installation

The plugin is installed automatically with the default installation of ZBrush. If you need to reinstall the plugin, please execute the ZBrush full installer.

12. Scale Master

Over the past few years I’ve heard a few complaints about ZBrush’s non-standard way of calculating scale. The reason ZBrush handles scale differently is correlated with its ability to handle millions of polygons. But there are several reasons you might want to set a real-world scale in ZBrush, particularly with the emergence of 3D Printing technologies - Scale Master is the response to this. As you might expect the plugin gives you control over the precise scale of your model(s) and essentially works around ZBrush’s scaling system. One of the most useful aspects of this plugin I’ve found is actually the splash screen which explains how the scaling system works.

The Scale Master plugin, located in the ZPlugin palette allows you to choose what size your model should be, converting the model to generic units that resemble mm. With this size now being a constant your files will append and insert at the correct size and dimensions, giving you greater control when dealing with scan data or models for 3D Printing.


Installation

The plugin is installed automatically with the default installation of ZBrush. If you need to reinstall the plugin, please execute the ZBrush full installer.

13. Curves Helper

This is a really nice little script that allows for much better control over curves in ZBrush. Before ZBrush added the Liquify and Elastic functions to curves they were very difficult to control. Even with the added functions, they can still be a bit of a headache. Curves Helper works with ZSpheres, which are much easier to handle. Simply create your desired shape using ZSpheres and the script will convert them into a curve.

14. Multi Map Exporter

Multi Map Exporter should be your default go-to for exporting maps from ZBrush. It will automate the process of generating from a choice of Displacement, Vector Displacement, Normal, Texture maps, and the mesh itself. It also has two non-default options for exporting ambient occlusion and cavity maps which can be useful for a variety of things outside of ZBrush. There’s an abundance of different export options for each map which can be saved to a preset file for future use.

Multi Map Exporter is designed to automate map creation and export for your model. Settings can be saved and reloaded so that you can quickly set up the plugin and then leave it to export the maps, freeing you to spend more time creating your art.

15. ZColor

ZColor is a really cool new plugin by Pixologic. It is essentially a swatch manager that offers color harmonies based on the selected color. If you have ever used Adobe Color (formerly Adobe Kuler) you’ll be familiar with how this works – it’s a bit like having an Adobe Color right inside ZBrush. The best part is you can import swatches downloaded from Adobe Color and import them direct into ZColor. Very handy!

The plugin is located in the Zplugin palette. Open the ZColor sub-palette and click the ZColor button to launch the interface. The ZColor interface is a floating window and can be kept open and moved about while you work.

Please login to submit your comment