Digital sculpting application
Wiki Computer graphics
Pixologic (now Maxon) ZBrush is a digital sculpting tool that combines 3D/2.5D modeling, texturing and painting. It uses a proprietary "pixol" technology which stores lighting, color, material, orientation, and depth information for the points making up all objects on the screen. The main difference between ZBrush and more traditional modeling packages is that it is more akin to traditional sculpting.
ZBrush is used for creating "high-resolution" models (able to reach 40+ million polygons) for use in movies, games, and animations, by companies ranging from ILM and Weta Digital, to Epic Games and Electronic Arts. ZBrush uses dynamic levels of resolution to allow sculptors to make global or local changes to their models. ZBrush is most known for being able to sculpt medium- to high-frequency details that were traditionally painted in bump maps. The resulting mesh details can then be exported as normal maps to be used on a low poly version of that same model. They can also be exported as a displacement map, although, in that case, the lower poly version generally requires more resolution. Or, once completed, the 3D model can be projected onto the background, becoming a 2.5D image (upon which further effects can be applied). Work can then begin on another 3D model which can be used in the same scene. This feature lets users work within complicated scenes without a heavy processor overhead.
ZBrush was developed by the company Pixologic Inc, founded by Ofer Alon (also known by the alias "Pixolator") and Jack Rimokh. The software was presented in 1999 at SIGGRAPH. The demo version, 1.55, was released in 2003, and version 3.1 was released in 2007. ZBrush 4 for Windows and Mac systems was announced on April 21, 2009 for an August release, but was later postponed. Version 3.5 was made available in September the same year, and includes some of the newer features initially intended for ZBrush 4.
Through GoZ ("Go ZBrush"), available starting in Version 4, ZBrush offers integration with other 3D graphics programs such as Autodesk Maya, Autodesk 3ds Max, Cinema 4D, LightWave 3D, Poser Pro, Daz Studio, EIAS, Modo and Blender.
Like a pixel, each "pixol" contains information on X and Y position and color values. Additionally, it contains information on depth (or Z position), orientation and material. ZBrush-related files store pixol information, but when these maps are exported (e.g., to JPEG or PNG formats) they are flattened and the pixol data is lost. This technique is similar in concept to a voxel, another kind of 3D pixel.