Zbrush for Jewellery – Jewellery CAD Software Overviews and Tutorials

ZBrush for Jewellery

Zbrush being used to model a tree branch engagement ring in CAD for 3D PrintingZBrush was originally designed as a digital painting tool with 2.5D features which allowed illustrators to use 3D models and relief tools to enhance the realism of their digital imagery. They patented a “pixol” architecture which stored 3-dimensional information with colour pixels for easier and more sculptural relief editing. However, as time has gone on, the 3D sculpting tools enclosed within this 2.5D program have become the main feature most users seem to be interested in, so its use has expanded into CGI and digital effects, and eventually into product design.

With each new version and service release, its digital clay sculpting tools have become increasingly powerful and easier to use.

Only recently has Zbrush started to appear in the realm of CAD jewellery design, but since it has appeared it has become one of the tools of choice for the purpose of adding texture and sculptural forms to jewellery.

Zbrush’s Advantages and Disadvantages

Even a cursory glance at work of Zbrush artists will quickly show the unbelievable potential this software holds for being able to create texture and sculpted surface detail on any CAD model.

What the Zbrush forums and website don’t tell you, however, is just how non-intuitive the interface really is for newcomers to 3D modelling, and how steep a learning curve this software requires. Once you finally get used to using the software, however, it is hard to underestimate just how powerful the texturing and sculpting tools in this software can be.

I know I’m not alone among 3D CAD jewellers when I say this may be the most powerful secondary software package you can get for creating complex jewellery. Assuming, of course, you’ve already become skilled at a first software package.

Of course, there’s more to it than just that. Contact me to discuss the advantages of Zbrush relative to other jewellery CAD programs, and whether Zbrush is the best jewellery CAD software package for you.

To Learn More About Jewellery CAD/CAM

If any of these tutorials whets your appetite for learning more about how to use ZBrush for your CAD jewellery design and manufacturing, I can provide you with two options:

  1. I offer one of the few bespoke masterclasses in the world using Zbrush for sculptural and organic modelling specifically for jewellery. Contact me directly to find out more about bespoke private tuition in Zbrush to suit your business needs and timetables.
  2. Alternatively, I have collected a series of tutorial videos below which can both help you get a feeling for what the software is like to use, and also how to perform certain key tasks in the software.

Selected Tutorial Videos

Zbrush’s own Zclassroom is a good place to start learning the basics of Zbrush functionality. It is, however, very much focused on character modelling for games and movie CGI. There is only one jewellery tutorial in that entire set, and it’s not an easy one.

7 thoughts on “Zbrush for Jewellery – Jewellery CAD Software Overviews and Tutorials

  • 10 April, 2015 at 11:53 pm

    Actually, no, brush was not designed to add textures to 3d assets. It was originally a 2.5D illustration program.
    And the “pixol” has nothing to do with Zbrush’s 3D capabilities. The Pixol is a term coined by Pixologic used back in the day, when it was only a 2.5D application. Assigning depth information along with the standard RGB information. Pixols aren’t used currently for 3D modeling in Zbrush. It uses polygons, just like any other 3d application. However, unlike other programs, Zbrush has the best digital-clay manipulation tools available.

    The interface is easy to pick up, if you leave behind everything you know about traditional 3d programs.
    Stop misinforming the public!!

    • 11 April, 2015 at 5:39 pm

      Dear Dan:

      Thank you for providing some corrections to the semantics of Pixols versus polygons versus digital clay. I have adjusted the article above accordingly. However it has only been in the past couple of years that Zbrush has been using the term digital clay. If memory serves, in version 3 and earlier it used displacement maps to do much of the heavy lifting of the surface texture work in its models.

      You are indeed right that Zbrush was designed as a 2.5D program. They’ve been advertising that since version 1.

      Funnily enough, whenever I mention anything about how difficult the Zbrush interface is to learn, it seems Zbrush devotees get very defensive. But then when I explain what I’m talking about they end up agreeing with me. So that’s what I’ll do here:

      As you said yourself, Zbrush started (and still is) a 2.5D design program, having as much in common with Photoshop as it does with other sculpture programs. You have to basically go into a sub-editor inside the program to work on 3D objects at all (called zTools). The thing is, tasks which would be simple and commonplace in most 3D CAD programs, even other digital clay programs, require knowledge of awkward tricks, finger dances, or adapting of tools to uses never intended by the developer to get them to the cooperate.

      For example: performing a basic boolean operation of cutting a hole exactly through the middle of a cylinder. This is a mainstay of ring making, and takes seconds in most CAD programs. Even in Geomagic Sculpt it doesn’t take more than a few moments. However, try doing it in Zbrush and see how big of a headache it is (even with the improved Dynamesh functionality in the latest versions). Even worse, try teaching someone else who’s new to Zbrush how to do this.

      Or as another example: Try modelling to scale in Zbrush.

      I could go on, but you get the idea. I’m not saying Zbrush isn’t one of the most impressively powerful sculpture tools available on the market. However, it was never designed with product design in mind, and it shows. Some aspects of using the tool aren’t too bad, but there are quite a few techniques in Zbrush which are comparatively awkward compared to any other digital clay tool or product design CAD tool.


      P.S. Just so you know Dan, it is possible to request that changes be made to an article without being rude. You might want to try that next time.

  • 20 December, 2015 at 4:58 am

    I have recently gone through 3 months of training with ZBrush with their demo license. It’s fantastic and extremely powerful. Although I have to say the biggest issue I too had with it is scale. Easiest way to get something into the program is starting in an external CAD and get it to scale there and then bring it in. It’s still a bit weird that way but it does definitely work. Still a very difficult program to learn and I still have a long ways to go with it.

    • 25 March, 2019 at 12:47 pm

      Indeed. Most people seem to work with Zbrush this way, using another program to confirm the manufacturing tolerances of the pieces made in Zbrush. Rhino works well for this purpose, but it’s not the only one I’ve seen used.

  • 13 November, 2018 at 10:45 pm

    Thank you for the post. It’s very helpful.

  • 24 May, 2020 at 8:24 am

    Is there any free CAD software you would recommend for getting the scale right and then importing to Zbrush?

    • 16 June, 2020 at 9:45 am

      Hey Heather:

      While there are (very limited) measuring tools in Zbrush, you need some sort of product design CAD software to back it up. Most people’s weapon of choice is Rhino, because of its flexibility with importing and exporting. But while it is cheap (especially for students) it is not free, except as a temporary demo.

      There are several cheap CAD options out there, and I’m researching them now, but my experience so far tends to be you get what you pay for.

      I hope that helps.


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