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Dynamic Character Poses in ZBrush: Evoking Motion and Grace in Fine Art Sculptures

3D Artist Deryck Pelegrini has shared a breakdown of The Three Dancers project, explaining how he created a set of different poses from the same mesh using Reallusion's new Pose Tools plug-in for ZBrush.


Hello! My name is Deryck Pelegrini and I'm a 3D Artist from Brazil. I live on a small island near Sao Paolo, and I love to get to the water and surf when I am not creating 3D stuff.  

In my professional career, I am focused on creating 3D characters for games. In my personal work, I like to do sketches and explore moving characters in dynamic poses. I am glad that some of them have been featured on ZBrush Central, and I had to chance to talk about them on ZBrush LIVE a couple of times. I am passionate about telling a story through sculpture using shape and color. Therefore, I love messing around with the "digital clay" in ZBrush, exploring fluid shapes while trying new techniques in my projects. 

Recently, I've been practicing a lot with new tools. In this article, I am going to talk a little about my latest work The Three Dancers, and how I created a set of different poses using the same mesh using the new Pose Tools plug-in for ZBrush made by Reallusion, the guys behind Character Creator. 

Design Concept

The idea was to create a piece with very dynamic poses that had the look of a museum piece. I like to experiment a lot when I'm sculpting and testing new techniques on my models, both in terms of sculpting and painting, and the pose is a factor I like to play with, bringing the character to life and imagining it in the key moment of determined action, trying to make the sculpture as loose as possible in all aspects, and whenever possible leave space for the spectator to imagine and complete in their mind while observing.

Pose Tools for ZBrush

The plug-in's name is Character Creator Pose Tools for ZBrush. This plug-in is free and allows you to create different poses for your character and switch from one pose to another with just one click. Pose Tools even makes it possible for you to send your model from ZBrush directly to Character Creator 4 for rigging and posing via Pose Link.

And you can still take advantage of the huge library of motions and poses and send them to ZBrush with just a few clicks.

Step 1: References

When I think of dynamic poses and movement, one of the first things that comes to my mind is dance. Beautiful plastic and dynamic movements make the human body sometimes seem light as a feather and flexible as bamboo.

Here are some references that inspired the creation of this project.

Step 2: Selecting the Base Mesh

To get the most out of your sculpture it is recommended that the mesh has a good distribution of polygons. So, when you subdivide the geometry in ZBrush, you can reach the same level of detail uniformly in your model.

For this project, I'm going to use Male Neutral from Character Creator. It has a good human topology, the mesh is all quad with is great to subdivide the mesh and achieve high levels of detail for sculpting. So the base mesh is pretty much ready for us to subdivide and start the sculpting process, this base will be an awesome starting point for this project

Step 3: Sculpting the Base Mesh

Before starting to create our first pose, I'm going to do a sculpting pass to define my character's bone structures and muscles. This first layer of sculpture is very rough and it's going to be the starting point for creating all my poses.

Step 4: Creating Pose 01

To start we will use the Pose Tools plug-in. To create a new pose, we'll use the Record a New Pose option.

After clicking on the button, we will be asked to name this new pose.

There are many ways to use Pose Tools to store your poses. In this project, I used the Pose Tools along with the Transpose tool and the Mask Brush to get the pose I wanted.

After moving, pulling, and rotating the character and reaching the desired pose, it's time to save the pose in Pose Tools. And doing so is as simple as pushing a button. Seriously, you just need to press a button and your pose will be stored in the plugin under the name you chose earlier.

To return to your base pose, just unclick the Pose Tools pose slot. By doing this, we return to the original base from where we can go to the next pose.

Step 5: Editing the Poses

But my pose wasn't finished yet. Due to the movements I made on the character, my mesh got a lot of artifacts in Pose01. Solving this is very easy with Pose Tools. You can edit the created pose by clicking the Edit Current Pose button. This makes it possible for us to re-sculpt and modify our mesh.

Now it's time to sculpt and refine the sculpture. My idea here was to create a distinct air for the model, emphasizing the bone landmarkings so that it had a certain charm and also gave a good reading for the character's shapes. And to give it a clay effect finish, I used one of my favorite brushes called Clay Layer Strong made by Pablo Munoz Gomez.

Step 6: Creating Pose 02

To create pose 02, I repeated the same previous steps. Starting from my base pose:

Record New Pose >>> Give the new pose a name >>> Use the Transpose and Mask Brush to put the character in the desired pose >>> Save New Pose.

Once the pose block was defined, I was able to sculpt the model again using Edit Current Pose and thus correct the distortions created by the pose in which the character was placed and finalize the sculpture with the same level of quality as in pose 01.

Step 7: Creating Pose 03

Repeating the previous steps, I created Pose 03 using Pose Tools. First by creating a very rough first block.

Then, using Edit Current Pose, I fixed all the imperfections and finished the sculpture the same way I did the first ones.

Step 8: Colors

Lately, I've been really enjoying the idea of adding color to my sculptures and this project was no different. Another thing we can do using Pose Tools is to color the same mesh using PolyPaint with different color schemes for each pose slot you have in your file. To do so, just select the slot with the pose you want and enter Edit Current Pose mode and start painting the geometry using ZBrush's PolyPaint. This way, using the same geometry, I was able to create this set of three poses, each with its respective color scheme.


Pose Tools allow you to pose and color your model differently using the same mesh and make it possible to change these poses quickly and with just one click. The plug-in is very optimized, works together with the ZBrush Layers system very quickly, and has a very intuitive and functional interface. It's a great option to create variations of poses of the same character and test different possibilities for the same piece and still have editing control. There are several ways to use the plug-in, this is just one of them. Have fun with it!

For a CC and ZB Roundtrip Solution

The plug-in's name is Character Creator Pose Tools. This plugin allows you to create different poses for your character and switch from one pose to another with just one click.

Pose Tools even makes it possible for you to send your model from ZBrush directly to Character Creator 4 and vice versa. And you can still take advantage of the huge library of poses in the Character Creator Pose Library and send them to ZBrush with just a few clicks. CC's poses library is quite vast and has several options for poses and these can be a great starting point for your projects. And it's very simple to send them from CC4 to ZBrush using ZBrush Pose Link. With just one click, your poses will be stored in Pose Tools.

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