Author, acclaimed artist/illustrator and administrator of the www.ZBJapan.com website, chats about his experiences with ZBrush.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am an illustrator who lives in Tokyo. I work mainly for a publishing/media company, creating advertisements and company mascots. I also often do overseas jobs; especially in France. As a child, I loved clay and crayons. My parents forbade me from watching TV cartoons or reading comic books until I was 12 years old, and when they lifted that restriction I rebelliously immersed myself in them. Star Wars also helped lead to my interest in visual art. I wanted to become a comic artist, but realized that I was not a good storyteller. Therefore, I shifted my goals to become an illustrator. I worked for a design company in Nagoya as a graphic designer for seven years, after which I moved to Tokyo in 1990 to begin work as an illustrator. I purchased a Macintosh IIci, WACOM graphics tablet and Painter in 1992, after which I came to do a great deal of work. Starting in 1995 I wrote a lot of magazine articles and 5 books about Painter, and then in 1998 received the Grand Prix award in MetaCreations' "Beyond the Canvas" digital art competition.
How did you first discover ZBrush?
At first, through both friends and magazine articles. Then in January 2000 I received a letter about ZBrush from Jaime at Pixologic. A friend (Anders F. Ronnblom of EFX Art & Design) had shown my Painter works to Jaime, who felt that my style was a match for ZBrush. As he'd expected, I was soon captivated by the program.
Which ZBrush techniques and applications have been useful to you in your work?
At first, my intention was to create "virtual clay" illustrations in ZBrush. I wanted to add 3D illustration as one of my styles. ZBrush has now grown so big as to account for a large portion of my work.
"ZBrush's 2.5D functionality is ideal for creating 3D CG images for printed materials."
How would you rate ZBrush's contribution to your workflow?
Since I'm a publishing illustrator rather than animator, I usually only need a still image. ZBrush's 2.5D functionality is ideal for creating 3D CG images for printed materials. When I have time to spare, I paint a texture for my models in 3D. But when I'm in a hurry, I paint colors and materials in 2.5D and then compose it in Photoshop to finish. This workflow is surprisingly fast!
What is your favorite new feature or features of ZBrush?
I like the new sculpting brushes; in particular Smooth and Morph. They are splendid. Formerly, I was cautious in case a model would gain irregularities, but now I can sculpt a model boldly. And of course, I love the Multi-Resolution Subdivision Mesh Editing. Only ZBrush is able to sculpt both the broad shape and fine details at the same time. It used to take a measure of bravery to subdivide my models, but now I'm comfortable with it! I like ZBrush 2's unique interface very much. It keeps the canvas wide, and I can customize it freely. There is no superior interface elsewhere. I think that other graphic programs should follow ZBrush 2's lead.
What were your reasons for using ZBrush?
Recently, I wanted to spend more time with form and color than depicting shading. This is what led to my interest in 3D graphics. However, ordinary 3D applications take too much time to be suitable for a publishing illustration job that requires speed. I want to get the image out of my head and into print quickly. Surprisingly, when I work with ZBrush I'm able to complete images faster than I could if painted in 2D. ZBrush is wonderful for speed.
Would you recommend ZBrush to other artists, and why?
The praise that has been given to ZBrush by many artists for its detailed sculpting and displacement map generation is well deserved. It's also very easy to make organic forms in ZBrush. In addition, I think that being able to quickly create low poly models from ZSpheres is a very powerful feature. In fact, using ZBrush I can create figures in several minutes that would require a whole day of modeling with other 3D programs.
Do you plan to incorporate ZBrush in future projects?
Of course. I want to get more jobs creating characters and mascots with 3D graphics. ZBrush is my most important tool for such work.
What other impressions or comments about ZBrush would you like to share with us?
I know that ZBrush is suitable for fine details and that it's a lot of fun to create terrible monsters or eerie zombies. However, that's not my style. So I create simple models like in my past 2D works. It's my style, which has served me for the past 20 years. My creations don't have meaning any other way.