Analysis of Workflow – Zbrush rendering and final compositing

So although I’ve been using KeyShot for WIP renders throughout the whole of this project, I was getting frustrated with some of the ‘cons’ that I’ve detailed in an earlier post. The time taking for it to generate high-resolution images was becoming more irksome, and I was spending more time playing with settings than doing my own artwork.

I had watched a tutorial video about nice presentations of WIP sculpts in ZBrush that had some good information in it, particularly the ‘render passes’ option that I was unaware about. I realised that I could use the information here, and combine it with my photoshop skills to create a final concept image, it just took a few extra steps from what the video provided as a decent base to work upon.

Render passes from Zbrush:zbrush render passes

Depth – assigned to ‘Alpha1’ under the ‘Channels’ tab in Photoshop, can be used to inform the ‘lens blur’ effect, as well as some other features.

Mask – assigned to mask out the black area so that I can change background easily.

Render – basic render of ‘Basic Material 1’.

Shadow – set to blending mode multiply at 50%, can add colour to this in PS to add richness to the shadows.

Chrome/Metal – basic renders of some different materials, in PS cranked up the levels to only show white and used them as highlight/specular layers.

Clown – really useful one for masking out each individual element quickly with wand selection tool in PS, made it easier to assign gradient masks and photo textures accurately.

Rim – assigned a new material with a rim light effect to overlay/blend in with the PS composite.

Theban – a flat colour render that just shows polypainted info. I made an alpha for the symbols and applied it to the cloth subtool in zbrush, then with the flat colour render it only shows up the black (and it conforms to the folds and form of the fabric). Then in PS I can use that info as another mask and paint on a gold material.

The final result (with some overpainting and atmospheric fog)


I feel that this was a really effective process that was fast and easy to accomplish. As I had already invested a fair amount of time into creating a nice detailed sculpt that I was happy with I wanted more control over the final presentation aspect. I’ll definitely be using this method in the future for more polished pieces.

This method of ‘render stacking’ is fairly common industry practice in concept art particularly, where ultimately it’s about the design, and so the production of a 2D end image (utilising 3D techniques) is justifiable. I’ve found some examples (one from as far back as 2010) that show although this is not a new technique, for concept art it is still very much a stable and reliable one that many, many artists at the forefront utilise.

passes_render_reduzido(Athayde, 2013)

image_03_passes(Collings, 2010)

Image Bibliography

Athayde, D. (2013). Passes for BPR Render. [image] Available at: [Accessed 15 Aug. 2017].

Collings, N. (2010). Making Of ‘Orc Maori’. [image] Available at: [Accessed 15 Aug. 2017].



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s