Professional Services
Order outsourcing

80 Level Digest: Introduction to 3D Sculpting Tools & Techniques

If you are striving to become a 3D Sculptor, this week's 80 Level Digest has you covered, providing an overview of the most popular sculpting tools and featuring some comprehensive tutorials and breakdowns.

Hello everyone! Over the past few weeks, we have released several informative digests made with a single intention – to help aspiring artists get the hang of the most commonly used tools and techniques and become accustomed to the vast world of 3D art. But with Level Design being more akin to environment art and Proceduralism being a new kid on the block altogether, the previous digests covered only a thin slice of what 3D art has to offer. This week, however, we would like to share a deep dive into something that is used way more commonly by all sorts of digital artists – sculpting. 

So, continuing the series of 80 Level Digests designed to help beginners make their very first steps on their way to excellence, this week's article serves as an introduction to 3D sculpting tools, featuring an overview of various software, in-depth tutorials on using said software, and some outstanding works made by amazing 3D Artists and Sculptors.

Without further ado, let's begin!

We shall start today's list with one of the most popular and widespread sculpting tools in the world – ZBrush. With ZBrush being the go-to tool for the majority of Digital Sculptors, there isn't much one can say about this software that hasn't been said already. Featuring a comprehensive set of tools, ZBrush offers a sculpting workflow that is extremely easy to understand and is very similar to traditional real-life sculpting, allowing you to mold, cut, and paint your models any way you want.

Moreover, ZBrush uses a proprietary Pixol technology that stores lighting, color, material, orientation, and depth information for the points making up all objects on the screen, making the software an all-in-one tool for many aspiring and experienced artists.

Here are some in-depth tutorials that will help you get the hang of ZBrush:

Up next, we've got Autodesk Mudbox, one more extremely popular 3D digital painting and sculpting software created by the developers of such legendary tools as Maya and 3ds Max. Mudbox is widely used among different artists thanks to its easy-to-use toolset, which allows one to create detailed characters and environments with beautiful textures. The software offers a variety of intuitive sculpting tools, accurate texture painting workflows, brush-based workflows, and more.

To learn more about Mudbox, we highly recommend visiting Autodesk's official YouTube page, filled to the brim with various tutorials, guides, and learning materials related to the software in question.

And here are some outstanding works of Ian Spriggs made using Mudbox:

One more of Autodesk's applications, which is less commonly associated with sculpting but can still be used for that purpose is Maya, the company's flagship 3D animation, modeling, simulation, and rendering software. With the help of Maya, you can sculpt virtual 3D surfaces, constructed using polygons, and give them any shape and level of detail thanks to a huge selection of brushes and tools.

To get a better understanding of Maya's sculpting capabilities, we highly recommend checking out these educational videos:

The next software we would like to introduce you to is Substance 3D Modeler, Adobe's modeling and sculpting tool currently in Beta. Being based on Medium, which was originally a VR-only tool, Modeler offers an intuitive sculpting pipeline that will allow you to recreate your ideas on a desktop and in VR. And thanks to its flexibility, you can use Modeler for creating concept art, sketching and prototyping, blocking out game levels, crafting detailed characters or props, sculpting an entire scene, and anything else you desire.

Here are some learning materials that will help you get started with Modeler:

And here are some beautiful artworks made by various artists with the help of Substance 3D Modeler:

With Blender being a jack-of-all-trades-type of software, it is no wonder that it also provides a sizable sculpting toolset as well. By offering the sculpting and the polygonal modeling toolsets side by side, Blender greatly simplifies the transition between conceptual research and final model production, allowing you to complete your project from start to finish with just one software. The software's sculpting toolset includes 20 different brush types, multi-res sculpting support, Dynamic Topology sculpting, and mirrored sculpting, among other smaller features.

Check out these guides to get started with sculpting in Blender:

And to fully appreciate the capabilities of the software, we highly recommend checking out the ArtStation page of a renowned 3D Character Artist Yan Sculpts, who uses Blender as a primary sculpting and painting tool.

One of the lesser-known sculpting tools that would be perfect for aspiring artists is Meshmolder, a digital sculpting software developed by Computer Programmer and Software Developer Karlay Souza. Giving you the ability to manipulate thousands of polygons, the tool can be used to create and paint organic shapes in 3D, with functionalities for creating characters for games, films, and general arts. In addition to organic meshes, Meshmolder can create hard surfaces and allows you to develop whatever your imagination can achieve.

Here are some in-depth tutorials shared by the developer:

Also, check out these amazing pieces made with Meshmolder:

Another sculpting tool that you should definitely check out is 3DCoat, Pilgway's application that provides all the tools you need to turn a block of digital clay into a production-ready, fully textured organic or hard surface model. Thanks to dozens of fast and fluid sculpting brushes, the tool allows for voxel sculpting with no topological constraints, complex boolean operations with crisp edges, adaptive dynamic tesselation, and much more.

Learn how to use 3DCoat with these informative tutorials by various artists:

If you want to learn more about the app, we also highly recommend checking out CG Artist Anton Tenitsky's recent 80 Level article on making a modular town design with 3DCoat and Blender. In this article, the artist showed how 3DCoat's new feature of auto-exporting high poly textured meshes helped create the Modular Town project, explained how the Vox Hide, Blob, and Pose tools were used, shared some useful techniques, and more.

You can check out the full article here.

Up next, we recommend checking out an amazing VR-based application called Shapelab. Developed by Leopoly, Shapelab offers a variety of powerful polygon mesh-based sculpting tools for both aspiring creatives and experienced 3D artists. The software provides you with an intuitive interface and an extensive toolset, making it an easy-to-use app for creating organic shapes from simple forms to complex designs.

To learn more about Shapelab, we recommend watching Leopoly's 4-part "Basics of Shapelab" tutorial series that covers everything there is to know about the app:

And here are some awesome sculpts made with this tool:

One more amazing sculpting app that you can try right now without leaving the browser is SculptGL, a Web-based digital sculpting software developed by Stéphane Ginier. The app offers standard sculpting tools, such as Brush, Inflate, Smooth, Twist, Drag, and others, capable of PBR Vertex Painting, has alpha texture support, as well as features for multiresolution sculpting, voxel remeshing, and dynamic topology. Being free to use, the tool would be especially perfect for beginners who want to try 3D sculpting.

And here's an informative tutorial series that will help you get up to speed on using SculptGL:

And if you want to download the standalone version of SculptGL, you can do just that by clicking this link. The developer notes that the standalone version is identical to the browser version and does not feature any exclusive features.

One more application for sculpting and modeling from the aforementioned Adobe is Adobe Medium, a VR-exclusive software that will allow you to create organic shapes, complex characters, abstract art, and anything in between. With Medium, you have access to a limitless VR canvas and a sizable toolset, which can be used to create high-detail models and export them as either 2D images or 3D models. What's more, Medium's features are extremely easy to use, allowing even beginners to create complex 3D models with professional results. Please note that the app is only accessible via Oculus Rift and Oculus Quest + Link.

And here are some neat artworks made with Adobe Medium:

And last but not least, we've got Modo, a powerful and flexible 3D modeling, animation, texturing, and rendering toolset developed by Foundry. With Modo, artists are free to explore and develop ideas without jumping through technical hoops and leaving the app. Being one of the fastest modeling tools in the market, Modo offers fast direct modeling, flexible procedural modeling, the award-winning MeshFusion Boolean toolset, and built-in sculpting tools to cover all your sculpting needs.

You can get started with Modo by checking out these great tutorials:

If you are interested in learning Modo, we also recommend checking out our 2019 interview with Hard-Surface Artist Elliot Sharp. In this interview, the artist talked about the biggest advantages of Modo for HS Artists, its best features, tools, and useful add-ons that will bring your workflow to the next level. Moreover, the developer spoke about texturing and project presentation, thoroughly explaining the process of creating an appealing piece.

You can read the full interview here.

What tools did we miss? What tutorials should we have added here? What helped you master 3D sculpting? Leave your thoughts down in the comments below or on our Reddit pageour Telegram channelInstagram, or Twitter.

Preview image by Ian Spriggs

Join discussion

Comments 0

    You might also like

    We need your consent

    We use cookies on this website to make your browsing experience better. By using the site you agree to our use of cookies.Learn more