ZBrush Forge : Dragons and Dangerous Creatures

Thursday January 7 @ 1:00 am - 2:30 am GMT

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Thursday January 7
1:00 am - 2:30 am GMT
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“ZBrush is hard to learn because of its UI; it took me years to get over the fear for that reason”

ZBrush is a wonderful sculpting tool for modelling, texturing and painting. It’s great for creating high-res models for 3D characters, clothing content and props for illustration, games, movies, and animations.

However, as expressed by many artists in our community (such as above), the learning curve appears dramatic and the interface is daunting to new users.

Studying ZBrush can be overwhelming if you don’t have the right steps to follow. There are tons of questions to answer and decisions to make. It’s easy to waste weeks or even months struggling to sculpt content, only to find out that you haven’t handled your geometry properly.

With all of these questions in mind, that’s why we have created the “ZBRUSH FORGE : Live Sculpting and Solutions for ZBrush” held on a weekly basis, with other valuable learning benefits layered on top.

Who ZBRUSH FORGE is for:

  • New ZBrush users struggling with the interface
  • Existing ZBrush users wanting to sharpen their skills with a live group
  • 3D artists wanting to model content in order to sell
  • Character creators needing guidance on anatomy for realism
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Here’s the ZBRUSH FORGE Experience

Monthly Theme

Each month we’ll have a new imaginative theme, a “container” to create at least one character and/or amazing prop. We’ll do this from start to finish and include some attractive texturing for the models to come alive. 

The membership has NO subscription. You join for a month on a sculpting topic that interests you and take away 8 hours of live teaching with a completed project done at the end.

Weekly Meetings

During the month, John Haverkamp, who has been creating and teaching with ZBrush for over 12 years, will host live webinar sessions every Wednesday starting at 20:00 EST (New York). 

These weekly meetings can include 2 parts:-

a)  ZBrush “clinic” for up to 30 minutes (free entry) – at least once a month

  • John will resolve one or several pain points experienced by ZBrush users.
  • He’ll share a few tips, ideas and discoveries from the current monthly project.

b) ZBRUSH FORGE live sculpting for members only (separate webinar room) : 1.5 hours

  • This is where John will be engaged in creating his themed character and props. He’ll also encourage you to follow along and build something similar.
  • He’ll allow screen sharing of your desktop to help you move along your project.
  • He’ll go into depth on exactly how he is creating his models.
  • He’ll share his expertise on anatomy to help you create realistic characters.
  • He’ll dive into all the learning points listed below.

Private online group chat to interact between Zoom calls 

Any time you need some input or encouragement, you can turn to our ZBRUSH FORGE private chat group to connect with other ZBrush creatives.

We’ve found that group chat is a powerful connecting tool to keep the conversation (and motivation) going between the weekly meetings.

Perpetual membership of private chat group :  once you’ve joined us just once for a month’s membership, you have lifetime access to the private chat group.

VIP Add-On

The VIP membership level gives you one-on-one time with John with additional resources:-

  • Include a one-on- one Zoom coaching session with John per month (up to 1 hour)
  • Portfolio critique : John will zero in on your strengths and weaknesses
  • ZBrush tutorials library : Full access to a growing set of tutorials on sculpting swords, spacecraft, dragons, faces, orcs and more. Over $500+ worth of education.

Dragons and Dangerous Creatures

This 4 week series explores sculpting your very own dragon or similar dangerous creature from scratch. It includes talking about the anatomy of these popular mythical creatures, which is an essential foundation before sculpting.

It’s all done in ZBrush and it is recommended for intermediate users of this modelling package.


Week 1 : Saturday January 23rd

  • ZBrush explained and ZBrush Basics
    • The overall sculpt technique with the paintover process
    • Adding and Subtracting: standard brush, clay build-up brush and dam standard brush.
    • Smoothing and trimming: smooth brush, trim dynamic brush and trim curve brush
    • Use of the move brush, move topological brush and snake hook brush.
  • Access to foundation modules
  • Fantastical creature creation philosophy
  • Creature skeletal systems and studying the anatomy of relevant real world animals : lizards, birds and bats
  • Building a base mesh with ZSpheres – using lizard and bat hybrids
  • Concepting with Dynamesh
  • Sculpting broad muscle forms with the move, and clay buildup brushes



  • Parts 3 and 4:
    • Duration : 3 hours and 30 minutes
    • Creating wing-webbing with the “curve tri-fill” brush
    • Dam standard brush to block out large scale plates
    • Using masking and transform to build overhanging scales
    • Using the ZRemesher to establish a lower resolution mesh to take advantage of subdivision levels
    • Detailing with scale alphas
  • Supplemental Video:
    • Duration : 50 minutes
    • Texturing and detailing with UV Mapping

Week 2 : Saturday January 30th

Secondary Form Building

  • Creature head
  • Teeth and jawl functionality
  • Eyes and personality
  • Nostrils
  • Head ridges and horns, antlers, crests


  • Creating wing-webbing with the “curve tri-fill” brush
  • Dam standard brush to block out large scale plates
  • Using masking and transform to build overhanging scales
  • Using the ZRemesher to establish a lower resolution mesh to take advantage of subdivision levels

Week 3 : Saturday February 6th


  • Creating custom alphas
  • Detailing with alphas
  • Creating believable skin
  • Folds, wrinkles, scars
  • ZBrush new features : thick skin and dynamics for detailing
  • ZBrush new contrast target brush

Week 4 : Saturday February 13th

  • Colouring
  • Rendering
  • UVs
  • Substance Painter

Session 1 – Dragon Tour:
1. A complete tour of the DAZ 3 dragon. The geometry is the form. How to use the base topology to your complete advantage.
2. An examination of the simplified form dragon. Considering the form and anatomy to build the skills for creating realistic fantasy anatomy with appealing design variations.
3. A comprehensive and step-by-step guide for building morphs for iterative designs of Dragon 3. This includes resizing limbs and wings, reshaping the head and adding horns.
4. We go through some of the secrets of iterative design. How to generate ‘happy accidents’ and variants of the Daz 3 Dragon by adding morphs. You’ll learn how to make morphs created in ZBrush to work for you in Daz Studio.
Session 2 – Re-engineering with Morphs:
1. Using GoZ to transfer the changes to back to DAZ
2. Adjusting morph properties and ranges in DAZ
3. Iterating with multiple morphs to find a ‘sweet’ design
4. Consolidating many morphs into a single morph dial.
Session 3 – Secondary Sculpt Pass for Better Texturing:
Since the primary forms are potentially changed dramatically from the base Dragon 3, a new texture set is recommended for each major Morph Variation! To start this process, the mesh is sub-divided in Zbrush and an overall secondary sculpt pass is applied BEFORE the alpha detailing. Think of this as the 3D under-painting that sets up the final detail. Without a good secondary pass, alphas details often look generic or even fake.
1. Skin wrinkles, muscle and fat anatomy details.:
a. Wrinkle theory, cutting in with the dam standard brush
b. Inflation, brush passes the influence of fat and gravity
c. Standard and clay brush, uses for reinforcing both wrinkles and fat details.
d. Starting to build scale details by hand.
e. Developing a flow or rhythm that introduces randomness for a natural ‘feel’.
2. Original Alpha creation:
a. Getting legal photo reference and preparing it in Photoshop
b. Sculpting texture details from scratch on a plane in Zbrush
c. Making tilable textures in Photoshop and Zbrush
d. Making ‘hero’ detail patches
3. Using Alpha’s with layers:
a. Morph targets and morph brush options
b. Layer mixing
c. Customizing brushes
4. Reinforcing the Alpha details pass with manual sculpting:
a. Rinse and repeat until finished!
Session 4 – Colouring your Dragon:
1. Painting the Diffuse layer:
a. color theory
b. using the mask menu to assist with color painting
c. spray and color spray brushes
2. Map Extraction:
a. Normal
d. Displacement
c. Diffuse
d. Ambient Occlusion
c. Cavity
e. Metal, Rough, or Spec and Glossy, the differences and how to use the mask menu in zbrush plus adjustments photoshop to build them
3. Getting it all working in an Iray shader in Daz
a. importing the maps to the right slots
b. playing with settings and options
Bonus Session:
How to create luminous detailing/coloring.


ZBrush : Grow with these Learning Points

John will help you to…

  • Navigate you past the technical tangle and just get you sculpting!
  • Learn the ZBrush “lingo” or terminology
  • Simplify what you need from the interface
  • Focus on the essential brushes
  • Provide you with a collection of tips to manipulate your meshes faster
  • Understand muscle structure and anatomy to create believable characters
  • Create hard bodied props
  • Handle your geometry with confidence,
  • Understand layers, Dynamesh and the extract tool
  • Figure out Deformation, Panel Loops and Polygroup
  • Learn Alphas, Subtools, Masking, Transformation tools
  • Be alerted to new features and functions in ZBrush that will make your sculpting life easier.
  • Learn detailing for skin or other surfaces for realism
  • Include coaching on Substance products : PBR texturing

John Haverkamp : Proven Experience with ZBrush

John Haverkamp was born in Ohio and then moved to the pristine Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia at a young age. There he spent a semi-isolated childhood re-enacting the Lord of the Rings and being corrupted by Dungeons and Dragons. Always with the fondness for the fantastical and medieval, Art school drove him deeper into Luddite territory by granting him the skills of a traditional metal-smith. This meant post-college jobs making copper fountains, welding and steel fabricating, casting and finishing bronze sculptures, and working for an architectural blacksmith throughout his twenties.

Digitally, John got sucked into cyberspace and the arcane mysteries of 3D studio max. The perfect software match for John was Zbrush discovered over 12 years ago. Now he teaches digital arts and ZBrush, constantly endeavouring to improve his craft as a digital-sculptor and visualizer through personal work, illustration and indie game projects.

John Haverkamp ZBrush sculptor