If you are new to sculpting, this is the big question that you want answered: should you learn Mudbox? or zBrush?
When it comes to sculpting, most people think zBrush. In fact, most people are surprised that I teach Mudbox at all, and I get a lot of question about when I am going to do some zBrush tutorials.
But there is a very specific reason that I teach Mudbox.
Mudbox vs zBrush
Most students looking to learn sculpting already know a 3D package like Maya, or 3DS Max, or Blender.
And that’s why I tell them to learn Mudbox.
Sculpting is its own art form. Learning how to sculpt isn’t like learning Maya. Maya is primarily a technical package, whereas sculpting is primarily an artistic discipline. When learning to sculpt, we don’t want to wrestle with a completely new set of tools and UI.
This is what makes Mudbox great. It is basically the same as Maya/Max, just with sculpting tools bolted on. That means no time is spent learning the software – just learning to sculpt! And those sculpting skills will transfer over to any other sculpting tasks – so learning zBrush later will be MUCH easier.
In fact, Mudbox is so easy to pick up, that it is actually the first CG software that I’ve had fun using! I can’t recommend it enough, just for that reason!
The problem with learning zBrush
With zBrush, the case is reversed. zBrush’s user interface is non-intuitive and non-traditional. Learning a program like Maya doesn’t help understand zBrush at all.
Using zBrush, you start from scratch. You can’t leverage anything else you know. So you’re not learning sculpting at all – you’re just learning how to use zBrush. You’re not spending time being creative, you’re spending yet more time learning technical tools and workarounds.
Now, this is what we do when we learn Maya! And this would be perfectly fine – if zBrush’s UI was an industry standard. But it isn’t. Maya is.
So why learn two totally different ways of thinking?
Mudbox vs zBrush: Different toolsets
Up to this point I haven’t even mentioned the different toolsets between the two packages. zBrush definitely has the edge in sculpting functionality – but it isn’t the hands down winner. A talented artist can accomplish anything they want in Mudbox.
Similarly, Mudbox has much better texturing tools. zBrush has polypaint , however, and most artists can make it do what they need it to do.
There are two big differences: zSpheres and Autodesk integration.
Difference 1: zSpheres
The one bit of functionality zBrush has that Mudbox lacks is zSpheres – the ability to very quickly block out a mesh using sculpting tools. Mudbox doesn’t have anything like this at all.
In Mudbox, you have to use one of the existing base meshes (like the human body or the dinosaur), or you have to create your base mesh in another package.
If you know Maya, this isn’t a big deal – I prefer modeling to create my basic shapes. And modeling means you focus on getting a better base mesh. But some people really love zSpheres!
Difference 2: Autodesk integration
Mudbox works seamlessly with Maya, 3DS Max, or Softimage. The Send To feature makes transferring assets from one program to the other a snap.
In comparison, zBrush requires more of a workaround to get to Maya or Max. This is yet another technical hurdle zBrush puts in the artist’s way.
Mudbox BONUS: sculpting in MAYA!
There is an added bonus to learning Mudbox: Mudbox’s sculpting tools are being integrated into Maya. It seems likely that at some point, you won’t ever have to leave Maya to sculpt. When that happens, you just have to learn a single package – Maya!
In fact… Autodesk has also shown a working demo of a zSpheres-like tool in Maya. When this feature goes live, this will be a big game changer in terms of functionality for artists, taking away zBrush’s biggest advantage.
Since Maya/Max are the industry standards, you’ll need to learn one or the other to work professionally. And since you have to learn it, you may as well take that knowledge and leverage it to the hilt – use what you’ve learned to start sculpting in Mudbox almost instantly!