3D Printing

How to grow your sculpting business with ZBrush and 3D printing?


How does he live from his art? How do you find new clients? How do you know his works? All artists ask themselves these questions, sculptors included. And what if the answer came from digital sculpting combined with 3D printing? In this article, we will see how a real sculpture can be turned into a 3D sculpture and allowed to be printed in a series of the desired size and scale. Thus, you will quickly see all the benefits that 3D rendering can bring to your current activity.

“…we can notice the huge potential of the sculptor activity that ZBrush – the 3D printing group represents”

3D printing revolution for sculpture

Nicholas Delil

Nicholas Dalili, Zbrush Specialist

3D printing will revolutionize the art of sculpture. It frees itself of materials, gravity, and scale and can allow any sculptor to create highly detailed works, in series, saving time and money. In a world where you have to figure out how to stand out, do things others don’t, make impactful work and open your art to new markets, what’s better than 3D and 3D printing for that?

How about switching to 3D sculpting today for your next projects?

To do this, of all the 3D software on the market, I recommend the world leader in 3D sculpting: ZBrush. This is the one I will be using (and have been using for 10 years) for this article and my sculptures. Another advantage that ZBrush has is that it goes well with 3D printing (we’ll come back to this later in this article).

So, in order to demonstrate the power of ZBrush combined with 3D printing for your sculpting activity, I decided to take a sandstone sculpture I made and 3D print it. This would be perfect to show you the different steps required to turn a real object into a 3D object.

We’ll see :

– How do you take pictures?
– Photogrammetry using mushrooms
– Rework the object with ZBrush
– Prepare your portion with the Ultimaker Cura
Then finish the 3D printing phase with Creality Ender 3 V2.

How do you make a 3D model?

For a 3D model, you have different options:

Create your own with ZBrush 3D sculpting software.
– Download it from a website (eg: myminifactory)
– Or scan an existing real object

For the latter case, there are two possible scanning methods: 3D scanning and photogrammetry.

Photogrammetry is less accurate than 3D scanning but more suitable for large outdoor environments.

3D scanning

Literally, you will be scanning a laser along the surface of the object and 360 degrees in order to get a digital representation. It’s a very delicate technology but it comes at a cost (prices are rising quickly for efficient scanners).


This technique allows the detection of identical points in a series of shots of the same object or scene. A specified program will then recreate our object in a 3D image.

Photogrammetry is less accurate than 3D scanning but is more suitable for large outdoor environments (buildings, aerial views), and can be used even on a low budget (some do it with their cell phones!).

“Keep the light as neutral and steady as possible: we want to avoid obvious shadows”

Step 1: Take pictures

To take a picture of my scholarship, I decided to use simple but effective equipment:

– Canon EOS 700D with EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens (DSLR with good lenses recommended if you have the possibility instead of a phone, your 3D model will gain quality)
– Studio tent with a light background (you can find some for 50 euros on eBay)
– Terracotta rotating table (a few euro handfuls on eBay too)
– Tripod (we can also take photos while flying by hand to complete the angles)

Then, three principles to respect photogrammetry :

– Do not take a picture of an object with a liquid, glass or mirror effect, the program will not be able to reinterpret the sizes
– Keep the light as neutral and constant as possible: we want to avoid obvious shadows that can damage our texture and the overall display
– Try to have a large depth of field, to get maximum sharpness on the object

All that remains is to calibrate our devices with lighting, then take pictures of our bodies while making a slight rotation of the rotating tray each time.

For lazy people there are also electric trays 😉

I take the opportunity to change the height of my camera on my tripod and then re-pass the photos, stamping with some photos with the camera in my hand to give an angle and variety to my photography. Once my photos are ready, I adapt them in Canon software and everything is ready to be converted into a real 3D object.

“Mushroom is a highly recommended photogrammetry software”

Second step: Photogrammetry with mushrooms

Meshroom is a photogrammetry software that I highly recommend. It also has the advantage of being free! The interface is very simple, I will only use the default settings. On the other hand, if you’re a Mac user (like me), you won’t be able to access all of the software’s options, as it requires an NVidia card.

[attention geek zone] However, I was able to access the options because I have Windows with bootcamp installed on my PC, and a GTX 1080Ti in my Razor Core X GPU (for those who don’t understand, it’s a small external box in which you can put a graphics card Not compatible with Mac, because the Apple brand only accepts AMD cards. So you have to switch to Windows from your Mac, thanks to the dedicated Bootcamp, to run Nvidia). [/fin geek zone]

In any case, I cannot advise you enough to buy a computer, because it is becoming more and more difficult to be a Mac user on a 3D program. Creating the 3D grid takes several hours, but the result is worth it. In addition, I am entitled to a mesh (3D object) with 3 textures created.

Step 3: Import on ZBrush and re-work

This is my favorite part, whether to create nothingness or to rework an imported grid. ZBrush is a program published by Pixologic. It is the leading tool in the 3D sculpting market. Its great strength lies in its ability to manipulate very heavy objects in polygons: you can go much further in detail, much more than general 3D programs. So they are entirely prescribed to traditional sculptors, especially because they take the symbols: they generally start from a ball that you will shape with the brush, which should address you as I imagine?

With ZBrush, you can:

– Create an object and consider it in very precise detail
– Rework an imported or scanned object: cleaning, resizing, sculpting, unpacking, checking object compatibility,
– export (obj, fbx, stl…)
– Rework the grid (polygons) of an object, simplify, increase, recompose
– agree with the part
– Get creative: you’ll be able to graft models together and reuse the pieces for other projects

So it is a perfect companion for 3D printing and a great tool. In this regard, if you want to know in detail everything that ZBrush (and 3D) can do for your activity as a sculptor, I offer free training: How to revolutionize your activity as a traditional sculptor to achieve better living thanks to 3D technology

Going back to my bulldog statue, so I used a ZBrush to clean the bottom of the piece (I had put a sheet of paper under the statue, you can see the clean cut now under my bulldog).

I also did some testing by vacuuming the piece and leaving the bottom closed. And to finish, I resized the room to a height of 5 cm.

Once I’m satisfied, all I have to do is export my scholarship in STL format using the 3D Print Hub plugin (included with ZBrush). Then I can do: 3D render from ZBrush or any other program (I use Keyshot for this kind of problem) or go straight to the 3D printing stage, which we’ll see next.

Step 4: 3D rendering on Keyshot

Simple rendering allows me to highlight all the details captured by textures. This is my Bulldog in a photo-realistic version of Keyshot:

It’s hard to think of it as a 3D rendering, isn’t it 😉 It’s a control version, very practical to send to your client for example.

Step 5: Prepare the 3D object using Cura

During this step, I will be using the free program Ultimaker Cura (again!), which will allow me to prepare a 3D object for printing, and create the famous G-Code (the code that a 3D printer understands).

I decided to fill my piece at 20% (the default rate), I also chose the sticking option to help me remove the piece well, and I chose the support option to support my sensitive places (ears and part of the muzzle). My first attempt made me understand that I have to activate it 😉

Now all I have to do is create a G-Code and upload the file into Creality Ender 3 v2 printer

Step 6: Final 3D Printing

This is the critical step.

After several hours, my 3D object was printed perfectly. Now all I have to do is separate the attached brackets as carefully as possible.

And once we’re free, we find ourselves with a little white plastic dog from his sandstone figurine: Beautiful Fatherhood! (I couldn’t resist making several sizes)

“If I have any advice to give you, it is to not be afraid of ZBrush, even if it is not your best ally.”


In addition to the pleasure of being able to reuse and print an existing part, we can note the huge potential of the sculptor’s activity represented by the ZBrush – 3D printing group:

– You will be able to create a series easily and quickly
– You’ll rework, blend and bring out your old sculptures in the size you want

reprinted by 3D bee On filaments based on PLA and terracotta stone powder.

– You will be able to offer innovative solutions to your clients, show off your graphics with 3D renderings, and make giant copies of your works
– You will gain precision and detail in your works: more refined and detailed carvings, without facing the gravity and cost of materials
– You’ll even be able to sell your digital work online: Demands are growing from individuals who are 3D-printers enthusiasts who do not possess your talents for sculpting.
– and for me the best argument: enrich your activity by exploring new creative horizons by making you unique

Again, I talk about all of this in my free training (link above). In conclusion, if I have any advice to give you, it is that you should not be afraid of ZBrush, even if computers are not your best ally. ZBrush is a program designed for sculptors, flexible, that will revolutionize your activity and art, and can enrich your existing projects, as we did in this article. Give yourself a chance today!

Guest author: Nicholas Delill
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