• David Denton

Planning an Acrylic painting in Zbrush Pt 1

Updated: Jul 15



Earlier this year I decided to make some short vlogs to document the process of how I created my latest painting. This is the first of those vlogs where I bought a new PC specifically for the purpose of using it to run ZBrush, a digital sculpting app.

I wanted to use ZBrush to plan my paintings. I'd dabbled before in making 3-D models using clay to help me visualise elements of a painting. But I wanted more control of the lighting in the final model. ZBrush along with the renderer Keyshot gave me this level of control. Plus it meant I had to learn something new, which is always good.

With this in mind I went to a local PC shop, a small shop with a very knowledgeable fellow therein. He helped me to work out the specifications I needed to run this software. In the end I decided on this set up:

1. Intel Core i7-7700 Skt 1151 CPU + Fan (This is a nice fast processor.)

2. Asus B250-Pro Skt 1151 Motherboard

3. Asus DRW-24D5MT Int. DVD Drive

4. Crucial 525GB MX300 SSD ( I went for quite a large Solid State Drive so that I could easily fit on the software that I needed to run.)

5. Seagate Barracuda 2TB 3.5" Hard Drive SATA6 64MB Cache (Plenty of memory here for any projects that I'll work on.)

6. Adata 8GB XPG DDR4 RAM

7. Asus GTX 1060 6GB Turbo Graphics Card ( I didn't need to go too giddy on the graphics card, I won't be playing any games on the PC.)

8. BenQ SW2700PT 27" IPS QHD Monitor

I researched the monitor for a long time and decided on the BenQ SW2700PT. It was big enough for what I needed and got generally good reviews from other artists.

This may not be the best PC set up for ZBrush but it is an excellent compromise between cost and performance. Spending more would have led to the law of diminishing returns.

I've now been using this set up for six months and I'm very happy with it. It runs ZBrush and Keyshot quite happily and is pretty darn fast. I haven't felt the need to get a second monitor although it is an option for the future.


Starting to plan a new painting is always a fun time for me because I'm never sure where the painting is going to go. It's a real voyage of discovery. It sometimes feels as though the painting has always existed and I've just got to find it.

I started out by using the free association process to generate some ideas for my painting. The surrealists used free association in their work and this is my take on the technique. I don't go into this process with any preconceived ideas about what the painting is going to be, I just let my mind wander. For a more detailed look at how to use free association, click here.

The general idea I use is that I come up with a few keywords for the painting. I then generate lists of words from these. Next I spot interesting words from these lists and repeat the process. It's only at the end of this list making process that I start to think about the actual painting.

I look through the lists and take words and ideas from them and manipulate and shape these into a rough plan. I fiddle about with these ideas by creating tiny thumbnail sketches and then move into Photoshop to develop these ideas further.

This is a great time to play with things and make mistakes. Not every idea will be great. In fact, some will be terrible as you'll see in the video. But this whole process helps to shape the final painting.


Starting new things can be daunting. Starting new things of which you have no experience can be stunningly daunting.

ZBrush is one of those things.

Everything about ZBrush was alien to me. Just navigating around a 3-D object was very tricky.

And yet it's so much fun.

ZBrush has a steep learning curve but as time went by, I noticed that I was becoming increasingly proficient. Moving around an object and using a sculpting brush to carve out shapes is an absolute joy. This feeling of pleasure made it easier for me to continue learning and push through some pretty tricky learning. Within a month, I had created and painted an eyeball which I was really proud of. A video of that eye will be coming soon.

To buy Zbrush is expensive, but if you want to give it a go, you can get a free trial for a month and play around with it. You do need a fairly powerful computer but it's a lot of fun. If you really get into it you can also get a free trial of Keyshot which is an app that I'll come back to in a later video.

#usingzbrushtoplanapainting #pcsetupforart #pcsetupforzbrush #pcsetupforzbrushandkeyshot #bestpcsetupforzbrush #buyinganewpcforzbrush

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