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  • Writer's pictureMichael

ZBrush Tutorial: Basics + Hotkeys

Updated: Jul 15, 2023

This is a condensed reference guide from the video tutorials available on the Pixologic website.


Ctrl + N– Clear Canvas (When not in ‘Edit’ mode)

Space Bar opens a small quick menu of most common features.

Lightbox: Where tools, brushes demo models etc can be found. press ‘comma’ key to open it.

Draw mode: 2.5d mode where you can drag out ‘tools’ or paint with brushes onto a flat canvas (like clay on a glass pane). Clicking and dragging will create a myriad of instances of the same ‘tool’. Could 2.5 d mode be useful for creating textures and normal maps?

Edit mode: (shortcut ‘T’). You can edit the last drawn tool. Or press ctrl + N to clear canvas and draw a new base tool.

When you first place a premade primitive on screen, you must click ‘Make Polymesh 3D’ to be able to edit it.

Ctrl + Z: undo last action

Click and drag through history bar underneath ‘zadd’ tools etc. to rewind your model to an earlier state

‘F’ key: focus on model.

Rotate model by dragging mouse accross a blank area of canvas in edit mode. Hold the shift key and drag to snap to specific views- front, top etc.

move model by holding alt, then dragging mouse on a blank area of the canvas.

zoom model by clicking alt, then dragging mouse on a blank area of the canvas.

Left and right shelves can house individual palettes from the toolbar at the top.

Click a palette and drag the circle icon onto the shelf to dock it.

Ctrl + Alt to drag any individual tool to dock it on the toolbar (for quick access).

‘Preferences > Init Zbrush’ resets all docs and palettes to default settings.

Tools contain all info such as subdivisions, poly paint etc and can be saved in the ‘tools’ palette as a .zbt file

Tools are 3d- if you revert to 2.5d mode, you will be saving a zbrush document, with file type .zbr

 ——————— Canvas Size

A handy tip to remember is that the canvas itself, or the ‘viewing window’ through which you see your model, can be resized.

You should resize your canvas so that there is a little bit of blank space either side. The reason for this is that because of Zbrush’s (frankly terrible) UI design, you need to click on an empty space to rotate, zoom etc. Therefore if you zoom in close to your model, you may not be able to adjust the camera.

By making the canvas smaller, you leave a gap between it and the toolbars, which can also be clicked on to ove the camera.

To do this, simply click on the ‘Document’ tab at the topof the screen, and adjust the Width slider.


‘Alt’ key: alternates strokes between zadd and zsub modes. Ie- adding or subracting clay from your model.

X key: activates and deactivates symettry mode when scultpting.  This can also be found under the transform tab  along the top of the window.

Shift Key: Smooth model by holding shift and clicking. Affectied by the z intensity slider

Ctrl + Shift: Use the current Selection brush

B key: Bring up brushes menu. (When open, click a letter to isolate those named brushes.

MRgb– Paint with material and colour

Rgb – paint with just colour

M – Paint with just material


Using an alpha is like painting with a stencil. Certain brushes use certain strokes and alphas by default. They alter the shape of your brush.

Alphas are a good way to simulate skin and textures, and you can make your own.

Strokes: ‘freehand’- like drawing with a pencil; ‘dragrect’ – create a stamp of your brush the size of the rectangle you pull.  ‘colour spray’- lots of random brush stamps where you click.


Shift + F View polyframe

Ctrl + D Subdivide the model.

The divide tools in the geometry palette contain more options- including a slider to go between subdivision levels. Subdivision smoothing is automatically checked in the geometry > divide palette, which softens hard edges when you subdivide. this can be unchecked to maintain those hard edges.

You can delete lower and higher subdivision levels. You can also click ‘Reconstruct Subdiv‘ to lower your polycount and generate a lower resolution subdivision level.


Open the polypaint palette to the right. Click the colorise button. Uncheck zadd at the top of the screen, and select RGB. Now you are ready to paint your model.

Uncheck colourise to revert the model to its uncoloured state. toggle between these with the colourise button.

Select MRGB to add colour and clay, or M to merely sculp on top of your model

Hold the ‘C’ Key to activate a colour picker.

Paint will look smoother with higher subdiv levels.

RGB Intensity basically equals opacity of paint.

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