Zazzle Shop

Screen printing

Friday, June 11, 2010

Sculptris is insanely cool, free 3D modeling software


Sculptris is, without question, the coolest thing I have seen all day. What was supposed to be a short spin became an hour of prodding and playing around with every tool of this incredible creation.

In simple terms, it's sculpting software. It's free, and it's accessible. I once downloaded Blender and spent an hour trying to figure it out to no avail. With Sculptris, I got it, started playing around, and in less than an hour I created the rudimentary pig-man that you see in the image. And I have no previous experience with any sort of 3D graphics (except for a bit of SketchUp).

Yes, the ears are on purpose -- it's a tribute to Sebastian's furry friends.

When you fire up the program, you get a round sphere of clay-like substance. You can change the material; what you see above isn't rendered, it's just a different material -- and this is what it looks like mid-sculpting. An array of tools are provided with you sculpt your clay. You can pull, push, pinch, twist, and do just about anything that you could do with a regular piece of modeling clay. There is one important distinction with Sculptris, though, and that's symmetry.

By default, a line crosses the sphere in the middle. Every operation that you perform on one half of the sphere is exactly mirrored on the other half. So, you only have to sculpt one ear, one eye, etc.

It's not limited to faces, of course. Hit Ctrl+N and it adds another pair of blobs (or just one, if you hold Shift). You can then make it into a body or anything else you can think of.

The program is obviously geared for character sculpting and "organic" models. This isn't SketchUp; it's something completely different and far more artistically-oriented.

Once you finish sculpting your character, you can export it or paint it. Painting renders the image, and then you get a completely different set of tools for painting over the surfaces, as though you have baked your sculpture and now you're decorating it. You are no longer able to change its shape, but you get a wide, sophisticated array of brushes and painting options and all tools are aware of the 3D nature of your sculpture. It's not like painting a 2D bitmap.

This tool is a real tour de force in UI design and user friendliness; it is responsive, powerful, and fast. I can't believe it isn't better known. You simply have to download and try it! Be prepared to lose an hour or two, though.

Be sure to check out the video below -- it shows you what can be accomplished with Sculptris when you actually know what you're doing!