I have been working with 3D printing for 5 years now, still consider myself very much a newbie exploring this medium and having a lot of fun in the process. Continue to enjoy sculpting in 3D with ZBrushCore, learning tricks and techniques to getting a good model.

Since my goal is to print the model rather than create a 3D illustration I can not use the great selection of tools and surface textures since fine details will be lost in printing and final smoothing of the 3D model. I found the best way to work with this limitation is to exaggerate eyelids, facial creases and hairstyles in the ZBrushCore master sculpt, then repeat the process after the model mesh has been cleaned up with Meshmixer in preparation for printing. This involves making the model solid, reducing the mesh triangles and resolution (making smaller file size), repairing thin areas, closing holes, etc. all of which results in smoothing the model surface and losing details, hence the reason to return to ZBrushCore for finessing the fine details (Meshmixer has sculpting tools but ZBrushCore handles this better).

My recent 3D project was making pins from the 3D models I had been sculpting over the last few years, the first being a Ventriloquist Puppet I made as a gift (see blog post 3D Sculpt : ZBrushCore). In 2019 we were attending our annual NIADA Conference where artist members are asked to create souvenir pins for Conference attendees. Since I already had the Ventriloquist Puppet in the works decided to incorporate him into a series of pins. Besides the Ventriloquist Puppet (renamed “Paulie Puppethead”) I had been working on 3 other characters: “Vincent de LaRue”, “Duchess of Wade” and mad scientist, “Dr. Helmut Kronk”.

All heads are sculpted as full models so they can be used in any of our projects either as figures, automata or reduced and flattened to make pins. One of the coolest tools in ZBrushCore is the ability to use an image as a guide when sculpting a model. For the “Duchess of Wade” pin I imported front/side views of my original sculpted figure to assist in creating the 3D model. The last ZBrushCore updates added some new texture brushes that worked well for sculpting the Duchess’ hairstyle (even though they were really scales – shhh).

Our Monoprice Maker Select PLA 3D printer has a fine 0.4mm resolution output but smoothing the ridged surface created in the 3D print process is still needed, so mass producing pins in 3D print would be too labor and time intensive (takes 4 hours to print 4 pins). The plan was to 3D print 4 masters for each character, smooth the model masters with XTC-3D (see blog post 3D Prints : Smoothing) make silicone molds and cast the pins in resin. The pins are primed and painted with acrylics and then varnished. I left the ridged layer effect on the hair to add texture and on the Ventriloquist Puppet to create the impression of wood grain. Necks were added to the pin heads for the addition of collars, bow ties and ruffles.

We enjoy incorporating various textures and materials in our pieces to add dimension to the characters. For example, Mad scientist “Dr. Kronk” features a teal satin ribbon collar with side buttons, while his goggles are glass cabochon eyes creating the illusion of magnified eyeballs, for that extra touch of madness. In contrast, “Vincent de LaRue” is portrayed as a glamorous 1920s Hollywood leading man with a white tuxedo collar and black tie. Another character, the “Duchess of Wade” is adorned with a vintage ribbon “crown” and chiffon ruffles, exuding an extravagant charm. Last but not least, the “wooden” ventriloquist puppet “Paulie Puppethead”, looks quite dapper with his polka-dot bow tie to distract from his “lazy-eye”. A display card was created for each character designed to reflect their individual styles.


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