Maya to Zbrush and UV's?


Hey guys Im a student and creating a character for my final year film.

I am having a bit of a problem which I cant work out due to not fully understanding a decent workflow.
So I have created the model in Maya and it is about 30, 000 polies. Im not sure if this is too much for a short animation film but I think it is a bit big. So what I am going to do is import the character into zbrush to add some more detail, create a normal map, export both of these back into maya, retopologize the character so that the mesh isent so high polly, and then add the normal map.

My big question is, when should I do the UV’s?
I was thinking of doing them before I take the model into zbrush, so that the normal map had something to go off (this is how I think it all works? haha) but then when I come to retopologize the model in maya all my UV’s will go out the window, or will they?

Really dont know what to do here, let me know what you think?

Thanks in advanced


Hi Nurby,
30K is a little high but not overkill, hopefully your topology is good which helps you create a good sculpt in zbrush.

The general type of workflow for this kind of thing is to take what you’ve made in maya and sculpt it up in zbrush, re-topolagise then unwrap then texture and export all to maya, inc normal or displacement map. Depending on how good your original topology is would tell you when to re-topolagize though, you may begin sculpting away in zbrush and run out of detail and need to re-topolagize to carry on sculpting.

Anyway when you’re ready to re-top you could do this in zbrush but personally I find re-topology in zbrush very tidious and prefer 3D Coat. Re-topology does throw your UVs out the window like you thought so it would be a good idea to unwrap your model once modelling is complete, or near complete.

There are plenty of examples of good topology out there and tutorials on how to get it right.

Good luck with your project,



I may add a question to this topic - “BUMP this thread”, so to speak:P.

So i understand that having a 30K poly model in Maya is a bit of an overkill. This is why I am always trying to incorporate Zbrush into my workflow. As “nubry” stated using a relatively low poly mesh made in Maya, importing it as .obj into Zbrush seems like a good process for adding high level details into a good edge-looped model. I understand the process of UV unwrapping, normal and displacement map creating between the two programmes.

However, my main concern lies elsewhere. I cannot get a grasp on the workflow AFTER the detailing process. So i load my normal and/or disp. map onto the semi-low poly model in Maya, and then what? My question is: Is this mesh ready for animation? Can we make rigging, animation, rendering using normal and displacement maps? Do these maps transform with the base mesh correctly while in the rigging process? Or the animation process?

Im asking this because Im planning on creating a short teaser/animation of 20-30 secs, where the focus should be on very smooth animation, combined with fine levels of caricatural details (I really wish to use Zbrush for this), and texturing/shading/lighting. Could someone explain the workflow AFTER the detailing process…Am is missing something?

Thank you in advance.


Well my understanding of it is that normal and displacement maps work exactly the same as a texture map, so as long as you UV and skin the character correctly it all should be fine.

Hope this helps!



So you have your base mesh modeled out with the correctly topology in Maya. Once the base mesh has been completed you should lay out your UVs in Maya or another program like UV Layout. Export an .obj and import it into Zbrush. Sculpt all the detail that you want, and export your color/displacement/normal maps. Bring the .obj back into Maya and connect the maps to your shader network. The mesh at this point is ready to animate, and normal/displacement maps will work on an animated mesh, but of course will only show the detail at render time. You can go ahead and rig your character and paint weights as necessary and get it ready to animate. Skinned weights, at least in Maya, are based on your UVs by default so make sure your UVs are laid out correctly in the beginning. If you decide to make adjustments to your UVs later on down the pipeline it will affect not only your rig, but all other maps including color/displacement/normal. So basically, once your detail work is done, you can feel confident that rigging and animation will work properly with the displacement/normal/color maps that you have already created and connected to your mesh.


wow, thanks. that really helped/encouraged me. Back to work, waiting to try it. Do u have a test animation, or prod. made like this, by any chance? thx


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