Mudbox 2012 vs ZBrush 4.0


Hello everyone,
I’ve been making some research about these two sculpting softwares.
My interest is to improve my 3D models but I’m more close to an generalist artist than a specialist in modeling. So, with this in mind i started checking several forums that discuss and compare the two. The main differences i noticed were these:

Mudbox: more easy to learn and work, great for Maya users and probably the best to include in a production pipeline.
Zbrush: well in all the forums for what I could understand it’s almost an all in one tool. The best for sculpting but not very easy to learn and it’s best for specialized modeling artists.

Some artist even use the two, Mudbox for all displacement detail and all textures are painted in Zbrush. Well i just wanted to know a few basics ideas of what more experience users have to say and what they recommend for a generalist to start.
Thank you all for yuour time.


its like you said…
test both and choose…


Thats the ultimate goal.
I would like to ear some thoughts about it thats it.


i will go with mudbox


I will stay with ZBrush. Might not be as easy to learn in the first place, but once you get the hang of it there’s no issues at all. It all (for the most part…) makes sense.

I must say that I only tried the Mudbox demos a couple of times and never actually used the program in a production environment. It’s a great program, I like the painting module (and the Ptex support in 2012) which I think is better than the one in ZBrush because you can edit textures directly (ZBrush’s Spotlight functionality is good, but limited to coloring polygons which makes high resolution models strictly necessary and introduces quality loss by requiring a baking process to pull 2D textures from it) and have layers + Photoshop blending modes and even layer masks available.

The reason I will stay with ZBrush is it’s far greater functionality compared to Mudbox in the modelling/ sculpting area. There is a far greater range of different sculpting brushes, you can create the models entirely in ZBrush (without having to create a low res version in an external program first) by using ZSpheres and ZSketch or the shadowbox introduced in ZBrush 4.

To me personally Mudbox doesn’t offer anything I can’t do in ZBrush. In fact, I would never want to miss the ZSpheres/Zsketch functionality, Mudbox doesn’t offer anything like it.

You really should try both programs and choose the one that feels best to you. In the end, although being kind of a platitude of course, it doensn’t matter what program you use to create your art. It’s the final product that matters, if that’s great, who cares what tools you have used?


Thank you.
In the end of the day it’s just up to you.
Really appreciate the detailed comment.


My personal thoughts have pretty much been I prefer Zbrush for modelling but drastically prefer Mud for the texturing process. Also Mud feels a little less alien which is nice when jumping too and from max/maya and sculpting app (iv not used GoZ).

These are personal opinions though and not to be taken as absolute statements.

Demo Demo Demo!


It seems ZBrus is really the boss but for a person like me perhaps at first it would be better to start with Mudbox cause I never tried any sculpting software before. So perhaps it’s better to improve my sculpting techniques in a software that is easy to learn an then pass into zbrush. The truth is that at the moment I can’t loose or dedicate a lot of time in one software only, thats my main problem…


Mudbox is very easy. zBrush brushes feel waaay more natural. You can almost feel yourself paint/sculpt where with Mudbox its slightly harsh. Texturing and overall workflow is much more user friendly in Mudbox. I agree, you have to find out what suits your needs.


when i tryied zbrush before , it was a pain in the ass to learn weird the interface with ths awkward ergonomy.
I dont know if they changed something but i came back to it , and i feel confortable with it know , i learned to use the two major autodesk software 3dsmax and maya before that so it might help.
I found some similarity between those software .
You should start with sculptris and switch to zbrush when are you confortable ,sculptris is free atm but the topology is gonna be all triangle not really good if you plan to animate your model
What i like the most with zbrush compared to mudbox , in zbrush everything is smooth even in low poly you can trace a straight line it will do it unlike mudbox , and zbrush is way lighter for your computer even at high polygon is way lighter then mudbox .
Mudbox tend to get really sluggish like 3dsmax they did get a new engine for the realtime render for 3dsmax i dont know if they did the same for mudbox tho…


I don’t think they have changed that.
Max it’s working great.


Can anyone comment on which can handle the highest poly counts?

I’ve used Zbrush in the past and was forced to divide my model into lots of different parts in order to subdivide enough to provide sufficient detail when sculpting onto my imported model. Otherwise it would crash.

I’d much rather be lazy and just buy more RAM. Saying that - I’ve not used Zbrush since upgrading from my old 32bit machine.


In zbrush, each subtool can be the maximum your hardware can handle. So if you can go up to 60 millions, then each subtool can go that high (the number will vary depending on how many polygons you have at level 0).

If you need to subdivide crazy amounts to get surface details, you might be working with a base mesh that is too dense to begin with.



I just recently started to use mudbox for painting textures and its awesome! Silky and smooth. I actually never used it for sculpting though.

Zbrush its great for sculpting, and the posing tools are amazing (i think mudbox has something similar now) But thats it…

Many features are just broken, or have some catch, bugs, bugs, bugs, broken features and more bugs.

For me most of the features that are not sculpting are unintuitive.

example: Duplicating and mirroring a mesh and maintaining the subd levels you have to do some steps that could be done automatically behind the curtains, but no…click, click, click for a simple step.

The sculpting layers, that were never very good, are just broke in version 4. I lost a lot of work a few days ago, cause i didn’t know that the sculpting layers are not supposed to be used, has i figured it out later at zbrushcentral…

There are bugs that were never solved, like loosing high def detail if you delete some portion of the mesh, (there’s a workaround for that).

No 64bit.

I’m a bit disappointed with zbrush with the fact that it seems to me, thats its more important for them to had 100 new features, with some of them uselessor just broken, then solving problems.

neither less, its an amazing sculpting software.


I understand perfectly what you say and agree with a lot of what you said.
I’ve been using ZBrush for sculpting and mudbox to paint and do some small details.
I’m still not completely comfortable with zbrush but I became very confortable with mudbox very quickly. Still I’m searching for the best to express my work and I’m still divided between the two. Perhaps for what I’m doing now Mudbox is better and easier.


Dear VTeixeira,

This is fairly long and dense post, but if you are still debating on which software to use I would like to share my insights with you. Of primary concern is what you need the software for. I did not see any mention of what you are actually using the software for. As was previously mentioned, Mudbox is a digital sculpt, paint, and texturing tool. Zbrush is best thought of as an all around digital design tool. If you are a technical artist of some sort than Mudbox may be more of what you are looking for. If you are a designer then in my opinion Zbrush is the obvious choice.


Many people say that Mudbox is an easier tool to learn, but I believe that this is merely a matter of perspective. Most 3d software packages have a standard setup for navigating the view port which is some variation of the basic camera manipulation algorithms that you learn in introductory computer graphics programming. In short if you are familiar with navigating in Maya, Max, Lightwave, Houdini, or even blender etc. than you have some experience with an interface that is at least similar to Mudbox. These are all tools that were designed by people with technical expertise for artists to use.

Zbrush followed a different paradigm. Zbrush was designed from the ground up with more input from the artist. Consequently, it has a unique interface. Many people find Mudbox easier to learn because it has a familiar interface. Truthfully, if you had never used any 3d software before in your life, I believe you would find the learning curve to be comparable. Comparing the learning curves of the two pieces of software is like comparing the learning curve between using Mudbox and Corel Painter. They are both digital painting tools with a small area of overlap, but they are fundamentally designed for different purposes.


Mudbox is specialized for a particular portion of the creative pipeline. In my experience, it works best if you have some preexisting model to start from that you need to add detail to. For example if you have a base mesh modeled in some other package and you want to lay in anatomical details, and or skin texturing and the like then Mudbox is more than capable. This seems more appropriate for someone working as a texture artist. When working in Mudbox you need not worry about generating the primary forms of the asset you are primarily concerned with secondary level of detail and higher (certainly you will tweak the silhouette, but you won’t be generating the main masses from scratch). Many of the other steps in the process are better handled outside Mudbox. You must construct custom base meshes outside of Mudbox, and you will also need to retopologize your geometry in an external program. On the upside Mudbox is intended to be a modular piece of the asset creation pipeline. I understand the new one even let’s you import skeletal information so you can pose your meshes based on the internal bone structure created by the rigging Technicall Director. The bottom line though is that Mudbox is a small specialized piece of the puzzle.


Zbrush on the other hand is a one stop design shop. If you wanted to you could create 2d concept sketches and paintings all the way through to a completed sequence of 3D rendered images without ever leaving Zbrush. Most people, myself included would have no desire to even attempt such a thing, because there are other programs that have more robust tools for many of the steps in that process. Nonetheless, Zbrush is competent at nearly every step and it is best in class in some areas in my opinion. Zbrush is a design tool. It is intended to be used as a creative tool, not merely as a 3d sculpt/paint/texture tool. It can be used as such, but that was not how it was designed. Zbrush has as much in common with Photoshop as it does with something like Maya or 3DS. It is the closest thing on earth to 3D drawing as exists in the production ready product.

All of the fundamental artistic tools that designers and production artists learn can be simply and intuitively applied within Zbrush. Zbrush divorces designers from the technical constraints of creating production assets. A designer can establish gesture, proportion, line, form, value and color all without thinking about polygon budgets or UV mapping. It is possible to design characters entirely in 3D from the ground up in Zbrush. It provides a digital workflow that more closely resembles that of working in traditional media. You’re primary focus is on design. As a designer in most cases you will be providing finished high resolution images or detailed high resolution meshes for someone else to use to add detail to a lower resolution control mesh of some sort, which can be animated. Depending on the nature of your position you may or may not be the person that is responsible for the lower resolution mesh as well. Even if you are you can prepare it in Zbrush if need be.


In general I find that preparing production assets to be integrated into production is the job of Technical Artists. Designers are typically involved in pre-production and are fundamentally concerned with working out the concepts of how things should look and work in general. Their designs are typically passed on to various TA’s to realize as usable assets. Zbrush can be used in both cases, however Mudbox has it’s own advantages that make it more appealing for a subset of artists and designers. Mudbox however is far inferior from the stand point of a pure designer. I would also like to mention that I am aware that the roles of Technical Artists and Designers often overlap and the true definition of their individual roles depend on many factors that vary for each given working environment.

ME and MY ZB

I can open an empty zbrush document and in 15 minutes or so I can have a proportioned base mesh with all of the primary forms established with an elegant gestured pose ready for me to begin laying in secondary details. I’ll grant you that I didn’t start out being able to work that fast, but the point is that I can now. For Mudbox I have to create my base mesh elsewhere and that may take 20 to 30 minutes if I’m flying and all that is before I even export the mesh over to Mudbox.

I am much faster at laying out and sculpting basic form with Zbrush thanks to some of its tools than I am at box modelling. I realize that this is not the case for everyone. I found sculpting to be more natural so I honed my skills at it. If I need a usable mesh at the end then I just retopologize it later in the process. In general, base sculpting meshes aren’t suitable for animation or posing anyway. If they are, then they tend to be relatively well defined in terms of their primary forms, which is not good from a design standpoint, since the mesh is already dictating some of the features of its final form. For a texture artist this may be desirable.


Someone mentioned the glitchiness of Zbrush. I tend to agree with his comments. At times I believe that it could do with more polish, but as a design tool, their is simply nothing else out their that does what it does. As far as the crashing goes. That is something that seems to be an issue with software like this. Programs like zbrush and many other drawing programs are limited only by your system resources. How many polygons you can display on screen at once, or how many pixels in the case of painter is determined by the amount of ram that you can dedicate to the program. If you don’t know approximately what your upper limit is you should find out. If you flirt too vigorously with the limits then you’ll crash the program if not your computer.


I’ve done it to so many different pieces of software over the years I’ve lost count. The bottom line is that you should save early and often with any of these programs. Some may seem more stable than others but you can push all of them too far. Due to the nature of Zbrush it gets pushed towards its limits more than most programs that I use. An accidental hotkey press here or there that subdivides the wrong thing, and boom there goes your session. You really do have to be vigilant when using features with zbrush. Getting very familiar with the documentation and forums is a must, because many features have rules and limits that are hidden away in the documents that aren’t mentioned in ztutorials and the like.


Finally as far as learning new software goes, truthfully, if you set aside an hour a day for a week or two or just set a side a weekend or two to focus on learning the software and reading the manual you will master the basic functions in no time. I once taught myself mel script in a single weekend to meet a deadline for a school project, when a team member passed away, so that we could stay on schedule.
It can be done it only requires the will. Even if you are swamped with work now you won’t be forever. The reality is that in this field you must constantly be working on improving your skills and sometimes that means testing and learning new software. As I am sure you are aware software that is used on a regular basis must be mastered i.e. customizing work spaces and shortcuts for your own particular workflow to minimize wasted key presses and movements.

Hopefully, that did not seem like a rant, but time invested in the front end streamlining your process will save you 1000’s of hours of wasted time in the long run. If you shaved 5 sec off of an action you performed 10,000 times you would save 50,000 sec across those 10,000 actions. That is roughly 833 minutes or about 14 hours. Odds are you could get a good bit of work on an entirely new project done with 14 extra hours. I apologize for the tangent, but once you decide on which way to go it will pay dividends to learn the software properly.


I apologize for the treatise, but I believe there is a lot to be said on the subject. I hope that you read it and I hope that it helps.


Very well put. I’ll also agree that ZBrush is simpler and more intuitive to people who haven’t used a standard 3D package.


I’m a zbrush fan because the ease of use and the lack of bugs unlike what I’ve encountered in mudbox. but that was a while ago maybe I should give mudbox another chance, but I believe once you go zbrush…

zbrush just has things that as a 3d modeler you will probably wish you had in mudbox, technical stuff.
One horrible thing for me was when I was working on this project long ago, (dont remember very well) and I needed to change the UVs of the base mesh but the character was already finished and sculpted.

In zbrush you were able to just export the base mesh and re import the new one with the new UVs and that would be the end but I wasnt able to do that in mudbox back then, I dont know if now but in any case that made for an awful experience for me.
But I can say that both softwares have their advantages and shortcomings. but dammit did mudbox hindered me in so many ways in that project.

And omg I know the viewport in mudbox looks pretty awesome but nowhere as awesome as what BPR does.

Also what ndt said.


ZBrush is only 32 bit, though (at least for the moment; 64 bit Zbrush will be coming soon), so it can only use four gigs of memory. Mudbox doesn’t have this limitation, though it also seems to generally use memory much less efficiently than ZBrush.

Also, I really don’t think ZBrush is hard to learn, especially in comparison to Max and Maya. It has some oddities that take some getting used to (say, the difference between a ztool and a zdoc), but it’s still very intuitive. You can learn enough to start sculpting in literally a couple hours.


I found that too. I started using learning Mudbox and ZBrush at the same time and Mudbox was more prone to crash/freeze and throw up memory errors. ZBrush sometimes stopped responding, so neither are perfect there.

Back to learning. I got stuck into both programs in school at the same time and with no previous experience of them. I was up and running with Mudbox in only a few days, and found it very easy especially for textures. ZBrush had me struggling for about two weeks and I had to find video tutorials for a lot of stuff, which I didn’t need to do with Mudbox. I just hated the ZBrush interface and all those hidden sub-palettes. I actually signed up for DT tutorials to help me with ZBrush.

But, and it’s a big but, once things started to fall into place with ZBrush I rapidly started to prefer it. I still do, and I stopped using Mudbox. ZBrush isn’t perfect, but it’s close enough for me. They update and improve it (often with some really revolutionary stuff like fibremesh) all the time and at a once off cost it is probably the best value for money we will ever get. ZBrush is an absolutely huge package for the price, I don’t know how they can sell it for a one off $700 when a lot of mediocre programs cost more. I have no doubt that 64 bit ZBrush will arrive and they will keep expanding the program, as a lot of R&D seems to keep going into it.

ZBrush is changing the way people learn too. Some college courses teach ZBrush to people with no previous knowledge of MAX, Maya or modelling of any kind, and they advertise that fact. I wouoldn’t have believed that if I hadn’t seen it myself at the local college.