Tutorial 12: How to create an Alpha Map for Sculpting in ZBrush/Sculptris

Sample displacement map generated automatically from 2 photos with Photosculpt TexturesHere is how you can create an alpha map from any displacement map.

Alpha maps are interresting as they can be used directly as sculpting tool for most (all?) sculpting softwares (Zbrush, Sculptris, 3DCoat, Mudbox, Blender, ...) for adding texture.

To do a good alpha you need a good displacement map with beautiful depth data. I highly recommend you to generate that displacement map automatically from 2 photos of the same subject using my new software Photosculpt Textures (download the 30-day trial here or buy it now from Eur 99). This has already been explained in this short 1'43'' video tutorial so I'm not covering it here again. Here I'm assuming you already have a displacement map at hand. Of course alternatively you can download the one on the left or 10 more in my free sample section (I also have a pay sample section from Eur 5.99)

Once you have a good displacement map, then launch your favorite image editing software (photoshop, Gimp, ...) and do the following:

Step by step: Open your displacement map and add a new layer to it, fill this layer with black, set it in color burn layer mode. Then paint a white circle in the center of it with an airbrush as shown. Save your image. Open it again in your sculpting software as alpha brush and start sculpting. Voila!

Here are some free samples for download. (click on thumnail to download)

...and how I use them:

Sculpted plane using alphas as sculpting tool. Software used: freeware Sculptris, base plane mesh subdivided 4 times before sculpting for more detail.

Advanced hints:

  • You may want to keep the alpha map size down if you encounter slow sculpting, unstable software or downsampling artefacts. I think a 300x300 pixels 8 bit alpha map are enough for most uses.
  • For best effect, if your displacement map is too gray, you may want to adjust its contrast before using it as sculpting tool
  • Instead of painting only a circle with the airbrush tool, you can paint more intricate details in your textures, hiding (with black) or showing (with white) areas of interest as you see fit
  • You can create 16 bit alphas using the 16 bit tiff displacement maps from Photosculpt. This will allow 65535 steps from front to back, witch is nicer/smoother than the default 256 steps of usual 8 bit image formats like jpg.
  • Here is a link to a good alpha community where you can download / upload your alphas:


In this tutorial I've shown a new way to create photorealistic alphas.

This method is I believe superior than any other method as I used 2 photos per subject and my new software Photosculpt Textures to "scan" real objects and extract real depth data from them. It's very similar to sculpting with a stamp casted from a real object if you prefer :-)

Hoping you'll like it! Dont't hesitate to comment or improve this tutorial!

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Tutorial 11: How to Setup a 3D Texture in 3DStudio Max

This Tutorial will present you how to setup 3DS Max to use 3D textures for rendering with Vray.

Software used: Autodesk 3DS Max, VRay (render), Subburb Solidrocks (render), Photosculpt Textures v1.0 (seamless tileable 3D textures of a gray stone wall)

Click here to download the *.mat file for 3DStudio Max VRay and the related stone textures created with Photosculpt Textures (2.3 Mo, *.rar)

Let’s create a simple sphere on a plane, with daylightsystem (configured for Vray) and a Vray physical camera.

Then put a UVmap on Sphere, in spherical mode, with tile = 4 in all directions. Then create a Vray Material with these settings and apply it on the sphere:

Specular map is used with a low setting (dark gray color) in the reflect slot

In Vray, reflections and specularity are linked together, so be sure to uncheck the option trace reflections to avoid that a reflection of some of the shiny areas of the stone (and loose processing time). You want the gloss but no reflections.

The bump canal of 3DS Max will receive the special map called "normal map"

Here the remaining maps:

Hint:  You might want to change the blur setting of each texture from 1.0 to 0.01 for a sharper end-result

Here an example for the reflect map below: (flou stands for blur in this frech version)

The final render

Render with all default settings but my software Solidrocks was used with medium exterior setting. (SolidRocks is an Autodesk™ 3dsmax™ plugin which automates the complex process of setting up rendering for V-Ray)

Copyright Jérôme Prévost from solidrocks 2010

Related: tutorial 7 Create your 3d material shader with PhotoSculpt Textures

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Tutorial 10: How to Setup a 3D Texture in Modo

Here is how to setup a 3D texture using the software Modo: Click on Image to download the PDF file (4.9 Mb)

The texture has been created with the software Photosculpt Textures. This software is different. It extract perfect high resolution 3D Textures easily using 2 photos of the same subject, not just one like other software do.

You can download the texture for free here.

Click here to download the Modo sample files (2.2 Mb)

 Tutorial copyright Nicolas Thevand © 2010

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Tutorial 09: How to Setup a 3D Texture in Blender 2.5

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This tutorial will present you how I setup a 3D Texture with Blender 2.5 Beta. I'm going to texture the base cube of Blender with stones.

I'm using this pay-texture above from my web site as an example. It contains 5 textures images. You can also download any of my free texture for this. Or even create your own with my 30 day trial of my software Photosculpt Textures.




First launch Blender or do CTRL + N for a new session. It creates a base cube with a base gray material.

Before I start with the texture note that for convenience I first switch on the glsl shading (key [N] to open properties in 3D view, submenu Display, Shading switch from Multitexture to GLSL, key [N] to close properties, Viewport Shading Textures)

You'll also want to create a UV map to the cube before applying texture (I propose the following: key [TAB] to open edit mode, key U for UV unwrap, select cube projections, key [TAB] to go back to object mode). Note: You can also create seams and unfold your cube (as I did here) for better results but it's outer scope of this tutorial.

Let's start now with the 3D material setup. Here is the material panel setings I used.

Material Panel:

You'll see I haven't made any changes to the Blender default. In some cases you'll want to change the diffuse and specular intensity. The most important changes I made are in the texture panel that follow.

Texture Panel:

I'm now going to load a texture for 5 channel (diffuse, normal, displacement, ao and specular)

Each time I do the following

  • click on an empty chanel slot and rename it
  • change type to "Image or movie"
  • set maping coordinates to "UV"
  • "Open" the image
  • Apply the tweaks below

Here are the settings for the Diffuse chanel and the Ambient Occlusion chanel

Here are the settings I used for the normal chanel and the specular chanel

The displacement chanel can be done simply but I do mine in a bit more sophisticated fashion. I'm missing settings with the material displace chanel of blender and the results are sometimes unpredictable at the corners of objects. Furthermore I want to set each object displacement individually not globally as a material. So I switch the displacement texture off entirely in the texture pannel and recreate the displacement effect with a modifier on the object itself. Here is how:

Here is the setting I used onto my base cube.

  • I subdivided it seven times in total in simple mode. That's of course a lot of polys at the end and it's a bit overkill but I wanted a high polygon object.
  • Then I applied a displace modifier onto the cube (not on the material) with the following settings.

 Let's go over the detail of the displace modifier:

  • You need to set the displacement map in the "texture" field. Choose normal and UV so it's aligned on the diffuse texture.
  • Set the "strength" parameter you need for the depth of the displacement effect
  • Set the "midlevel" parameter in order to have either a nice crisp cube corner (high value) or a round corner (low value). That's important as depending on your preference you can choose crisp for photoreal, round for cartoon-like texture.


Using this method I can adapt the displacement to every object of the scene. Objects that are further away don't need much subdividing and displacement can be set accordingly.

Additional trick: I sometimes add a slight ray mirror onto my texture so it can reverb a bit of the color of surrounding objects. I also use the specularity map as a mirror mask for perfect rendering.

Don't hesitate to comment or improve this tutorial.

Click here to download the sample blend file (3.3Mb)

(Please consider purchasing the 1024x1024 3D stone texture if you want to use it for your projects. Value Eur5.99)

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Tutorial 08: Create a Realistic Paper Mask of Yourself (advanced)

Impress your friends with your home-made 3D paper-mask of your face (self portrait). (cost: 1x A4 photo paper print-out)

Software used: Photosculpt Textures demo, Blender, Photoshop

I had this idea for fun on holiday and I thought there should be a way to do that (for free). So I imagined this step-by-step procedure whitch is not easy and require patience, dexterity and a good knowledge of your 3d software (here I used the free software Blender)

As it's inventor I'm proud to say that the easiest part is actually to create the 3D model of the face itself (using my software Photosculpt Textures 30 days trial demo)!

I really enjoyed the whole process. Have fun!

An original idea of Eric Testroete (thanks for sharing!) who had that from Bert Simons.

Hippolyte from

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