Over the last year, Blender's sculpt mode has undergone a major revamp with the addition of new tools and funcionalities, which make working on certain types of 3D models easier. Some tools have been tweaked and others have been added for specific purposes, including transform operations, as well as mask extractions and remeshing, which can now be performed without leaving sculpt mode.
Although the tools we already had in Blender were enough to achieve a wide range of sculpting results, it is not a bad idea to explore the new options and hopefully discover additional methods and innovative techniques to sculpt more naturally with less technical adjustments.
These are the new sculpting features and tools I tried out when creating this 3D character model in Blender:
1. Multiplane Scrape
2. Elastic Deform
4. Mesh Filters
5. Transform tools
6. Slide Relax
8. Mask Extract
9. Thumb Clay
This new tool basically sharpens edges between adjacent planes. Blender already has a Scraper knife, but Multiplane works like a V-shape angled chisel in traditional sculpture, with the digital advantage of adapting to any angle. It's quite versatile and could be an alternative option to other tools, such as Crease, if you'd rather avoid pinching the surrounding geometry too much when defining folds, corners or borders. In the Brush Settings panel you can set the angle, and enable a real-time graphic representation of the active angle while you sculpt (Show Cursor Preview). Quite futuristic.
Also, it adapts to surfaces dynamically, so you are able to scrape borders of adjacent concavities and convexities with a single stroke.
💡 If you've never used sculpting in Blender before, remember to previously subdivide the model (with a Subdivision Surface or Multiresolution modifier), or enable Dyntopo in Sculpt mode, so either the 3D mesh has enough geometry to work with beforehand, or the necessary geometry is generated while you sculpt. You can also try the new Remesh feature.
With its standard deformation setting (Tri-Scale Grab), this tool is pretty similar to the Grab tool, but the displacement of the mesh is achieved with a softer transition, and it can be useful to reposition sectors of the 3D model, keeping the shapes and volumes of connecting areas better due to its elastic behavior. If you change the deformation type you can also generate Twist, or Scale a particular area with the brush.
This allows you to bend parts of the 3D mesh as if it had bones. This way, you can pose a character, or reposition protruding areas of any 3D model without even rigging it. The area being rotated will be calculated automatically, and you just need to move the cursor over the 3D mesh to see a representation of the area that will be affected by the rotation, which can be adjusted by changing the cursor Radius size, or the zoom in the Viewport (if Radius Unit is set to View). The Pose Origin Offset parameter can also be used to tweak the area being posed. According to the geometry, it might be helpful to use the new Pose IK Segments option, which represents the number of bones the temporal rig would have for the software to calculate rotations.
This tool applies Smooth, Scale, Inflate, Sphere, Random and Relax filters to the mesh. You can apply them to the whole model or parts of the mesh, by just clicking and dragging on the viewport. In this example I applied a Random and then a Smooth filter to achieve a cotton or wool effect in just one area of the mesh, by pre-selecting it with a mask.
Transform tools in Sculpt mode
Now you can perform transform operations on the mesh, such as move, rotate or scale, without leaving sculpt mode. By using masks, you can transform specific parts of the mesh or multiple meshes of the model.
💡 To scale or rotate, it is advisable to move the transformation's point of origin in sculpt mode to wherever it makes sense according to your model and desired operation.
For instance, if we are about to rotate a character's head, we can apply a mask to the whole model (Mask menu > Fill Mask), and use the Move tool in sculpt mode to move the pivot point to the base of the neck, and then remove the mask from the head only. Lastly, we use rotate or scale and only that part will be affected with the correct pivot point location.
This tool displaces the vertices along the mesh, keeping its volume pretty much intact. It can be useful to redistribute vertices and concentrate vertices in areas that require more detail, moving geometry to where it counts, and without adding extra polygons with other tools that might disrupt existing details.
This tool works with Dyntopo enabled, and allows you to reduce or increase mesh density in localized areas; for instance, if we generated unnecessary geometry around and area while sculpting it, we can use Simplify to clean around and keep the structure efficient. This can save time when dealing with complicated areas where a dense section of the mesh has deformed in an unexpected manner, or when it presents artifacts due to inter-penetration, which can sometimes be hard to fix with other tools. It can also eliminate other problems like mesh islands, parts of the geometry that have involuntarily ended up isolated.
Blender has many new options to work with masks within sculpt mode. Now you can extract parts of the mesh or slice them by preselecting them with masks, which in many cases can be faster than leaving sculpt mode to use Booleans or other methods.
This new tool simulates the stroke of a finger on a clay surface, which creates a more natural sculpting effect. If you use it with textures, it works very well to add patterns or irregular effects on the surface of the model, without affecting the volume or the surface elevation too much.
Remesh in Sculpt Mode
A frequently useful functionality during the sculpture process is Remeshing, the restructuring of the 3d mesh, which Blender has available in 3 places: the Object Data panel, as a modifier and within sculpt mode itself.
While sculpting, it may be necessary to perform several remeshing operations, so if you're not familiar with it I recommend you check out this tutorial, where Aidy Burrows explains remeshing very well and in depth:
Soon... Cloth Brush!
Blender developers are working on an additional sculpt tool that will simulate cloth; the main sculpt branch developer, Pablo Dobarro, shows a sample and makes a brief comment about it in this post: Cloth Brush @pablodp606
Sculpting is only one section of Blender, but it is a good example of its exponential growth in recent times, thanks to the enthusiasm and initiative of Blender developers, who continue to increase the creative possibilities this software offers to its equally growing worldwide community of users.