Once in a while you stumble over something that changes your entire world and ZAppLink was one of those things for me.
It seemed that if you had enough of reference pictures with matching color tones, you could create amazing skin textures with the exception of a little bit editing here and there. I couldn’t believe it was that easy, so I looked into it myself and picked out an image of my favorite actress Olivia Wilde to use as a reference picture for the projection.
ZAppLink enables users to transfer a still-image of the mesh from any angle in ZBrush and transfer it to Photoshop, in which the actual editing takes place. Here you can use the silhouette from the mesh and match your reference picture into it, then send it back to ZBrush. Once you return to ZBrush, it will project the new layer onto your mesh from the angle you selected in the beginning and create a texture based on the UV-coordinates.
A couple of minutes later, I ended up with this as my first result. I’ve only applied a standard blinn with the texture on it, nothing else. It was quite remarkable, so I carried on and did this multiple times to try various settings. Since I used the base head mesh from the Samus model, I had to change the shapes of the face a bit but not that much surprisingly.
Play a little bit with the scene lighting and voila, there you have it. Not that I think this should be an excuse to not practice drawing your own texture from scratch, but this could hopefully be quite useful in the future. I believe Valve did something similar when creating Half Life 2 for giving the characters in the game a lot of detail. Anyway, I’m just thrilled by this and I thought it would be fun to share it. Until next time, happy holidays!