Sculpting Brush Texture Editor

by Robin Hohni in Addons

Why would one need height maps and VDMs?

- They have different pros and cons. See the example GIFs and the table below.

Height map


Pros VDMs:

  • VDMs can move vertices in all axes. Meaning they can create overhangs in one brush dab or pinch and stretch vertices.
  • They can be easier to use since the displacement strength is saved inside the exr file.

Cons VDMs:

  • UVs need to stay intact or have to be repaired to get good-looking or even working results. Working without voxel remesh or dyntopo can be difficult for some shapes since the starting geometry is always a plane.
  • Filesizes can get quite big (often several megabytes)

Pros height maps:

  • Only the distance to the camera is what matters. Meaning you can use multiple objects for rendering. UVs can be changed. Voxel remesh or dyntopo can be used.
  • Much smaller image file sizes, since only one color channel needs to be saved. (sometimes a few hundred kilobytes)

Cons height maps:

  • They only displace in the surface normal direction
  • The strength and sample bias of the brush needs to be carried with the height map image. Otherwise, the original brush can't be recreated correctly.
    The add-on saves these two values inside the blend file.

Depending on your use case, you might prefer one or the other map type. Once you made a brush, it can easily be converted between height and vector displacement map. Just edit the brush from the add-on panel and then select a different map type and hit 'Apply changes to brush and close'.

Where do I find the add-on panel?

The add-on can be accessed from within sculpt mode in View3D -> Properties -> Tools. Panel 'Brush Texture Editor'

How to convert EXRs from ZBrush?
  1. First of all, make sure your EXR doesn't contain any gradients. The process to export VDMs correctly from ZBrush can be found here
  2. Save your Blend file (New brush images are saved in the same folder as the file)
  3. Load EXRs from the add-on panel here: 

4. Use these settings:

The green (Y) and blue (Z) channels need to be swapped and multiplied by 2. 
EXRs from ZBrush look mostly green and should look mostly blue after importing.

5. Select the brush images in the file browser and hit import. Done.

How can I export my VDM textures for later use?

The VDM in exr format is saved automatically to disk each time you leave the brush texture editor. Even if you batch import brushes while changing their sizes/color channels etc.

There are two possible output folders:

  • When your blend file is saved -> exrs are stored right next to it in a separate folder called 'brush_images'.
  • When your blend file is unsaved -> exrs are saved in a 'tmp' folder. (Renders are saved to the same location by default)
Sales 60+
Dev Fund Contributor
Published about 1 year ago
Blender Version 3.5, 3.6
License GPL
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