A Simple, Clay Based Method for Braided Hair

Inspired by Ryan Kinglien’s “Bust with Flowing Hair” Tutorial from Gnomon, I’ve been doing “Hair Studies”, modeling one hair style after another on the same bald bust. One of those styles was braids. Because my roots are in clay, I adapted a clay based method. While not as elegant as the Alpha based method I’ve subsequently found, it’s simple enough for the ZBrush novice.

  1. Load the Cylinder 3D Primitive and turn it on end. In Initialize set X to 10, Y to 6, and leave Z at 100. You now have a long rod with an oval cross section. Subdivide 4-5 times. Adjust the orientation in the Preview Window.

  2. In Deformation, Twist to the right 8-15 times only on the Y axis. This example is 10 twists, suitable for my needs. More twists will create the illusion of a longer braid.

  3. In Deformation, apply Inflate on the Y axis to a value of 50. If you twisted the rod more than 10 times, Inflate to a lower value. If you used fewer twists, apply a higher value. Subtract or add roughly 10 points for each twist over or under 10.

  4. Apply Balloon Inflate on all three axes (X,Y,Z)to the same value, in this case 50.

  5. Convert to a polymesh and Unify. Texture as desired. I used the Standard Brush, Damian Standard and accented the grooves with the Slash 3. This is one (longitudinal) half of the braid.

  6. In SubTool, Duplicate and then Mirror the duplicated half braid. In Deformation, Offset the new half to create full braid. Merge in the Subtool Menu.

  7. Load the Merged Braid. In Deformation, Unify and Taper.

  8. Append a Zphere to the tapered end, scale the sphere down and enter ZSketch. Hit Edit. Use the armature brush to add a tuft of unbraided hair. Hit A to preview Skin and play with the texture. Snake hook is nice for an added bit of detail. Add Universal skin. Delete the ZSphere and append the skinned tuft. Merge, load merged braid, finish detailing.



Thanks for sharing the technique.:+1: .Will be useful for sure…:slight_smile:

Thanks for sharing…

Cool. Seems you could have put the longitudinal striations representing hairs on in step 1, no?

I did experiment with Mask All, Collums and achieved a good striated texture that vanished after Inflate. So, no.
Katherine Dewey

Great. Thanks for sharing!

I stand corrected. As the program was acting sluggish, I rebooted and a made second attempt with higher, more visible values (12) in Column under Mask All. After inflating, clear mask, when twisted and inflated, the striations were still evident. While it lacked the natural look achieved by hand, it must have applications. The oblate cross section (with its two radii) effected the way masking was applied. That was interesting.

Zbrush does share it’s roots with classic clay sculpting so variations of such methods are very fitting here.

Want a longer braid? After Step 5, Duplicate the braided section in the Subtool Menu. In Deformation, apply Offset as needed only on the Y Axis and then Merge. The braid on the left illustrates Offset in action. The braid on the right has been duplicated, merged and the process repeated with the longer merged section. It is four times as long as the original braid.

Nice technique.
Instead of merging subtools you could also try the mirror
and weld feature.
Keep experimenting,J.

That’s not how braided hair actually braids (unless it’s a specfic style that I’m missing). Still it’s good for ‘fake’ braided hair.


You’re right, Paul. I was using round braided cord as a model and, as a result, forgot to create the offset that comes from plaiting what are essentially flat sections of hair. This is easily remedied by offseting one half just a bit on the Y axis before merging the two so that it looks likes this:

Still, it is an illusion,
Katherine Dewey

That’s an interesting technique, thanks for sharing it!

Nice sculpts and thanks for sharing the tips.
I was searching for Braided Hair from long time but didn’t get proper idea how to make them so I made them in max itself. but now able to make them in zbrush too :slight_smile:

Thank you, thats a nice idea :slight_smile:

Every time I see these clever tutorials I have to remind myself to study up on those deformation tools. I could see that you could also use this method for just a plain rope as well.

Thanks for sharing.

Nice tutorial, thank you for you time.

The same braids curved laterally in Deformation and laid on the head with Match Maker. thebow.jpg

Really thats a nice idea! I like it and hope from you to post such points in future also.

Nice! I’ve been trying to think of a way to create a uniform rope pattern solely in zbrush, this helps a lot!