The Lab Sessions - From ZBrush to Physical Model

Instagram: geert_etcher_melis
Artstation: https://www.artstation.com/geertmelis
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Youtube: geert_etcher_melis
Website: www.geertmelis.com

Hey ZBrush friends,

A few of my digital sculpts made it into the physical world. This would not have been possible without the help of my good friend Mitchell Bring. We have been friends for many years and I’ve had the pleasure of working with him on quite a few projects, bringing some of my ZBrush sculpts into the real world with the aid of his custom built 4 axis cnc milling machine.

A Thrilling, ongoing journey as the machine is being built, rebuilt and finetuned while developing ZBrush tools that facilitate the creation process.

These are some test results presented alongside their digital counterparts accompanied by some wip presentations.

I would love to hear your thoughts!


“ 3 Test Heads “ ( Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivi ) Maplewood, Foam Board, Gesso.


Here are some early production videos – not in depth and far from perfect but at least hoping to provide a general workflow overview.
They are only about 50secs each so you might have to rewind.

“Dante anatomy study” Maplewood


“Selfportrait” Maplewood

“Planar Skull in Construction Cage” Foam Board, Gesso, Balsa Wood, Metal Wire

The physical model of the planar skull is complemented by digital counterparts:

DCA DRAWING AND SCULPTING AIDS / References: Gottfried Bammes, Vladimir Mogilevtsev, Leonardo Da Vinci, Albrecht Dürer

a Complement to the physical models are my “Digital Constructive Anatomy”’s digital models.

Made with ZBrush and presented through the Sketchfab viewer.

I use them during my life drawing classes to talk about proportions, primary / secondary and tertiary shapes, the importance of the encompassing pespective cage, how construction lines aid in getting the structure of the drawing right.

I make them interactive by using Sketchfab’s animation functionality which allows me to include several iterations of the model → the Skull model, for instance, contains 12 iterations:

The morph from realistic to planar proves to be very insightfull during structural analysis when drawing.

Since my students can open the viewer on their phones or tablets/laptops, they have the chance to interact with and study the model themselves while drawing/sculpting.

Male Skull / Planar Skull / Construction, Proportions and Perspective:

The model is viewable through Sketchfab with quite a few extras:*

Male Skull - Realistic and Planar - Constructive by @geert_etcher_melis on Sketchfab

This is an expanded interactive version which contains the realistic male skull, the planar skull, dark outlines and construction cages. In fact it contains 12 iterations all in one!!

Here’s how it works:
a. Once the Sketchfab viewer has loaded the model, press the pause button in the lower left corner to pause the animation.

b. Use the slider button to scroll between the different versions included in the 3D model:

  1. Realistic skull - slider at 00:00
  2. Realistic skull with perspective/proportions cage – slider at 00:70
  3. Realistic skull with perspective/proportions cage and construction lines – slider at 01:45
  4. Realistic skull with construction lines – slider at 01:80
  5. Morph from realistic skull to planar skull – slider at 2:30 – 3:70
  6. Planar skull - slider at 3:70
  7. Planar skull with perspective/proportions cage – slider at 4:15
  8. Planar skull with perspective/proportions cage and construction lines – slider at 4:70
  9. Planar skull with perspective/proportions cage, construction lines and dark outlines – slider at 5:00
  10. Planar skull with construction lines and dark outlines – slider at 5:60
  11. Planar skull with dark outlines – slider at 6:00
  12. Realistic skull with dark outlines – slider at 6:70


Planar Male Skull and proportions/perspective cage for Augmented Reality:

This model is optimized for the Sketchfab mobile app’s AR functionality*

Place the model next to your subject and compare + study the volumes, proportions and perspective (vanishing lines)

Male Skull Planar for AR by @geert_etcher_melis on Sketchfab


when you want to open the models on your mobile phone using the Sketchfab app, you may want to disable the “high polycount filter”:

When you want to load the model and get the “Large scene” message, press OK and you should be good to go.


OUTSTANDING, Geert! Thank you for all that you put into this post.


Incredible work!!!


Another delightful post.
The pieces look wonderful in wood.

Very exciting :+1:


These are just outstanding and a huge resource for students. Thank you for sharing.

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@aurick thanks so much Matthew :sunglasses: :+1: :star2: to be honest, I still need to get used to only posting finished worx instead of adding to a sketchbook thread :scream: :scream: :grinning:!

@remcv8 Thanks so much for your nice comment Robert :sunglasses: :+1: :star2:, and thanks for taking the time to drop me a line!

@boozy_floozie thanks Mark :sunglasses: :+1: :star2: - yes the wood has a strong energy - I’m glad I got the opportunity to create these together with Mitchell !

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@PixoPaul Hey Paul, thanks for checking these out → the physical models are very helpfull in the classroom - but the combination with the digital component (ZBrush/Sketchfab) makes it even more powerfull. Some new ZBrush/Sketchfab material is in production :grinning: :upside_down_face: :slightly_smiling_face: :sunglasses: :+1: :star2:!!

Another hit right out of the ball park Mr. Geert! :trophy:, thanks for sharing with the community :slight_smile:

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Great work! I really need to set aside a weekend soon to study your awesome posts closer : )

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@Jaime Thank you Sir Jaime!! I do realize that my posts are way to big and contain too much text - but I guess I need to get accustomed to posting finished works instead of keeping a sketchbook thread :scream: :roll_eyes:… .

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@HermanCarlsson thanks for your nice comment and encouragment Herman :sunglasses: :+1: :star2:!! I should try to make shorter posts in the future :grinning: :roll_eyes:… .

awesome, thanks for the great post and vids Geert :+1: :grinning: :star2:

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@Morgaine Hey Christian, thanks so much for you nice comment, I am glad you appreciate this kind of ZBrush use; I am going to do some further experimentation and paint the anatomy study with oil paints :scream: :scream: :scream:.Again, thanks so much for dropping me a line :sunglasses: :+1: :star2:!!

Thank you for sharing these sculls, this is a great inspiration and a very helpful study for me as a beginner to start with looking exactly how to first get the bone structure right :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

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@Mendelsohn3d thanks so much for the nice comment :sunglasses: :+1: :star2:!! I spent a lot of time finetuning the interactive 3D model, glad to hear it can be of use to you - more models will follow when (if) I get some free time to work on them :slight_smile: !

This is awesome. I LOVE the use of massive wood. I am planning on 3D printing but don’t like the fact that plastic or resin- bound wood dust has to be used, with all that microplastic already messing everything up in the environment and getting worse by the day.

I have a question about he first video - what are the 3D cubes for ? It looks as if you are building a casting mold for the head, but that would not be required for CNC milling ?

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@zzeebee thanks so much your nice comment and for taking the time to take a look at these experiments - wood is great but takes a slightly bigger workshop than a 3d printer :scream: :grinning:!
The 3D cubes are actually the wood beams → the 3D Laminator allowed us to work out the optimal laminating and pre-cutting of the wood beams.

Slightly bigger indeed , haha ! I am very impressed by the engineering and artistic skills involved here, that milling machine seems to work beautifully.

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