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[Blender Secret] Sculpting Details on a fantasy sword using Alphas 🗡️

publishedabout 1 month ago
2 min read


Jan here with another Blender Secret like the ones you can find in my 1253 page e-Book.

Sculpting Details on a fantasy sword using with Alphas 🗡️ 🎨

Alpha textures are black and white images that can either be used as masks or height maps, to easily sculpt details onto your model. In this case, I’m using some alphas I made on a simple fantasy sword. You can download the alphas here if you want.

My fantasy sword model, with details from alpha textures

For sculpting details, the object needs to have enough geometry. Make sure your edge loops are more or less evenly distributed. If necessary, add some more loops in areas that need them. Then add a Multires modifier and click on Subdivide a few times until you have enough geometry.

The wireframe showing more or less even distribution of edge loops

You’ll want to make sure you have enough Subdivision levels on your Multires modifier. In the case of my sword model, it has about 12 million faces. You can turn on Statistics in Overlays to see the Face count.

Multires modifier and Overlay options

Go to Sculpt Mode and in the Texture tab, click on New Texture. Load a texture that you’ve either created yourself or found online.

Creating a new brush texture and opening a texture file

We’ll create a new brush for use with this texture by clicking on the Add Brush icon (nr. 1 in the picture below). Rename it “Texture” (nr. 2 in the picture below). Under Brush Settings > Texture, set Mapping to Stencil.

Stencil gives us a preview of the texture that we can move, rotate and scale.

Creating a new Brush and setting Mapping to Stencil

You’ll notice that a grey preview of the texture (the stencil) has appeared in the 3D viewport.

You can move the stencil by holding the RMB (Right Mouse Button) and moving the mouse. Rotate it by holding Ctrl and the RMB and moving the mouse. And scale it by holding Shift and the RMB and moving the mouse.

Make sure your Radius is bigger than the alpha detail!

Then left-click once to add this detail to the surface. You can change the Radius by pressing F and moving the mouse if needed.

You may have to increase the brush Strength to get enough depth. You can always undo and change the Strength, then try again.

A comparison of Brush Strength 0.5 and 1.0.

With these particular details, I want them not to smooth out towards the edges. To accomplish that it’s important to set Brush Falloff to Constant.

And in order to make sure you don’t accidentally affect the other side of the mesh, check Front Faces Only under the Advanced brush options.

Important settings for good results

Sometimes the result may need a little bit of smoothing to look nice. Use the Smooth brush set to a very low Strength value to do this.

Be careful not to smooth too much!

You can add more textures to the brush. In the Texture tab, click on Add Texture. Then load the texture you want to use.

You can always use more textures

Now you can use the same brush with the new texture. To flip the texture horizontally, simply set the X value for the size to -1.

Flip the texture horizontally

If you don’t want to add height but rather want to subtract from the surface, you can do so by setting the Brush Direction to Subtract.

Subtracted details

Speaking of sculpting, Zach has recently released a major update for his popular sculpting course, Master 3D Sculpting in Blender. It's not only an update for Blender 2.9/3.0 but a complete remake of the course with 100+ short and fun videos, totalling over 14 hours of content! So if you're at all interested in sculpting in Blender, this is a must-have. Get it here.

Did you like these tips? For hundreds of other Blender tips like these, check out the 1253 page Blender Secrets e-book.

See you for the next Blender Secret!

~ Jan

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