Pixologic has announced that version two of ZBrush, their 2D and 3D paint software, will be available this month. As well as major feature enhancements to modelling, texturing and painting tools, the company claims that speed and performance has been significantly enhanced in the new release.

Version 1.55b will remain available for $399 (around £220) from www.ZBrush.com until version 2 is released on March 31, priced at $489 (£270). All registered users of version 1.55b will get version 2 as a free upgrade.

The launch date of March 31 only applies to the PC version. The Mac version is under development, but a launch date is yet to be announced.

Pixologic has a full list of version two feature enhancements and additions on their Web site. The highlights of the release, as claimed by Pixologic, are:

  • Multi-Resolution Mesh Editing: Models can be edited in multiple mesh-resolution levels, enabling artists to add low- or high-frequency details on the appropriate level, while ZBrush transfers the changes to other levels.
  • Displacement and Normal Maps: Building upon the Multi-Resolution Mesh Editing functionality, detailed maps can be generated for low-resolution base meshes.
  • Visibility Controls: Portions of any mesh can be hidden, offering numerous advantages. Artists can concentrate on areas of interest, and use selective hiding to add edge loops and other mesh-enhancement features.
  • New Sculpting Brushes: Nine new sculpting brushes provide new ways of adding detail to meshes of any resolution in intuitive ways.
  • Displacement Projections: Using depth-enabled paintbrushes and tools, mesh displacements can be applied by simply brushing them onto the surface of an object.

Matt Aitken, digital models supervisor at Weta Digital (visual effects producers for The Lord of the Rings) said: "The revolutionary nature of ZBrush leads to Weta Digital creating a new approach to modelling hero creatures, digital doubles and props … the software has the necessary flexibility to work in a production environment with changes to art direction and the level of detail required."