By Michael Burns | on December 11, 2008
Price When Reviewed: 450 . 270 . 225
Pros: pros: Fast, interactive viewing, painting and sculpting; 3D texture painting solution; multiple meshes and layer-based workflow; HDR lighting support.
Cons: cons: Windows only; tight restrictions for importing models; can be sluggish – fairly powerful PC required for effective use; no animation or character modelling.
The key reason to upgrade to the 2009 version of this modelling software is to take advantage of the new texture-painting toolset.
Mudbox now offers true 3D painting: that is, the paint is applied with brush position precisely aligned to the model surface, so that paint goes where it’s required. It also offers layers with support for opacity, while a selection of mirroring controls applies the paint symmetrically.
There’s a brush-based toolset, as in the previous version, but this has been enhanced by paint tools such as projection painting, a paintbrush, an airbrush, a colour picker, a pencil and a paint eraser. If you’re using a Wacom tablet to sculpt anyway, as Mudbox recommends, the inclusion of such painting tools is a boon.
The Stencil and Stamp tools of the previous version were used to apply sculpted textures to the surface, and the new paint features dovetail neatly with these existing tools.
For example, you can now apply paint though a stencil mask using the projection mode. You need to have at least one paint layer in the scene, so the first time you apply paint on a model, the Create New Paint Layer window appears automatically.
A handy UV View lets you see how the active paint layer is applied to an unwrapped texture layout.
Stamps, stencils and reference images are selected from the built-in image browser. This offers support for 8, 16 and 32-bit images, and HDR images can be used as a light source. Lighting has been improved overall, with multiple lights in the scene able to cast shadows.
There are a variety of ready-made polygonal meshes that you can use as templates and as the basis for the sculpting process, already set up with UVs for texture painting or extraction.
Mudbox is designed to be used as much for creating 3D renders as for making models to be used in Maya and 3DS Max. Multiple cameras can be employed within the scene, but Mudbox uses a Smart Focus feature to determine the position of cameras based on cursor position and brush size. You can bookmark camera positions and assign an image plane to each camera, for when you want to sculpt or paint on a model, using a reference image overlaying your work.