Autodesk Mudbox 2013 review

  • Expert Rating: We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10 We rate this 8 out of 10

  • Price When Reviewed: £870 (boxed), £833.75 (download)

  • Pros: New Gigatexel engine, customise and save interface layouts, curve drawing, edge hardness and creasing supported, combine bump and normal maps, painting module is better than the one in ZBrush, 64-bit on OS X, easy interoperability with Maya, good import/export to 16-bit Photoshop files, 3D layers

  • Cons: Can be issues painting inside sculpts, not as good a range of sculpting brushes as ZBrush, brushes not as natural, doesn’t support imported mirrored normal maps, Mudbox can be fussy about working with some graphics cards

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There’s no doubt that sculpting a model, especiallyan organic one, rather than building it the traditional way is a more intuitive method of creation. The issue has been one of making sure it fits in the with a 3D pipeline (Mudbox) or suits the artist (ZBrush).

That’s not to say that Mudbox doesn’t suit the artist because in most respects it’s actually easier to get to grips with than rival ZBrush. Certainly if you’re using any of Autodesk’s other products, the interface will be immediately familiar and there’s direct linking to Maya built in.

Speaking of the interface, it’s now more flexible than before with all the windows being removable docks so that workspace can be configured how you like and then saved for later reuse. In terms of new features, under the hood there’s the new Gigatexel engine that makes much more complex textures possible, backing up Mudbox’s strongest aspect – texturing models. The only limit now if your hardware specs.

All the windows in the interface can be undocked, moved, docked and the new arrangement saved

There is a new modelling feature, that of adding 3D curves, either in space or directly to the model geometry. These can be given weight and detail or used as surface decoration. It gives more possibilities when adding detail to an existing model. If you are using other Autodesk products then the hard edges and crease features in them can now be imported into your Mudbox sculpt.

Not all importing goes smoothly though, there can still be plenty of issues when bringing in existing sculpts. Also on the same subject, 16-bit PSD files can now be exported to and from Photoshop.

It had been the case that Mudbox lagged behind ZBrush in terms of creating models from scratch, but things have improved here with the ability to copy and mirror items from one side of the model to the other. The tiling feature is also neat – sculpt or paint in a small area and have it duplicated as a tiled feature, making it much faster to create a larger pattern.

The other new feature is worth mentioning for game artists and that’s the ability to combine a bump map with an extracted normal map into a single normal map to use in game engines. It allows for much better defined surface detail on your character.

One of the new features is the addition of curves which can be added as splines, either in space or directly onto the model

If you use Maya then it makes far more sense to go with Mudbox as a sculpting tool. The interface is similar and there’s direct importing and exporting control.

For new users, Mudbox offers a more logical and easy to access interface than ZBrush, though the overall scope is more limited. With the new Gigatexel engine able to deliver much more detail capability, it’s a great choice for those involved in model texturing as well. Not an essential release, but certainly a good one.

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