Mudbox 2012 review
Price: £840, upgrade £420
Pros: Ptex support; new layer masks and blending modes; new posing tools; improved sculpting workflow; streamlined interface; better performance
Cons: No UV editing tools; posing tools can be tricky to work with; expensive
Every release of Mudbox under Autodesk has delivered a slew of important new features and vital performance improvements, and Mudbox 2012 is no exception. In this release the spotlight is once again on improvements to Mudbox’s already robust 3D paint system, but other areas such as sculpting workflow, posing, and the interface have also received important updates.
Mudbox 2012 debuts support for Disney Studio’s Per-face texturing (Ptex), a drastically different way to paint 3D models. Ptex painting requires no explicit UVs, instead textures are assigned to each face on the model, which can vary in resolution. Working with Ptex painting in Mudbox is easy, and is essentially the same as painting with UV mapped textures. Unfortunately, Ptex files can’t be edited in programs such as Photoshop, as UV texture files can.
Paint and pose
The painting layers feature new layer masks and 22 new layer blend modes. As a result, painting work that once had to be done in external programs like Photoshop can be done inside Mudbox. (Even so, Mudbox 2012 has new import/export options for better interoperability with Photoshop.) At last, Mudbox’s materials now support transparency with the addition of a new Opacity channel, so materials like glass or ice can be simulated.
Mudbox 2012 features improved posing tools, faster, more stable performance, streamlined interface, and enhanced sculpting workflow
The posing tools in Mudbox 2012 have been reworked so that multiple joints can be created. This makes it possible to quickly rig, weight, and pose larger sections of the model like arms or legs. The joint tool can be a bit unpredictable when creating larger rigs, as bones can sometimes connect to the wrong joint. For more predictable posing, it’s best to import fully rigged models into Mudbox. Mudbox now ships with a pose presets option that lets users save poses for later application.
The sculpting tools are pretty much the same as those in Mudbox 2011, but the Grab tool has a couple of new options for better mesh deformation. And to facilitate sculpting fine details, stencils can be edited in real time so as to conform to model surfaces better. Other sculpting workflow improvements include Transfer Details, which allows users to alter the topology of a model in an external application, reimport the model into Mudbox and transfer sculpted detail from an original to a revised model. A sure favourite because of its time-saving potential, the Rebuild Subdivision Levels option restores the subdivision levels of an imported high-density model.
Faster, more streamlined
Autodesk has gone the extra mile to improve Mudbox’s overall performance. Working with huge imported or native subdivision models is now faster, and displaying, editing and saving enormous texture sets is greatly improved. In general, this translates to faster sculpting and painting with fewer crashes.
One of Mudbox’s strengths is its user-friendly interface. This release introduces Maya-like heads-up displays. Pressing the spacebar shows icons for specific toolsets, like sculpting or painting; clicking the icons displays more options. A right-click over the scene or model displays context-specific options, so it’s possible to work more efficiently in Expert mode. With every new update Mudbox looks more like Maya.
Also new to the interface are standard lasso and marquee selection options for the freeze, weights and selection tools. One area of the interface that hasn’t received much attention is the Objects list, which is still as clunky as ever.
Mudbox is one of the best digital sculpting and 3D/2D painting suites. This release delivers important updates such as Ptex support, better posing, improved paint layers and faster performance. Its complete sculpting and painting toolsets, ease of use, and interoperability with Photoshop and Maya make it worth the price.