The FBX ExportImport plugin, located in the Zplugin palette, provides export and import of the FBX file format. This is a 3D interchange format developed by Autodesk and is commonly used by many 3D software applications and game engines.
FBX is a complex format that can include animation and different cameras as well as 3D meshes. The ZBrush implementation only includes a subset of these features.
Features supported for export
Listed below are the features supported when exporting an FBX file from ZBrush.
- Export of selected, visible or all SubTools.
- Embedding/non-embedding of texture, displacement and normal maps.
- Export of PolyPaint as vertex coloring.
- Smooth or hard normals.
- Triangulation of meshes on export.
- 3D layers exported as Blendshapes.
- Axis system selection.
Features supported for import
Listed below are the features supported when importing an FBX file into ZBrush.
- Import of separate meshes as SubTools.
- Texture, normal and displacement maps imported and assigned.
- Import of vertex coloring as PolyPaint.
- Blendshapes applied as percentage mesh deformation.
FBX versions supported
In order to ensure compatibilty with as many different applications as possible, the FBX plugin supports many FBX versions as listed below.
- FBX 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.
- Binary or ascii.
Texture map file formats supported
For ease of use, the FBX plugin supports the image file formats below.
Step By Step – Exporting
Exporting an FBX file using the plugin is very straightforward. Here’s a step-by-step guide to exporting your model.
Before you start, your model must be in Edit mode.
- The first step is to decide if you wish to export the currently selected SubTool, the visible SubTools or all SubTools. Press the relevant button.
- Choose the FBX version you wish to export by clicking the FBX 2014 button repeatedly. When exporting from ZBrush choose an FBX version that is suitable for your other software. For example, if exporting to Maya 2012 use FBX 2012 or earlier. Using a later version may mean that the model doesn’t display correctly.
- Select between a binary or ascii file. In general, binary will be the best choice and the file size will be smaller. Note that ascii format for 2010 and earlier does not allow embedded maps.
- If your model has 3D layers and you want these included as Blendshapes then turn on this option. The layer names will be used as the Blendshape names and intensity values carried over.
- Turn on the Tris option if you want meshes exported as triangular polygons. With this option turned on, each quad will be divided into two tris. When this option is turned off, quadrangular polygons are preserved.
- The plugin can export with the model oriented for a particular axis system. Select which you want to use by clicking the MayaYUp button repeatedly. Choose between MayaYUp, MayaZUP, 3dsmax, Marmoset Toolbag, Unity, Motion Builder, OpenGL, DirectX and LightWave. If in doubt then MayaYUp is a good choice.
- Turn the SNormal option on for Smoothed Normals or turn it off for Hard Normals. Smoothed Normals is generally the preferred option. Smoothing is automatically calculated based on the normals.
- If you wish to include maps then these must be assigned in the Tool palette for each SubTool. For example, there must be a texture map selected in the Tool>Texture Map sub-palette for it to be included with the FBX file.
- Choose if you want to embed maps with the FBX file. Maps that are embedded will be included as part of a single FBX file whereas non-embedded maps are saved as separate files in the same location. Maps are named with the SubTool name followed by a suffix: _TXTR for texture (diffuse) maps, _NM for normal maps and _DM for displacement maps.
- The map file format can be selected for both 8bit and 16bit. Click the relevant button repeatedly to select which you want.
- If you wish to export PolyPaint make sure the Colorize button is on. You can turn this on quickly for all SubTools by Shift+clicking the paintbrush icon in the SubTool list.
- Press the Export button to export your model.
Step By Step – Importing
Importing an FBX file into ZBrush is very easy. Here’s a step-by-step guide.
- Press the Import button to select a file to import. The imported file will create a new ZTool in the Tool palette. If there was a model in Edit mode then this will be swapped on the canvas with the new ZTool.
- During import you may be asked to select map image files if the plugin cannot automatically find them. These will then be assigned to the relevant SubTools.
- Embedded maps are extracted to a separate folder during import. This folder will have the same name as the FBX you import, with a “.fbm” suffix.
- Read about the FBX ExportImport settings here.