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Best ZBrush Alternatives of 2023

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All our reviews are based on our personal experience and deep research. We are supported by our partners, and we might earn commission from qualified purchases through affiliate links with no additional costs for the buyer. Read more.

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ZBrush is a 3D modelling software package used extensively by artists in the games, movie, and animation industries.

It is different from parametric solid modelling software used by engineers in the sense that it has a more intuitive means of forming the models, which is more similar to sculpting.

This method of digital sculpting offers a lot more artistic freedom than engineering-type CAD software, and allows the user to easily form and tweak the models into organic and complex shapes.

It’s more akin to moulding a piece of clay. ZBrush also allows artists to paint their models, and each 3D pixel (named a “pixol”) contains color value data.

These free form sculpting capabilities make it a favorite with 3D modelers working with character design in the movies.

You can see a few famous faces (and bodies…and claws!) that have been created with ZBrush in the film and TV reel below.

Film effects created with ZBrush.

Of course, just because it’s good at creating monsters and aliens and whatnot, it doesn’t mean you can’t use it for product design and more blocky/geometric projects.

There are tools within ZBrush that will allow you to do just that. It’s just not the main focus of the software. It’s mainly for art, not engineering.

That said, ZBrush does have its limitations, and like all CAD software, it may please one type of user, but be lacking for others.

Let’s take a look at ZBrush alternatives, and why you might be interested in a ZBrush alternative in the first place.

Why Switch From ZBrush?

While ZBrush is the go-to tool for artists wishing to sculpt high resolution models (capable of up to 20 million polygons per model), there are a few downsides which may be off-putting to the users requiring certain features.

Learning Curve

While numerous videos on YouTube make sculpting with ZBrush look easy, you have to remember, it often takes a lot of effort to use a tool intuitively, and this is our first pain point.

Getting started with ZBrush isn’t too hard, but mastering ZBrush requires climbing a quite steep learning curve, and this is exacerbated by a baffling UI.

Many of the icons in the UI are not labelled, and there are more advanced functions for power users that are not easily known without deeper study on the topic.

Limited Rendering Capability

ZBrush does have rendering, but it’s not going to fool anyone in terms of realness.

What it does do well is Non-Photorealistic Rendering (NPR) which makes your models look a little cartoony, or hand drawn.

That’s fine if that’s what you are aiming for, but if you want to be rendering things that look like real life, then you’re going to want a better renderer.

Limited Animation

ZBrush has a timeline feature, which allows you to activate various features from frame to frame.

You can produce turntable animations, and there are workarounds where you can swap the mesh each frame, resulting in a stop-motion type process.

But it’s very limited, and this is not the preferred industry method for 3D animation.

Also, there is no native ability for rigging characters in ZBrush, which you need for realistic 3D character animation.

No More Free Upgrades 

Until Maxon bought Pixologic (the original creators of ZBrush), perpetual license holders could get free updates to their software.

Then Maxon bought the company, and that policy changed. Except for the most critical bug-fixes, upgrades are no longer free.


On the topic of money, still, ZBrush is pretty expensive.

Sure, it’s not Solidworks expensive, but at 32.62 euros per month, or 970.47 euros for a perpetual license, this software is clearly aimed at people who are getting paid to model, rather than the hobbyist.

For the hobbyist 3D modeler, or for those simply wishing to spend less, then I have some alternative options below.

5 Best Alternatives To ZBrush

So you’ve hit the wall with ZBrush and you need some features that aren’t available, or you’re looking for a cheaper alternative. You’ve come to the right place. Here are 5 alternatives to ZBrush that may be the cure to what ails ya!


SelfCAD offers a decent mix of engineering-type CAD features as well as sculpting features, but with a much gentler learning curve than ZBrush. 

It’s designed largely for students and the classroom, and so it serves as a stepping stone up to engineering CAD software.

It’s similar to Fusion360 in some ways, as it combines solid modelling with mesh modelling. Note that the sculpting features are not as comprehensive as ZBrush, so don’t expect to be using it too much if you land that dream job at Pixar or Lucasfilm.

It’s called SelfCAD, because according to the website, it can be self-taught in just 5 hours.

Selfcad screenshot.
Intuitive SelfCAD interface, source: 3DprintingGeek

It can also import files such as OBJ and STL, and can export a variety as well, making it pretty useful for those wishing to 3D print their designs.

It also comes in cloud-based and offline versions, and retails for just $14.99 USD per month, or $599 for a perpetual license.

Primary Features

SelfCAD comes with the usual array of geometric modelling tools, such as basic shape creation, deformations, fillets, chamfers and so forth.

It comes with sketch and 3D sketch capabilities, and also has a render engine.

Why It’s Better than ZBrush

It’s cheaper than ZBrush at almost half the price, and it’s easier to learn. But you do lose a lot of features in terms of sculpting capability.


Maya is a professional 3D modelling, animation, and rendering package that offers the complete workflow for animating in 3D.

Maya interface screenshot.
Maya interface, source: 3DprintingGeek

It is used extensively in the production of Hollywood movies and 3D animation.

Primary Features

Maya comes with Polygon and NURBS modelling, rigging, animation, Live Link for Unreal, various physics and fluid simulations, rendering, interactive hair grooming (!!), and a lot more.

Click here for a wider view of the features available in Maya.

Why It’s Better than ZBrush

Maya contains the full animation and rendering workflow to create great and photorealistic characters and other animations. Anything that ZBrush can do, Maya can do, but better.

But all these features come at a price. And that price is $1,785 per year when paid annually.


Blender is loved by product designers, architects, animators, renderers and people from all walks of life, with the exception of maybe engineers.

Although they have been known to dabble on occasion.

Blender is a mesh-based modeller, and it’s free and open source.

Because it is open sourced and developed by the community, it has an ever-growing range of features, and support from a great community.

Primary Features

What doesn’t Blender do? Well, asides from parametric solid modelling with NURBS, but that’s pretty much one of the only 3D modelling tasks it doesn’t do.

Blender’s features include 3D modelling, texturing, rigging, smoke simulation, fluid simulation, particle simulation, soft body simulation, sculpting, animation, match moving, rendering, motion graphics, video editing, and compositing.

There are even features that allow you to do topology optimization. 

Why It’s Better than ZBrush

It’s free, it does modelling, rigging, animation, video editing and compositing all in one package.

The rendering is pretty great also.


Sculptris is again, another digital sculpting program that does exactly what it says on the tin.

It takes the clay analogy way further, and most of the functions are clay sculpting themed such as push, pull, pinch, twist, and so on.

It’s 100% free, and has been owned by Pixologic for quite some time now. Support has been dropped for the software, and it’s not officially available to download from Pixologic, but it’s free and easy to use.

Primary Features

It’s 100% focused on sculpting and painting, so you get some sculpting tools such as various sculpting brushes, materials, automatic UV generation, and some pre-installed patterns. You can also export to OBJ for 3D printing.

Why It’s Better than ZBrush

It’s quick and easy to learn, and it’s free (if you can find it). But those needing a more feature-rich package should look elsewhere.


As you can probably guess from the name, Sculpt+ is another digital sculpting app, but this one is available for mobile devices such as iPad and Android.

You can use your stylus or your finger here to push, pull, crease, and generally mould your model into existence. Users claim it’s like “ZBrush Lite” and many users compare it favorably to Blender.

Obviously, this is not aimed at engineers, but for artists and those wishing to create more organic forms.

Primary Features

It’s touch enabled, so you can literally sculpt with your hands. 

Why It’s Better than ZBrush

It’s more intuitive, it’s user friendly, and you can do it on your smartphone without any worries at all. It’s also budget friendly as it costs no more than $12 USD for a perpetual licence.

Our Verdict

First of all, you really need to determine what you need from your CAD software.

ZBrush is aimed at artists wishing to sculpt things in an organic and hands-on way, pushing and pulling.

So if that’s your goal, and you want a better software with more features, then Maya or Blender are probably better options.

This is especially true if you want a complete modelling and animation solution with decent rendering.

If you want an alternative to ZBrush for 3D printing or engineering stuff, then SelfCAD is probably your best bet, assuming you don’t want to drop a ton of cash on a pro engineering CAD platform.

Plus, SelfCAD can be considered as a stepping stone towards more technical CAD programs.

But overall, the cheapest and best solution to ZBrush that allows for animation, modelling and 3D printing has got to be Blender, hands down.

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Affiliate Disclosure:

All our reviews are based on our personal experience and deep research. We are supported by our partners, and we might earn commission from qualified purchases through affiliate links with no additional costs for the buyer. Read more.

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