For my advanced surgical illustration course, I took on the challenge of constructing the sequence of images using Pixologic's ZBrush. I fell in love with this software very quickly and plunged myself into learning as many of it's features as possible to complete the main project for my surgical course. I was very fortunate to link up with an amazing surgeon at St. Michael's hospital in Toronto, who allowed me to observe and sketch during several spinal procedures. I have posted sketches from these OR experiences as well as the worked-up sequence sketches in previous posts.
I used a variety of "alphas" in zBrush to sculpt details on various tissue types. Alphas function very much like custom brushes in Photoshop, and can greatly enhance the organic quality of a 3D model.
This ended up being a mistake in my process. What I should have done was convert these higher subdivision levels into displacement maps, but unfortunately I didn't figure out how to do this until later on down the road, even though the process turned out to be incredibly easy. Live and learn.
Figuring out the rendering system in ZBrush was another hurdle, but one I enjoyed, as it is a very satisfying stage to reach in the 3D workflow. I tried rendering in Maya as well, which allows for more camera control and lighting, but in the end I chose to stick with zBrush for the rendering. This project is still ongoing, but in the very last stage. It has already gone through several iterations in Photoshop and Illustrator. I will be submitting the final work to the AMI Salon at the upcoming conference in Baltimore, and I can't wait to get feedback from the plethora of talented artists in attendance.