This Week In The Studio: Learning to Sculpt with the iPad Forger App

So, I have a confession to make. My beast of a computer decided not to wake up from it’s distant slumber two weeks ago.

It was a Mac and yes before you anti-Apple people say, “PC’s for 3D!” it was a decently kitted out MacBook Pro, and I use it for other programs like Photoshop and Illustrator too. Also Blender has been steadily getting a bit more support for Metal machines now Apple has jumped in on the Blender bandwagon.

I took it to the Apple Store to see if the disciples of the Almighty Fruit God could stir my relatively new laptop from it’s hibernation… Unfortunately not. It had crapped itself in the night 🙄

Gabby Amongst The Sunflowers

So, admittedly I had backed up some stuff. Not all. My little fluffy Gabby might be a few steps back from what she was, but not completely gone. So please be patient, when my computer is resurrected with a new brain there will be more of her I promise!

In the meantime I am sitting in view of a huge lake in the middle of no-where getting to know my new toy, an iPad Pro!

What?!!!!! An iPad?!

I wasn’t convinced immediately by the hype around the iPad as a drawing tablet initially, but upon a few tentative visits to various Apple Stores, and playing on Procreate and Photoshop, I was blown away by how fluid and accurate the Apple Pencil was.

How cool is Procreate?! It also has an Animate feature which I will be utilising for future storyboards of Gabby and friends!

I know for a fact that Procreate is hugely popular with Illustrators and Concept Artists and alike, because the iPad is SO portable. With a digital sketchbook, the possibilities are endless now for artists creating inspiring digital art! Without having to bother with bringing huge cases full of acrylic paints or oils, jars of water and easels around with them.

The real question was then for us that delve into the world of 3D – can you use an iPad to sculpt??

Everyone knows that it is easier and more accurate to sculpt with a tablet and pen vs a mouse. Most sculpting tutorials out there encourage it. Wacom Tablets can cost up to an arm and a leg and that’s on top of having a decent computer alongside to use it with and run 3D software.

I chose the cheapest iPad Pro, M1 Chip, 128GB Storage with 8GB RAM. They actually spec them like computers now, rather than in my prime Apple days they would work more like a smartphone. I could have shot myself in the foot as I get better at sculpting, but at around AUD$1,300 that’s the best I could afford. I was curious to see if it could run as my computer and tablet in one whilst my mac was in hospital for a few weeks.

So i did some research there are two Apps that sprung at me with good reviews – Maxon’s newly acquired Forger App and the Blender-style Nomad App. I decided to start with Forger.

Documents Page in Forger

Forger has a fair few similarities to pro programs. On first glance the file system looks easy to see which projects are which, like the Photoshop app.

Import Menu

You can start with primitives or a template of a simple body or head, or you can import OBJ, ABC or C4D files. The sculpting language is quite similar to ZBrush with the remeshing sliders, the alt to reverse brush and shift to smooth shortcuts, masking and the sculpting tools they have. Bare in mind it is a optimised program for the iPad, so it wont have all the bells and whistles that ZBrush has.

Reference in the Background is Lynn Chen’s beautiful Corgi Illustrations

It took me a while to get around the app at first, but coming from ZBrush, Blender and watching a couple of the beginner tutorials they have within the app, it became quite therapeutic to block out this cute Corgi illustration by Lynn Chen.

I liked being able to sculpt with the Apple Pencil with one hand and press the hot keys on the left side with the other to change the brush size, strength, undo/redo, masking, smooth, +/- brush, and move the camera.

The options at the top reminded me of ZBrush’s sub tools, remeshing and mirroring functions. Layers suggests to me that you can paint colours on to this model too…

You can add big references in the app behind your sculpt, and have a few stored in your scene for when you want to change view/reference. Easy as just dragging and dropping into the scene to switch.

The other menus let you set up the way your model looks, like seeing it in wireframe or smooth shaded vs a faceted view. There is also a handy help menu in case you need assistance with the app.

I am not an expert in ZBrush but I felt as if this app would get me to at least do some nice block outs of characters to export them later to finesse, retopo, rig and texture them in other programs. You can export your models straight to Cinema4D, or fellow Blender users – to OBJ! Also to STL, USD and C4D.

It looks like from here you can render your sculpt straight in Forger for that quick pic to throw on your instagram. Huzzah!

Here’s the catch…

Unfortunately, unlike Blender, a free open-source program, all the features of Forger are not free.

Maxon decided to put it under their umbrella of subscription services and well, hopefully that means that we will see many more improvements to the app in years to come.


If you want to try this app out, you can use it for free for up to 3 scenes at a time. Which is pretty cool.

If you’re like me and like free stuff, then maybe you can make sculpts and export them to Blender, Cinema4D or even ZBrush to finish the modelling/UVs/texturing, and then delete them off of Forger once you’ve exported them or saved them off the app for 3 new empty slots.

To be honest though…

$22.99/year is not bad for an on-the-go 3D sculpting app that has the potential to be a 3D artist’s portable bit of digital clay they can take LITERALLY ANYWHERE and reuse forever.

Like Procreate’s purpose as a eternally refreshable sketchbook.

So there you have it. A beginner’s run down of 3D sculpting in Forger on the iPad.

I hope this helps any of you out there that need to find your own piece of digital clay whilst you are travelling.

I think the main pro that I can take away from having an iPad as a 3D artist is the fact that even though it’s not as perfect and powerful as the industry-standard programs, the portability gives me access to practicing my digital art more often. Which overall is a key asset to being a successful artist.


After all, spending my hard earned savings on tech and not groceries is not something I can take lightly! But as of now at least I have a little sculpting machine until my poor mac gets it’s new logic board.

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Gabby’s First Pass at Rigging in Blender

She’s Aliiiiive!!!!

Brawni 3D

Here she is, covered in gorgeous shiny fluffy papillon hair:

Fluffed Gabby

But she still looks very, very… dead.

Kind of like if she had been alive once and someone had stuffed her.

So nows the time to get familiar with Blender’s rigging tools and create a backbone for my courageous puppy.

I decided to try out Rigify, which has looked promising in the past only to me ending up having to create the rig from scratch because I couldn’t work out how to create a Frankenstein rig for my winged dragon on my MSI project.

But this time I wanted to persevere!

Enjoy my rigging journey:

I used the wolf rig. Its a cool rig, you line all the bones up carefully with your model and click “generate rig” and voila! All the IK joints and fancy controllers and deformation bones are made for you… a beautiful thing for someone who doesn’t understand rigging that much.

The wolf face bones looked so complicated and on the first try I got it all wrong and it made her face look a bit funny… They are supposed to simulate the muscles of the face is the information got from an awesome human face rig tutorial on Blender.

I tried again and really tried to be more accurate this time and thought that recalculating the bone rolls on the whole rig would be a good idea… It wasn’t. So I had to start again.

The third time I got this weird twisting in her torso when I moved her hips… and I ended up just recalculating the bone roll of a couple of spine and the hip bone and it seemed to fix it… I’m sure professional riggers would cringe (and if you do, please help me!) because it made the Rigify hip controller sit at an angle… but it didn’t deform the mesh weirdly and it still moves fine… so… I guess we will see in due course!

She has emotions!

I did realise during this rigging journey that I had left out a very important part of Gabby’s sculpt – her inner mouth. She will talk and lick and stuff so this is definitely a consideration for future development of her character so for now I will use this Gabby model for fast movement shots like running and shots where she won’t be seen talking.

Stay tuned to see more of her progress!

All works shown here were designed, sculpted, modelled, textured and rendered in ZBrush and Blender by Sarah Brawn. The design and sculpt of Gabby was inspired by real life photographs of Papillons.

Images owned and copyrighted by Brawni3D and you must request permission prior to use.

Contribute to Gabby’s acting career by buying her a biscuit!


Making Gabby The Papillon Fluffy in Blender

The journey into Gabby’s hair dynamics has just begun!

Brawni 3D

So this is where we left off with Gabby, a sculpt from ZBrush that I am happy with:

ZBrush Sculpt of Gabby

Her poly count at this stage was 2.7 million. In layman’s terms the little squares that make up her 3D mesh were so so small that she just looked completely black when you viewed her wireframe in Blender. Also Blender hated me. So I had to retopologise her. Which means you build her completely again using modelling tools.

Why wouldn’t you just build her in Blender and skip the sculpting you say? Ah, well because we can assign some really cool texture maps to the low poly model from the sculpt to make the low poly model *look* like the high poly sculpt. With the added benefit of my computer won’t burst into flames if I tried to just rig the sculpt straight away and animate her…

It also means that not only can you build this low poly model to look like the sculpt, you have control over how many polys it has AND you can engineer the new model to bend in pretty ways for animation.

Here’s my progress:

I had to also UV unwrap the model by adding seams (the red lines), so that I could add the colours/textures, so that they would look nice and uniform like a tidily wrapped Christmas present and not stretch in a horrible way like melted cheese over the model. I added a chequered texture to help see where the stretching was.

Painting her colours was really fun. There is this texture paint function on Blender where you can just get a paint brush like in photoshop/procreate and just paint colours all over the model. Like painting a miniature… I used the same process to paint a black and white layer to use as my roughness map (black is super shiny and white is super rough).

After a few attempts at creating fur on spheres and testing them to see if the fur moves in a desirable way, I got to making her fluffy. I used Blender’s particle system and added the hair in different particle groups to have more control over what length of hair I wanted where. I am hoping later on to add in hair dynamics to some of the fur groups to make them sway with her movement but we will see how happy by computer is when it comes to it!

Awesomely I realised that you can use the texture paint material as her fur colour, so the fluff matched her “skin” underneath. I actually used two, one for her skin that has the custom mostly rough, roughness map and another for her fur that had a second roughness map that was shiny on the red spots.

After a lot of brushing her fluff, tweaking hair settings and doing a final render, I feel that Gabby is almost better that what I envisioned her to be.

I love her ears and I can’t wait to see them moving and I am hoping that I got the retopology right for her rig so that she deforms properly during animation.

Stay tuned to see her go through the rigging process!

All works shown here were designed, sculpted, modelled, textured and rendered in ZBrush and Blender by Sarah Brawn. The design and sculpt of Gabby was inspired by real life photographs of Papillons.

Images owned and copyrighted by Brawni3D and you must request permission prior to use.

Contribute to Gabby’s acting career by buying her a biscuit!


Sculpting Gabby The Papillon in ZBrush

She’s a feisty little redhead Papillon who just wants to be like her big Collie sister, jumping through hoops and running as fast as she can.

Brawni 3D

I did a few thumbnail sketches to warm up and get into the Papillony-mood (it’s a thing you know). I used these references kindly borrowed from the good people of the Google Search Engine. Thank you for your inspiration.

Reference Images and Thumbnails for Gabby

I then made a rough representation of her Character in a stylised way. In hindsight I didn’t stick too much to this concept whilst I was sculpting as I wanted her to be a little bit more realistic.

Gabby the Papillon Character Sheet

She was sculpted in ZBrush and then transferred to Blender where the rest of the work began. This is her progress throughout the sculpt. She began as a chihuahua Zee Zoo collection of ZSpheres where I had to adjust her proportions to fit my Papillon references.

This is my FIRST sculpt in ZBrush. It was a lot of pushing and pulling the mesh around but I think I finally got it to a place where she looks cute and stylised but also will be somewhat relatable to a Papillon once she’s got those big flooffy ears!

Stay tuned to see her fluff up in my next weeks post!

All works shown here were designed, and sculpted in ZBrush and Adobe Photoshop by Sarah Brawn. The design and sculpt of Gabby was inspired by real life photographs of Papillons courtesy of Google Images.

Images of work owned and copyrighted by Brawni3D and you must request permission prior to use.

Contribute to Gabby’s acting career by buying her a biscuit!