Difficulty: Intermediate  Type: Digital Sculpting
Platforms: Mac, Windows  Cost: Free

Go to Sculptris

Use your mouse to sculpt life-like characters and other organic shapes from a virtual
ball of clay.

If you enjoy sculpture and want to make organic models, then try using a digital sculpting tool like Sculptris. Digital sculpting is a modeling process whereby a digital mesh is pushed, pinched, stretched, and otherwise manipulated as if it were clay. Sculptris is a great tool for creating characters, creatures, animals, and life-like models. Beginners can have fun experimenting to make crazy creatures, and experts can sculpt realistic faces, bodies, and animals.

As you might imagine, it can be difficult to make geometric or architectural models in Sculptris. However, you can use Sculptris to create organic design elements and then import your creation into another design program like Tinkercad to add geometric elements; for example, you might construct a chess knight by making the horse head in Sculptris and the base of the piece in Tinkercad. Sculptris does not have measurements or dimensions, so anything designed within Sculptris will need to be exported and sized in another 3D design program or 3D printing prep software, like MakerBot Desktop.

Of the digital sculpting programs available, Scupltris is recommended for beginners for its powerful yet relatively intuitive user interface. Pixologic bought Sculptris long ago and they now offer it as a gateway to their paid professional flagship digital sculpting software, ZBrush. But don’t be fooled into thinking of Sculptris as a watered-down modeling tool; it’s capable of making intricate and professional models for CGI and 3D printing.


Download Sculptris, begin with the Clay Sphere, and make a face by using the Draw and Crease buttons. Then use the Grab tool to make a nose and ears.

ThingsThings Designed with Sculptris

Sculptris Heads by mathgrrl Aug 15, 2015

Sculptris Heads

Some of these were created from scratch in Sculptris starting with a virtual ball of clay. Others were models that originated elsewhere but were cleaned up and optimized for 3D printing using Sculptris.

Sculptris Creations by mathgrrl Aug 15, 2015

Sculptris Creations

You can make an amazing variety of characters and forms with Sculptris. This is a collection of people, animals, plants, and other wonderful things. Organic designs with bilateral symmetry are particularly suited to this modeling method.

Sculptris Combinations by mathgrrl Aug 15, 2015

Sculptris Combinations

Designs created by combining Sculptris forms with models from other programs, or by starting with models in other programs and then modifying them with Sculptris. Combining Sculptris with other tools is good for models that have both flowing and geometric components.

ThingsGetting Started with Sculptris

To start using Sculptris, find the Free Download button at Pixologic and install Sculptris on your computer. While it is possible to use Sculptris with a trackpad, the software works best with a mouse or stylus and tablet.

Starter resources

Using Sculptris becomes natural after you learn how to use the controls, hot keys, and brushes. Keep these handy reference documents nearby while you work with Sculptris.

  • The official Sculptris Manual is highly recommended. You can find the manual inside your Sculptris folder after downloading the software.
  • The Sculptris Cheat Sheet is a quick reference for the most commonly used Sculptris shortcuts.

Beginner How-to Videos

To learn the basics about the controls, brushes, hotkeys, and possibilities of Sculptris, we recommend these YouTube and Vimeo videos from Tuts+, Digital-Tutors, Pierre Rogers Kharactar, and IntroducingEmy:

ThingsGoing Further with Sculptris

Intermediate and Advanced Resources

Once you’re comfortable with the basic controls and brushes in Sculptris, you can take your design skills to the next level by learning from these more advanced videos, courses, and lessons.

Lessons and online notes: Learn along with Mr. Brooks, who developed three Lessons with videos and notes for introducing Sculptris to his online animation class.

  • Becoming familiar with Digital Sculpting in Sculptris: video and notes
  • Using the Grab, Scale, Rotate, Draw, Crease brushes in Sculptris: video and notes
  • Using the Flatten, Inflate, Pinch, and Smooth brushes in Sculptris: video and notes

Lynda.com: Although Lynda.com courses aren’t free, if you have access then you can use it to enjoy Lynda.com Scupltris Essential Training, a complete how-to Sculptris course.

Speed Sculpt video: User purita on Thingiverse created a nice Lion Head model that you can download and 3D print. You can also watch purita make this model from beginning to end in thier Making of Lion Head video on YouTube.

Sculpting from a reference image: Watch Ryan Kittelson, the instructor of the Lynda.com course above, sculpt a character from a reference image in the Sculptris digital sculpting tutorial.

Create a Cartoon Character: Learn how to create a fun cartoon head with 3DToons.tom, by watching 3DToons Sculptris demo with this throrough and highly informative video tutorial.

Use Sculptris with Cinema 4D: Learn from Mr. Brooks how to use Sculptris characters in a Cinema 4D scene and how to manage the complexity of your mesh by watching the video Workflow between Scultpris Cinema 4D + being mindful of your poly/tri count.

Pro Tips

Our own MakerBot Learning team offers the following quick tips for working effectively when designing 3D models with Sculptris.

  • When adding a new sphere or plane, the new and previous objects are treated as separate objects. To join them, click and drag in the open plane while holding Command on a Mac or Control on a PC. Learn more in johnnybrevo’s video about how to combine objects in Sculptris.
  • When adding a new sphere or plane, the software defaults to establishing an XYZ axis at the center of that object. Turn off the axis by clicking P.
  • If you’re hoping to proportionally scale your entire model or a selection of your model, then turn on the Global feature after choosing the Scale brush. If Global is not turned on, then the Scale brush will operate like a sculpting tool that adjusts the mesh but not the overall size of the object.
  • You can import an orthographic 2D view of the object you are modeling as a background into Sculptris to provide a working reference. To turn on this feature, click the Options button and then click Background. Make sure that the image is sized appropriately for your screen so that it is not stretched or distorted.

In the Classroom

If you’re an educator looking for a classroom project built around Sculptris, you might be interested in the book MakerBot in the Classroom: An Introduction to 3D Printing and Design.