[Update: Thanks to Rosemary Regan, for the heads-up on the latest news about Sculptris. It seems Sculptris has been taken under the ZBrush wing:  “…an Alpha version of Sculptris for Windows – a unique, very ‘cool’ artistic modeling application still in raw baby stage and now incubating at Pixologic HQ. The current version, formerly known as Sculptris 1.02, will be renamed under Pixologic banner as Sculptris Alpha 5.

Sculptris is the brainchild of the bright programmer Tomas Pettersson. Sculptris has captured the hearts of artists with its fun, intuitive and user-friendly interface – indeed a perfectly sweet companion to our big monster ZBrush! Tomas will be moving to California, from Sweden, to join the Pixologic team.”]

Many times I have been asked why I prefer to use the Bryce software in preference to something like Carrara for instance or even something open source and free like Blender.

My answer is rather uninspiring – I guess. It is certainly not the cheapness of the software. Bryce 6 is cheap compared to something like Vue 8, and not as cheap as Blender. (inside joke)

Nor is it the features of the software: Bryce 6  is somewhat sparse – these days – on some basic features like displacement mapping and ambient occlusion, making use of multiple CPUs or 64-bit support, and it is as slow as molasses when rendering, and cannot currently see more than 2Gb of RAM to work with – hugely frustrating!

It is its intuitiveness that makes the program shine for me. Ever since Bryce 3D (the first version of Bryce I ever used) I have been able to work easily with the software without fighting the interface, searching for obscure functions and getting the program to mimic the creative flow in my own brain! A program must work with me, I don’t want to read through a 500-page online help PDF to find out how the change the reflection value of an object. It must be there – easily found – and not buried 3 or 4 levels down in a requester with no visual feedback and lots of numbers to type in. (remember I never got past Grade 9 in math)

That is what Bryce does for me. It works with me! It doesn’t fight me! That is what software should work. Imagine for a moment using a computer mouse that didn’t mimic your hand’s motion on a flat surface. Clicking on a single button would be a taxing, tiring waste of time.

At this moment that is what Blender, Vue 8 (which I could never afford), and Carrara are to me. They are a heavyweight wrestler in my ring. They don’t belong there.

[Confession time: I bought Carrara when it was fresh in DAZ 3D’s growing arsenal of 3D tools. I even had a copy of its early predecessor Ray Dream Studio on my computer at one time. I bought Carrara 6, installed it went one round with it in the wrestling ring, trying to read the manual and gave up. When a free version 7 upgrade was offered to me by DAZ3D, I took it – why I don’t know – and it was stored on a DVD backup somewhere and forgotten – I simply didn’t have the time or the resources to learn this new and difficult bit of software.

This was in contrast to Bryce – I could still get the aged software to go in the direction I wanted it to go, and although I might not have all the wonderful tools and “bells & whistles” offered by other programs, I could spend an hour or so a week and make progress with my art projects. Often an hour was all I could manage – remembering that art is my hobby – something to do in my spare time when the demands of being an IT Manager, the father of a child with a relatively severe learning disability, and a devoted husband.]

I like modelling in 3D, and Bryce doesn’t model, so I have to resort to other software. Hexagon works OK, but it is crash prone and more unstable than Amy Winehouse on crystal meth, and it doesn’t do what zBrush does at $600 a hit!

Now I am looking at a new product I strayed across in one of the Blender forums – Sculptris – its main feature is dynamic mesh tesselation that will provide additional detail where necessary, without the you needing to worry about it. (one way to kill your PC with Hexagon to to subdivide or smooth your mesh one step to far)  and that fact alone makes it definitely worth a look. One comment from a user on the Blender forum was: “This is what the sculpt tool in blender should have been like…” (Hmm, didn’t even know Blender had a sculpt tool!)

Sculptris is an early Alpha version, and weighs in as a 1.7Mb installer (yes, you read correctly – not even 2 Mb!) It works only on Windows at the moment, but has been reported as being able to run in Linus via WINE.

Give it a try. I am impressed so far and am getting to grips with its somewhat different interface.