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Nomad Sculpt, A Review

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It has long been an aspiration of mine to find a method of more easily sculpting digital art on the go. The Cintiq I sculpt on has lots of cords and is rather unwieldy outside of my studio.  I've tried drawing tablets, but the disconnect makes sculpting on them hard.  I tried a Wacom One monitor, which is smaller, lighter, and has about half the cords; but still the setup and break down was cumbersome, and I still needed power. I wanted true mobility.


Then I heard about a new (2020) tool for the iPad called Nomad Sculpt.  After doing some research, I was not convinced that it could replace Z-Brush, but I was convinced that I could use it to make parts that I could export to Z-Brush, there-by giving me a mobile platform on which to do 1/2 the work and then put it all together in my studio.  It was also said to be good for doing jewelry sculpting which is typically more simple than minis.


Then 2 things happened that changed everything.  First, Apple released iOS 15, which removed the memory limiter that capped any given app at 3GB (or so).  Thus, Nomad could start using all the RAM of the iPad (that which the iOS itself wasn't using anyway).  Second, Apple released the new iPad Pro units with their new, screaming fast M2 chip.  The two largest of these, the 1TB and 2TB, have 16GB RAM!  That means that Nomad could now do sculpts in excess of 40-50 million points!  I think my biggest Z-Brush model ever was 32 million points, and that is a dragon with a rider (coming to Dark Sword next year).

I also spent hours watching YouTube commentary and tutorials on Nomad to ensure that it could do what I wanted it to.  The best out there are by a YouTuber called SouthernGFX.  Check him out if you really want to know more about this tool.  He convinced me that I could do about 80-90% of my work in Nomad, so when the new iPad came out 2 weeks ago, I pulled the trigger and bought the 2TB version and an Apple Pencil.


First, this iPad is freaking AMAZING!!! I am finding many other uses for it that I didn't even know I had. I absolutely love it. 😍

Back to Nomad, I bought it ($15; after the price of the iPad, that seemed ridiculously cheap) and started running through the SouthernGFX tutorials.  I didn't want to do the head in the tutorial or the typical skull everyone seems to do when learning, so I went another direction and pounded out an ant head (I have no idea why; it just sort of happened 😄).




Well, color me impressed.  That took me about 30 minutes, and I was still learning where everything was.  The interface is very well laid out and intuitive.  I am pretty sure the programmer must be a Z-Brush sculptor who decided to reprogram Z-Brush to put everything in in a way that actually makes sense.  Seriously, the learning curve on this software is nothing compared to what one goes through trying to figure out the menu morass that is Z-Brush.  


But that was just a simple head; time to see what it can really do, so I sculpted the rest of the ant (obviously, I wasn't concerned at all about casting this):





Each segment is a separate part (subtool in Z-Brush lingo).  Nomad allows you to set up relationship between parts easily in a hierarchy and establish pivot points using the gizmo.  This allows for amazingly easy posing as the parts will move together.



So I kept going, posing it, and adding a spear.  I was still only using 1.7 GB of the memory. 




So I added a basket to it's back and sculpted a ridiculously detailed weave (so much so that it won't fully print on my high-res printer at mini scale).  When all was said and done, it ended up at about 2.1 GB with 13 million vertices. Crazy!  I still had 13.3 GB memory I could have used.  At this point, I was convinced that it is a 90%+ replacement for Z-Brush, at least for the things I sculpt with the way I sculpt (more on that later).










Well that was good and fine, but it was still locked into my iPad.  How about export?  Nomad can export to obj and stl (plus another one I hadn't heard of).  I exported it as an obj, and after some finagling and trying to remember passwords and such, got it on my OneDrive.  I imported it into Z-Brush.  It had lost all of the parts, merging everything together, but it was a whole and complete mesh. (In the future, I may export the parts separately; yes Nomad lets you choose and export any part!) 


I Dynameshed it and added some texture to the base (I don't have any Alphas setup in Nomad yet).  Then I decimated it as normal, brought it over to Lychee, supported it, and printed it last night.


This print's base is 25mm from corner to corner.  (Sorry about the support scars; I haven't sanded them off yet.)




Nomad Sculpt Pros and Cons:

- Instant sculpting with complete freedom from cords, internet, etc...  Sculpt when and where you want, with an open speed of however fast you can open your iPad case (2 secs for me).  It takes me longer to put my art glove on than to start sculpting.

- Easy intuitive interface and good tutorials on YouTube

- Great part menu with part hierarchy and poseable structuring.

- Lots of features already in the tool with more added every year, including: symmetry, local part symmetry, radial symmetry, full masking, trims and splits, subdivision, voxel remeshing (think Dynamesh), decimation, individual part saving, customizable brushes, alphas, a full painting suite with configurable lighting, and so much more. It will honestly be easier to tell you what it can't do in Cons.

-I get MUCH more done.  Because it is so easy to use, anywhere, I am now sculpting at times and places where I used to surf FB or play a stupid game on my phone.  I've added about 10 hours of possible sculpting time to each week that would have been wasted before.



- Expensive setup: 2TB iPad Pro and Pencil cost me about $2600.  I could have gotten the 1TB version for about $1900, but that extra TB of HD space was too important.  If you go with the 512GB version it is a lot cheaper, but your RAM drops to 8GB and that is not widely advertised by Apple.

- Z-Brush features I use that it doesn't have...yet: Z-modeler and IMM brushes.  I also don't know if it can do the whole simplify, repose, and re-project thing.  I don't use that much.  I would think you could T-sculpt in Nomad then export it into Z-Brush if that workflow is important to you. Personally, I am really missing the IMM brushes.  I hope the developer is working on that.

- It doesn't come with any Alphas, you will have to make them or obtain them.  They are easy to make in Procreate on the iPad (SouthernGFX has a tutorial).


Well, that is it.  Great tool and well worth the cost IMHO.  I will easily pay for its cost in the upcoming year in the extra sculpts I get done during my lunches at work or when talking to my wife as she gets ready for bed at night.


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The upside is that if you have a 3D printer and an iPad or Android Tablet. you can now make stuff for $15, without spending $900 for Z-Brush.  Even a regular iPad or tablet will make small things and parts.  

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I'm not an Apple kind of guy, but I'm glad to know that an affordable, capable tool like this is out there.

I've tinkered with Z-Brush (and its ancestors) but have always been too frustrated with the weird UI decisions the designers made, and nowadays I stick pretty much exclusively with Blender.

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