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so I noticed a lot of people going straight into z-brush for modeling. I still use box modeling for my models. Pic related. What would you recommend: creating a model via box modeling and then add some details in zbrush or start straight in zbrush? Or leave out zbrush completely?
You can box model in ZBrush with ZModeler, and you can make base models with ZSpheres among other techniques
And those nipples need a loop
The advantage of sculpting is that you can simply focus on getting the shape you want without worrying about topology, which will get you to the look you want really fast. Then you just retopologize the model and can instead focus on simply getting good edge flow and not care about maintaining the correct shape. Trying to balance the two through box modeling is a pain and you're likely to not get the best of either or waste way too much time on it.
Detailing box models was what was done in the early days of sculpting when you could only subdivide existing geometry, but since you now have a whole two options for dynamic topology (Dynamesh and Sculptris Pro), you can start with any shape you want and end up with anything else.
I find scaling a few spheres and boxes into place in Maya first then taking into Zbrush, dynamesh and start working is a bit faster than doing it all in zbrush. Still very clunky to do simple xforms in that program. I don't try to do any sort of topology before the sculpt but a little box modeling to get things going is easier for me.
so does it not matter if you do boolean operations before sculpting from the resulting mesh? Would I need to have sculptis pro to not worry about my base mesh topology, or I can use something in Zbrush Core?
Topology is irrelevant for something you are going to dynamesh. Dynamesh is in core so you're fine doing it that way.
ok, sounds great, does dynamesh merge parts of sculps? like if I have e.g. toes really close to each other, would they get melted and welded?
Yes, the way dynamesh works is similar to voxelization, so at lower densities features close to one another will merge, you would have to use higher density values increase mesh accuracy. This is still pretty useful in situations where you actually do want to merge together meshes, because it means you can just bash together shapes and it will unite them for you.

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