KeyShot for ZBrush: Pros & Cons Review

Are you thinking about buying the KeyShot for ZBrush bridge but want to know if it’s going to be worth it?


If so, this is the post for you. I’ve made a review of each part as well as a list of pros and cons based in my experience to help you make an informed decision.

After testing the KeyShot to ZBrush bundle (see my review of the trial in this post) I purchased the bridge and a license of KeyShot for ZBrush, and tried it more in depth.

I have written this review of Pros & Cons based in my own experience with the software.

Jump to:


Installation / Activation

Right after purchasing the bundle, I received an email from Pixologic with my serials and download links.

The installation process was easy, and the activation was very similar to the activation of any regular ZBrush license.

After following the steps instructed in their email, I could very quickly start using my new acquisition.

During the installation/activation process however, there were two points that were a little confusing:

  • The first one is that in order to get the bonus content offered by Pixologic one has to install the content manager.
    It is impossible to get this contents any other way. So be sure to install the manager to get the free materials, HDRI images and backplates!! (limited edition, so hurry up!)
  • The second point (and this one gave me a little headache till I figured it out) is that the serial for your ZBrush bridge is not the same as the one for KeyShot for ZBrush. The serial for KeyShot is actually provided at the bottom, with the download links.




About KeyShot to ZBrush Bridge


The first thing to note about this plugin is that it DOES NOT come included in ZBrush 4R7. One must purchase it from Pixologic’s store in order to be able to use it. The price for the plugin is 149$ (99$ if you buy it during the launching promotion).

Once purchased, you can set it up to activate KeyShot as your external rendered instead of the default Best Preview Render.

You should be aware that the bridge does not include KeyShot, it is only a bridge between the two programs, very much like the GoZ plugin only not free.

Be careful because the bridge by itself is useless.

To be able to use this new feature of external renderer you need to have an installation of KeyShot in your computer.

This installation can either be any of the available KeyShot 5 releases (KeyShot HD or KeyShot Pro) or the new version KeyShot for ZBrush, that is available for sale at Luxion’s website and at Pixologic’s store.

The price of this special ZBrush version of KeyShot is 200$ (150$ during the launching promotion)


  • The launching price of 99$ is very reasonable.
  • Activates the new feature of rendering in KeyShot 5 introduced in the ZBrush 4R7 version.
  • Very easy to set up and use.


  • The regular price of 149$ can be a little high, considering it is a kind of  “GoZ” plugin.

This list of pros and cons is for the “KeyShot to ZBrush Bridge” only.

To see more information check out the “KeyShot to ZBrush” review below.


About KeyShot for ZBrush

Keyshot for ZBrush is a new solution offered by Luxion that allows hobbyists, freelance professionals and small studios to purchase the otherwise expensive license of their star product KeyShot 5 for a very affordable price.

KeyShot 5 licenses vary from the cheapest most basic version at 995$ to the fullest version at a price of 3.995$. Now, thanks to this new release meant only for ZBrush, we can afford to get a license for a price as low as 150 – 200$.


But what exactly is this ZBrush version of KeyShot, and why is it so cheap?

The main reason for this attractive price is the limitation of the software to be used with ZBrush only.

The software does not recognize any file format other that its native file format .bip, and in order to get geometry inside KeyShot’s virtual world we have to do it through ZBrush.

This limitation has to be taken into account before deciding to purchase this license, for it represents in my opinion one of the biggest drawbacks of the software.

Not being able to import OBJ files is a big con.

True; we can import the desired OBJ into ZBrush and send it to KeyShot by just clicking render. But if we want to import more that one object the task can get very tiring.

Another limitation you might want to consider is the fact that every subtool you import into KeyShot will be merged in KeyShot into one object.

This creates a problem when it comes to setting up materials.

In order to separate  the parts you want to shade with different materials, you must first assign materials in ZBrush before importing the tools.

This means that you are going to have to manually set up each subtool part’s specific material in ZBrush, and then, exchange those materials for the ones you want in KeyShot.

A way around this is to separate the objects that share a specific material into one subtool. When imported into KeyShot from ZBrush, this will create a material for each subtool.



To illustrate the features and limitations of KeyShot for Zbrush, I have prepared an example of the workflow needed to render a relatively simple object using the KeyShot Bridge.

I have reported all the problems I encountered during this test, as well as the high points.

1.- Importing OBJs into ZBrush:


Due to the lack of this version to import OBJs directly, I had to import every separate OBJ into ZBrush.

Luckily, ZBrush offers a solution for importing multiple OBJ through the Subtool Master plugin.

Thanks to this, we can import all the OBJs into the document with one click.


2.- Assigning KeyShot as external render:


This is done in the Render Menu – External Rederer – Keyshot.

To open KeyShot and start the render we will from now on press the old Best Preview Render button.


3.- New KeyShot Scene


Rendering our ZDocument will import all the visible subtools and their materials into KeyShot.

At this point, we have not assigned any materials in ZBrush, so KeyShot has opened each subtool with a material of their own.


Con.- Notice how when I try to assign a purple material to the flower petals, the material is assigned to all the subtool.

This happens even if the subtool has been divided into Polygroups, and the renderer’s option Auto Merge has been disabled.


4.- Making Polygroups:


This step took a lot of time to set up. The Auto Groups option in the Polygroup panel made too many groups for this model, and I had to re-group each part manually by isolating parts of the mesh and using GroupVisible.

Tip.- Using ZBrush’s Merge Similar Groups can help save a lot of time! 

Tip 2.- For objects with UVs, the “Auto Group with UV” option can be a fast way to do this.


5.- Adding materials in ZBrush:


To be able to assign materials in KeyShot we have to manually set materials in Zbrush for each different part.

The materials don’t have to be accurate, for we will override them later in KeyShot.

Still is a lot of work, and we must  isolate each Polygroup, activate polypaint and paint a different material for each part.


5.b.- Alternative – Split to similar parts


By splitting our Polygroups into new subtools we can skip the previous step of Material assignment, but the counterpart will be to have a lot of subtools in our document.


6.- Material assignment


After assigning the materials in ZBrush we can move back to KeyShot by pressing Render. The subtools will update, carrying the different materials we assigned.

This will also create separate model parts for each material we assigned in the KeyShot’s model panel.


Now we are capable of selecting each part and edit the materials, or we can use one of KeyShot’s preset materials and adjust it to our needs.

For the leaves and petals I used the Human Skin material, and adjusted the settings until I got a good result.

For the stalks I used a Velvet material. The Water and Glass materials were applied directly to the vase and the water objects without modifications.

Warning! – Don’t forget to save your KeyShot materials as soon as they are ready. Refreshing the Render from ZBrush can delete your materials if you have made any changes in your ZBrush document. The undo feature will not recover them, because every time we press render in ZBrush the history in KeyShot is deleted.

After much work we finally obtain our rendered image!



Pros and Cons

Here is the list of Pros & Cons I could find after using the software. Anyone is welcome to add or suggest any changes for better reference.


  • Affordable price (150 – 200$)
  • Amazing rendering quality with very easy setup.
  • Helps visualize the ZBrush model we are working on from a fixed camera with a quasi final render quality on the fly.
  • Helps save time on detailing only the parts of the model that will be seen in the final image, focusing in the result rather than the full sculpture.
  • Easy to update, the bridge imports textures, materials and polypaint from the ZBrush document.
  • We can save the KeyShot project in a .bip file for later rendering.


  • No OBJ import – BIG DRAWBACK!
  • Need to divide model in polygroups and set up ZBrush materials for every different part of the model.
  • No undo history after refreshing from ZBrush. Easy to loose materials that haven’t been saved!!
  • Doesn’t include Pro feature of HDRI edition.
  • Doesn’t include VR feature of turntable rendering.


Closing Thoughts

As you can see, the set-up was easy enough but the limitations presented in the ZBrush edition of KeyShot made the workflow a little slower than if we had just imported the files directly.

The high points?

  • We just obtained an amazing KeyShot result, spending less than half the cost of a regular license.

Is it worth it?

  • If you are a freelance artist, a hobbyist or a small studio like me I would say: TOTALLY.
  • If you can afford a full version of KeyShot HD-Pro, then maybe that would be a better choice.

In any case, the ZBrush to Keyshot Bridge is a must have, and even at the full price of 149$ I would recommend anyone to get it.


That’s all for this week’s review!

I will keep posting more interesting things I find about this and other 3D softwares as I use them, so stay tuned for more news!

As a token of our friendship I have included in this post the KeyShot plant materials I did for this review.

You can download them from SMS Keyshot Plant Materials.rar

Use them in your renders and let me know how it went!

See you around the cloud~


Join the discussion

Are you a Keyshot lover? Or a hater?

What kind of features would you highlight from your experience?

Questions, comments and any other thought about this products is welcome!

Thank you for reading this post! If you liked the contents, don’t keep it to yourself… Tell your friends! Thanks to your support I can create amazing projects. Check them out on my web/social media and tell me what you think!

See you there!

Sara Martull

I like helping people, making 3D illustrations, modeling and shading characters, and my wish is to become a good writer/illustrator some day

    Posted at 21:04h, 19 March Reply

    Thanks Sara that was very useful, there isn’t much information on KeyShot for Zbrush at the moment and you explained the limitations very well. I am now trying to work out how full scenes of multiple objects can be managed or if I should just stick with GOZ and Lightwave.

    • Sara
      Posted at 16:28h, 20 March Reply

      Thank you Graham. It is so good to know my review has helped you! Kind words like yours give us much moral support.

      I haven’t tried to import full scenes yet, so I can’t say much about it. All I can say is that the sample image of the pine tree forest by Joshep Drust was a full scene imported from ZBrush to Keyshot, and it looks fantastic! You can see it here:

      If you are planning to use the new array mesh feature (like Joseph did with the forest ground and the bark in the trees) I think using this bridge would be a great way to go.

      Let me know what conclusions you get after testing the bridge!

      Best regards,


    Posted at 16:22h, 30 March Reply

    Hi Sara, thanks for the post.

    What if I set up a scene in keyshot after importing subtools from Zbrush, Save it as a .bip and then close everything for another session of work. Will the scene or subtools in Zbrush continue to be linked to the scene in Keyshot next time I open everything for continuing my work?



    • Sara
      Posted at 10:41h, 31 March Reply

      Hello Mario,

      That is a very interesting question. I have made a few tests, and this is what I’ve learnt so far:

      The communication between ZBrush and Keyshot (to this day) is one way only.

      This means, ZBrush information overrides Keyshot’s no matter what. For example, if we set up a scene with matcaps in ZBrush, then send it to Keyshot and change the materials there, save the files and open them again for another work session, when we hit render in Zbrush the Keyshot materials will be lost, for they will be replaced with the original ZBrush matcaps all over. (There is a “Back to ZBrush” button on the Keyshot interface, but it seems to do nothing.)

      I have found only two solutions for this:

      The first, is to save the materials we set up in Keyshot in a material folder, and re-assign them each time we start the new session.

      The second is that we can extract the parts we don’t want to change anymore from the ZBrush hierarchy in Keyshot. This way, every time we hit render, those models will stay unchanged. (You would have to hide them in ZBrush to prevent them from being imported back to Keyshot, or else you would have two copies of the same model.)

      The problem of this second option is that there is a glitch that makes the geometry displace in the Keyshot scene, so we would have to move the geometry around to put it back in place.

      It seems to me that they rushed the release of the bridge, and they have given us a tool that is still in beta stage. I hope in time they will fix all the bugs, and they will improve the workflow ZBrush-Keyshot-ZBrush.

      I hope this helped 🙂

      • Mario Sermoneta
        Posted at 14:21h, 09 June Reply

        Hey Sara , I came across this review again and saw your answers to me. I am sorry I did not relate. So Thanks a lot for your help . It seems that Keyshot is not perfect but somehow I find myself often getting back to it because if it`s ease of use. I am also considering to upgrade to 6 sometime soon.

  • Danny
    Posted at 12:05h, 06 April Reply

    I’m just wondering about the zbrush import only. Does that pertain to just meshes or meshes and image maps?

    • Sara
      Posted at 08:59h, 10 April Reply

      Hi Danny, if you are refering to the textures, the anwser is yes.

      The import works very good, and it imports any textures applied to the model, as well as any polypaint information. However, to make this imports I think the model must have UVs.

      The background color of the Zbrush document can also be imported if “background color” is selected in the external renderer options.

  • Al
    Posted at 10:22h, 08 February Reply

    Thank you… Your wonderful review was exactly what I was looking for 🙂
    Thanks a lot.

    • Sara
      Posted at 10:30h, 08 February Reply

      Glad I could help you Al 😀

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 03:31h, 21 October Reply

    Thank you. Very helpful information. I think I’ll opt for the full version. These limitations for the zbrush version are not divulged plainly anywhere.

Post A Reply to Sara Cancel Reply