Tuesday, June 4th, 2024 Posted by Jim Thacker

Shapelab 2024 lets you sculpt on desktop as well as in VR

Leopoly has released Shapelab 2024, the latest version of the VR sculpting software.

The “biggest ever update” to Shapelab makes it possible to use the software in desktop mode as well as virtual reality, and adds support for multiresolution sculpting.

We’ll get to what’s new in a minute, but since we haven’t covered Shapelab on CG Channel before, let’s start with a quick summary of its existing features.

A polygon-based digital sculpting tool streamlined enough to use in virtual reality
Released in 2023 after several years in early access, Shapelab is designed for sculpting 3D models – primarily organic forms like characters and creatures – in VR.

Unlike tools like Adobe’s Medium and Substance 3D Modeler, it represents 3D models as conventional polygonal geometry, rather than Signed Distance Fields.

Shapelab uses a brush-based sculpting workflow, with a base set of brushes that will be familiar to users of apps like ZBrush, plus the option to use alpha textures as stamps.

Users can adjust the resolution of the mesh locally, via a brush-controlled real-time tessellation system, or via a set of global controls.

It is also possible to clone, mirror or perform Boolean operations on geometry to build up more complex forms.

For texturing sculpts, Shapelab includes a vertex painting toolset with support for masks; or users can apply a set of readymade materials.

Integrates with existing workflows for asset development and concept art
Once created, models can be exported to other DCC applications – there’s a blog post on using Shapelab with Blender – in FBX, OBJ, STL or glTF (GLB) format.

As well creating base assets that could be used in games, motion graphics and VFX, potential use cases include concept art, 3D printing and even processing 3D scans.

You can get a feel for what the software is capable of from Leopoly’s YouTube tutorials and the artist case studies on the Shapelab blog.

Game dev Daniel Sherekin (BoroCG)’s overview of Shapelab 2024’s new features.

Shapelab 2024: experimental new desktop mode
A key change in Shapelab 2024 is that there is now an experimental desktop mode, making it possible to work on a standard monitor as well as in virtual reality.

It is designed for “tasks that are faster with a classic mouse and keyboard setup”, and does not yet fully support digital styluses in the same way as VR mode.

New multiresolution sculpting and retopology workflows
In addition, Shapelab now supports multiresolution sculpting, with users able to change subdivision levels on the fly while working.

There are also new tools for retopologising meshes, including a basic automated quad remeshing system for generating low-poly all-quad geometry, and a detail transfer system to project finer detail from the original high-res sculpt to the low-poly model.

Flat shading, multi-selection and AR workflows
Other changes include a new flat shading mode compatible with PBR and MatCap materials: you can import custom MatCaps in PNG format.

Workflow improvements include the option to multi-select objects, and to organize them hierarchically.

There are also three new environments with colors optimized for chroma key passthrough, as an approximation of the native augmented reality passthrough mode on some VR headsets.

Price and system requirements
Shapelab 2024 is compatible with Windows 10+.

It has relatively low minimum system requirements, runs on AMD and NVIDIA GPUs, and as an OpenXR-based app, should work on any VR headset that can run SteamVR.

You can find a list of the officially supported VR headsets in the online FAQs.

A perpetual license costs $51.99; subscriptions cost $4.99/month or $49.99/year.

Read a full list of new features in Shapelab 2024 in the online release notes

Read more about Shapelab on the product website

Have your say on this story by following CG Channel on Facebook, Instagram and X (formerly Twitter). As well as being able to comment on stories, followers of our social media accounts can see videos we don’t post on the site itself, including making-ofs for the latest VFX movies, animations, games cinematics and motion graphics projects.