I looked at a couple of different ways to UV map the Chinese Dragon, though I was pretty keen to use ZBrush’s native mapper as I’d heard good things about it and I was keen to just get on with it.
The up side is it produces virtually distortion free UV maps at the push of a button, letting you get on with the artistic stuff.
The down side of this is that it produces maps that are difficult to work out if you want to edit them in Photoshop, with very few contiguous bits for easy painting. They look a little something like this:
The other thing you might notice is there’s a fair bit of empty space. ZBrush does its best to optimize, but when you’re making a very large map(4096 pixels square) every pixel counts. Especially if your dragon is 35m long and will have close ups!
ZBrush Tip: It’s worthwhile exporting your model with it’s new UV Map to see if you can make better use of the map real estate in your destination software before starting to sculpt in ZBrush.(even if I didn’t, *you* should!)
ZBrush also has a plugin UV mapper called UV Master which offers some very nice features, the standout being the ability to paint directly onto you model to define map regions and areas of higher detail. It’s also artist friendly in that the maps it produces are more recognisable. I gave it a spin for the mapping of my Dragon’s horns and even with the default settings gave quite nice results.