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I'm trying to add details to a model that will be 3D printed and I'm using a 4k alpha brush but it's too pixelated unless I use 10's of millions of polygons. Is that right?

ie with the back of Suzanne's head as a test, I've used a Multires modifier at Sculpt level 6 (2 million polygons), then 7 (8 million polygons), then 8 (32 million polygons).

enter image description here

Do I really need that many polygons to get the detail quality I'm after or am I missing something?

Thanks in advance.

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Unfortunately yes, you need quite a lot of polygons to get a good resolution(32M is overkill tho). Make sure the mesh has even quads, or there will be some areas with much more geometry than others, which will result in a high polycount for nothing. Also you can try using dyntopo so you only add geometry where it's needed. And don't forget to shade smooth

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