Normal Mapping

Beginning to look into more into different types of maps, I should know the difference between them.

Bump Maps

Bump maps are texture maps which represent bumps, and extrudes onto a model. They aren’t actually any bumps on it however, bump maps use grayscale 256 bit colours to cast an illusion. The closer to white an area is, the more it appears to pull out of a surface, and the loser to black, the more it appears to intrude onto the surface.  These types of maps area good for things like wrinkles, bumps and pores on a model.

Image result for bump maps

Normal Maps

Normal maps are considered a newer version of bump maps. Similar to bump maps, they are fake and only cast an illusion of depth, however they do it different. Instead of using grayscale, they use different RGB colours, usually blue, pink or violet which directly corresponds 3D modelling tool. In short, the RGB tells the system how each poly / normal which rotation and direction it should be facing, which gives each extrusion and inclusion shading, as well as making the illusion of depth seem real. These maps are a lot harder to create in 2D applications like photoshop, and will most likely have to be baked in a 3D software, using a high resolution UV of your model.

Image result for normal map

Displacement Maps

These types of maps are used for minor details on low resolution meshes. They are grayscale, like bump maps and physically displace the mesh. These types of maps can either be baked like a normal map, or painted by hand like a bump map, which is useful as they can be arranged and created with the option which most suits a model.

Image result for displacement maps

Now that I knew the different range of maps, I moved onto trying it myself. The concept behind normal maps, on Maya in my case, was creating a low poly model, then a high poly model. Then using baking, you could create an illusion of high poly onto the low poly model. To demonstrate this, I created a low poly crate.

Low P crate

After this was made, and I had UV – unwrapped the crate, i copied it, and created the high poly version. This could be anything since I was only testing today, rather than actually creating a model. I added bevels, spheres and grates to make the model more interesting, and for a better results.


Next,  using baking I created the norma ma. I used Maya to bake, but other programs like Substance Painter can also be used. The map had some problems at the start, because either the quality wasn’t good enough, or the Map Space was on object space instead of tangent. I also once accidentally put the search radius too big, which refracted the light wrong and hence made part of the map green.

Crate Normal.als.png

I applied this to the low poly crate and it didn’t look as realistic as the high poly, but definitely worked and will be a lot more efficient when it comes to games design and games engines. I quite like the crate, and I will consider using normal maps but perhaps with substance to create a model, fully textured ready for my portfolio.


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