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making good normal maps

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#1
exploiteddna

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hey guys, so ive been having trouble learning how to make "good" normal maps using the normal map filter from nvidia toolkit in photoshop.  This is the method most other modders use, correct?

 

Ive watched/read a few tutorials and basically what im doing is running the filter once with the 'scale' value set anywhere from 2-10, and then select either "4 sample" or "9 x 9" in the height generation section of the filter dialog.. then i leave everything else where it is ("add height to normal map" selected, "animate light" selected in 3D View Options section of the dialog, "Average RGB" selected in Height Source, and "Height" selected in Alpha Field)

Then after i apply the filter the first time, i duplicate the layer, apply some gaussian blur to it, choose "overlay" blending mode, and merge down. Then I repeat this a few times.. this is how im adding more depth/height to the map. .. and thats about it.

 

basically what ive been doing for practice is taking the textures from various popular mods and trying to replicate the normal map using their regular (diffuse) maps... but it seems i just cant get them quite the same. 

 

Does anyone have any advice for me? It would be greatly appreciated


Edited by michaelrw, 07 March 2013 - 10:06 PM.


#2
1shoedpunk

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Get Crazy Bump, run the normal through Texture Optimizer. The Crazy Bump demo runs out in about a month but it's completely worth purchasing a license for.



#3
exploiteddna

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Get Crazy Bump, run the normal through Texture Optimizer. The Crazy Bump demo runs out in about a month but it's completely worth purchasing a license for.

 
ok i will look into that.. so make the normal the way i described? and then run it through texture optimizer of crazy bump?
 
ok so heres an example. this is the normal map of the windows texture from the visible windows mod by isoku:
 
normal2.jpg
 
 
and this my attempt at recreating it (i gave up pretty quickly because i could already see it wasnt going to be the same; mine has way too much detail and not enough depth):
 
normal1.jpg
 
 
Thanks for the suggestion about crazy bump, i will definitely look into that.
Anyone else have any other tips, recommendations, or suggestions?

Edited by michaelrw, 07 March 2013 - 10:24 PM.


#4
LargeStyle

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I am in no way educated or even that experienced with normal mapping, but I have long enough mucking around with it to make a few personal observations...
 
As already mentioned, I'd put in a second vote for Crazy Bump. It's a great app but you're not neccessarily in for a smooth ride (no pun intended). I've found that with a little time and experimentation Crazy Bump can get you great normal maps, but it doesn't actually save them in a fully usable format - problem being with the incorrect information being stored in the alpha channel.
 
When modifying a premade texture, what I normally (!) do is...
 
1) Load a visual texture into Crazy Bump, play around with it (you can press F1 and diffuse the visual texture onto the normal map for real-time viewing).
 
2) Once done, export the normal map (without alpha channel).
 
3) Load this normal map into Photoshop (or equivalent app such as gimp)
 
4) Load the original (source) texture into Photoshop too.
 
5) In Photoshop go to the channel menu for the original texture, right click the alpha channel and duplicate it into the Crazy Bump texture.
 
6) Save the Crazy Bump (with original alpha channel) and try it out in game.
 
If you rely on Crazy Bump to create the alpha (using the displacement channel) then I've found that it doesn't look right in game, normally becoming overly reflective. By using the original alpha channel it'll display the texture properly with your new normal map.
 
Once you get into the swing of this then you'll be churning out textures in minutes. It may not be the ideal or even correct way of doing things, but as I said, it works for me!

Edited by LargeStyle, 07 March 2013 - 11:13 PM.


#5
exploiteddna

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I am in no way educated or even that experienced with normal mapping, but I have long enough mucking around with it to make a few personal observations...
 
As already mentioned, I'd put in a second vote for Crazy Bump. It's a great app but you're not neccessarily in for a smooth ride (no pun intended). I've found that with a little time and experimentation Crazy Bump can get you great normal maps, but it doesn't actually save them in a fully usable format - problem being with the incorrect information being stored in the alpha channel.
 
When modifying a premade texture, what I normally (!) do is...
 
1) Load a visual texture into Crazy Bump, play around with it (you can press F1 and diffuse the visual texture onto the normal map for real-time viewing).
 
2) Once done, export the normal map (without alpha channel).
 
3) Load this normal map into Photoshop (or equivalent app such as gimp)
 
4) Load the original (source) texture into Photoshop too.
 
5) In Photoshop go to the channel menu for the original texture, right click the alpha channel and duplicate it into the Crazy Bump texture.
 
6) Save the Crazy Bump (with original alpha channel) and try it out in game.
 
If you rely on Crazy Bump to create the alpha (using the displacement channel) then I've found that it doesn't look right in game, normally becoming overly reflective. By using the original alpha channel it'll display the texture properly with your new normal map.
 
Once you get into the swing of this then you'll be churning out textures in minutes. It may not be the ideal or even correct way of doing things, but as I said, it works for me!

 

Awesome advice, thank you very much. I will definitely give this a shot.

 

Ive been reading some stuff talking about a specularity map being "in" a normal map...

First of all, I dont know exactly what a specular map is  and i certainly dont know how to integrate it into a normal map?



#6
exploiteddna

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Also, can anyone tell me what type of map uses the " _msn " suffix in skyrim? I'd like to know what they are so i can research and try to learn about them as well. Thanks



#7
Spawnblade

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Also, can anyone tell me what type of map uses the " _msn " suffix in skyrim? I'd like to know what they are so i can research and try to learn about them as well. Thanks

That's the normal.



#8
hylskrik

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msn is a model-space normal map, don't know the specifics but they are used for characters and possibly other stuff I don't know about :)



#9
Anduniel

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Anyone know how to make normal maps with only Photoshop?  I am familiar with that, and really don't want to have to muck around learning yet another program (let alone have to buy one) if I can help it.  This is first I've ever heard of "crazy bump"  I am NOT primarily a texture modder, just do a few small things here and there for decor, like paintings, architecture, sometimes clothing, stuff like that.  Primarily I'm a companion maker and voicer so really am looking for a quick easy way to make normal maps that are "decent" don't have to be perfect.  Any help appreciated.



#10
The SH0CKER

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I have only ever used the Nvidia dds plugin and provided you play around with the roughness settings (4x4,..etc), scale, height to your liking it should be fine. With regard to differences in certain mods or game model's normal maps compared to the plugin, there is a good chance they're baked normal maps from a high poly version of the model done in Zbrush or Mud Box. For the best results, it is preferable to use a baked normal map as actual refinements in the geometry (3D sculpted details, smoother surfaces etc) aren't going to be reproduced well if at all with the dds plugin (it is of course only working with the pixels in the diffuse map).







Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: maps, photoshop, normal, diffuse, nvidia

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