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Normal Workflow
show user profile  FX
I was wondering if anyone has a good source of material for learning the normal baking process, I know there's a lot of it out there, but there's a lot of crap information too.
I was hoping for something as comprehensive as Hard Surface Essentials....but for normals, it's not going to stop me learning or searching, I'm a bit rusty and didn't really perfect the method the last time I tried it, I just hoped to save some time looking.


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5/12/2013 8:42:03 PM (last edit: 5/12/2013 8:42:03 PM)
show user profile  LionDebt
Yeah, I've focussed extensively on baking etc.

this is about as comprehensive as you're going to get - although a bit dated, it's 4 pages of good old fashioned information. Once you understand what a normal map is (rgb light information), and the artefacts that can come about in your pipeline, through modelling, unwrapping or baking itself, you'll be halfway there to creating decent normal maps.

xNormal and CrazyBump are too pieces of software also worth looking into. Then of course, zBrush, SculpTris and MudBox for sculpting... and anything for retopology: I use TopoGun, Max's own Graphite Ribbon has similar tools, and there are others too.
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5/12/2013 8:46:24 PM (last edit: 5/12/2013 8:52:16 PM)
show user profile  FX
Cool, thanks that's a good start, I'm always reluctant to learn the small details, impatient to get to the good stuff, still I would prefer video, but there's so many bad ones out there.

Website looks very dated, it reminds me of AS website :)

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5/12/2013 10:52:40 PM (last edit: 5/12/2013 10:52:40 PM)
show user profile  digital3ds
you've probably seen this one, but if not then it gives you some good knowledge

From all of my testing and work I've found that the best maps come when your low poly verts are identical to or slightly outside the high poly mesh, all depends on what you want the low poly to be

I've also had models that benefit more from a cage that was pushed out a few clicks farther than ones that are a few clicks closer

90 deg angles are no bueno, make sure your polys are on the same smoothing group

I like to model / unwrap in one file, then save out a copy and bake normals in the other file - I "explode" all of my objects based on their uv islands, then just jump back into file01 and apply the normals map

- Mike Sawicki

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5/12/2013 11:08:51 PM (last edit: 5/12/2013 11:08:51 PM)
show user profile  FX
Thanks dig, yes I watched that a couple of years ago when I was looking into normals, cool vid but if I remember rightly he doesn't cover the low poly side too well.

There's a nice link to polycount with good info in his comments...

I guess it's one of those areas of Max where tons of testing is required, until a good workflow is found. I'll tackle it tomorrow , I'm suffering caffeine crash at the mo'.
I watched this guy ...he explodes his models too, he also showcases TexTools, pretty neat, it's in 4 parts, that's also bookmarked for tomorrow :)

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5/12/2013 11:26:39 PM (last edit: 5/12/2013 11:26:39 PM)
show user profile  LionDebt
I guess it's one of those areas of Max where tons of testing is required

Trial and error. It's part of learning hehe... It's a simple, straightforward process, low poly base mesh, high poly reference. Projection cage. Render to Texture. Possible tweaks in photoshop.

It's all the small things you need to pay attention to - ie. understanding the actual workflow, and why things must be done a certain way - that will yield you good results quickly.

And yeah, the polycount wiki is a great resource :)
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5/12/2013 11:56:12 PM (last edit: 5/12/2013 11:56:12 PM)
show user profile  FX
"And yeah, the polycount wiki is a great resource :) "

It's a damn good read, there's lots to soak up so I've printed it out, I'm going to try and do this properly, I'm usually impatient to get to the end result and skip a lot of the base learning, probably not wise for this stuff.

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5/15/2013 1:00:44 AM (last edit: 5/15/2013 1:00:44 AM)
show user profile  jStins
More essential reading from the Polycount community:

Video in the first post is a must watch:

Both threads are lengthy and I've had to re-read them a few times. It's also worthwhile to know where you want the asset to live at the end of the day. So you can use synced baking/rendering.


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5/15/2013 2:15:55 AM (last edit: 5/15/2013 2:15:55 AM)
show user profile  FX
Great reference Joel thx.
Is there any way to suppress that stupid "Render Failed or Cancelled by User" message ?
I'm well aware the render failed...I just pressed the fucking escape key! need to rub it in.

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5/15/2013 8:45:54 AM (last edit: 5/15/2013 8:46:19 AM)
show user profile  FX
So far so good, but I have a weird gradient effect going left to right, almost like there's a light source causing the shading.
It's a basic box I'm baking to, the high res model is slightly angled, but the gradient effect is running on the opposite axis.
I've been tweaking the Normal Map space, which has some effect but doesn't eliminate the gradient effect.
Schoolboy error ?

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5/15/2013 10:27:39 AM (last edit: 5/15/2013 10:27:39 AM)
show user profile  herfst1
Yep, schoolboy error. Well, maybe not.

For ambient occlusion this would be fine (assuming the plane is tilted in world space in the game). For normals, I've never really tested this, normally I have my high and low poly over each other and it works just fine, but I'd be interested to see if there's a different result if you make it flat (in world space).

The fix I'd do is all in PS. Grab a stretch of verticles and copy-paste them across your map in the right position, then use the Xvid normal map filter to normalise the merged final result.

[edit] P.S. Are you seriously going to make 1 map just for that 1 piece? I hope it's going to be 256x256 (exaggerating).
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5/15/2013 10:46:09 AM (last edit: 5/15/2013 10:48:41 AM)
show user profile  FX
lol, no...ease off dude, I'm just learning the workflow keeping it simple for now.
First thing I tried was making it flat in world space , but it had no effect, and I didn't think it would be practical to have to level off any uneven surfaces on a model prior to normal mapping.

I've added the normal map to the bitmap slot to show you what I mean..the gradient is on the opposite axis...

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Wiki states : If the mesh has discontinuous UV coordinates (UV seams), or the normal map has large directional gradients across it, the tangent space won't be uniform anymore so the surface will probably have shading seams.

...that's the only reference to "gradient" I could find.

So I tried many UV tweaks, breaks, flips, flops, still no change, tho' I don't know if that's referring to this particular issue.

Still can't get rid of that stupid box popup every time I cancel a render.

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5/15/2013 11:04:24 AM (last edit: 5/15/2013 11:06:51 AM)
show user profile  herfst1
It's very strange, I've never had that. Are you baking in tangent space with it set to Up and Right (all found in the projection preferences)?

As said before, this is something that's quicker and easier to fix in PS. In fact a lot of the details like bolts are very easy to do in PS, you just make the texture then convert to RGB (via xvid normal filter).

Also, something that can be good is to duplicate the layer and add a sharpen filter - then blend with soft light or something then just normalise the final merged layer again.
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5/15/2013 11:09:07 AM (last edit: 5/15/2013 11:09:51 AM)
show user profile  FX
"It's very strange, I've never had that. Are you baking in tangent space with it set to Up and Right (all found in the projection preferences)?"

Yup, I managed to fix it tho, I don't need the sides of the box.... just the top and bottom, so I deleted them, re-applied the projection and all is as it should some kind of UV issue?

I take it I have to live with this small annoying "Well done you have pressed a button" box :/
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5/15/2013 11:28:33 AM (last edit: 5/15/2013 11:28:33 AM)
show user profile  herfst1
Ah, uv's. Yeah, normals don't work on perfectly vertical lines. Normally all unused uv's go into one of the corners of the uv map, shrunk into a tiny square. So in this case you didn't need to delete them, just detach the sides of the plane (in the uv editor) and tuck them away in the corner.

[edit] yeah, that "failed render box" is annoying. Just bake 256x256 maps until you're happy, then do your 2k or 4k. Never have to see that box again.
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5/15/2013 11:32:54 AM (last edit: 5/15/2013 11:34:17 AM)
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