Third Year: Normal Maps and Sun. (Part 1)

With my world slowly falling into place, I still had to finish up Sun.  His rig was made and approved and now all that was left was to do was to bind his rig to his mesh and get to animating. However, I didn’t like his appearance and went back into Zbrush to adjust him and add some extras to his appearance.


Sun was looking alright to me, I created 35 blendshapes for his expression sheet and they read great, however, I for some reason he looked too simple.  I wanted Sun to be an older looking, more muscular guy with harder features than the ones my little dough head currently had.  His mesh was alright, so I took him back into Zbrush and created more harder lines, stylized him more and by doing so I was able to create a nice normal map.

Normal Maps, Bump maps and Displacement maps.

There are several types of maps you can use, texture maps translate the colour information onto a mesh, but with that all is said.  Sometimes you want wrinkles or scars, acne scars, pox, lumps or pores showing on your character.  This is when you can use normal maps (NM), bump maps (BM) or Displacement maps (DM).

But one works better for one thing than another.

A bump map is great to use on meshes that are only looked at from one point of view.  Best way to use a bump map is when the viewer will see it head on.  That way the map itself will create the illusion that there is a certain texture to something when it’s really not.  A bump map isn’t that good to use when on a character which is having close ups from many angles, because a bump map creates the -illusion- that it’s 3d, when it’s really just a flat 2d surface.
You know you have a bump map in front of you when it’s a black and white, perhaps a bit grey as well, texture.
displaceThe create thing about bump maps is that you can create them yourself by simply using a program such as photoshop, importing your , let’s say, wall texture and setting it to grey scale.

Displacement maps.
DM are much like a bump map when you first see them.  They are just like a bump map black and white in appearance, but when used they react completely different than a bump does.
A displacement map extrudes a mesh, so pulls the white literally out of the mesh, and so makes it 3d rather than 2d like a bump map does.  This also means that with a displacement map you can move your camera around the scene and it won’t be a flat object like a bump map is.
Whilst creating a displacement map, it doesn’t show right away. You can view it through your renderview and once you bake it it will become an actual mesh.
I really like displacement maps, it took me only minutes to create one for my mountain environment.   Everything that is black or close to it will be depth and all that is white or closer to white will come up from the mesh.


Last but not least, the Normal Map.
A normal map is not much different from the two others, but at the same time very different as well.  You can’t simply create a normal map by calculating black and white.  A normal map is a purple map with a variaty of colours.  All those colours hold the information much like black and white does for the two above, but in a much less extreme way like a displacement map can do. Therefor, NM are ideal to use for small things such as wrinkles or pores etc.

Seamless_cream_marble_texture_NORMAL                                                   (A normal map for some marble.)

Because Sun will be viewed in several angles, I didn’t go for a bump map, but I did use a bump map in several other scenes throughout the 3d world just to gain some familiarity with it.  My mountains were all created with a displacement map, whilst all of Sun was to be created with a Normal Map.


AnimationMethods on Youtube has a great video explaining the difference between the three maps.


Video: Bump Maps in Maya. (2014). Available at: [Accessed 11 Mar. 2018].

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