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What do normal maps do?


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I have been trying to reskin some of the syrian uncons to look a bit more like afghans or talibans with mixed results so far. I am still not entirely sure which one to pick for the job, either fighters or combatants. But in any case I realise that it will never look super convincing because the model is wrong : no pakol hat or scarf and no tunic. It will require a bit of imagination for sure. But I am a bit stubborn so I want to try anyway.

Okay here is my question : what are the normal maps bmps for and what are they called?

I'd also ask how to make one, but I bet I can figure it out on my own if I know what they're called.

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Free normal map maker, Zverboy1.



Okay, just from a layperson's perspective (i.e., learning modding on my own and getting tips from and studying the big dogs), they add more depth and detail to the 3D model by creating lighting to show/highlight/fake? the high points and the low points to the texture bmp.  Okay, now someone with actual knowledge came come in here and unf**k this!


Edit:  The normal map maker is super easy to use. Just drag and drop the .bmp file, hit a button.  Voila!  You can get better ones, I'm sure, but they cost $, and these seem to work okay. They actually appear to have more detail than the ones in CM, but who knows...I suspect not.

Edited by mjkerner
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A normal map gives the impression of form without using actual geometry. Normal mapping is a render effect that allows you to add detail to a model in the rendered image without having to add extra polygons. Normal maps do not change the silhouette of a model though, so they are best used to add finer detail and to accentuate/smooth the existing form.


The results you get from using an automatic normal map generator will vary depending on what images you use as input. If using existing CM textures you could get some interesting results if, for example, the texture has a camouflage pattern on it with light and dark areas next to each other. You can also hand paint normal maps (or a greyscale height map and then convert it using software like xNormal), but the best way is to start with a low-resolution model that you increase the resolution of and then model/sculpt detail into and then use software that compares the low- and high-resolution models to generate the normal map (the normal map is then applied to the low-resolution model in-game).

Edited by Offshoot
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Yes I thought about adding sandals but wasn't too keen on doing the feet entirely from scratch. If you don't mind sharing what you have done for the Goums, I could try adding them. But now I am thinking that it can get pretty cold in afghanistan during winter; I wonder what shoes they wear.

Thanks for the explanation Offshoot. I see a bit more what normal maps do now. From what I have seen the effect isn't very dramatic, quite subtle really. Maybe because the model and the texture are quite low res. I'll try adding a stronger effect with the tool mjkerner linked to, to see if it makes a difference. Thanks.

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Edit:  The normal map maker is super easy to use

A small note of caution on those Youtube normal map tutorials that are out there.
They make the process seem much more automatic & simple than it actually is.

Let me post an example.
Let's say I want a normal map of this license plate. Done 'automatically', the blacks and reds would become deep indents and the whites would be raised. What I actually want is for the edge and numbers raised and the screw holes indented. So I need to build a separate piece of art to match the license plate. This is how a lot of normal maps in the CM titles are made. Because the vehicle and uniform art (especially multi-colored camou art) doesn't lend itself to 'automatically' creating useable normal maps.

normal maps.jpg

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