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Baking Normals

So I was introduced to the concept of baking high poly normals onto a low poly object. It greatly reduces the overall poly count when rendering complex shapes in a mesh. But my question is this, how do you do it? And, what are the downsides of this sort of texturing?

here’s a quick article to get you started:

http://gamedevelopment.tutsplus.com/articles/gamedev-glossary-what-is-a-normal-map–gamedev-3893

The main thing about normal maps is that you have to be looking at it straight ahead for it to be effective. Looking at it from the side it will look flat.

Alot of people use xNormal (http://www.xnormal.net/), I get the best results using this rather than the 3d modelling programs.

Here is a tutorial from Eat3D on how to use it, xNormal, and there are loads more on youtube too!