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I need help improving my normal map baking for game assets

I started with Blender about 2 months ago. I use that and 3dcoat to make models. I’ve made a lot of models i’m really happy with, but when it comes to the normal map baking process it’s pretty much been a “fake it til I make it” approach. So far I’ve only modeled weaponry. I honestly don’t understand baking still despite modeling nearly 20 different weapons so far. Here’s my work flow

  1. Make low res model
  2. Make hi res model
  3. UV Unwrap low res model
  4. Use Blender to bake Normals
  5. Import everything into 3dcoat and texture it

This time I made a spiked mace/hammer. Pretty much I get weird stretching, shading and just plain weird jagged lines when I bake. I hate using xNormal so I bake within Blender. I followed BlenderGuru’s normal baking process and maybe I am forgetting something crucial. I’ve just gotten to a point where I try to hide the imperfections as best as I can in the texturing process.

I’ve found that when I have really bright colors on the normal map, adding more edge loops to the low res model can help, but with this model it only helps marginally. There’s a lot of curved parts with strange anomalies on the sides, as well as the texture being straight up stretched on the base of the shaft… When I UV unwrap, I check for stretching, and it had very little if any.

If someone could help me out, that would be great. I’ve got notifications on for my posts so I should respond pretty promptly.

Here’s a post with a bunch of photos of what I’m talking about, including the normal maps. Baking stuff - Album on Imgur

And here’s a link to download my Blender project. https://drive.google.com/open?id=1oQ…Z1cr2sKJltFJeg

Thanks.

There’s a few different issues going on.

First you have to design high poly models that will bake well. Mostly this comes with practice and understanding how projection works. Also designing a low poly that will capture the details well, and where you need more or less geometry. For cylinders you need a lot of geometry to avoid artifacts due to the high poly and low poly not matching close enough.

Then there’s the topic of skewing and projection errors.

And the topic of hard edges and UV seams. If there’s a hard edge, there has to be a UV split. But there doesn’t not have to be a hard edge where there’s a UV split.

And the topic of controlling smoothing on your low poly model and how it effects the normal map.

Finally making sure you trianglulate before baking and are using a sync normal map tangent workflow.

I’d say I’m pretty good at UV unwrapping, I’ve got that down. I’ve been working on my topology and making sure everything “flows”. I saw on multiple tutorials that I should start with a really low amount of sides on cylinders (such as 12) and then bake a higher res version. That works great for something like a spear, but the thing I’m making has a lot of extrusions, metal “rings” around it, where the jagged edge of the 12 sided cylinder is much more visible. I guess for something like this I should use more sides on the low res version?

Also, I don’t know anything about smoothing. I THINK what I’ve been doing is smoothing, as it is solving some issues. I’m adding edge loops (basically just multiplying the amount of faces without changing the shape) to the low res baking model. That makes it “smooth” on the normal map itself. But sometimes it doesn’t… and sometimes it makes it way, way worse. I will probably research that, and then plan out the low res model better.

TL;DR I just need to spend a lot of time reading and watching videos about normal baking. It seems so simple yet when I do it, I get issues.

Getting a normal map perfect is not simple at all, unless if you understand exactly how the normal baking is being done and even then it can be difficult to get right.

Instead of treating the symptoms you may want to look into the cause.

I forgot a crucial step I learned early on, and it could have saved me so much time. There’s an “Auto smoothing” option in the Data tab of blender… it makes all the ugly shading and ugly normal stuff go away. I wish I had remembered that sooner There’s still some stuff I need to improve, like how the UV unwrapping effects the baking etc, but this has improved my situation so much already. auto.PNG