Join Aaron F. Ross for an in-depth discussion in this video Simulating relief detail with a normal bump map, part of 3ds Max: Advanced Materials.
- [Instructor] A normal map is a type of relief map designed to give the illusion of fine details on a surface. It's similar to a bump map, but better. A bump map records elevation, just the height of the surface at that location, but a normal map records directionality. Each one of the three channels of red, green, and blue colors represent a direction in xyz space in a normal map.
Let's create a normal map for our sculpture, and we can use Substance to do that because it has normal maps built into it. I'll open up the Material Editor, and I've got my body physical material here with a gradient ramp feeding the base color and the subsurface scattering color map. Let's now create a substance node, drag Substance over from the Material Map Browser, and double click it, that loads it into the parameter editor and then load a Substance file in.
We're taken to our program files directory, but as I said earlier, we want to back up those files to our current project, and in a previous movie we did that, and in fact, I can just pull from this history list, here it is, current project sceneassets substance textures. And within here I'm going to choose Old_Plaster. Click Open, and now the substance map has been created, and we want to connect the normal to this bump map, but we can't do it directly.
3ds Max materials don't accept a normal map directly. There's an intermediate node that converts the normals into a bump map, and that map is called Normal Bump. And here it is under Maps, General. I'll click and drag that normal bump node into the view and connect its output to the input of the physical materials bump map. Okay, that's the node that converts a normal map into a bump map, and we want to also connect the normal output of our substance to the normal input of this normal bump map.
Click and drag, and when you release the mouse, you get a new map output node. You always get one of those. You can't connect a substance directly to anything except for a map output node. Double click on that and we can see a preview. Back in the substance node, in its parameters we can scroll down a bit, and we're looking for something called normal. This is the strength of the normal effect. If we set normal to zero, we effectively turn off the normal map. Let's turn it up to its maximum value of one, and now we've got a nice sharp relief there.
All right, that is the shader network for a normal map coming out of a substance texture. We've got the substance, its normal output going into a map output selector that is referring to channel three, normal. Map output selector output is going into normal bump, and that's just simply converting from a normal map into a bump map, and then finally, that is feeding into the bump map of our material.
Last but not least, we'll need to increase the strength of the bump amount in the material itself. Double click on that physical material node, and scroll down in Special Maps and you'll find Bump Map. Turn that up to a value of 0.6, and then let's minimize the Material Editor and check our work with a production rendering. Our test render looks pretty good. We can see that we're getting a nice bump effect here on the body of the sculpture.
We'll want to connect that bump to the other two materials. Go back into the material editor, and we've got the normal bump node. That's the final output of that whole structure. We're gonna take that and connect it up to the hair, physical material, double click on that hair and increase its bump amount to 0.6, and finally also connect that normal bump up to the helmet bump map, so here's our physical material for the helmet, connect that, double click on the helmet material, and once again, increase the bump map up to 0.6.
And we've now reused this substance map in three different materials, so if we want to make changes to the look of the bump, we can just go directly into the substance, and for example, change the random seed, and that will change the pattern across all three objects. All right, very good, we can close the Material Editor and click Render Production once again. Here's the before and after rendering showing the effect of that normal bump applied onto all three objects.
That's how to use a normal map in 3ds Max.
- Streamlining material editor workflow
- Managing XREFs and materials
- Laying out a scene for material testing
- Using the Physical Material
- Controlling highlights with Roughness
- Directing reflections and refractions
- Simulating translucency and scattering
- Building a shading network
- Combining and color correcting maps
- Baking maps such as ambient occlusion
- Procedural mapping with Substance
- Using relief maps: bump, normal, and displacement