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Tutorial for Importing Normal Maps (Unwrap 3D Pro)

Many 3D modeling applications, such as 3dsmax and Maya, support normal maps. However, not many file formats support them for file conversion. This tutorial will explain how to import normal maps, from 3dsmax and Maya, into Ultimate Unwrap 3D Pro.

Normal Maps

First, let's provide a brief description on what normal maps are, and why we use them.

What are normal maps?
Normal maps are texture maps similar to bump maps. However, normal maps use three channels of information (RGB) instead of just one (grayscale). This extra information is used to encode surface normal vectors, which provide much more detail than heightmap bump mapping.

What are normal maps used for?
Normal maps are used to give a low poly model more detail without adding more polygons.

How are normal maps created?
Unlike bump maps, which can be created by hand in any paint program, normal maps must be generated using a specific tool designed for creating normal maps.

Are multiple UVsets required to use normal maps?
No. Normal maps need only one uvset, which is usually the same uvset as the color map.

Does Ultimate Unwrap 3D support normal maps?
Yes, Ultimate Unwrap 3D supports tangent-space normal maps. Normal maps created in tangent-space are most recognizable by their bluish color:


Setting Up Normal Maps in 3dsmax

For this example, we will use a simple a box that already has UV coordinates.

To setup normal maps in 3dsmax, first open up the Material Editor, usually found under the Rendering menu. Then select an unused material icon. Under the Maps section, click on the empty map slot for Bump:


Here, pick the standard map called Normal Bump:


This will open up the Normal Bump parameters. Under the Method setting, make sure Tangent is selected. Now, click on the empty slot for Normal. Then, select the standard Bitmap:
tut_normalmaps4.png tut_normalmaps5.png
Browse for the bitmap file that will be used as your normal map, and add it to the slot. That's it.

The normal map may be not be visible in the 3dsmax preview window, so do a quick render:


Here, we also added a color map, to show that both maps use the same UVset.

Setting Up Normal Maps In Maya

For this example, we will use a simple a box that already has UV coordinates.

To setup normal maps in Maya, open up the Common Material Attributes for your material. Then, click on the icon for Bump Mapping:


Here, under the Textures tab, pick File:


Here, the 2D Bump Attributes should open up. For the UseAs selection, pick Tangent Space Normals. Then, click on the file1 tab:


Finally, select your normal map file:


When rendering, set the render settings to Maya Hardware or MentalRay, otherwise the normal map won't be rendered properly. By default, Maya Software will be selected.

Importing Into Ultimate Unwrap 3D Pro

First, download and install the 3dsmax or Maya extra plugins for Ultimate Unwrap 3D Pro here. Then export your scene to Unwrap 3D .U3D format. Alternatively, the latest FBX plugins (2012 or later) can be used.

After importing into Ultimate Unwrap 3D Pro, normal mapping should be visible in the 3D viewports:


Normal maps can also be exported from Ultimate Unwrap 3D Pro using the latest FBX plugins (2012 or later).

That's it! If you have any other questions about importing normal maps, please let us know.

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