Skip to main content

How to Create a Normal Map in Photoshop

By December 16, 2017January 19th, 20233D Modeling, Tutorials

When creating textures for use in a 3D application or game, sometimes it’s necessary to add finer detail, such as a bump or normal map. In short, these maps fake lighting on textures to create additional detail without adding more polygons.

For normals, I figured you had to rely on 3rd party applications such as CrazyBump. While it may be true that CrazyBump is an excellent piece of software, I hadn’t realized it was already possible to use Photoshop.

The 3D functionality is not available in Photoshop versions CS6 and prior, and therefore will be unable to create normal maps.

For this example, I’ll use a leather texture found on


Open the texture you want to create a bump map for and switch to the 3D Workspace.

Photoshop 3D Workspace

In the 3D panel, select Mesh From Preset, and choose a shape.

I like to use a Sphere, but it doesn’t matter. Click Create. Magic happens inside Photoshop and, as a result, creates a scene with your texture loaded onto an object.

Photoshop 3D Panel

In the 3D panel, click the object name with _Material. In this case, Sphere_Material.

Photoshop 3D Panel Object

The Properties panel changes to reflect options corresponding to the material properties. Right now, our texture is loaded into the Base Color channel. There’s a button at the bottom labeled Normal. Click that and then select Generate Normals From Base Color…

Photoshop Generate Normals

After a few seconds, the Generate Normal Map window opens.

There’s a preview of your shape, and you can adjust Contrast Details and all that fun stuff. Click OK. Afterward, your normal map is created and applied to the shape.

Photoshop Generate Normal Map

Note: In the event that Photoshop locks up, you can also try this more straightforward method:

  1. Open texture in Photoshop as you would normally do any image. Make sure the image mode is set to RGB. (Having tried with Greyscale, it would freeze up again.)
  2. Choose Filter3DGenerate Normal Map…
  3. Adjust your map as necessary (I left mine to default). Click OK.
  4. Lastly, save your file as PNG (not sure if it matters).

To save the image from Photoshop, click on the Normal button again in the Properties panel and then select Edit Texture…

Photoshop Edit Texture

Your image then opens in a separate document window. Choose File, Save As…

Choose Tiff as the Format, and uncheck Layers:

Photoshop Save As Dialog

On the TIFF Options dialog, the default settings are fine. Therefore, they can be left alone.

Photoshop Tiff Options

Now you can use this normal map inside a 3D application or game engine to display more detailed textures.

Normal Map

As seen in the example below, a normal map adds much more realistic lighting detail on the surface of your mesh.

Leather with Normal Map

Leather with Normal Map

Leather without Normal Map

Leather without Normal Map


  • Michael Slavin says:

    Thank you Matt, looks like I sneaked in under the wire though Photoshop was very unhappy about either the 3D space or the filter method (which did work but required quitting Photoshop after to regain stability again.) PS warned me that 3D was being phased out and that all features might not work but neglected to mention that the entire platform begins to warp and morph in very unusual and scary ways.

  • Leith P says:

    Just thought you should know that Adobe are doing away with the 3D Features part of Photoshop..

    • Ahhhh! 😫 I guess I shouldn’t be surprised with the acquisition of Substance. Honestly Photoshop should have never had 3D capabilities to begin with. It’s after all, a photo editing app lol.

  • Mike D says:

    That didn’t work for me. When I hit Ok in the normal map window, it actually applies the normal map to the image and makes it look like its rendered with the bumps. So its not the usual purple normal map. Did I miss a step?

  • Frederik says:

    Many thanks, great tips and post! Worked very good for me in Photoshop CC.

  • Alex says:

    I love you man! Great post!!

  • I really liked reading this blog page. Now and again I find blog posts that makes me want to get started on bloggin as well. Best wishes!

  • Liviu says:

    Just to add to the confusion. My Photoshop does not display the option “Generate normal map from diffuse” under the normal button. I only have “Mew texture” and “load texture”. Also, under Filters, there is no 3D category. I am using CS6 and recently updated to Extended version in order to obtain the 3D tools.

  • Liviu Durla says:

    Hi. Nice tut. Could be good to mention that the 3D functionality is not available in standard versions of Photoshop. The 3D workspace is only available in the extended version. Might save some people a couple of headaches by mentioning that. 🙂

  • Johnathan says:

    I got it to work finally, i had to reset my preferences and it works like normal now. Not sure what changed to make it do that. Thanks!!

    • Oh strange! Sorry my solution didn’t work! Well I’m glad you were able to get it to work at least haha. At least anyone else having this issue will know to try resetting their preferences will hopefully work for them 🙂

  • Johnathan says:

    I’m having the same issue. It goes to open a new tab, shows a weird looking image then closes and goes back the the original tab. In the past I could make normal maps by clicking; Filter > 3D > Generate Normal Map and it would do it for me. Now I’m having to do it the way you are showing above. Not sure way it wont let me continue to create normal maps the same as before.

  • Joseph says:

    I get to the part where you hit the button to Generate Normal from Diffuse. I hit it, I see it do something. I can see a new tab as if a new photo is coming up, Then it goes back to the same screen as before. It never generates the window to set up the Normal. I hit the Generate Normal from Diffuse several times with the same result. I tried it with textures from the place you got yours. I tried it with one of my own. I tried it with a jpeg and a targa file. The same thing happens.

Leave a Reply


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.