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.
Open Image in Photoshop
Open the texture you want to create a bump map for and switch to the 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.
In the 3D panel, click the object name with _Material. In this case, Sphere_Material.
Create the Normal Map
Note: In the event that Photoshop locks up, you can also try this more straightforward method:
- 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.)
- Choose Filter → 3D → Generate Normal Map…
- Adjust your map as necessary (I left mine to default). Click OK.
- Lastly, save your file as PNG (not sure if it matters).
Save the Normal Map
To save the image from Photoshop, click on the Normal button again in the Properties panel and then select Edit Texture…
As seen in the example below, a normal map adds much more realistic lighting detail on the surface of your mesh.