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Normal Map Photography

Normal Map Photography

In this tutorial you will learn how to use ShaderMap to create a normal map from four photographs of an object. This tutorial is intended to be used with ShaderMap 3.0.4 and up. Below is a list of items you will need to create photos which can be turned into normal maps and albedo maps:

  • A camera with a steady mount that can point the camera at the floor.
  • A light source with adjustable height. A desk lamp or flash light may work.
  • An object to photograph.
  • A dim or dark room to take the photographs.

Once you have your mini photo studio setup, place the object on the floor underneath the camera. You will need to take four photographs of the object. Each photograph is of the object lighted from a different side (left, top, right, and bottom). You will need to move the light source around the object for each shot. Be careful not to move the camera or object while doing so. Now that you have the four photographs you can crop and prepare them in an image editor. Below are a few examples of objects I photographed using this technique:

Photographic Examples

Open ShaderMap (3.0.4 or above) to the Start Screen. From here you will see the “Open Template Lib” drop list control. Project templates are an easy way to save and load common project configurations. The source files are loaded from the Project Grid instead of the Start Screen. One of the project templates that ships with ShaderMap is called “Normal Map from Photos”. Select that template and you will see the Project Grid setup and ready to load the photographs.

Project Grid Temaplate Mode

There are two maps that will be rendered from the four photographs, Normal Map and Albedo Map. Load each of the photographs into the blue source nodes by clicking the folder button at the center of each node. Holding your mouse over the button will give you additional details about the expected map and the maps that are using it. The top node is for the top lighted photograph, the right node for the right lighted photograph and so on…

Once all of the nodes have been added, ShaderMap will render the maps. The Normal Map has additional controls for coordinate system and intensity. The Albedo Map has controls for highlights, shadow, and level.

Result A

Result B



Download Resources

This zip file includes three sets of object photographs for you to experiment with: Normal Map Photography Resources

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