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The difference between AO Maps, Specular maps and normals.


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Hi.

Only recently i started texturing  from mesh kits, so far i've been editing AO Maps and i'm pleased with the results. However this time i found a mesh kit which doesn't include an AO map and leaves me with a specular map, a normals map, a UV map and some example textures. What i've noticed from the example textures is that they have been delivered with a lot more realistic looking shading and wrinkling going on than what's visible from either the SM and normals map. Which leaves me wondering on the question: Could the wrinkles and the shading have been generated or are they the result of photo editing? I also have a second question which boils down to: When I made a texture from the SM it looked very flat, so in the "Bumpiness" section of the textures window I added the normals map but it leaves me with no visible result at all, why? 

Edited by mikkumi
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One way to get a normal map is to convert from a height map, which is a bit easier to draw. I use a GIMP add-on called InsaneBump and can be set in several different ways. Is white high or low? Black, white, and a couple of intermediate greys may be all you need. Add a bit of blur to soften the transitions and smooth something like fabric.

Nothing in the real world has zero specular reflection. It might be very low-value, and not glossy, but you need some to get a visible effect from the normal map.

Firestorm, and some other third-party viewers will let you see the effect of the texture maps: the viewer loads the data from you local drive, and you don't have to upload to SL. This "local" option includes an upload button to make it easy to upload the file you are using. Until you upload the correct texture, nody else can see the results you are getting.

You can do things without cost on the Beta grid. but I have had problems with keeping my Beta Grid inventory matching the main grid.

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55 minutes ago, mikkumi said:

leaves me with no visible result at all, why?

First of all you will have to have Advanced Ligghting Model enabled. Then use the default windlight settings for Midday, and Sunset. To make the normals pop you need a specular map as well. Move your cam around the object to catch the reflections.

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2 hours ago, mikkumi said:

Hi.

Only recently i started texturing  from mesh kits, so far i've been editing AO Maps and i'm pleased with the results. However this time i found a mesh kit which doesn't include an AO map and leaves me with a specular map, a normals map, a UV map and some example textures. What i've noticed from the example textures is that they have been delivered with a lot more realistic looking shading and wrinkling going on than what's visible from either the SM and normals map. Which leaves me wondering on the question: Could the wrinkles and the shading have been generated or are they the result of photo editing? I also have a second question which boils down to: When I made a texture from the SM it looked very flat, so in the "Bumpiness" section of the textures window I added the normals map but it leaves me with no visible result at all, why? 

The bottom line I think is that most creators using mesh templates really need that AO map as it is simple to add your textures to it and get good results. So having a full perm kit without the AO (which is extremely easy to make) is a bit odd -- and likely something you can watch out for in the future. Some designers prefer to make their textures by hand rather than relying on the AO map for the subtle (or not so subtle shadows) to show some form. 

That shading and wrinkling you see in the examples may very well have been drawn on my hand by a good texture maker. The normal maps are typically added inworld as an extra feature for those using Advanced Lighting Model. Note that only folks with ALM on can see any effects. Thus as people have said they didn't work for you. Note that means that they may not work for your customers so assuming that people will see the "bumps" in a normal map or the shine in a specular map is not too good.  I had a lady I blogged for that made gorgeous jewelry but she completely relied on those ALM maps. With AML off the items looked pretty awful.

So in my opinion you are good to go with the AO maps as your base for texturing as it gives you a head start AND everyone can see the ambient light differences as they are sort of baked into the texture you end up with.  

I am still wondering why someone selling full perm would NOT include an AO map.  

HMMMMMM.   

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Thank you, that was very explanative and now i don't feel bad for relying on AO maps because drawing the shades by hand is quite difficult indeed. At this point i've made a diffuse map out of the normal map, Photoshopped it and then tried to do it by hand but somewhere half way i quitted because i'm really having a hard time getting things right. Either the example textures were made based on an AO map or drawn by a very skilled texture maker..

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There is software out there that can create AO maps from the normal map. It's just some fake AO though, which isn't as accurate as a baked AO map would be of course. But it's better having some shade, than no shade IMO. Indeed, the wrinkles would have to be in the normal map in the first place. From the normal you can also create a so called cavity, or curvature map which is pretty usefull to bring out the little details.

A free program that can create a variety of such maps is XNormal for a start.

Here is how to create a cavity from the normal with plain Photoshop: http://www.bs3d.com/index.php?page=7

I'm just wondering, how did you make a diffuse texture from the normal map?

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10 minutes ago, arton Rotaru said:

There is software out there that can create AO maps from the normal map. It's just some fake AO though, which isn't as accurate as a baked AO map would be of course. But it's better having some shade, than no shade IMO. Indeed, the wrinkles would have to be in the normal map in the first place. From the normal you can also create a so called cavity, or curvature map which is pretty usefull to bring out the little details.

A free program that can create a variety of such maps is XNormal for a start.

Here is how to create a cavity from the normal with plain Photoshop: http://www.bs3d.com/index.php?page=7

I'm just wondering, how did you make a diffuse texture from the normal map?

Thank you, i'm definitely looking into that! From plain sight the normal map doesn't show to have a lot of wrinkles but with a tool called Crazybump i managed to get a diffuse texture out of the normal map which shows a lot more wrinkles than were previously visible. The tool itself isn't free though, but you can use a demo version for 30 days.

Edited by mikkumi
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44 minutes ago, mikkumi said:

Thank you, i'm definitely looking into that! From plain sight the normal map doesn't show to have a lot of wrinkles but with a tool called Crazybump i managed to get a diffuse texture out of the normal map which shows a lot more wrinkles than were previously visible. The tool itself isn't free though, but you can use a demo version for 30 days.

I think the Mac version of Crazybump is still free. Crazybump calls the Mac version "official beta" but the only thing that seems to be missing is the progress bar as the program loads. Instead you get an image saying "Imagine a progress bar here" :P

For Windows user on a budget there is always InsaneBump, a freeware program that does pretty much the same once you have figured out the nightmarish user interface.

There is also NormalMap-Online, A free online map generator. It is supposed to need a height map as input but I have found it usually works well making maps from textures too, just like Crazybump but easier to use.

Btw, if you use Crazybump

Personally I always use fake baking for AO effects, it gives me far better control over the result than any generated maps. For normal maps NormalMap-Online has become my main tool. I sometimes use it for specular maps too but very often I just manually edit the diffuse map - or even use it unmodified.

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