v
John Crawford

xNormal - Baking alternative to Blender?

A lot of professionals seem to use this tool for generating their normal and ambient occlusion maps, and it's free.

Could it provide better quality bakes than Blender?(which I noticed was a bit of a problem in the gun course). If so, could we expect CG Cookie to cover it?

  • Large
    Jonathan Lampel

    Hey John, it doesn't provide better quality than Blender, so it would just add extra steps to a workflow that's already extensive. 

    What quality issues are you having when baking your gun? 

    • v
      John Crawford Large

      Large jlampel I'm actually still in the high-poly stage, but I watched the whole course because that's how I like to learn (instead of following along), so I'm just trying to broaden my knowledge whenever I can.

      Is there any context to the whole "best bake", or are they really all produce the same quality results as Blender? I've read articles from professionals describing their workflow, and a lot of them describe which program they use for baking their textures like this for example-

      https://80.lv/articles/bringing-the-legend-of-zelda-weapons-to-hd/

      I mean, is the whole process of exporting an EXR, then using the paint bucket tool to remove the dithering what all game-asset modelers do?

  • Large
    Jonathan Gonzalez

    I've never used xNormal myself, but I would recommend something like Substance Painter as it's now an industry standard texturing tool. It'll bake out just about any type of map you want including normals, height, roughness, occlusion, emission,opacity, etc. It's like Photoshop for texturing 3d models. From what I've heard xNormal is a bit slower to bake and their UI isn't all that user friendly. I don't know of any other similar programs that do what xNormal does. Only other similar tools I've used take info from a texture and output the maps like Crazy Bump.

  • v
    John Crawford Large

    Large jlampel I'm actually still in the high-poly stage, but I watched the whole course because that's how I like to learn (instead of following along), so I'm just trying to broaden my knowledge whenever I can.

    Is there any context to the whole "best bake", or are they really all produce the same quality results as Blender? I've read articles from professionals describing their workflow, and a lot of them describe which program they use for baking their textures like this for example-

    https://80.lv/articles/bringing-the-legend-of-zelda-weapons-to-hd/

    I mean, is the whole process of exporting an EXR, then using the paint bucket tool to remove the dithering what all game-asset modelers do?

    • Large
      Jonathan Lampel v

      That's a great way to learn! I like to do that myself. 

      In that article, the author uses Marmoset Toolbag 3, which is another solid tool for baking. But even there you can see the initial bake had some pretty strong skewing. 

      The EXR will definitely apply to all software, but the paint bucket tool was just because Unity can't run anything more than 8 bit in game. If you're using your normal map with Substance you won't have to worry about that at all since it can read the linear space EXR just fine. 

  • v
    John Crawford Large

    Large jgonzalez Maybe when I have $200 to spend I'll give it a shot.

  • Large
    Jonathan Lampel v

    That's a great way to learn! I like to do that myself. 

    In that article, the author uses Marmoset Toolbag 3, which is another solid tool for baking. But even there you can see the initial bake had some pretty strong skewing. 

    The EXR will definitely apply to all software, but the paint bucket tool was just because Unity can't run anything more than 8 bit in game. If you're using your normal map with Substance you won't have to worry about that at all since it can read the linear space EXR just fine. 

    • v
      John Crawford Large

      In that article, the author uses Marmoset Toolbag 3, which is another solid tool for baking. But even there you can see the initial bake had some pretty strong skewing. 

      Large jlampel  Yeah I noticed. So all these baking programs are basically the same? Why would a program like xNormal even exist when just about every 3D modeling/texturing program can bake?

      I noticed Max Puliero incorporates it into his workflow. Does it complement other programs or something?

      The EXR will definitely apply to all software, but the paint bucket tool was just because Unity can't run anything more than 8 bit in game. If you're using your normal map with Substance you won't have to worry about that at all since it can read the linear space EXR just fine. 

      But I mean, does using Blender and Unity in their workflow go through that same process of importing to photoshop and doing the conversion? Has single Unity game with that lightweight pipeline gone through that exact process for all their models to remove the jaggies and the dithering?

  • v
    John Crawford Large

    In that article, the author uses Marmoset Toolbag 3, which is another solid tool for baking. But even there you can see the initial bake had some pretty strong skewing. 

    Large jlampel  Yeah I noticed. So all these baking programs are basically the same? Why would a program like xNormal even exist when just about every 3D modeling/texturing program can bake?

    I noticed Max Puliero incorporates it into his workflow. Does it complement other programs or something?

    The EXR will definitely apply to all software, but the paint bucket tool was just because Unity can't run anything more than 8 bit in game. If you're using your normal map with Substance you won't have to worry about that at all since it can read the linear space EXR just fine. 

    But I mean, does using Blender and Unity in their workflow go through that same process of importing to photoshop and doing the conversion? Has single Unity game with that lightweight pipeline gone through that exact process for all their models to remove the jaggies and the dithering?

  • l
    Kaj Suominen

    short answer, because those programs didn't exist or had lousy bakes compared to xnormal. :)

    It comes down to the workflow though what needs to be done. xnormal has plethora of settings to tweak. that zelda armor is awesome, and picked up few things from that what i'll be incorporating my own work flow. 

    if we look that workflow from different angle, you definetly could do everything inside blender and its a valid way to work too. :)

    you could also just use the low poly version of the mesh, load it up in substance painter and paint all the details/dents/scars with height/normal layer. export the normal map out, and back in subspainter, then bake rest of the maps for smart materials and finish the thing looking same.

    as for jaggies and other error with normal maps, those usually come with the low poly mesh being too low poly and the uv layout is bad for the detail that is being baked on it.

  • v
    John Crawford

    From Max Puliero himself:

  • Large
    Jonathan Lampel

    Cool, then go for it! I haven't ever had Blender crash while baking, but I could see antialiasing coming in handy. 

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