Recommended software for baking normals/ambient occlusion maps?

Hello! I was wonder what people recommend now days for baking normal maps and ambient occlusion maps. I use blender3d, zbrush, maya, substance painter, and 3dCoat.

Right now I create base model in Blender, import to zBrush to sculpt it, send it to Maya for retopo, then imported to 3d coat to Uvmap it. I was wondering which software is best to create/bake maps since I have several but not sure the pros and cons to each one, thanks!


  • jaker3278
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    jaker3278 polycounter lvl 6
    Hi, It depends on where you are going to render / view the normal map. 


    "Most systems that render with normal maps make use of a tangent space, which is a system of coordinates that specifies the orientation of the surface at each point on the model. Tangent spaces are defined by the tangent, bitangent, and normal vectors at each vertex of the mesh. Normal maps contain RGB values that correspond to XYZ coordinates within this space. The exact orientation of tangent space vectors is therefore of vital importance both during baking (when a normal map is created), and rendering (when a normal map is used). If different tangent spaces are used in each step, the orientation of the normals in the map will no longer match those of the original model, and potentially serious shading artifacts will result.

    There are various implementations of tangent space normal mapping in different 3D applications and game engines. To make sure that your asset shades correctly, remember to bake your normal map with the same tangent space that your renderer uses. If you’re not sure which tangent space to use, Mikk / xNormal is a good choice, as that is what Unity, the Unreal engine, and a variety of other applications use."

  • ZacD
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    ZacD interpolator
    Substance Painter and Marmoset Toolbag are the 2 best bakers for game artists, at least in my opinion. There's some pros and cons to each. Painter is an excellent texture package, and baking in your texturing application makes a lot of sense workflow wise. You can also do some projection tricks with Substance, but requires a bit of extra work. Marmoset Toolbag has some really nice projecting error fixing tools. To me, Painter is simply a better value at $150 which also includes an entire texturing package. Marmoset Toolbag is $189.00 and is a great real-time rendering suite, but that could be really useful or not useful at all, depending on your needs. They both have 30 day free trials, and are very straight forward to use. 

    xNormal sits in 3rd place, it's free and it works. But it can be clunky, the UI is terrible, but does the job. 

  • GreyJke
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    GreyJke node
    One of the cons of xNormal is that it doesn`t support .fbx files and it is slower than SP, but AO maps generated by xNormal are so nice! Substance Painter has nice feature "match by mesh name" so you don`t need to explode your mesh before baking. If you use SP for texturing i would suggest you to bake your maps there, it will save you a lot of time.
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