Creating Normal Maps with Lightwave 3D : Modeler

What is Normal Map?

Normal map encodes X,Y,Z vector information from high polygon model in the channels of an RGB image. The red channel encodes X (horizontal) vector information, the green channel encodes Y (vertical) vector information and the blue channel encodes Z (depth) vector information.

Normal Map Image.
           Normal Map RGB image.

Normal map use to make that low polygons models looks more like hight polygons. Because of that is very usefully in game industry, many new generation games use it like:
Serious Sam II, Doom 3, Far Cry, Unreal Tournament 2007....

  Model with Normal Map from Serious Sam 2 game.

About tutorial

In this tutorial i will show you a easy way to export Normal, Color and Specular Map from high polygon to low polygon model.
I used Lightwave 3D 8.0 for this tutorial because one of plugin will not work in any versions prior to 7.5. So this tutorial will only helps users who use Lightwave 3D 7.5, 8.0 or higher.

Preparing for tutorial

For this tutorial you need to download some plugins: Normal Map plugins and UV Infector.
In other part of tutorial i will explain those plugins for now i will only say that they will help us to get best results.

Adding plugins

To use those plugins we must add it in Lightwave 3D. First extract and in to your Lightwave 3D plugin directory (C:\Program Files\LightWave [8]\Plugins\).

To add plugins go to (Utilities > Plug-ins : Add Plug-ins) (F11)
Open four plugins (BumpMapCreate.p, NormalMapColor.p, NormalMapShader_80.p and from plugins directory. TIP: If you using Lightwave 3D 7.5 open NormalMapShader_75.p.

Why we didn't open NormalMapCreat.p? Because we don't need him. Why? I will explain it keep reading...

After you open all plugins click Done to confirm adding plugins.

Add Plug-ins.

Now all added modeler plugins are in (Utilities > Plug-ins : Additional) and they are ready to use.

Making high polygon model UVmap simular to low polygon

If you want good looking and precise Normal, Color and Specular Map this is only solution. With NormalMapCreate you can create Normal Map without high polygon model UVmap, but you can't create Normal+Bump, Color or Specular Map. This is why we didn't load NormalMapCreate.p in previous steps.

For this tutorial i will use my high and low polygon head model. High and low polygon models are nesecary to create Normal Map.

Your models must have all this stuff so you could follow this tutorial better:

High polygon model.Low polygon model.Low polygon UVmap.   

If you didn't made low polygon model, I will give you some links to awesome tutorials and plugins which will help you.

To reduce polygons from high polygon model use gemLOSS3 plugin. Its very simple and gives best result, if you need some tutorials heres a link.
When gemLOSS3 finish his job you need UVmap, best tutorial for that is Joe Lertola's UV mapping complex object tutorial.

Now lets back on track and make that UVmap!

on half high and low polygon head.

Cuted high polygon model.Cuted low polygon model.

You will notice that low polygon model map is ether cuted on half.

Low polygon UVmap.

Select high polygon head in Foregrand Layer and low polygon to Background Layer.

Layers combination.

Use UVInfector (Utilities > Plug-ins > Additional : UVInfector) and wait that finish his job.

UVInfector will align UV's to those on a background layer.

UVInfector finished job.
                   Pretty cool!

High polygon and low polygons head are cat on half. We must back them to normal.

First we will fix high polygons head.

Select all polygons and Duplicate (Mirror Multiply > Duplicate : Mirror) (Shift + v) and Set Axis : X

Mirror Tool.

Now we duplicate left part of head to right. But UVmap is same as befour? This is because Mirror tool not effect UVmap, so we need to do it on some other way.

Unweld selected part (Detail -> Points : Unweld) (Ctr + v)

Unweld Tool result.

Looks unnessecary but we must do it to Unweld UVpoints and unattach that part from other.

Use Flip UVs (Map > Texture : Flip UVs) and set flip type: Flip U

Flip Texture Map UVs.

Move flipped head (Modify > Translate : Move) (t) to center of UVmap

Fliped high polygon UVmap.Centred high polygon map.

If we didn't used Unweld tool we couldn't move other part without deforming UVmap.

Select all polygons and then Merge points (Detail > Points : Merge Points) (m) and uncheck Keep 1 - Point Polygons.

Merge Points.

Now use previous steps to fix low polygon head UVmap.

Go to next part of tutorial : Layout