In this Tutorial I’m going to show you a couple of quick and easy tricks for creating normal maps with geometry in Max and, also generate your Normal map in Max as well. Instead of modeling everything as 1 piece to make things quicker I have started using what some of us call “floaters”. Floaters are just that, bits of geometry that are floating over other existing geometry. You can fake both high and low spots with you floaters depending on how you model the floaters.

If you look at this example, there isn’t a single piece of geometry that is connected. If you look at #1 you can see a background plane. Then there are a few floaters like #2, which are going to recess into the plane while having the rivets extrude from that in the Normal Map. And #3 is going to extrude from the plane.
Once you have created your High poly Geometry create a plane that will act as you Low poly geometry. I have found that it is easiest to make you plane 10’ x 10’ for tile ability and measuring. Layout some quick UV’s with a Planar map, on your Low poly geometry, and then center you pivot and geometry to 0,0,0. For your High poly placement you want to have the Low poly pretty much encompass the High poly geometry, as you can see with the purple plane and the green geometry. You also want to move the pivot of the High poly geometry to 0,0,0.
For creating the Normal map you are going to Render to Texture. Which is "0" for the hot key or under the Rendering pulldown on your top menu bar. Here’s were the fun begins. 1. You want to pick your Low poly geometry first. It will appear in the objects to bake list. 2. Enable the Projection Mapping button and then use the Pick button to select your High poly geometry. When you do this there is going to be a Projection modifier put on you stack and its going to put a weird looking blue thing around your geometry, it’s your projection cage.
3. In order to fix your projection cage you need to hit the Reset Button and then above that use the Push section to move your cage so that it surrounds your High Poly geometry. 4. Now you want to Add a NormalsMap texture element into the Output section of the render to texture.
5. Finally you select the file name and size you want. Also don’t forget to click the Output into Normal Map button. You will notice that when you hit the render button that it will not render out your Normal map but a diffuse instead. Don’t worry, just go to where ever you had your file render to and it will be there.
And finally this is what you should end up with, a nice little Normal Map.
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