Types of Texture Maps (Re-Post)

I wanted to research in the variety of map types and they’re benefits when texturing models. More precisely, I felt my standard texture lacked depth and I wanted to give a more detailed and 3D appearance.  Maps are generally segmented into the following:

  • Colour Maps – This is most commonly a diffuse type, it will define the base of your texture and hold the surfaces main colour.
  • Bump Maps – These are used in conjunction with Colour Maps, modifying how they are shaded in order to give the appearance of higher detailed geometry and a more 3D texture.
  • Specular Maps – Are 2D maps used simply to control how reflective your texture surface appears.
  • Environment Maps – This is an image used to simulate a reflection on a reflective surface. Also, can be used to simulate the view behind a transparent surface or even a distant view / background behind your model.
  • Light Maps – These are map types which store colour and brightness of pre-rendered lighting which can be applied onto your texture.

Obviously, there are numerous more texture map types and sub-divisions of these.  In order to add extra detail to the current textures of my model I have decided to concentrate on bump mapping.  More precisely, Bump Mapping, Normal Mapping and Displacement Mapping, further researching into the uses and benefits of each type then performing an experiment using each to select a method best suited to my model. For the experiment I will be using Unreal 4 to display my results, the standard texture is shown below.

Bump Map

Bump maps are a 2D copy of your base texture set in grey-scale, used to apply shading to your texture, giving an increased 3D appearance. The brighter the grey, working its way to white, details appear further away from the surface. To contrast that, the darker the grey and closer to black, the further back they appear in the surface. Note that the underlying object is NOT modified when using a bump map, it is more of an illusion.

Normal Map

As in bump maps, normal maps do NOT modify the underlying object.  Normal maps are very similar to bump maps, however instead they use full RGB colour information.  This RGB information tells whatever 3D software you are using the exact direction of the surface is oriented in and how it should be shaded for each and every polygon, as a result,  it provides greater detail than a bump map and is often regarded as the newer / better bump map.

Normal Map Results:

NormalMap1 NormalMap2
Displacement Map

Like a bump map, displacement maps are in grey-scale, in which store height information.  These maps physically displace and effect the geometry of the mesh on which it is applied.  So unlike bump maps and normal maps, displacement maps can cause deformations to your model, therefore can do everything that changes in real geometry can do, such as casting shadows.  As a result, this can be very tasking for your computer to render and should be carefully considered against the benefits you would gain out of their use.


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