Fake Bevels Using Normal Maps (Blender Cycles)

This tutorial will teach you how to fake bevels using Normal Maps. This is useful when you have a large model and don’t want to have all that extra geometry that a bevel produces (because it can show down your computer and your render tremendously). Some render engines have a feature to do this automatically. Unfortunately, Cycles does not. Someone has, however, written an OSL (Open Shading Language) script that simulates bevels (which you can find HERE), but unfortunately OSL is CPU rendering only, so if you want to render with your NVidia GPU, you cannot with that method. So, if you keep reading, you will find that there is a method that works in any rendering engine and even in Game Engines! (Although, I used Cycles for this tutorial. 😉 )

First, we have a basic Cube. We need to UV-unwrap it. Press the key, and click Smart UV Project to quickly unwrap this model.

UV-map the cube

Next, duplicate your model and go to Edit Mode. Bevel that model by clicking Ctrl+B. (You can use the scroll wheel to adjust the quality of the bevel, and move your mouse to adjust the size of the bevel).

beveled-cube

When you go back to Object Mode, you will notice that your cubes are overlapping. That’s great! Except that the beveled cube needs to be slightly larger.

not how it's supposed to be

Scale the beveled cube up just a small but so that you can not see the cube underneath.

much better

Next, select your non-beveled cube and go to Edit Mode. Visit the UV/Image Editor window and create a new image. It can be whatever size you want.

new image in edit mode

After you have your image created, go back to Object Mode on the cube, and follow these directions very carefully:

  1. Select the Beveled Cube FIRST
  2. (Go into Wireframe view mode for this one) Select the non-beveled cube SECOND.
  3. Go into Edit Mode (Should be on the non-beveled cube)

(That wasn’t so hard was it? 😉 )

You need to make sure you are in Blender Render Engine for this step. This is where we bake the Normals.

Renderers

In the Properties Window, find the Bake header. Change the Bake Type to Normals, set the Normal Type to Tangent, and check Selected to Active. Make sure you have your New Image in the Image Editor Window before baking. Then click Bake.

bake prep

 

Shortly, you will see a Normal Map pop up on the Image Editor screen! Go ahead and Save the image so you don’t loose it from Blender’s Cache.

Save the image

 

Move the Beveled cube to another layer (by pressing the M-Key in the 3D Viewport) or Delete it. Next, switch back to Cycles Render. Cycles uses a special Node for Normal Maps. It’s called the (wait for it!) NORMAL MAP NODE (woah!)! 😛 Anyway. add that node to your node setup and plug it into the Normal plug of any shader. In the photo below, I have made a basic glossy and diffuse material setup using my “Bump-map-Normal-map”.

Final Normal Map Result

And that model is only 6 faces and 8 vertices! Just think of how many polygons you could save if you did this to a larger model! 😀

 

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed it! Please Like and Comment! 😀

-rioforce

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