# When to (not) use normal maps

Learning to model and I've got a question about what I've surmised about normals mapping so far (correct me if I make a mistake):

We create a normal map from a high poly model, in order to export the detailing into a texture to be used on a low poly model. This normal map contains information for the lighting of bumps, dents, etc. so that these do not need to actually be rendered and use no geometry, making your model take up less resources which is important in games.

So my question is: say I am modelling for a still image render and would like to experiment with the positions of lights or I am modelling to create a 3d-printed miniature, would it then be wise to skip the normals entirely and have the details sit as geometry in the model?

From what I understand the low poly model is still needed to UV-unwrap for texturing, as high poly counts seem to be impossible to unwrap, but in the mentioned examples would there be any other changes to a general workflow of base mesh->retopology into lowpoly->unwrap->high poly detailed model->bake normals->paint ?

• It's all about shading (and the time you can spend). In case you get good results without a UV map by eg. using triplanar mapping and you do not have any deforming geometry I'd stick with the high poly model. Jul 17, 2020 at 3:16