I know displacement maps actually change geometry. However, I find them quite useless for my mesh because in order for it to work, you need a high poly count. I apply displacement maps before I run create normal map.

Am I using them wrong? What's the point if it only works on your high poly? If you're talking about VERY basic stuff like floor tiles, I guess they're useful... On more complex models like landscaping, it it pointless? You can't export the high poly anyway without creating a normal map.

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    $\begingroup$ You would use a displacement map to make a (topologically representative) mesh from an image texture. You are correct, this mesh would be high-poly, as displacement requires subdivision. However, if you have applied the displacement, you can bake the Normal details from the high poly mesh to a similar, low poly mesh (thus saving geometry). No "height" information will be altered in the low poly mesh, but its surfaces will reflect light in a fashion consistent with the surface angles that are present in the high poly mesh. $\endgroup$ Commented May 16, 2021 at 22:36

1 Answer 1


One point to true displacement is that some people use higher poly counts than you do. All the way to adaptive subdivision, which might make a vertex for every screen pixel.

Even at low poly counts, they're useful for low-resolution displacement. You don't need ten million vertices to turn a height map into low-poly terrain.

That doesn't mean they're useful to you. Blender has all sorts of tools that are only useful to some people. In years, I've never bothered to learn how to do camera tracking, for example.

Yes, you can use a displacement map to make a normal map. Simply use your displacement as the input to a displacement node in your material, then bake your normals. This is not the only way to make a normal map, nor is it the only thing one can do with a displacement map.

Displacement maps are useful as bump maps without baking as well, because they deform fine without relying on UV tangents, which allows you to use them on deforming meshes with arbitrary meshes and UV maps-- even without any UV maps at all.


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