wondering if this is a genuine issue, or if I'm just going insane. So, I wanted to try creating some normal maps from sculpted skin details (specifically goosebumps). Booted up a multires modifier, sculpted the goosebumps in with a brush I made, then baked from multires a normal map. When I plugged it in, I feel like the shadows for a lot of the detail looks really weird. And I can't tell if I'm running into the inherent limitations of a normal map, or if there's something else going on.

Here's a screenshot of the shadows in question:


To me, the shadows on the left hand side just look slightly weird. Subtle, but still recognisably off. Like there should be a little more light on the other side of each lump.

To show what I mean, here is a displacement map, baked from the same sculpt:


Obviously much better-looking. The shadows don't "crunch" nearly as much. Now ordinarily I would just chalk this up to normal maps basically just faking it. The problem is, when I change from "displacement only" in texture settings to "bump only", still with the same displacement map plugged into the displacement socket, it gives me a far better result than the normal map:

Bump only in displacement socket (there is no actual geometry in this image)

But when I plug the displacement map into an actual bump node (and then into the normal socket on the principle shader as directed), rather than into the displacement socket with blender set to "bump only", the result looks terrible (as expected of a bump map).

Any help is appreciated. Why are the shadows of the goosebumps so crunched with the normal map? Is that just an inherent limitation of the normal map vs. actual geometry? If so, why does the bump map look good, but only when plugged into the displacement socket? And before anyone suggests, yes, I do have my image textures set to non-colour, instead of sRGB.



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