Is the Image below a Normal Map or it is geometry?

I would like to know if an effect like that is possible to reach with Normal Map or maybe even multiple Maps.

enter image description here

  • 6
    $\begingroup$ To me the large raised area looks like geometry since it is casting a shadow on the rest of the mesh. The small details (rivets, seam between panels, etc.) are hard to tell but could probably be created with a normal map. $\endgroup$
    – PGmath
    Sep 5, 2015 at 13:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ More advanced techniques like parallax mapping or using a displacement map can achieve high-quality results. $\endgroup$
    – sleblanc
    Sep 6, 2015 at 1:53

1 Answer 1


In your example, the big extruding portion is geometry.

In the general case, it very much depends on how close you look at it and at what angle.

With a normal map you always see all faces of a detail. From some angles it can seem wrong since they are facing away from you.

Here we have some geometry represented by... geometry and a normal map. Normal map below. Can you tell wich one is the normal map? Yes, of course you can. But this is realy up close. Still, if you are rendering a space ship and are flying by it's side, go for geometry.

normal map example


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