So I know how to regularly set up ambient occlusion baking in Blender, and I have applied the normal map using Blender Render. However, whenever I try to then bake AO, it does not take the normal map into account, giving me the AO for just the model.

Is it possible to bake the AO, taking into account the normal map, so that all the details are baked into the AO map also?

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    $\begingroup$ I'd say you can't by just using low-res mesh (there's no geometry actually, just emulating it); however this should be resolved by baking AO from high-res to low-res into 1 texture, baking AO from low-res into another one and compositing them. This is one of methods discussed here. $\endgroup$ – Mr Zak Dec 18 '15 at 22:01
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    $\begingroup$ In order to bake AO, you need the high-res mesh. Maybe there's a way to convert the normal map to some kind of displacement map and then bake from that? Edit: Apparently CrazyBump can do that? crazybump.com $\endgroup$ – Greg Zaal Aug 4 '16 at 12:01
  • $\begingroup$ ..or Materialize.. the route would be normal map > height map > displacement in hi res geometry > bake AO. $\endgroup$ – Robin Betts Oct 19 '19 at 7:36

you need to bake in AO from the geometry, not the normal map...you can bake out the original mesh or possible apply the normal map as a displacement to the current mesh...just add a multires modifier before the displacement and subdivide it a few times.

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I stumbled upon this topic as I was seeking an answer for the same question. Though it's an old question, it came up in my search, so I felt I should answer. After reading this and going back into Blender, I realized that you can now do this thanks to the Ambient Occlusion node.

Simply add a new Ambient Occlusion node into a diffuse node and to the material output. Route your normal map into the normal map of the Ambient Occlusion node.

Bake as you normally would, (creating an image for it to bake to, etc.) choosing diffuse, and color in the bake options.

Some tips I found on baking. Set your samples low (it supposedly makes a difference) in your render settings and set your tile size (I usually use auto tile size) for your render tiles to the same size as your map, ie 1024x1024 or 4096x4096 (assuming your GPU has the memory to handle it).

Boom, hit bake, come back 20 minutes later (depending on your resolution) and you have a bonafide AO bake with details from your normal or bump map. Great for adding extra contrast detail using normal or bump maps.

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