Generating Perfect Normal Maps for Unity (and Other Programs)

And how to tell what’s wrong with your content pipeline.

Behold the majesty of … this … thing … the traditional normal map test shape!
Aren’t those sides supposed to be flat?


Table of Contents

The Basis of Tangent Space

Recognizing Your Enemy

Flipping Out Over an Obvious Error

Direct3D orientation normal maps in Unity, which expects OpenGL orientation

sRGBeing Funny

Normal map set to use the Default texture type with sRGB enabled

Too Different to be Normal

Normal maps baked on a smoothed mesh, displayed on a hard edged mesh
Normal maps baked on a hard edged mesh, displayed on a smoothed mesh

MikkTSpace vs Autodesk

3ds Max baked normal map used in Unity

Mesh Exports & Substance Painter

MikkTSpace vs MikkTSpace?

xNormal “pixel shader binormals” in Unity’s built in forward renderer

Triangulate, Triangulate, Triangulate!

Substance Painter baked normal maps in Unity on a mesh exported from 3ds Max as quads

The List For Perfect Normal Maps for Unity

Yay! Perfect Normal Map!
… with reflections …? Uh … *cough*

More on MikkTSpace

Tangent Space in Different Applications

Unity (5.3+)

Unreal Engine 4




3ds Max


Blender (2.57+)

xNormal (3.17.5+)

Substance Painter

Marmoset Toolbag 3


Houdini (16.0.514+)

Modo (10+?)



Additional Thoughts

Tech Artist & Graphics Programmer lately focused on Unity VR game dev.