Normal Map

From TS3wiki

This page covers the Normal Map texture. It shows what it does and how you create one yourself with the Normal Map filter plug-in for Photoshop and GIMP.



The Normal Map is used to bring a lot more detail onto the mesh. A 3D model has already normals (imagine them like spikes on the surface) on every vertex. They stick out and define the shading of the mesh depending on the angle to a light source. If the normal faces the light source at an angle of 0° the surface there has the most light. If the angle is 180° the normal points away and the light source hasn't any effect on that vertex.

Normals can point in any direction, defined by X,Y,Z. In the Normal Map we can use the RGB channels for these values where every pixel of the map becomes a normal. With a 1024x1024px texture that makes over 1 Million additional normals we can influence the direction! See below what makes a The Sims 3 Normal Map special.

The Normal Map needs to be saved as DDS → DXT5. In the TSR Workshop the Normal Map can be found here:

  • Mesh → DDS (first entry)
Standard Normal Map

Standard Normal Map

  • X → Red Channel (R)
  • Y → Green Channel (G)
  • Z → Blue Channel (B) (not used in example, see below why)

The Sims 3 Normal Map (Y showing)

The Sims 3 Normal Map

  • X → Alpha Channel (A)
  • Y → Red, Green, Blue Channel (RGB)

Z is not used in TS3 Normal Maps.

Normal Map applied to a mesh

How to create a The Sims 3 Normal Map

This mini-tutorial focuses on Photoshop but is probably mostly the same in GIMP too. See Plug-ins if a Normal Map plug-in is available for your image editing program.

Making the Height Map

Multiplier as a start point

This map can be often made from the Multiplier texture as this brings already a lot of height information with it. You can of course paint heights (mid-grey to white) and depths (mid-grey to black) yourself onto the map.

Added contrast to Multiplier

This example needs some more contrast to have a visible effect on the normal map.

Generating the Normal Map

Normal Map filter applied to height map

Now the Normal Map filter is applied (don't change default settings):

  • Filters → NVIDIA Tools → Normal Map Filter...

Arranging the Channels

Arranging the Channels as showed

The Red Channel (X) needs to be copied into the Alpha Channel.

If you don't have an Alpha Channel yet, create one by clicking on the little page icon.

The Green Channel (Y) goes into the Red and Blue Channel.

Unsure how to do this? See Working with Channels for more info on this.

Final The Sims 3 Normal Map

Final The Sims 3 Normal Map

The final The Sims 3 Normal Map looks like the example on the right. Save Normal Maps always as DDS → DXT5.

Normal Map Plug-ins



You probably have this already when you downloaded the DDS plug-in (Current Version). NormalMapFilter.8bf belongs to the folder: C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CSX\plug-ins\filter


Advanced tool with which you can create some amazing normal maps. See Installation Instructions as well the Tutorial on this.


As of Paint Shop Pro 9 the NVIDIA Normal Map Plug-ins are no longer supported. Use Photoshop or GIMP instead.


Download the Windows 32-bit binaries. To install, extract the normalmap.exe file to your GIMP plugins directory usually located at:

C:\Program Files\GIMP-2.0\lib\gimp\2.0\plug-ins

Then extract the 3 dll files to your GIMP bin directory. This directory is usually located at:

C:\Program Files\GIMP-2.0\bin

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