A very quick & high quality alternative to Displacement & Normal Maps (by Rastaman)

Hi everybody,

time for something new, or better I think it’s something new:

A very quick & high quality alternative to displacement & Normal Maps

We all know the usual displacement maps like this one (taken from my model here:
http://www.zbrushcentral.com/zbc/showthread.php?p=456996#post456996 ):


But has anyone ever produced this kind of map in ZBrush?



I first thougt this was trash, but wait a second:

This baby contains all my even finest modelling-informations as grayscale-map.
But it is definetely not a usual Dispmap, so I called it simply my ‘Specialmap’.

But what is so special about it ?
Well, you can use this little gimmick in several tricky ways.

First, this is an extremely high-quality bumpmap that contains all real modeled details.
So from now on I can do any high-detailed models completely as a sculpt, no more need to create additional bump-maps with projection master.

But what is that good for, Normal-maps are pretty the same as bump-maps and can easily be created out of usual Dispmaps. :rolleyes:

Yes, that’s right, but look closer to the quality of this Spezial-Map. :wink:
This one is by far better than any Normal-map I have ever created.
And especially for VrayforC4d-users like me, Normal-maps do currently not work in VrayforC4d, so this way is definetely the only and best way for me.

The original ZBrush-model:


And the render in Vray using the Special-Map as a Bumpmap on a subd-level-4-mesh:


The quality is quite the same as with displacement, I would even say slightly better, and by far better than usual Normal-Maps.
And look at the render-time.

And best of all, that’s not the only thing you can do with this type of map.

I tried to use it as specular-map and a base for color-maps, the first results look promising.

All in all, this kind of Gray-map has enormous potential and is at least for me not only a new, but also a very quick and high-quality alternative to displacement and especially to usual Normal-maps.

When I have finished my actual project of ‘The thinking old man’ ( http://www.zbrushcentral.com/zbc/showthread.php?p=456996#post456996 ), where I will use this kind of map for the first time, I can post the step-by-step of how to create this map-type in Zbrush, if someone is interested in it.





yes, a step by step is WELCOME. !!

yeah i would be interested too :smiley:
New info is always welcome :wink:

that vray render is awesome, i am very interested about this, nice one :+1:

INTERESTED?? What? SURE we are… !!!

Please, teach us you knowledge, please.

Thanks, Mattia.

All right, as I already said, I will post the way to create this when I have finished my actual sculpt & render-project.

Btw. I’m not quite sure, but I think the result of this map might be simply a bug inside ZB3.1.
So I already wrote to the Pixo-Devellopers, that they please leave this feature untouched in upcomming upgrades, i.e. that they don’t fix this possible bug.
Let’s keep fingers crossed that they will not delete this in the next upgrade.:confused:

did you use the Subdiv level 1 of your model instead of the cage to generate your displacement map ?

I’m sure I produced a texture map like that once… damn I can’t remember how I did it, but it was in ZB2…

Looking forward to the step by step :wink:

I’m definitely interested in knowing how you did this. So far, all the disp maps I get from Zbrush are often very washed out so it would be a big plus is you shared your technique with us. Maybe you could make a Youtube vid about it?

Revanto :stuck_out_tongue:


and bravo for your efforts, man. You helped me get through alot when 3.0 came out. :+1:

Hey, if you make a youtube step by step could you please make a written one for all of us poor in the ghetto dialup users? :wink: I don’t need to see it to believe it.

Just wanted to say that this indeed looks very, very interesting and I´ll be looking forward to your demonstration… Added this thread to my favorites :slight_smile:

Although I first wanted to finish my current work with using this obviously new type of gray-map, I post the way of how to archieve it now, before my work is finished, because I still work on perfecting the skin-shader and that will need some more time.

In the meantime, I have a feedback of the Pixologic-team that it seems that even the ZBrush-devellopers didn’t know so far that this gray-map-type can be created with ZBrush.

Whatever, here is the way to it:
(The text is taken from my original email to the Pixologic-team about this issue)

Normally I produce my Displacement-maps in another way than Aurick posted some time ago. Anyhow, a few days ago I tried it the way Aurick wrote, but made a slight variation. Instead of placing a Morph-target at Subd-level 1 before dividing and sculpting, I had first finished my model, stored the Morph-target at the highest subd-level, deleted it again, went to subd-level 1 and stored a new morph-targed. Then I pressed the Switch-Button (it also seems to work without that ) of the Morph-Target-Menue and created my dispmap via the Tool-Displacement-menue.
But I was surprised because what came out was not the usual Dispmap, but another kind of gray-map with all my even finest modelled details.

I didn’t had the time time to try other ways , maybe it also works without first storing and deleting the morph-target at the highest sub-d-level, so try for yourself what leads to results.
In case someone is unclear about what I wrote above about Aurick’s description to archieve disp-maps, here is the step-by-step again:

  1. Create all the subd-levels and model all the details, even the finest ones.

  2. Store a morph-target at the highest subd-level.
    I switch then to subd-level 1, then back again to the highest subd-level and

  3. Delete the morph-target again.

  4. Go back to subd-level 1 and store a new morph-target there.

  5. Press the Switch-Button in the morph-target-menue (optional, it seems to work without that as well)

  6. Go to the Tool->Displacement-menue, set the desired map-size, press ‘Smooth’ and ‘Adaptive’ and hit the ‘Create Dispmap’-Button.

Now you need some patience, Zbrush needs on complex meshes a lot of time to create the gray-map, mostly up to 40-60 minutes in my cases.

You will find it in the Alpha-menue, flip it vertically and store it as Psp-File, then you will need Photoshop to perform an autokontrast-procedure.


Here is a graymap of an arm:


The usage of this map-type is open for anything.
I use it currently as an extreme-high-quality-bumpmap, better than anything I have ever used before, as a base for Colormaps, Specularmaps, etc.



Hey Rastaman,

Thanks for this man! I thought you said it was easy;) I for one would not have guessed it in a million years.

Will definitely try your approach. Up until now my displ maps rather sucked…

Thanks again for posting it sooner rather than later. Good luck with your project (whatever it is). Cannot wait to see what you’ve been up to.


Thanks so much. I just tried it out and it’s exactly what I have been looking for! :+1:

Thanks for what you have done, it looks interesting and usefull if I can get it to work. :smiley:
I cant get zbrush to generate a displacement map at all, (just gray tex sheet). what setting do you use for intensity and mid for displacement? mode button on or off?

Also I foundout something interesting too. hope you dont mind if i share. turn tangent space normals into standard bump, i think.

  1. If you take a tengent space normal map in to photoshop
  2. grayscale it
  3. invert it.
    then you get something like what you have done. not as good but it is interesting.

Nice how you’ve found hidden features that even pixologic wasn’t aware of. :laughing: :+1: Thank you very much! Heading off to try it out.

Hey Rastaman, this is some cool ****…and the details are exquisite especially in the crevices of the models… also the relief is very well shown… All hail the “Special Map”

could i please have some help with this? i keep getting the usual displacement map and no grap/special map… i have done wat rasta said (i’m pretty sure…) with the morph target stuff but no luck :frowning:

Hmm, Phrost, on my system this works well and always produces the grayscale-map, and it works both in 32 and 64 bit installations of ZB 3.1.

Check the steps again and of coarse be sure to use the actual ZB-version 3.1.

Else, repeat the store / delete morph-target step twice at your highest subd-level before you go to subd-level 1 and store the final morph-target there. Maybe you had a previously stored morph-target from subd-level 1 that ZBush revers to when it comes to calculate the map.

Check the steps again, it should work.
Or has anyone else also problems with it ?

One correction: The file-format to store the map is of coarse PSD. not PSP.:wink:

Finally got to try this a couple of days ago. Works great. Thanks again!