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How to use the Normal Edit Modifier in Blender

Tutorials

Written by Hayden

Published on Last Updated on

Understanding the Normal Edit Modifier

The Normal Edit modifier in Blender is a modifier that is designed to affect or generate custom normals, which are vectors perpendicular to the surface of a 3D model.

These normals play a crucial role in determining how light interacts with the model, affecting shading, reflections, and overall visual appearance. The Normal Edit modifier allows artists to exert precise control over the orientation of these normals, ensuring better control over lighting and shading.

Example of Normal Edit modifer in Blender on two planar objects.

Here is a really basic example of a "smooth" shaded object on the left and a Normal Edit Modifier on the right.

As you can see the Normal Edit modifier is fantastic for creating simple, smooth normals on planar shapes. So it is perfect for game engine foliage.

Enabling Custom Normals

Before diving into the Normal Edit modifier, it's essential to enable custom normals in Blender. To do this, simply go to the "Properties" panel, then navigate to "Object Data" and select "Normals." Enable the "Auto Smooth" option to activate custom normals for your object.

Alternatively with newer versions of Blender, you can right click while you have you object selected and then choose Auto-Smooth from the object context drop-down.

Options in the Normal Edit Modifier

The Normal Edit modifier offers two primary modes: Radial and Directional, each serving different purposes:

Radial Mode:

The Radial mode aligns normals with the vector originating from the object's origin to each vertex, giving the appearance of normals radiating from a center point like they were emitted from an ellipsoid surface.

Additionally, in Radial mode, you can use the "Offset" option to give the modified object's origin an offset before generating the normals.

Directional Mode:

In the Directional mode, all normals converge towards a given target object's origin.

You can choose to make the normals parallel to the line between both objects' origins instead of converging towards the target's origin.

Mixing Normals and Controlling Factors

The Normal Edit modifier allows you to control how the newly generated normals interact with the existing ones using the "Mix" options:

Mix:

Choose from options like Replace, Add, Subtract, Multiply, and more to affect the existing normals in different ways. The "Multiply" option performs a component-by-component multiplication, which can be faster in certain scenarios.

show case of the normal edit modifer mix dropdown in Blender

Mix Factor and Vertex Group:

Adjust the "Mix Factor" to determine how much of the generated normals blend with the existing ones.

Utilize a "Vertex Group" to have per-item fine control over the mix factor, allowing you to define specific regions with varying normal blending.

Max Angle and Lock Polygon Normals:

The "Max Angle" option prevents new generated normals from having an angle with the original normals above the specified threshold. This helps avoid extreme changes that may cause shading artifacts.

Enabling the "Lock Polygon Normals" feature prevents flipping of polygons that no longer match their custom normals, avoiding potential shading issues.

Practical Usage Scenarios

The Normal Edit modifier in Blender offers a wide range of applications, including:

Creating Realistic Foliage: Use the Radial mode to generate accurate normals for low-poly tree foliage, enhancing the visual appeal in game environments.

Fixing Shading for Toon-like Rendering: The modifier allows you to manipulate normals to achieve specific shading effects, ideal for creating a toon-like rendering style.

Architectural Visualization: Ensure precise shading and lighting in architectural models to create stunning visualizations for presentations and projects.

Conclusion

Mastering the Normal Edit modifier in Blender opens up a world of possibilities for 3D artists, game developers, and architectural designers.

Custom normals and Radial/Directional modes can improve the look of "leafy" trees in game engines.

Additionally, with control over mixing factors and options, you can fine-tune the normals to meet your specific artistic vision. Whether you're working on game assets or architectural projects, the Normal Edit modifier is an indispensable tool for creating stunning and lifelike 3D scenes. So, unleash your creativity and take advantage of this powerful feature in Blender to bring your ideas to life in the digital realm.

About the Author

Hayden

Hello there, Blendertutorials story begins with an idea. An idea to make learning 3D more accessible and easy. There are a lot of great tutorials out there, but very few that truly have the scope or the functions of blender tutorials. My aim with this site was to create something unique, that may help people achieve their dreams with 3D. Despite the name blender tutorials and myself using the software for near on 15 years, I don't like to consider myself a Blender Artist, rather I am a story teller first and foremost. I believe Blender is a tool and it should be used in conjunction with other tools. It is for this reason that I teach you from the perceptive of a technical storyteller not a Blender Artist. And I feel that that is a defining feature of Blender Tutorials. Yes, we look at the technical side of 3D art through the lens of Blender. But it is all in service of telling a story. It has been such a journey to try and create this service. When I started. I had only limited knowledge of creating websites. Now... well... I am quite happy with the outcome. I have learnt so much on this journey from myself and from all of you that join me on it. Thank you so much for making blender tutorials apart of your learning!

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