The approach is similar to what Substance Painter does: You are able to use a powerful material-node system to create complex materials and finally bake them down to textures. The baked textures will (almost) produce the same results like your complex Blender-materials do if you use them in a PBR metallic-workflow (e.g. in game-engines) because the bakery is based on the Principled BSDF (PBR shader). It also comes around with some useful tools like texture channel packing (e.g. UE4, Unity, Sketchfab …), texture-transfer from one UVMap to another etc. This closes the gab in Blender when it comes to PBR-texture baking.
A way to bake all various textures from a mesh to another mesh could be very useful. Let’s say you make a LOD from your lowpoly: you wanna “transfer” the textures from the lowpoly to the LOD, not re-making the texture from the ground trying to mimic the textured lowpoly. In some case you can obtain LOD from decimation + preserve uvs, sometimes you need to model a LOD from the ground.
Another usecase: your textured mesh is great at texture level but the lowpoly isnt great, so you remake the lowpoly (less triangles, better unwrap, better normals) and you bake the previous texture(s) from the bad lowpoly to the new mesh.
Another another usecase: you’v textured a very high density mesh, then you make a lowpoly but you wanna transfer the texture(s) from the high density mesh to the low poly mesh.
Yes you are absolutely right! Got these thoughts too and already started to implement bake selected-to- active functionality which is not too hard to implement into the bakery. Actually have a working prototype but came to a pitfall which refers to normal map baking in tangent space which creates a lot of messy side-effects and actually i think it is not enough bulletproof to bring it to the bakery.
Basically the problem is the Cycles bake process only bakes geometry normals without any further normals which were added via normal- or bump maps. In general that shouldn’t be a problem but Blender does not seem to compute normal maps when it comes to baking. In Cycles obviously not. That leads to the fact that you must bake your normal maps as default diffuse textures. So you just bake out texture color information but not the real surface normals (which are made of the face normal itself and additional texture-based normals). In addition to that, Cycles nodes only return normals in world (or object - not sure) space and not tangent space. Tangent space conversion in Blender is pretty tedious and when you got it you run into further issues (inverted Normal maps of certain faces -> actual fix is to enable Autosmooth with 0° angle even when your mesh is already flat shaded) … And baking normals from one object to another makes things even worse -> If you bake from a flat shaded object to a smooth shaded object there is no compensation of the normal interpolation because technically we are not baking normal information but a simple color texture…
Most of these issues are owed to the fact that blender does not bake actual face normals in tangent space to a texture - only the plain geometry normals without normalmap computation. So i recognized the problem but finding a good solution is a tough job to do actually. I might refer to other addons which might be already able to do this (Maybe Baketool can do this, iam not sure).
This feature might come to the bakery but actually i don’t have a good solution to solve this issue so i better don’t implement some crap which does not work properly in the end.