Converting normal maps into mesh?

Hello everyone!

I recently got a 3d printer and would like to print a few of my models.

I’m wondering if there is a way to transform a tangent normal map into a high poly mesh?

As in take a rigged low poly model, pose it, and then turn it into a high poly model with all those details from a normal map.

Thank you in advance.

The short answer is no.
The longer answer is that you may try… first you need to create a very high poly version of your mesh by subdividing it several times. Then you can convert the normal map to heigth map and use that as a displacement map. This method is far from perfect… I wouldn’t actually try it.

You can do it - though meshes become very dense. Not an issue for the printer, but computer hardware may cause issues.

The best way is to use a Displacement modifier with the normal map set as the texture, and a Multires. I find it works a little better than subsurf for that purpose. You’re going to have the multires at the top of the stack, and the displacement below. Add the texture, and then add subdivisions on the multires until it’s crisp. You can then apply it if you wish, or check ‘apply modifiers’ when exporting as an STL.

You can see on the image the result it achieves.