is there a way to paint normal maps directly onto models?

Without unwrapping them so you can see the 3d shape of them clearly?

That would be the “Texture Paint” mode. You will find a lot tutorials on the web :wink:
However, you will always need to unwrap them (that is how 3D stuff works), but you can use the 3D view instead of the 2D view.

nice one :slight_smile: