Modeling or normal map for the details?

When adding details, how do I know if I should model them as a part of the mesh, or use a normal map (or other textures)?

I know this is an opinion-based question, so let me try to narrow it down. For example:

enter image description here

Can we make these grooves with normal map only? And if so, what’s the pros and cons for texturing instead of modeling them?

A more complex example:

If someone asks you to make a 3D render like above, how do you know which details should be made as geometry, and which to be on textures?

Hey man! I would say it depends from case to case, but for me, I use normal maps whenever I would require too much geometry to recreate the same detail in 3D or whenever the detail is too fine.
Pros of texturing: less geometry, depending on the texture used you can have many “natural variations” directly
Cons: it might not look as detailed, depending on the texture, it kight look tiled if you use a small texture etc
In the complex case I would model everything and use a normal map only for the leather texture
Also, I do Blender as a hobby so I might be very very wrong but this is my opinion :smiley:

The question here is: for what purpose?

  • Game with hand painted textures
  • Game with realism like assets
  • Racing game and this as interoir of a house… (as base for a parallax rende trick)
  • Architecural render
  • Background in movie (because the background look too empty/ not the one where the main actor sits on
  • Catalog render for a furniture provider
  • your profile where yoy show what you can do

I probably didn’t narrow it down enough… let me try to rephrase it.

Can this jagged silhouette be made with normal/bump/displacement map?


If not, it’s a limitation of normal/bump/displacement map. What are other limitations of normal/bump/displacement map? If it can, how?

With a displacement map made by modeling it and baking to d-map… or even paining it… then the model have to be subdived or in newer game engines ther is a displacement shader… nevertheless it depends on the accuracy you need to accomplish.