Trying to better undestand topology and normal map workflow

As I’m trying to become a better artist and work with as low polygons as possible I seem to have hit a road block.

Now I’ve read about and I’ve tried a few times to bake normal maps to my models to retain the “high poly” look but I’m not sure what I’m still doing wrong.

I’m trying to bake the overall oval and smooth look from the model on the left to the right one, but it never works.

Does the low poly need more geometry to be able to support the baked maps properly?

I’m sure I’ve seen some extremely low poly models with a very high poly look so I thought I could give a go at it, but I clearly don’t understand something fundamental about this whole ordeal.

The left one at the moment has 83k while the right one has 1.4k. I’m sure I’m approaching this from the wrong angle and I’d like for someone to properly educate me if that is possible.

From what I understand, baking high poly to low poly usually involves baking in extra details such as panel lines, scratches, dents, damage and extra detail onto a lower poly mesh by generating a normal map, without the need for the additional polygons.
As a relative newb myself, what you’re asking may well be possible but I don’t know tbh.
I found this thread which discusses it modeling - How to Bake High Poly Object Details (Shape) to the low poly object? - Blender Stack Exchange, maybe it will point you in the right direction.

Game Asset: High poly to Low Poly using Substance Painter

or this one:

Modeling From High-poly to Low-poly in Blender

So, a low poly mesh, will always be a low poly mesh. Baking a higher poly mesh on top, won’t change how it looks - not directly anyway; it’s base shape will remain the same.

For what you’re doing, what you’d actually need to do, is take your low poly mesh, and remove all of the detail, until you have the basic shape of the piece, minus it’s details. (I’m talking about the panelling, and spherical shapes - get rid)

You’d then bake the high poly - which has all of the detail - onto your low poly as a normal map, and then it would appear to have the extra detail, but reman low poly. Though it will still retain the basic shape of the low poly, and so it wont actually add any real details.

Does that make sense?

you have to make the bevels in the boundaries more rounded (have more topology) so you can have more support edges for the baking, and without adding more loopcuts for clean up, instead just triangulate the ngons you get there, and also is very important to mark all the hard edges as seams…

It does make a bit of sense but I’m not entirely sure how to do it.

I’ll practice more I guess. Thanks for your help!

Yeah I thought I needed more geo.

Would adding a Subsurf and then trying to bake again solve the issue? I’m going to give it a try.

yeah maybe 2 levels, applying, and then remove some unnecessary loops may do it…