The Albedo Map Mystery Revealed

CG Director Author Alex Glawionby Alex Glawion   ⋮  Updated 
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The Albedo Map Mystery Revealed

There seems to be quite some hype about Albedo Maps recently, especially in 3D Rendering and Realtime Rendering Applications.

I recently learned what impact the correct usage of an Albedo Map can make in my projects and wanted to share my insight here:

An Albedo Map is basically an Image texture without any shadows or highlights.

Take the following Image as an example. On the left we have a picture of a brick wall with shadows and highlights and on the right these shadows and highlights are missing.

Why would we want to get rid of the shadows and highlights?

Well, consider the following: You are using the left texture on an object to create a wall, but place a light at the bottom of the wall.

Now, if you are using a normal or bump map with your Image map, the light itself would cast shadows upwards, but the brick wall texture already has shadows in the image that are cast down from the top (probably from the sun when the picture was taken).

Now you have two shadows, the calculated shadows from your 3D light and the shadows already on the image. This will look confusing and unrealistic. The same goes for Ambient Occlusion. You won’t want double the Amount of AO or it will look too dark.

This is why 3D Artists work with Albedo maps for their textures, so they have full control over where shadows and highlights appear.

How to create an Albedo map

Creating Albedo Maps in Photoshop or any other Software would consist of the following basic steps:

  1. Make an inverted Luminance Map of your Image: Desaturate it and invert it.
  2. Clone that layer and use the “Soft Light” Blend mode on that layer.

The inverted Luminance Layer will now lighten up the dark areas in your Image making it more homogeneous.

Here is a video tutorial of how to create an Albedo map in Photoshop


How do you create an Albedo map? Share in the comments!

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Alex Glawion - post author

Hi, I’m Alex, a Freelance 3D Generalist, Motion Designer and Compositor.

I’ve built a multitude of Computers, Workstations and Renderfarms and love to optimize them as much as possible.

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wait so whats a normal map really do then

Alex Glawion

A normal map tells a 3d model how the normals of said 3d object were oriented if it had that many subdivisions. Different from a displacement/height map that just tells the model how much extrusion it has, and different from an albedo map that basically is just the diffuse color of a texture without any shading.