3d modeling

What are normals in 3D modeling?

If you are new to 3D modeling, you will benefit from learning about normals.


A cube in Blender with normals enabled

3D art is a lot of geometry. Normals are a high-level concept that can be particularly interesting for many 3D artists, depending on the type of thing you most enjoy creating.

We know, we know – nobody wants to think about math in the cockpit. Hear us out, though. They are quite interesting and really useful in many cases.

Normals in 3D modeling explained


The normals of a UV sphere in Blender

A normal in 3D modeling is a representation of the surface orientation of a polygon. It’s basically a perpendicular line coming out of the plane. When dealing with a curve, you will use the tangent plane to the point in question to find its normal.

Normals are a visual representation of something that is not always easy to discern in a digital 3D window. It’s a bit of extra information that ensures you always know exactly what you’re looking at.

What are normals for, other than looking awesome? Normals are used when applying things like bump maps to your model and when calculating things like any lighting you have applied.

How to display normals in Blender

Normal overlays in Blender are only available in edit mode when editing a mesh-based object. Click in the Window overlays drop-down menu in the upper right corner of your viewport area.


The normal display option in Blender.

At the bottom, you should see your options for displaying your model’s normals. Vertex normals, split normals, and face normals can all be turned on or off individually. You can also specify the length of each normal and even choose to constrain them to that length, regardless of zoom in or zoom out distance.

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What is the difference between the three types of normals you will find here?

  • Vertex Normals paste straight from each vertex and intersection
  • Divide normals represent the surface discontinuity, made through each vertex and intersection of the mesh
  • Facial normals are representative of the pitch of each discrete face of the mesh

Try them one at a time or turn them all on at once. After a while, you will know which normals are most useful for your work and your approach.

Related: Blender UV Mapping: Tips and Tricks for Beginners

Use normals in 3D modeling

Normal overlays are a handy feature that can be useful in many types of 3D workflows and contexts. They also look really cool, for what it’s worth. Suddenly we are mathematicians, working hard in the lab.


Some primitive 3D shapes.
An introduction to primitives in 3D modeling

Primitives are the building blocks of many objects in 3D modeling and design. Let’s get into the details.

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