Difference between Diffuse and Base Color Maps in Blender

In Blender and other 3D software, both Diffuse and Base Color maps are used to define the base color of an object. However, they originate from different material workflows and serve slightly different purposes. Understanding these differences is crucial for creating accurate materials and achieving the desired look in your 3D renders.

This article will break down the functionalities of Diffuse and Base Color maps, baking the texture maps and how to leverage them effectively in Blender.

Diffuse Maps (Specular Workflow)

diffuse maps

Diffuse maps are associated with the traditional Specular/Gloss workflow:

  • Define the base color and how light interacts with non-metallic parts of the surface
  • Can include baked lighting information for a more realistic appearance
  • Might contain darker areas for shadows or lighter areas for highlights
  • Used in older, non-physically based rendering systems
  • Workflow: Part of the Specular/Gloss material system

Base Color Maps (PBR Workflow)

Base color map

Base Color maps are used in the Physically Based Rendering (PBR) workflow, which aims for more accurate representation of real-world materials:

  • Define the diffuse color independent of lighting
  • Don’t include baked lighting information
  • Usually represent a flat color that is the object’s inherent color
  • Used in modern, physically-based rendering systems

Additional Considerations

  • Some software uses the term “Albedo” instead of “Base Color” – for non-metals in PBR, these terms are essentially interchangeable.
  • Converting between Specular/Gloss and PBR workflows is possible, often using the Diffuse map as a starting point for creating a Base Color map.
  • For non-metallic materials, Diffuse and Base Color maps often achieve similar results, but the underlying principles and rendering calculations differ.

Baking Diffuse and Base Color Maps in Blender

Understanding how to bake these different map types in Blender is crucial for creating accurate textures. Here’s how to do it:

Baking a Diffuse Map (for Specular Workflows)

Baking Diffuse maps

To bake a diffuse map in Blender:

  1. Choose the baking type “Diffuse”
  2. Ensure the following contributions are checked:
    • Direct
    • Indirect
    • Color

This setup will bake a diffuse map that includes both color information and lighting effects (shadows, highlights, etc.) – ideal for the Specular Workflow.

Baking a Base Color Map (for PBR Workflows)

Baking Base Color Maps

To bake a base color map in Blender:

  1. Choose the baking type “Diffuse” (Blender uses this for both diffuse and base color baking)
  2. Adjust the contributions as follows:
    • Uncheck “Direct”
    • Uncheck “Indirect”
    • Check “Color” only

This configuration ensures that only the pure color information is baked, without any lighting information, resulting in a proper base color map for use in PBR workflows.

Pro Tips:

  • Adjust the “Margin” setting in the Bake panel for cleaner UV seams, especially important for PBR textures.
  • Save your baked textures in a format that supports lossless compression, such as PNG.


In conclusion, while both Diffuse and Base Color maps define an object’s base color, their workflows and purposes differ. For physically accurate and efficient material creation in Blender, especially with modern rendering engines like Eevee and Cycles, using Base Color maps within the PBR workflow is the preferred approach. This not only simplifies the texturing process but also allows for more realistic material interactions with light. By understanding these concepts, you’ll be well-equipped to create better materials for your 3D renders in Blender.

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