How to calculate Tangent and Binormal?

The relevant input data to your problem are the texture coordinates. Tangent and Binormal are vectors locally parallel to the object’s surface. And in the case of normal mapping they’re describing the local orientation of the normal texture.

So you have to calculate the direction (in the model’s space) in which the texturing vectors point. Say you have a triangle ABC, with texture coordinates HKL. This gives us vectors:

D = B-A
E = C-A

F = K-H
G = L-H

Now we want to express D and E in terms of tangent space T, U, i.e.

D = F.s * T + F.t * U
E = G.s * T + G.t * U

This is a system of linear equations with 6 unknowns and 6 equations, it can be written as

| D.x D.y D.z |   | F.s F.t | | T.x T.y T.z |
|             | = |         | |             |
| E.x E.y E.z |   | G.s G.t | | U.x U.y U.z |

Inverting the FG matrix yields

| T.x T.y T.z |           1         |  G.t  -F.t | | D.x D.y D.z |
|             | = ----------------- |            | |             |
| U.x U.y U.z |   F.s G.t - F.t G.s | -G.s   F.s | | E.x E.y E.z |

Together with the vertex normal T and U form a local space basis, called the tangent space, described by the matrix

| T.x U.x N.x |
| T.y U.y N.y |
| T.z U.z N.z |

Transforming from tangent space into object space. To do lighting calculations one needs the inverse of this. With a little bit of exercise one finds:

T' = T - (N·T) N
U' = U - (N·U) N - (T'·U) T'

Normalizing the vectors T’ and U’, calling them tangent and binormal we obtain the matrix transforming from object into tangent space, where we do the lighting:

| T'.x T'.y T'.z |
| U'.x U'.y U'.z |
| N.x  N.y  N.z  |

We store T’ and U’ them together with the vertex normal as a part of the model’s geometry (as vertex attributes), so that we can use them in the shader for lighting calculations. I repeat: You don’t determine tangent and binormal in the shader, you precompute them and store them as part of the model’s geometry (just like normals).

(The notation between the vertical bars above are all matrices, never determinants, which normally use vertical bars instead of brackets in their notation.)

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