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Photoshop Tutorial – Displacement Maps

ORIGINALLY POSTED BY ALLY FOR THETAZZONE/TAZFORUM HERE

ust what are Displacement Maps ?

Displacement maps allow you to warp and distort images by moving pixels
according to the guidelines set out by a predefined “map.” It’s a bit like creating a 3D effect (for want of a better word).

How do they work ?

A Displacement Map is always a B&W image. Black moves pixels to the right and/or down. White moves pixels left and/or up. Think of them in terms of valleys and peaks – the valleys are black and the peaks are white.

Need to know stuff

    Displacement maps MUST be grayscale.

    Displacement maps MUST be saved in the native photoshop format – .PSD – or if your software has displacement maps available in _their_ native format.

    Displacement maps MUST have some kind of blur applied to them. Blurring smooths out the pixels as they wrap around or displace the object. Be warned though, too much blurring will lose the effect you are trying to create.

    The settings I have used here are for a 800 x 521@72dpi image, they will be different if you are working on a higher res image.

Most tutorials are done on flags …. and this one will be no different :-) So you can either borrow my flag below, or be patriotic and grab your own. Click through for the larger image.

Image

You’re going to be do a very simple displacement map here, using the Render>Clouds filter. So lets get started.

Open the flag image, in the layers palette double click on it, when the dialogue box appears either accept the default Layer 0 or give it a deep and meaningful name like ….. flag :-) Hold down the Ctrl key on the keyboard, then click on the new layer icon at the bottom of the layers palette, this will force the new layer below the flag layer. Making sure that the new layer is active (by clicking on it) go ahead and fill it with white. What we need to do is expand the canvas a little bit. Click on the white layer and go to Image>Canvas Size and you can punch in the same settings that I have in the image below.

Image

With the same layer selected go to Edit>Fill and fill with white. You should now have something that looks similar to the image below.

Image

You can set that image aside for the moment while we create the Displacement map.

Create a new file the same size as the flag image i.e. 800 x 521@72dpi white b/ground. Make sure that your f/ground and b/ground colours are set to B&W, then go to Filter>Render>Clouds. What you need to do at this point is make the blacks black and the whites white. Go to Image>Adjustments>Levels to bring up the Level dialogue box and you can punch in the same numbers as I have below.

Image

Next you are going to make sure that the Move Tool is selected and holding down the shift key, drag the render clouds layer over to the flag image. Place the clouds layer on the top of the layers stack and change the blend mode to multiply and take the opacity down to about 35% (you can adjust this later to suit) You will notice that I have ‘clipped’ the clouds layer with the flag layer. You can do this by making sure the clouds layer is active, right click, then choose ‘Create Clipping Mask’

Image

Go back to the Clouds file and you are going to apply a Gaussian Blur to it. If you are following along, just punch in the numbers that I have below.

Image

You might want to try the blur at a lower amount as well on this file. On a larger file you would probably have to crank up the blur to 4 or 5, perhaps more.

Now you can go to Image>Mode and click on grayscale, when the little dialogue box comes up click Discard. You are going to save the file now, so go to File>Save As and choose .PSD from the drop down menu. Save the displacement map to a location that you are going to remember :-) I usually just drop mine on the desktop.

Image

Return to the flag file and click on the layer with the flag on it. Go to Filter>Distort>Displace and you can use the same settings that I have. Don’t forget to experiment with these settings on different res images. As soon as you click OK in the dialogue box below, you will be presented with another dialogue box to pick the displacement map …. find it and click OK.

Image

What you’ll notice right away, is that the edges have pulled in a bit. One way to keep this from happening, is make the displacement map a little smaller than the image you are displacing. You should have something similar to the image below.

Image

Lets go and give this some FX. Click on the flag layer to make it active and then click on the FX icon at the bottom of the layers palette, then click on Blending Options. Click on Bevel and Emboss and you can punch in the settings I have.

Image

Then click on texture and choose Satin … last on the top row, and choose the settings I have below.

Image

Lets give it a bit of a drop shadow. You can punch in the same settings as I have below.

Image

Now you could use a levels adjustment layer if you like.

Image

And here is the final image.

Image

It would probably have been useful to start with a better image than this one, but don’t just think flags when you think of Displacement Maps. How about making crumpled paper ? Make your own displacement map using diagonal stripes B&W to make a waving flag. Use one image to displace another image, all you have to remember are these points :-

Need to know stuff

    Displacement maps MUST be grayscale.

    Displacement maps MUST be saved in the native photoshop format – .PSD – or if your software has displacement maps available in _their_ native format.

    Displacement maps MUST have some kind of blur applied to them. Blurring smooths out the pixels as they wrap around or displace the object. Be warned though, too much blurring will lose the effect you are trying to create.

If there are any questions just ask me.

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