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Displacement Map tutorial

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Note to self: If you decide to make a comment on Facebook about how awesome displacement maps are and how everybody should do them, then maybe you should at least have a link to point to so that people know what you are talking about. Because I then decided to make this tutorial, and I did, and the image that I used ended up not even being, like, all that displacement-y, and so this tutorial did not work as dramatically as I wanted it to. But here you go anyway, and have faith that if you use it, you will be happy with your results. It’s a great thing to learn!

Okay. So we are going to put a fly on a wall. Except the wall is this cool looking wall in a parking lot downtown, and the fly is this cool graffiti fly.

See how if I just set it down on top of the wall, it just kind of looks like it’s floating above it? It doesn’t look like it’s sitting nicely in all the nooks and crannies. A displacement map will make it look more like it belongs there. You can use it anytime you put something flat onto a textured surface. ¬†And this is how you do it!

We’re going to make TWO adjustment layers. One Hue/Saturation and one Brignthess/Contrast. Bring the saturation down so that the image is black and white, and move the contrast UP.

Here’s how it looks after I’ve applied the adjustment layers.

Merge down the adjustment layers, then add 1 px of gaussian blur.

Okay, you can read that! LOL. Save your map as a PSD somewhere you will find it. Then, move your element onto your textured surface.

Go filter/distort/displace

Stick with the default settings. I’ve never changed them.

Then it will have you open your map. This is the black and white image you just made.

Now here’s where it’s not as displacement-y as I wanted it to be. But you should still be able to see a difference.

Here’s a close up.

And then I did some more design magic ™ and made this paper.

For the curious: I changed the blending, erased it with a splatter brush, and added some mud.

And because I love ya, here’s a file containing the wall picture, the fly png, the finished paper, and a PDF with the slides from the tut. WOW.


I hope this all makes sense. If it doesn’t, please feel free to leave questions and I will do my best to answer.