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Photoshop Displacement Maps

One way to describe a Displacement Map is that it 'finds' the black pixels and rolls them one way, and finds the white pixels and rolls them the other way. Therefore you should get a 3D effect such as the one to the right. The original 'corrugate iron' image is here and the 'poster' is here.

The images you choose must be in RGB format. If they're not, alter them by going to IMAGE...Mode...RGB Format.

Now go to the Channels palette (WINDOW...Channels) and click on the individual channels until your image shows the greatest degree of black-to-white contrast.

Now we need to apply a slight Gaussian blur to our image. This will enhance the 'depth' of our dispalcement map. Go to FILTER...Blur...Gaussian Blur and apply a blur of between 0.5 and 1.5 px.

This is your 'map'. Save it as a .psd document (not .jpg). FILE...Save as... and name it map.psd. Save it to your desktop so you can find it easily later.

Now, to return to your original image, go to EDIT...Step Backward. Repeat this one more time.

Now you need to introduce your 'poster' to this stage. Open the one referred to above and resize it (EDIT...Transform...Scale).

Whichever way you 'introduce' the 'poster' to the main image, it should be on its own layer. Make sure this 'poster' layer is selected:

Now go to FILTER...Distort...Displace:

By default, the Horizontal and Vertical Scales will be the same and the 'Stretch To Fit' and 'Repeat Edge Pixels' will be selected. Unfortunately, there is no 'Preview' option and the results will often depend on the size of your images, so be prepared to either use your History palette or the EDIT...Step Backward option and try new settings.

When you are satisfied with the end result, you can 'finesse' it further. Making sure you are on the 'poster' layer, experiment with Layer Modes. In the example to the left, we have used 'Overlay' although other modes may work better, dedpending on the colours involved.

We have also used a slight Drop Shadow to make the poster appear slightly 'proud' of the corrugated iron.

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