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Map an image to a 3D form with the Displace filter

Added on Thursday 15th of July 2010 06:13 am EST
 

Application:
Adobe Photoshop CS/CS2/CS3/CS4/CS5
Operating Systems:
Macintosh, Microsoft Windows
 

 

Adjusting the blending mode of layered items enables you to create some cool effects in Photoshop, but the two-dimensional perspective leaves your montages looking flat and fake. Using the Displace filter and a displacement map, you can restore dimension and produce more realistic results.

 

To whip your montages into shape, we’ll show you how to:
• Create a displacement map from an image to determine the contour of another.
• Distort an image so it easily takes on the shape of the displacement map.
• Adjust the blending modes of layers to render them in a whole new light.
 

 

Unless you’re taking pictures of flat surfaces, chances are your photos include perspective and dimension. However, they may not share the same perspective and dimension. So when you place several photos on separate layers in the same Photoshop document and adjust their blending modes, they just don’t mesh. Such montages require further editing. We’ll show you how using the Displace filter with a displacement map can make one image seemingly conform to another, as shown in Figure A.

 

 

Choose your images carefully

 

The technique we’re about to show you is perfect for blending a relatively flat image with a three-dimensional image. The limitations of the Displace filter, however, require the three-dimensional image (the one being used to create the displacement map) to have a limited amount of tonal differences.

 

For example, mountain faces, statues, and cars are prime images for this technique; people fully dressed, detailed buildings, and colorful landscapes are not. The only restriction for the image you’ll displace is that it should be fairly flat. The images we’ll use for this technique, shown in Figure B, are suitable examples.

 

To follow along with us, download the file displace_map.zip from the URL given at the beginning of this article, and extract the files fabric.jpg and flag.jpg. (Images provided by PhotoSpin. Some images modified for educational purposes.)

 

Map it out

 

The key to this technique’s effectiveness is a great displacement map. A displacement map is simply a one- or two-channel Photoshop document that defines the contours of an image. Then, the Displace filter conforms those contours to another image. We want our flag image to take on the shape of our fabric image, so we’ll use the fabric image to create a displacement map.

 

To create a displacement map:

 

1. Open the fabric.jpg file in Photoshop.

2. Choose Window > Channels to display the Channels panel.

3. Select the Blue channel, and then choose Duplicate Channel from the Channels panel’s pop-up menu.

4. Select New from the Document pop-up menu and enter Fabric Map in the Name text box. Click OK. Photoshop creates a new document with this channel.

5. With the resulting new file active, choose Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, and set the Radius to about 2.0 pixels. Click OK.

6. Select Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast and increase the Contrast to about 10 to create a more dramatic distortion. Click OK.

8. Save the resulting displacement map file, shown in Figure C, in Photoshop (PSD) format and then close it.

 

Note: You may need to adjust the degree to which you blur and adjust the contrast of the displacement map if you’re working on a file of your own.

 

Places everyone!

 

With the displacement map in place, you can now add the flag graphic to the fabric graphic. The easiest way to do this is to use the drag-and-drop method for copying and pasting files.

 

To drag and drop a file into Photoshop:

 

1. Select the RGB channel in the fabric.jpg file’s Channels panel.

2. Open the flag.jpg file in Photoshop.

3. Arrange the document windows so you can see both images on your screen.

...