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Displace Filter, Page 5 - Warping

Page by page we’re getting into increasingly complex uses of Displacement Maps. Rippling an image to give a sense of brush work or reflections is one thing. Now we want to deliberately reshape the geometry of an image for a special effect (in this case to indicate that the graphic is some sort of supple material like textile or paper). This needs to be done with a Displacement map that is custom made for a particular file size and shape. But now our mind’s eye can begin to visualize what sort of tones need to be in the map to accomplish our purpose. From this point on I’m going to dispense with painfully thorough step-by-step descriptions and point to what sort of possibilities this tool gives you. The more general I make the demonstration the more you sense the possibilities.

For example one we need a target image, so here’s what we'll use:

Photoshop splash screen

Just stirs the heart, doesn’t it? Makes you feel all patriotic and stuff. Here’s the DMap. I made it again with gradients (in both examples on this page, I used the KPT Gradient Designer, but Photoshop’s current Gradient tool is capable of sophisticated multiple tone gradients as well). Channel A and B are very different. (To conserve space on this page I have reduced the image size. In reality the DMap dimensions matched the Image file exactly.) Can you get a sense of what’s about to happen?

flag DMap

Now to accomplish what I have in mind, I’m going to put the screen grab image on its own layer, above a neutral background. I then increased the canvas size so the distorted image wouldn't get clipped off the page. I set the Displace parameters (vertical: 20%; horizontal: 20%; Stretch to Fit; Wrap). When asked, I pointed the filter to the DMap I made for this project, and here's what happened:

warped flag

A bit of handwork, a new background, and here's what I had in mind all along. Run her up the pole and salute smartly!

final flag image

That’s power. There is a lot of trial and error going on, but if you know vaguely how and why the tool works, and if you have an image in mind, Displace can do tricks that I don’t know any other way to do. Let’s move on to the next demonstration in this tutorial. Do you want to make an old treasure map? Probably not, but chances are some day you'll want to do something along these lines. Shown below in a progression are the source image, the displacement map channels, the displace result and the final image. No step–by–step, because you’ll never want to repeat this exactly. But a glimpse into the possibilities…

Start with a scan of something like parchment (I used a sheet of Zanders Elephant Hide paper); add some distress however you choose (multiply, color burn); add some graphics. The paper should be on a layer above the background for the same reasons the flag was. Cook up a DMap that will distort the shape of the paper. After running the filter, dress up the background and add some lighting hints. If you know where you want to end up, the steps should be fairly clear in your mind as you go along. (Note that the DMap I show here is again reduced from actual size to fit this tutorial page).

treasure map start
DMap for treasure map
treasure map distorted
treasure map finished

You say you’re in a hurry? Don’t have time for all this? An effective DMap for crumpling a piece of paper can be made quickly with the Clouds filter. Try running the filter in channel 1 using white and black, and then inverting that for channel 2. It’s obviously more random than one you make deliberately, but it can be quite effective:

warped forute

You know of course this is just the mere tip of this iceberg. We’ve made DMaps deliberately on this page for a planned and specific purpose. Now what if you were looking for something more abstract? Could you use some other source image? What if you used a snap shot of your face for the DMap? Portraits have strong red and green channels, so give it a try. Talk about a self portrait! What about a bowl of red apples? Green apples? A patch of your lawn? There are an unlimited number of possibilities to explore; start collecting images with this in mind and see where it takes you!

The final example on this page comes by way of my friend and colleague Dark Garden. When Peter needs to “dirty up” some type, he will often turn to Displace. He will make a random, chaotic image file (single channel) with smudges and lines, mostly with whites, blacks and patches of flat gray all jumbled together. After setting and rendering the type, Dark Garden makes a number of feathered selections around the type (we don’t want it completely Displaced or it will obviously be unreadable) and applies Displace at a low setting (maybe 3 – 5 percent) using the chaotic map. Below we see a sample of the DMap Peter provided, and an example of how he applies it in practice.

path of thornes example

Further extending these ideas, turn to page six: Fitting a graphic to an irregular surface, where we will use part of the image itself as the DMap.

divider ornament