Alibony Lessons for Photoshop Elements, Lightroom, and Digital Photography

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Photoshop Elements: Two Ways to Use the Displace Filter

Adobe® Photoshop® Elements 6

August 7, 2008

The Displace filter distorts the pixels in an image using another image called the displacement map. A displacement map is a grayscale image saved in Adobe Photoshop format (PSD). You can use the Displace filter to:

  • Place a poster on a rough wall so that the contours of the wall are visible through the poster.
  • Overlay a texture on a face so that the texture conforms to the shape of the face.
Poster Displaced Poster on Wall
Poster Displaced poster

Make the Displacement Map

Before you place the poster on the wall, make the displacement map that you will use with the Displace filter:

  1. Open an image of a rough surface, such as the iron bridge trestle shown in the above example.
  2. Change the colored image to grayscale. From the Enhance menu, select Adjust Color, then Remove Color.
  3. Boost the contrast in the grayscale image. From the Enhance menu, select Adjust Lighting, then Brightness/Contrast. Move the Contrast slider to the right and click OK.

    Brightness/Contrast dialogue
  4. Add a small Gaussian blur. From the Filter menu, select Blur, then Gaussian Blur. Enter a blur of 3 px and click OK.

    Gaussian Blur dialogue
  5. From the File menu, select Save As and save the file as an Adobe Photoshop (PSD) file.

    Displacement map
  6. Close the displacement map file - you won't need it open for the rest of this lesson.

Note: Make sure that the grayscale image you are using for the displacement map is on the Background layer before you save it as a PSD file. If in doubt, from the Layer menu, select Flatten Image to flatten the image before saving the file. If the displacement map is not on the Background layer, you may encounter errors when using the Displace filter.

Place a Poster on a Wall

To place a poster on a rough surface:

  1. Open an image of a rough surface, such as the iron bridge trestle shown in the above example.
  2. Open an image that you want to affix to the surface, such as the poster in the above example.
  3. Copy and paste the poster into the file containing the rough surface. The poster is displayed on its own layer above the background layer.
  4. Press Ctrl+T to display the transform box and resize and position the poster as needed. From the View menu, select Fit on Screen to see any hidden handles on the transform box if necessary.
  5. With the poster layer selected, from the Filter menu, select Distort, then Displace. The Displace dialogue is displayed.

    Diaplace filter dialogue
  6. In the Displace dialogue box:

    1. For Horizontal Scale and Vertical Scale, enter 10. Pixels in the image will be displaced by the amount you specify in a horizontal and vertical direction.
    2. In the Displacement Map section, select Stretch to Fit. If the displacement map is a different size than the image, it will be stretched to fit the image dimensions.
    3. In the Undefined Areas section, select Wrap Around.
    4. Click OK. A dialogue box opens in which you can select a displacement map.
  7. Select a displacement map (PSD) and click Open.
  8. After the map is applied, you may need to experiment with blend modes to blend the displaced poster with the surface on the layer below. For example:

    1. In the Layers palette, change the blend mode of the poster layer to Multiply.
    2. Make a copy of the poster layer.
    3. Apply the Screen blend mode to the second poster layer. Reduce the opacity to 50%.
    Blend modes

Overlay a Texture on a Face

In a similar way, you can overlay a texture on a face for an interesting effect.

Face Displaced Texture on Face
Girl image Girl with texture

To achieve a similar "cat girl" effect:

  1. Follow the instructions above to make a displacement map of the girl's face.
  2. Open the image of the girl.
  3. Open a texture image, such as the leopard skin image used in this example.
  4. Copy and paste the texture into the face image. The texture is displayed in the layer above the face.
  5. Follow the instructions above to apply the Displace filter to the texture.
  6. Apply blend modes as needed.
  7. Create a layer mask for the displaced layer. Paint with black on the layer mask to remove some of the texture as needed, such as on the eyes, lips and hair.
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Updated on July 31, 2013