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Displacement filters – Photoshop

For my upcoming self-portrait project, I’m toying with the idea creating composites of my image represented on formal forms of ID with self-portraits from my own camera. There is some creative reasoning behind this, but in this post I’m concerned only with Photoshop technique.

Displacement filters are a way of shaping flat images (for example texts of flags) so that they mould to the shape of a contoured image (for example a face). Hoey, explains in detail the technique. Briefly:

  • Create a desaturated, high contrast version of the image you wish to use for contours and save it as a separate file (must be 8-bit).
  • Position (or ‘transform’) the flat image so it is aligned as required with the layer of the contoured image – preparing it to receive the displacement treatment.
  • Use the filter/distort/displace menu to apply the filter to the flat image (at this point you will need to select the saved file as the ‘displacement map’).
  • Change the layer type from normal (eg to linear burn) and tidy up using masks to obtain the required effect.

Here’s a screen shot of my Photoshop work. And the final image is the featured image for this blog post.

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 21.20.37


Some further experimentation and a few additional steps to add for improved results:

  • For the displacement map image, make a selection of the front of the face only (output selection to a new file for ease of saving/adjusting)
  • For image to be over-layed, use transform tool to fit to size of face. For a flat image use the filter distort/spherize to roughly shape to the face.

Added steps produced the attached image –

digital-man copy


Hoey G. YouTube. Wrap a texture or pattern around an object – Photoshop Available from: https://youtu.be/iHNO4Sgnw5E [accessed 21.2.16]

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