Graphic Design / Interactive Design / Fine & Applied Arts / Parkland College

Graphic Design Exercises
Photoshop: Displacement Map


To learn advanced Photoshop layering, masking, and effects by example. To learn Photoshop production techniques by recreating the art below:


The ability to achieve an illusion of depth in a two-dimensional medium is a magic trick that has seduced artists over the centuries. One of the strongest cues to depth is achieved through the use of light and shadows. If done properly, we can't help but "see" the third dimension. In this example, we'll use a special technique called "displacement map" to shift some pixels in order to achieve a more "natural" looking carving.


prepping the image

  1. download starter files
  2. open "carve.jpg" in Photoshop
  3. image > mode: grayscale; filter > blur > gaussian blur (4)
  4. save as "displacement_map.psd"; close (this file will be used later as a "displacement map")
  5. file > open recent "carve.jpg", save as "carve.psd"
  6. file > place linked "icon.pdf" (this is a smart object)
  7. layer mode "overlay", scale and reposition, return to normal mode

silhouette climber

  1. duplicate background layer, rename "climber", move to top
  2. new adjustment layer (levels), make image lighter (for easier silhouetting)
  3. magnetic lasso tool: silhouette figure (no need to retouch)
  4. add layer mask
  5. delete adjustment layer
  6. reveal all layers

carve the rock

  1. go to "icon" layer
  2. layer > layer style > color overlay: eye-dropper a dark color
  3. change blending options (see PDF settings)
  4. add layer style "bevel and emboss" (see PDF settings)
  5. add layer style "inner shadow" (see PDF settings)

add displacement map

  1. dupe "icon" layer; hide previous layer
  2. layer > rasterize layer
  3. filter > distort > displace (10, -10): "displacement_map.psd"
  4. go to "background" layer
  5. filter > sharpen > unsharp mask (radius=2, threshold=2, amount=?)


  1. add your name and the exercise number on the PSD file
  2. layer > flatten image; image > mode > CMYK
  3. file > save as (format=JPEG; quality=10)
  4. open the JPEG in Photoshop and print a proof for grading
  5. file your graded proof in your Process Book for individual review

Last updated: 3/2/17 ■ Webmaster: Paul Young