The Ultimate Photoshop Resource

Best way to make displacement maps in Photoshop, wrap anything around any surface

How to use Displacement Maps in Photoshop

Displacement maps are the way to do the last mile of wrapping graphics to surfaces or shapes. You can use warp to wrap around the main shape, but to hug every bump, every wrinkle and contour and texture, you need to use displacement maps. They are very powerful and a lot easier than you thin to create. The results are stunning. I’ve written about them before, but not for a few years. This tutorial shows you the fastest way to get quality displacement maps. I’ll do 2 examples. The first is a simple way to demonstrate how to make a displacement map. The 2nd example shows you how to wrap a graphic into a tshirt is a very realistic way. Don’t forget to watch the video too. Let’s go.

Subscribe on YouTube:


How to make a displacement map in photoshop

Here I have a flag and some text on a different layer, We will warp the text to the flag with the displacement map,

In the Layers panel, Right-click in the text and choose “convert to Spart Object:” This will enable us to warp it. Text can’t be warped with a displacement map without rasterizing it or converting to a smart object.

1. Hide the text layer and choose the flag layer

2. Choose the Channels Panel

Click on the separate channels (RBG) to find the one with the most Contrast. Green in this case.

Right click on the channel and choose Duplicate Channel.

3. Choose new, this will create a new image tab containing just the Green channel

4. Choose the new document and blur it just a little. Blurring improves the result from a displacement map.

Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur. I used 2.3

5. In order to make a displacement map it must be 2 things.

A single channel, multichannel document. When we copy a channel to a new document, we get that. We did that in step 3.

Saves as a PSD. File>save as.. choose .psd.

You can close the image window, we don’t need it anymore.


This is your displacement map. Lets use it now

How to use a Displacement Map in Photoshop

6. Go back to the original document.

Turn on the text layer (Smart Object) and select it. Let’s warp it

Choose Filter>Distort>Displace

7. Set a number in the Scale. By default it’s 10 and 10, This works best for most things, but experiment.

8. Once you click ok, Photoshop will ask you to select an image.

Choose the PSD that you created as your Displacement Map

You will see that the text warps to fit the contours of the flag

9. Change the layer blending mode to Soft Light and you can see it better

Let me show you what happens if you choose a different number than 10 and 10 for the scale.

Leys choose 50.

See how we get. more pronounced warp. We also start to get a wavey pattern on the edges. Experiment with different scales and see what works best for you image. I actually think 25 looked best for this flag and that’s what I used on the thumbnail for this tutorial.

Let’s use what we have learned to wrap a logo to a tshirt in Photoshop

Start with the image and a logo on a separate layer.

1. With the logo selected, press Ctrl/Cmd+T for free transform.

Right-Click and choose Warp

2. Drag on the points and handles to make the logo follow the perspective of the surface, How to use the Warp tool in Photoshop

3. Hide the logo layer and go to the channel panel

Find the channel with the most contrast. Blue channel in this.


4. Right-Click on the blue channel and choose Duplicate channel

For document, choose new

5. Click on the new document and add a blur. Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur. 1 pixel

Click ok

6. Lets increase the contrast.

Press Ctrl/Cmd+L for levels

Push the left triangle to the right until it meets the edge of the histogram (mountain looking thing).

Move the middle gray triangle to the right to add more contrast and show the texture in the shirt better.

Click ok

7. Save as a PSD

8. Lets apply the displacement map

Grab the original image. Choose the graphics layer (logo)

9. Choose filter>Distort>Displace

Accept the 10 and 10 settings and click ok.

10. You will see the dialog box looking for an image.

Choose the PSD you saved.

You will see the displacement map has been applied.

Change the Blending Mode to Multiply (different blending modes work with different colored images)

Now you can see the texture of the shirt comes through nicely and it looks like the logo is actually printed on the shirt.

Here is the full view.

I hope you found this tutorial useful. If you did. share it on social media and with your friends, it helps these tuts get discovered.

Until next week, see you  at the CAFE





PS Don’t forget to follow us on Social Media for more tips.. (I've been posting some fun Instagram and Facebook Stories lately)
You can get my free Layer Blending modes ebook along with dozens of exclusive Photoshop Goodies here photoshop goodies for free

10 responses to “Best way to make displacement maps in Photoshop, wrap anything around any surface”

  1. Thanks for the tutorial Colin.
    I applied this technique today. When I tried to use the map, PS indicated the map had to be 8bits/channel. So I made the change images> mode>8bits/channel and saved the map again. It worked perfectly. (I am using the latest version of PS on a 2021 iMac.)

  2. Colin, I like to print out the written instructions so that I can follow along step by step, however, recently when trying to print you written instructions I can only get 1 or 2 of the images. Can you tell me why please? I don’t have 2 Macs so looking at the video and then trying to follow on an image is extremely time consuming not to mention a pain in the proverbial.
    I like your tutorials but am becoming very frustrated. MacBook Pro -Mojave 10.14.6 – Printing from your web site.
    Looking forward to your reply.

    • I really don’t know why, it’s different on every configuration. Try a different browser? I haven’t changed anything on my end

  3. Thanks Colin, I really enjoyed this and have been playing with it quite a lot not for wrapping text but as a way to blend a couple of images and get a completely different result from just a straightforward use of blend modes. Thank you for sharing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Access The Photoshop Vault

Unlock dozens of valuable Photoshop resources for FREE

The Ultimate

Photoshop Resource