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Applying Texture to a Contour Using Photoshop

Now the very first TipSquirrel Workshop  being held at the incredible Peterborough Cathedral is fast approaching and following a recent visit to get a feel for the place and narrow down what kind of portraits I’ll be working on a gothic/vampire theme was screaming out…for want of a better phrase 🙂

So, that being said I thought for this month’s tutorial I’d expand a little on a use for my ‘Pain Free Tattoo’ technique to create an effect I may well end up using on an image taken during the Workshop.


Now the main body of this technique is nothing new but I thought I’d show you how I’d approach it to maybe look at adding a little more realism or believability…if there is such a word 🙂

Step 1: Duplicate your image

The first thing to do is to duplicate your image as we’re going to create a Displacement Map. To do this simply go to IMAGE…DUPLICATE

Doing so will open up the following dialog box asking you to give your duplicate image a name. In this case we’ll call it something creative like ‘displacement map’ and click OK.


Step 2: Prepare the Displacement Map

The image in front of you is now the duplicate so we’re going to make this a displacement map by turning it to black and white. This doesn’t need to be an award winning black and white conversion so we’ll just go IMAGE…ADJUSTMENTS…DESATURATE then boost the contrast a little by IMAGE…ADJUSTMENTS…CURVES and choosing Medium Contrast from the presets menu…


Next go to FILTER…NOISE…DESPECKLE and apply that about 3 times.

To finish off the displacement map all we need to do now is to save it as a .psd (Photoshop) file.


Step 3: Add texture

Now that you’ve saved your displacement map close it and then left on your desktop is your original image. We’re now going to place a texture on top of this image and in this case we’re going for a peeling paint image which will be used to give the final impression of peeling skin…


With the peeling paint layer uppermost in your layers panel and positioned to where you’d like the finished effect to appear, first off desaturate it by IMAGE…ADJUSTMENTS…DESATURATE and then change it’s Blend Mode to Multiply


Step 4: Apply the Displacement Map

Now we’re not finished just yet but already we can see the effect starting to take place. Next thing to do is make use of the displacement map we made earlier. So, go to FILTER…DISTORT…DISPLACE. Doing so will bring up the following dialog box…


This is one of those dialog boxes where it’s very much trial and error so my advice would be to go with a value of 10 in each box and click OK. Then you’ll be asked to locate your displacement map so do that and click OK. Once Photoshop has done it’s thing we’ll see the peeled paint layer mould around the contours of the our main picture which in this case is our subjects face and neck area…

If you feel the ‘wrapping’ isn’t quite enough just repeat this step but increase in the first dialog box (i.e. Where we used 10 in each box before)

Step 5: Finishing Touches

Once we’ve done this we’ll choose IMAGE…ADJUSTMENTS…LEVELS

and bring the highlights slider over to the left until you’re happy with how it all blends…



Lastly we just need to finish off the blending in so first off we’ll add a layer mask to the peeled paint layer and then with a soft edged black brush we’ll paint away the outline of the layer…



*If you feel the effect isn’t strong enough then you can always duplicate the Peeled Paint and Layer Mask Layer…


Now like I said at the beginning , blending textures using Blend Modes is nothing new but I thought I’d just share with you how I introduce a Displacement Map to mould the texture to the contours of the picture (subject) in addition to using the blend modes.

It’s these extra little techniques that can increase the editing time but I really think are worth doing as it’s the attention to the details that finishes the image off…even if the difference is barely noticeable.

See you next time, if not at the Workshop on Saturday 13th.

Enjoy 🙂

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