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How to create gisplacement maps using Photoshop Shapes Tutorial

how to create displacement maps using shapes

How to create displacement maps / distortions using Photoshop custom shapes tutorial

  1. Open a new document for the custom shape / displacement map

  2. You can then apply the vector artwork / Photoshop shapes as a fill or layer (once or multiple times),

  3. flatten

  4. save the document as a PSD

  5. Use the PSD in texturizer filter / glass filter / displacement.

You can use any number of Photoshop custom shapes and you can find them on the web as well as many on this site via the Photoshop shapes section (check for the link to the custom shapes via the top menu). The great thing about the custom shapes is that they can be any size so you can create a super large displacement maps as well as just a very small displacement map to distort images

Custom shapes to purchase

$7.79 (also GBP, etc) for the set, CSH format, download


BUY 13,000 Custom shapes for Photoshop CC 2017 2015 2014 CS6 CS5 etc and Photoshop elements for use as displacement maps CSH 13,000 Custom shapes for Photoshop and Elements


The key thing is that the displacement map for Photoshop is PSD. Other applications also have their own displacement maps systems and they often use other file types or all file types or perhaps a native format.


Sadly, the displace filter etc has not been updated for quite a while and it is one of those filters that really could do with some serious updating (would love to see the filter allow for different sources such as brushes and custom shapes etc as a source as well as Photoshop patterns as well as just a proper dialog and preview)

How to create amazing displacement map PSD files using shapes such as adding opacity and layer effects into the mix

source vector with shadow effect

  1. New document

  2. Go to the custom shape tool

  3. Select custom shape

  4. Set to shape layer option

  5. Apply shape to cover most of the document

  6. Go to the layer menu

  7. Go to the layer styles

  8. Select bevel option

  9. OK

  10. Layer menu and flatten and save as a PSD file

The displacement tiles are PSD format files. The presets can be applied to any document and the result can be saved as a PSD. The key thing is to avoid the seams of the document. The Photoshop custom shapes can be applied once or multiple times to fill the tile.


You can combine multiple different custom shapes and perhaps combine with opacity as well as layer effects (if the presets are added as a layer) along with opacity. You can also combine the presets with smart filters if you turn the artworks into smart objects via the layer menu.


To create even more displacements with flexibility, I would suggest turning the shape layer into a smart object and then you can combine the displacement map source with an endless supply of variant displacements from the same source shape by modifying the settings via the layers panel

How to apply the displacements with filters in Photoshop such as glass filter effect found in the filters section

subtle displacement effect with file from custom shapeThe PSD displacement map can now be applied once or multiple times using a number of filters in Photoshop. On the left, the glass filter has been applied with the PSD displacement.

  1. select filter

  2. browse for the displacement file created using the custom shapes

  3. set the scaling etc

  4. apply.

There are other filters that can be used such as texturizer. You can, of course, simply re-apply the shape design using the glass filter or perhaps use the glass filter in different color channels such as applying it to the red channel only.


The image used is a picture of me (perhaps not the most flattering look though). You could, of course, use any image as well as type as a source for the displacement map

How to use the offset filter to create even more amazing displacement maps with custom shapes in Photoshop

offset filter to create seamless tile displacement with shapesIf you want to create slightly more interesting than a very basic tile (and the result will be a seamless tile)

  1. Apply the shapes using the pixel option

  2. change color (different grays)

  3. filter menu and offset filter If the document for the PSD file is set to 600 x 600 in size then set the horizontal and vertical settings to -300 and 300.

  4. You can also set the wrap option.

  5. add more Photoshop custom shapes

  6. Use offset again

  7. save as a PSD file

How to create jarring or shattered displacement maps (non seamless effects) in Photoshop using custom shapes

jarred tiles photoshop shapes and displacementsThe above all steps all describe seamless tiles but you can always add the vector artworks over the seams of the image to create a more jarring / disjointed effect


You can also apply effects such as blurs / distortions etc and these will create a disjointed tile. You can use this to create intense distressed images. On the right you can see a design that can be used in the displacement map filters (glass etc).


The resulting displacement will have jarred lines or breaks in the displacement in most cases

Related items

1. how to use fragments or parts of a custom vector shape in Photoshop

2. how to use custom shapes with RGB color channels in Photoshop

Youtube Video tutorials

Tutorial on the subject [Youtube]