If you’ve been following my blog then you know that I am a big user of a 3-D application called Blender. Blender is a free, professional level, open source application with a very strong user community. I use Blender for a variety of things including client work, technical renderings, game asset development and more. But, of course, my favorite is using it for artistic pieces.
Lately I’ve been experimenting with displacement maps to create unique procedural textures. Displacement mapping is a graphics technique where am image (a texture usually) is used to effect the geometric position of points over a surface. It gives surfaces a great sense of depth and detail, allowing for interesting reflections, contours, self-shadowing and silhouettes.
Using the modifiers in Blender, I start simply with a plane that is subdivided several times and then I add modifiers to displace the surface of the plane in interesting and unique ways. I combine that with shaders, color and lighting to create new and interesting patterns.
If you’ve used Photoshop you might be familiar with displacement maps as a distortion filter. In Photoshop, under Filters>Distort you will find the option for displacement. The filter takes the content of one image to distort another. The same principle holds for using displacement modifiers on a surface plane in Blender. Here are some examples below. These were created entirely in Blender with no post processing.
Once I have a render I like, I take it into Photoshop for further enhancement and post processing.
In many cases I create a render such as these in Blender and then bring it into Photoshop as a displacement image for another piece. It adds a nice gritty random edginess to some of the work. Take a look:
I love this technique. It adds a mysterious beauty and grittiness to the work. Enjoy!