It’s 12:00 AM, you’re finally getting ready for bed after a six hour long Photoshop jag, and you suddenly realize that your image of an industrial wall would look way edgier with some lettering splashed on it. Thanks to the handy Displace Filter, it’s pretty easy to layer a 2D typeface onto the 3D surface in your photo.

The Displace Filter uses a “Displacement Map” to shape and mold lettering so it aligns itself to the contours of the 3D surface in your image. So, if you want to add a logo to a rolling steel door, the Displacement Filter will help that logo curve around every nook and cranny between the ridges. Sounds slightly complicated, but you just need a few tricks up your sleeve –– which is where CreativeLive instructor Dave Cross comes in. Check out Dave’s simple how-to for adding authentic-looking lettering to surfaces!

An image that could use a little more edge.
An image that could use a little more edge.

Duplicate Your Background
First up, you want to duplicate your surface photo –– but before saving the file, you might want to blend the actual surface you’re applying lettering to (just to downplay the texture for easier layering). Simply hit Filter > Noise > Despeckle, which will blur away super-fine details like small holes in brick. Now just save your image as a PSD file, and label it as a “map” so you know what you’re dealing with later on!

Add In Your Text
Time to grab your text tool and type onto your image. You’ll notice that the text will look like it’s just floating over the surface as opposed to being painted on top of it. That’s where the Displacement Filter comes in. Remember, you’ll be working with the type layer, so convert it into a Smart Object, and then hit Filter > Distort > Displace.

Choose Your Scale and Wrap Things Up!
At this point, you’ll be asked to pick a horizontal and vertical scale, which is where some guess work comes into play. David suggests starting with a Horizontal Scale of 20 and a Vertical Scale of 15 (go any higher and your image runs the risk of being too distorted), and then click “OK.” You’ll be asked to choose a Displacement Map, so go ahead and select the PSD file labeled “map” that you previously created. A few seconds later, the edges of your text will match the surface of your image, and you’ll just need to highlight the effect by changing the Blend Mode to Overlay so it looks super painted-on.

Annnnd, voila –– you just seamlessly added lettering to a surface, and no one will know that it isn’t authentic!