Open Source Displacement




Introduction: Open Source Displacement


Open Source Displacement is a series of ongoing digital prints doubling in their ability to manipulate digital surfaces and textures through their use in displacement mapping when digitally rendered.

Step 1: Painting a Displacement Map

Displacement mapping in rendering uses a Black and White Bitmap image to digitally displace the surface of a rendered texture. Black values of the bitmap are pushed down, while white values of the bitmap are pushed up. The result is a texture that contains a dynamic surface that corresponds to the bitmap image.

For Open Source Displacement, I wanted to create an open-source library of hand painted displacement maps. To do this, I used sheets of 1/2" foam core cut to the size of 8 x 10 inches. After first coating the foam core sheet in black india ink, I used a variety of tools and processes to both cut into, and build out from the painted surface.

These two maps were made by using a course 120-grain sandpaper against the india ink, and other sharp utensils.

Step 2: Using Small 3d Objects to Make Impressions in the Surface

Because foam core has a slightly soft-surface, you can easily press objects surface to create impressions. The dark cavities of these impressions will read well once the maps are high-res scanned.

Step 3: Building Up Surfaces With Additional Materials.

These three maps were created by adding materials such as burlap, plaster, and sand to the surface of the india-inked foam core. After drying, the materials were painted over with both black and white ink to create a wide range of contrast in the crevices of the materials.

Step 4: Scanning and Bringing Into Rendering

Using an Epson V600 photo scanner, the foam core painted maps were scanned at high resolution (600dpi) to a high res, large-format TIFF file. The file was then taken into Photoshop, where it was resampled into a file size of roughly 5000 x 3000 px at 300 dpi. (File sizes like this are great for producing large scale renders.)

Using rendering software, these displacement maps can now be applied to any 3d texture or surface when rendering. Pictured here are 6 examples of the displacement maps being used on a sphere and plane.

(Maya 2014 and Maxwell 3.0 Render)

Step 5: Examples in Rendering

Here are two more examples of these displacement maps used in rendering.

The image of the lion is chrome metal texture that has been displaced using an Open Source Displacement map.

The second image shows that the Open Source Displacement maps can also be used to affect the specular qualities of the metal texture.

If you would like further information on Open Source Displacement, visit

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