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This is going to be a short tutorial for beginners mostly. In this tutorial I will show you how to turn a flat image into a realistic folded fabric using the Displace filter. It’s a really easy process but many people just do it wrong or use some really complicated techniques. Hope you like this one.
A folded fabric stock image: http://depositphotos.com/2495624/stock-photo-Red-SatinSilk-Fabric-1.html
A flag or logo or whatever you want to apply the fold effect to. I used the Spanish flag but you can use whatever you want.
The first technique I will show you is how to apply folds to a flag.
Open your flag image, and make sure you have a background color or texture, in other words don’t use a transparent PNG image. Unlock the layer if it’s locked and name it flag.
Next open the folded fabric stock image and paste it on a new layer above your flag. Name this layer folds.
Select the folds layer and desaturate it with the shortcut Shift+Ctrl+U. After that, save the file as in PSD format with the name displacer.psd.
Now that you saved the file as PSD turn off the folds layer for a moment by clicking the eye icon next to it on the Layers Palette.
Now, select the flag layer, right click on it and convert it into a Smart Object, then go to Filters>Distort>Displace. The Horizontal and Vertical scale values you must imput depend on the size of your canvas. Usually 10 or 15 is ok. Choose the settings as in the image below and click OK. After clicking OK a new window opens asking you to select the displacement map. All you have to do is locate displacer.psd which you saved a few moments ago in Step 2. Select the PSD file and click OK. You should see that the flag has been distorted.
You can see that the edges have some noise all around, and it doesn’t really look good at all. You can fix that by using the Blur Tool and try softening the edges but that will force you to rasterize your Smart Object. At this point I will leave it as it is but you can try the Blur Tool and soften those edges.
You’re almost there. Turn on the visibility of the folds layer and change it’s blend mode to Linear Light. And voilà you have the effect.
It might not look the same on all cases because the blend modes act different depending on the colors you’re using. You can also try Hard Light. If you don’t get as much contrast as you would like, use Levels on the folds layer and increase Highlights and Shadows.
As you can see the edges don’t look very good, that’s Why I suggest you create this on high resolution and then scale down to soften the noise on the edges.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Feel free to post your results on my Facebook fan page or on my Flickr group wall for everybody to see.