How to Distress a Photo Using a Grunge Texture and Displacement Map
Give photos a vintage peeling paint effect
This tutorial will teach you how to distress a photograph by merging it with a grunge texture, using layer masks and displacement filters in Photoshop for a realistic result. Merge the photo and texture seamlessly to create the effect of the photo actually being painted on the wood background
Launch Photoshop and create a new document 3000 pixels wide and 2000 pixels tall.
Place the photo that you want to work with into the document as a Smart Object layer. I am using this excellent photo from Unsplash
Next place the texture that you want to use into the document as another Smart Object above the photo layer. I am using this texture
from the free Old Weathered Wood Textures Pack
Duplicate the texture Smart Object and move it below the photo layer.
Select the top texture layer and Rasterize it, then desaturate it by clicking the 'Image > Adjustments > Desaturate' menu item or by pressing CMD+SHIFT+U on Mac or CTRL+SHIFT+U on PC.
Bring up the Levels adjustment window by going to 'Image > Adjustment > Levels...' or by pressing CMD+L or CTRL+L. Adjust the shadow and highlight levels to increase the contrast between white and black and remove some of the grey mid tones.
Select all pixels and copy to the clipboard, then create a new Photoshop document.
Paste the texture into the new blank document and save it as a Photoshop Document in the same location you are working in with the name 'Displacement Map.psd'.
Go back to the original document and select the photo Smart Object layer. Then go to the Layer > Layer Mask menu and choose Reveal All.
Open the Channels window (Windows > Channel) and click the eye icon next to the photo channel to make it visible.
Paste the texture from step 7 into the channel (it should still be on your clipboard). The red overlay shows pixel data on the channel.
Click the eye icon again to hide the channel and the red overlay.
Open the Layers panel again and select the photo Smart Object layer (not the channel). Then go the 'Filter > Distort' menu and choose 'Displace..'. Enter 25 for both the Horizontal and Vertical scale then hit OK.
Locate the Displacement Map.psd file that you saved in step 8 and click Open.
The effect of the displacement may appear subtle, but if we zoom in to actual size you can see that the edges of the photo have been distorted using the black and white data in the displacement map texture file.
Finally, create a new Levels Adjustment Layer and tweak the shadow and highlight levels to restore the photo's original contrast.
Result & Conclusion
Here is the result, the photo and the texture have been merged seamlessly to create the effect of the photo actually being painted on the wood background. Hopefully you have enjoyed following this tutorial and can now effectively use layer masks and displacement maps together to manipulate images.