How to create bump maps

Written by heidi fuller-love
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How to create bump maps
Creating a bump map with Photoshop is surprisingly straightforward. ( Images)

Bump mapping is a technique primarily used in 3D modelling to create detailed textures. You can use bump maps to turn flat 2D images into realistic 3D models. The bump map is created in a gray scale extending from black to white. This gray scale map is then superimposed on the original colour image, telling it where to add in highlights and shadows, bumps and cracks. The bump map does this by representing the deepest fissures as white and the surface area as black, and then using the full gray scale range to represent every degree of texture in between. Although the technique sounds complicated, creating a bump map in Photoshop is surprisingly straightforward.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Computer
  • Internet
  • Photoshop
  • Coloured texture image, or map that you wish to use

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  1. 1

    Select an image to work with. You can create a bump map for a wide range of images, including photographs and maps.

  2. 2

    Open your coloured image in Photoshop and create a gray scale copy. To create a gray scale copy click "Image" in the top page menu. In the drop-down menu click on "Mode" and then select "Gray-scale."

  3. 3

    It's important to have a wide range of contrast in your gray scale picture, so that you have plenty to work with when it comes to creating texture for your coloured image. To increase the contrast range, select "Image" in the top page menu. In the drop down menu click on "Adjustments" and then select "Brightness Contrast." Move cursors for "Brightness" and "Contrast" as far to the right as possible. Then click on "OK" to save your choice.

  4. 4

    Check your 3D animation program for file format compatibility, then save your bump map file as a JPEG, TIF, BMP or other compatible file format. You now have your first bump map. The next step is to import it into a 3D animation program and use it.

Tips and warnings

  • If you don't have Photoshop, don't panic: a bump map can be created using most types of photo editing software
  • Do not work with an original document. Always work with a copy of the original document so that you have a backup if you make an error during the bump mapping process.

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