I have a two-dimensional, multicoloured image such as a corporate logo, and I wish to modify it to create the illusion that it is an image rendered in paint or raised ink. That is, I want the medium to appear to be three-dimensional.

I have played around with various techniques but have so far failed to produce a result of great quality. I achieved some semblance of the effect by applying the emboss effect, altering the contrast and brightness, changing white to alpha, then reapplying the original image underneath. However, the emboss effect extends out further than the edge of the image, and my technique also applies black shadowing rather than darkening and brightening of the original colours. I essentially need something similar to the application of a normal map.

Has anyone had any success with a similar project?

  • 1
    You could draw a depth map and then use that depth map with render lights or a a real 3d application
    – joojaa
    Commented Nov 5, 2016 at 13:19
  • Yes, in fact I did try a similar thing by blurring the edges, then exporting the image from GIMP into an on-line normal map generator. The result gave some of the impression, but I could not get a very sharp result. It was also speckled at the boundary.
    – POD
    Commented Nov 5, 2016 at 14:49
  • 1
    Did you try bump-mapping the text with a blurred version of itself?
    – xenoid
    Commented Nov 5, 2016 at 18:28
  • Yes. It does produce something of a three-dimensional effect. However, the problem is that the bump map (or emboss) feature extends out from the logo, hence creating a shadow outside its bounds. The result looks like an raised grey/black surface with the top coloured. I think that I will need to create two new layers: one for the shine and one for the shadow. The trouble seems to be to create the bump map within the limits of the logo.
    – POD
    Commented Nov 6, 2016 at 0:25
  • By feathering the edges of the logo 3 pixels, then applying a bump map to or embossing the feathered image, I am coming close. The difficulty remains that the bump map is not applied inwardly to the image, and the shading is therefore not applied sharply to the edge of my image. There is some blurring outside of its bounds.
    – POD
    Commented Nov 6, 2016 at 1:14

3 Answers 3


I achieved a good result with the method described hereafter.

  1. Fade the edges of your image manually with a method I describe in the comments here: How to fade an image inwardly without loss
  2. In order for the image not to be raised outside of the edge, it is necessary to delete the first outline of pixels that the grow function encroaches on. Successive outlines are adjusted for brightness.
  3. After you have faded the edges as far as you wish, blur your image once or twice to remove hard lines created.
  4. Apply a bump map or emboss function to your image, paying close attention to the angle of azimuth and other settings.
  5. Adjust for colour, brightness and contrast according to how you would like your highlights to look.
  6. Place alpha over everthing that is not the highlight.
  7. Save the image and repeat for the shadowing layer. You can easily change from highlight to shadow by reversing the angle of azimuth in your emboss function. That is, use the previous angle plus or minus 180 degrees.
  8. Finally, place the original image, shadowing and highlight layers one on top of the other.

The whole process is a little cumbersome, but with care one can achieve a good result.


Are you using illustrator? I have tips for creating depth in illustrator. Basically to make something look raised you make it dark near the edges and light in the high areas. Depending on your shape there's different techniques. For a rectangle you can fill it with a gradient that gets darker near the edges. For any shape, you can fill with a bright color and apply inner glow/edges with a darker version of the same color. Adjust blur until it looks like a shadow. The best shaped gradient can be made with a blend. Take your shape, make it a dark color. Copy the shape, make it a lighter color, reduce in size (a little to make it look raised but flat, a lot to make it look pointy) Place the little one on the big one, select both and then Object/Blend/Make (make sure blend options is set to smooth color, both shapes are expanded with no stroke). With circles this works instantly. With complex shapes you need to isolate the blend and adjust the smaller or outer shapes until the roundness3D Blob looks right. For a glossy highlight take a copy of original big shape, fill with a black white gradient, lower opacity, apply Transparency/Screen and place over the blend. Adjust all parameters of the highlight shape (gradient amount and direction, opacity, size, shape) until it looks right. Apply a subtle drop shadow to the blend. I made this blob in a couple of minutes with the above described blend technique. I exaggerated the darks and left the highlight obvious so you can see.

  • 1
    I like that effect. I use Inkscape rather than Illustrator, but one can do most of the same things there. I was fixated on Photoshop/GIMP, but I think you've offered an excellent alternative. I'll try it.
    – POD
    Commented Jan 7, 2017 at 2:52

What about a simple: Filters → Light and Shadow → Xach-Effect?

Or a fancy Filters → Decor → Add Bevel ?

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