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I'm trying to make a roughened parchment-like material. I don't want to just use a texture, because I want to take a low-angle shot that lets me see the actual bumps in the surface.

I currently have the parchment represented using a single plane mesh. Is there a modifier I can use to deform the mesh in order to add roughness to it?

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Yes, though you'll probably want to use two for maximum effect; I recommend applying a Subdivision surface modifier ('Simple', not 'Catmull-Clark'), and then applying a Displace modifier. If your geometry is sufficiently complex it should work fine.

The Subdivision Surface modifier adds vertices to your mesh, then the Displace modifier uses those vertices to add the roughness you're looking for.

Before Modifiers enter image description here

After Modifiers enter image description here

You can, of course, use different settings for the Displace texture if you want to achieve different kinds of roughness.

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    $\begingroup$ One thing I would suggest, is to use an image of parchment for the displacement texture, as it will come out more realistic. $\endgroup$ – CharlesL May 26 '13 at 23:51
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I don't want to just use a texture, because I want to take a low-angle shot that lets me see the actual bumps in the surface

Since recently, you can use a texture and have actual bumps. This works in combination with Cycles only, and makes use of the Material's Displacement property.

First, you should use the Experimental Feature Set in the Render panel:

enter image description here

Add a Subdivision Surface modifier and enable Adaptive:

enter image description here

The trick here is that, by using Adaptive, the size of subdivisions will be dependent on how much the surface is close to the point of view. So you'll have each screen-space pixel displace independently from the neighboring ones, but without the need to subdivide the whole mesh by the same amount.

In the Node/Shader Editor, plug the desired texture into Displacement. If Blender>2.80, you should use a Displacement node, otherwise (2.79) just plug the height in the Material Output.

enter image description here

(If Blender 2.79, under Material > Settings set Displacement to "Both")

enter image description here

The bumps are now real, i.e. affecting the geometry, but non destructive, i.e. not affecting Edit mode vertices. In the gif, the geometry is just a 4-vertex plane:

enter image description here

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