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To make bump effect it is easily done by applying a proper texture and adjusting displace parameter to a given good resolution mesh. However it will be seen only in render. Our question is how to actually deform a mesh by applying a texture?

texture applied

Apparently as seen above, Blender does deformation of the mesh, but where is the deformed mesh?

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You can use a Displace Modifier to do this.

From the wiki:

The Displace modifier displaces vertices in a mesh based on the intensity of a texture. Either procedural or image textures can be used. The displacement can be along a particular local axis, along the vertex normal, or the separate RGB components of the texture can be used to displace vertices in the local X, Y and Z directions simultaneously.

For example:

enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ We knew that there should be an easy way! $\endgroup$ – Developer Jan 4 '14 at 8:57

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