This is a portrait of Rixx based on his avatar using only words. I've been wanting to do one of these for a long time, but I wasn't 100% sure how to do it. So I spent the last two days watching a few tutorials and seeing how other people make them. Thing is, most of the work I watched was frankly horrible. There are some really cheesy effects out there that people are passing off. Ultimately there is no way to make this easy, it takes a lot of time and effort to get the right effect.
To start with I had to make a "word cloud" based on the contours of the portrait. The idea is to use words to not only outline the features of the face, but also to build contours, highlights, etc. This process took me about 6hrs in total.
Here is the final word cloud.
Once that was finished the rest was easy. (!) You take the portrait and make a grayscale version and then lightly blur it and then save it as your displacement map. Then you can re-apply it Photoshop using the Distort > Displacement filter, which grabs the grayscale and applies it to the image. After that its only a matter of making the image look the way you want using layer effects, lighting, etc.
All in all I'm very happy with the results. If I ever do something like this again I'd build the word cloud in Illustrator instead of photoshop, I think it would take less time.